Sociotype’s sans serif superfamily Onsite combines historic references with contemporary flexibility
Combining the classic styling of mid-century sans serifs with the versatility of contemporary typographic technology, Onsite from design-led type foundry Sociotype brings the best of both worlds into a single, multi-faceted package. “Onsite originally came from a typeface we were using internally,” Sociotype’s Joe Leadbeater tells us.
“The typeface often feels structural,” he continues, noting the grounded diagonals and flattened curves of its German road signage-inspired structure, “so it became clear to us that an architectural theme was the right way to go,” leading to the sans serif’s opportune name. “We also like to play with awkward naming conventions,” Sociotype add, discussing the choice of title. “Onsite matches well with ‘Rework,’ another typeface in our catalogue,” he suggests, “in terms of creating a non-conventional rhythm of sound.”
Onsite’s unconventional, challenging nature continues in the inspiration behind its design, which loosely utilises the base of Neue Haas Grotesk whilst defying the definition of ‘revival.’ Through further historical homages, such as Eurostile by Aldo Novarese and Linotype’s DIN 1451, Onsite adopts a unique, subdued squared system and letterform structure alongside its retro-futurist quirks – notably its flat-based contextual alternatives. Beyond Onsite’s classic counterparts, however, it takes the genre to new, dexterous grounds; released with a family of three widths and over 42 total styles, each with 766 glyphs.
“It became apparent that a heavy emphasis on customisation allows designers to deliver a type system to the client that feels bespoke,” Leadbeater explains, discussing the extent of the typeface’s capabilities and rigour, “but without breaking the bank.” Culminating in 16 stylistic sets alongside a vast number of characterful alternatives.
As a result, Onsite can thrive across printed and digital spaces, maintaining its charm and distinctive character across both. “Previous releases have focused on optical sizes,” Leadbeater recalls, with subfamilies built for specific scales, making Onsite the type foundry’s first release with a complete collection of three widths.
“Unlike previous releases, Onsite’s subfamilies are capable of working at a variety of scales,” he details, with its more playful side taking a backseat at smaller scales and coming into its own when it’s time to go big. Furthermore “the ability to use a variable font across widths will allow heavily gridded layouts and body copy to fit into any scenario,” Leadbeater concludes, “it’s an editorial designer’s dream.”