Rotis was designed by German designer Otl Aicher in 1988. Rotis is a ‘superfamily’ of typefaces, whose four basic variants are Rotis Serif, Rotis Semi-serif, Rotis Semi-sans and Rotis Sans. Aicher was reputedly ‘frustrated with the conservative mentality of many typographers who were determined to draw a clearly defined line between serif and sans serif typefaces’, and as a result sought to create transitional elements within a super font family that would blend serif and sans serif designs. Hardly surprising, then, that Rotis, named for a hamlet in the town where Aicher lived, was originally named ‘rotis’, because he believed capital letters were a sign of hierarchy and oppression. Rotis has been criticised for being a typeface that, while it has some good letters, lacks cohesion, proving that theory alone does not make for great typography. Either way, and despite the fact that I haven’t used it for quite some time, I have a soft spot for Rotis because it was the type family of choice for the first books I designed at the first publishing house I worked in.
Quixley was designed by Vince Whitlock in 1991. There doesn’t appear to be much readily available information about either the designer or the typeface, but I found it interesting to read that Whitlock was inspired by an old Zoltan Nagy typeface, although which one in particular was not mentioned. Nagy, a Hungarian type designer, wrote ‘Techniques of Type Design’, produced engravings for postage stamps, and designed Antikva Margaret, his most notable typeface, which won a third place award at an ITC-sponsored competition in 1966. Whitlock had a hand in the design of several other typefaces, including Academy Engraved, Crillee, Lexikos and Equinox.
Poetica was designed by Robert Slimbach in 1992. Slimbach, who joined Adobe in 1987 and is now director of their type design program, is a multi-award-winning type designer whose classically inspired digital typefaces include Adobe Garamond, Adobe Jenson, Minion and Utopia, to name just a few. Poetica was the first Adobe Originals script typeface, and was modelled on Italian Renaissance chancery handwriting scripts. It is notable for its huge array of swash characters, ligatures, ornaments and embellishments (although later designs by Slimbach often feature many more glyphs than the Poetica character sets—up to three thousand!).
OCR stands for Optical Character Recognition. OCR-A and OCR-B, both designed in 1968, are monospaced fonts optimised for use by OCR applications. Their design came about from a need to have a font that could be used and reproduced electronically while remaining legible. OCR-A was designed by ATF to meet the criteria set by the US Bureau of Standards; OCR-B was designed by Adrian Frutiger for Monotype to meet the European Computer Manufacturer’s Association standard. To improve recognition accuracy each character is drawn with the same stroke thickness and each character shape is distinctive. Although optical character recognition technology has advanced and no longer requires such simple fonts, OCR is still used widely. OCR-B is easier for the human eye to discern, but OCR-A has a distinctive technical appearance which makes it favoured by graphic designers.
News Gothic is a grotesque sans serif typeface. It was designed by the prolific and influential Morris Fuller Benton for ATF in 1908. The original release—two light weights, a medium weight and another related light weight (Lightline Gothic)—was added to in 1958 with two bold weights. News Gothic, as the name would suggest, was used for many years in newspaper and magazine publishing. Subsequent digital releases have added many more weights—Font Bureau’s aptly named Benton Sans, for example, is a font family based on News Gothic which comprises more than eighty weights, making it one of the most comprehensive typeface families in the News Gothic style. Bitstream, Adobe, Monotype, Linotype also have their own versions of News Gothic.
Meta was designed by Erik Spiekermann and was released in 1991 through his FontFont library. He reputedly intended the typeface to be ‘a complete antithesis of Helvetica’, however, due to its great popularity and extensive use, it was lauded as ‘the Helvetica of the 1990s’—not because the typefaces look alike, but because Meta has become so influential in modern typographic communication. The Meta family has 28 weights, from Hairline to Black, and its comprehensive character sets include small caps, ligatures, fractions and many other typographic features. In 2011 Meta was added to the MoMA Architecture and Design Collection. Meta is classified as a humanist sans serif typeface.
Whether it’s Adobe Life, Bitstream Life, Linotype Life, or any other Life, this typeface was designed in 1964 by Wilhelm Bilz and developed by the Ludwig & Mayer type foundry and Simoncini, the highly regarded manufacturer of linecaster matrices. Life is a transitional typeface designed for use in text settings where printing and production quality tend to be low—such as newsprint—and it’s characters are based on the forms of Times.
Kabel was designed by Rudolf Koch in 1927 for the Klingspor foundry. The naming of the typeface is reputedly a metaphorical pun, referring to the typeface’s monolinear construction and the role of type as a means of communication rather than the just-completed Zugspitze cable car and Berlin–Vienna telegraph cable. Kabel is a geometric sans serif typeface and is distinguished by the angled cut of the terminus of vertical strokes, and weights range from light to black. Kabel is widely used: from board games and record covers to university campus signage and presidential campaign material.
Janson is an oldstyle serif typeface whose design can be traced back to the matrices of Miklós Tótfalusi Kis, a Transylvanian Protestant priest and schoolteacher. Kis was sent to Amsterdam to help print a Hungarian Protestant translation of the Bible, and his resulting interest in printing led to a second career as a punchcutter. Janson was named for Leipzig printer and punchcutter Anton Janson, but research in the 1970s and 1980s led to the conclusion that the typeface was Kis’s design. Janson was digitised by Linotype as Janson Text, and by Bitstream as Kis.
Italia was designed by Colin Brignall for Letraset in 1977. Italia is a re-drawing of ATF’s Jenson, which in turn was based on William Morris’s Golden Type and Joseph W Phinney’s Jenson Oldstyle. Italia is a slab serif typeface. Brignall has designed type for Letraset since 1964 and his body of work comprises more than 100 fonts, including Aachen, Edwardian, Type Embellishments, Harlow, Tango, Romic and Dynamo Shadow. In 2000 he was honoured with the TDC Medal from the Type Directors Club.