I am a sucker for geometry, rationality and modularity in type systems. But never at the expense of what is comfortable and easy to read on the eye. So it was with delight and excitement this morning I discovered FS Lucas the latest release from the team Fontsmith.
Based on near-perfect circles, triangles and squares, what could be simpler? The downside to these beautiful, rational shapes - is they can translate into awkward reading when used in digital environments (particularly at smaller text sizes) which can limit their usefulness.
In the early 20th century, printers, designers and type commissioners were exploring a new philosophy to typography that echoed the modern art movements of the time such as De Stijl, Art Deco and the Bauhaus. Early geometric typefaces were accused of putting mathematical integrity before readability.
Fontsmith founder Jason Smith resolved to develop a contemporary typeface in the geometric tradition. His challenge was clear: to take classic geo formal qualities and optimise them for the demands of modern brands, of online and offline usage, readability and accessibility.
Fontsmith designer Stuart de Rozario lead the design with creative direction from Jason. Stuart set out to create a genre defying typeface and FS Lucas is the bold and deceptively simple result. This intelligent face creates the illusion of appearing geometric, while taking the edge off the elements that make reading difficult. Perfectly circular shapes don’t read well. The way around that is to slightly thicken the vertical strokes, and pull out the curves at the corners to compensate; the O and o of FS Lucas are optical trickery (and mastery)!
The letterforms of FS Lucas are round and generous. But contain a contrast with both sharp and soft shapes, giving angular apexes to the A, M, N, v, w and z letterforms. Although the pointed apexes aren’t as sharp as they look, though; the flattened tips are an essential design feature. And distinctive details such as the open terminals of the c, e, f, g, j, r and s, and the x-height bar on the i and j, aid legibility, especially on-screen.
These idiosyncracies, according to Jason, were ‘the product of sketching the letterforms in the first instance by hand rather than mapping them out mechanically by computer. They give FS Lucas the built-in humanity and character that make it a better, easier read all-round.’
‘It’s a huge challenge to design this sort of pure typeface,’ says Stuart. ‘Everything needs to be 100% spot on – there’s nowhere to hide.’ Rigorous testing was needed throughout the design process, in context at different weights, sizes and backgrounds, to make sure it performs across a range of media.
Unlike some of its more buttoned-up geometric bedfellows, FS Lucas can’t contain its natural personality and quirks: the flick of the foot of the l, for example, and the flattish tail on the g and j. The unusual bar on the J improves character recognition, and the G is circular, without a straight stem. There’s a touch of Fontsmith about the t, too, with the curve across the left cross section in the lighter weights, and the ampersand is one of a kind.
There’s a lot to like about Lucas. I was immediately excited by its forms. Available in 9 weights, I believe this intelligent geometric face would be
easy to use and read in multiple contemporary contexts. It would be a fantastic tool in the designers tool kit and an asset to any brand.