is a blog about design, technology and culture written by Khoi Vinh, and has been more or less continuously published since December 2000 in New York City. Khoi is currently Vice President of User Experience at Wildcard and co-founder of Kidpost. Previously, Khoi was co-founder and CEO of Mixel (acquired by Etsy, Inc.), Design Director of The New York Times Online, and co-founder of the design studio Behavior, LLC. He is the author of “Ordering Disorder: Grid Principles for Web Design,” and was named one of Fast Company’s “fifty most influential designers in America.” Khoi lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn with his wife and three children. You can reach him through one of the services below.+
Yikes. Just now, I spent over US$600 on new typefaces. Well, not really. Mentally, I did, because I just quickly tallied up all of the typefaces I’ve seen recently and wished that I owned.
I’ll do that from time to time; window shopping, as it were, for new fonts to add to my repertoire, though I’ll rarely indulge myself by actually buying them. It’ll come as no surprise to most folks that, more often than not, I’ll fall back on Helvetica.
Still, I do have some desire to broaden my horizons. It’s just rare that I’ll find new typefaces that strike me as compelling enough to buy. The problem isn’t that I find recent typographic design lacking. Rather, it’s that I just don’t often find new typefaces that I feel are a good match for my particular ‘design voice’ (say what you will about the relative distinctiveness — or lack thereof — to be found in Helvetica, but it helps me say what I want). I draw a parallel between finding the right typefaces for my repertoire and putting together a wardrobe: there are plenty of clothes that I see worn by other people to smashing effect, but it’s not every style that I feel would look good on me.
That said, here are a few of the ones that I threw into my mental shopping cart.
The Hairline, Thin and Extra Light versions of Joshua Darden’s Omnes are gorgeous. They’re an elegant and slightly more playful alternative to the heavily used Light and Ultra Light weights of Helvetica Neue, and there’s just the slightest hint of a deco feel in there that I find to be very swank, for lack of a better term.
Apex Serif and Klavika
As readers of A Brief Message know, I’ve been enamored since last fall with Chester Jenkins’ warmly authoritative Apex Serif, which is the principal display type that I use for that project. This is one of the few contemporary fonts that have resonated with me so much that I actually purchased it and have continued to use it regularly. Unfortunately, I’m not quite as enamored of his Apex New, the sans serif interpretation that Jenkins released a few years after the original. It just doesn’t seem quite as definitive in its voice as the serif version.
Instead, I think I’d prefer Process Type Foundry’s Klavika, which a friend turned me on to recently. It’s got a clean boldness that parallels Apex Serif nicely, though I have my doubts as to whether you could get away with using them side by side. It’s true, they both feature a certain humanness that redeems their respective robotic tones. But used together, I imagine they would come off quite coldly.
For a change of pace, I’ve been trying to imagine a design problem that I can assign myself in order to justify the purchase of Hoefler & Frere-Jones’ emphatic Ziggurat. It features exceedingly satisfying slab serifs and, for me, has something of the same comforting quality of New Century Schoolbook, one of my all-time favorites. But it’s so evocative of the archetypes of ‘Egyptian’ types that I’m not sure it would really work for me. Still, I could look at it for hours.
Speaking of typefaces I’ll never use, I get a kick out of Stefan Kjartansson’s Black Slabbath, which is at once imposing and deadpan hilarious. On the sales page for it, the copy describes Black Slabbath as “colossally black,” and I couldn’t put it any better. I find it entertaining as heck the way its forms seem to punch holes in the page (or screen); it’s so over-the-top aggressive that it’s quite charming, even though I wish there were a few measures more subtlety in the counters of the O and C shapes. Still, at just US$38.95, it’s tempting enough just to buy to have around. Like that copy of “Paranoid” that I’ve got but never listen to.