Last month I individually featured 3 new font families from Fontsmith. I was obsessed with FS Kim’s generous curves, FS Neruda’s authoritative charm and FS Ostro’s elegant sharpness. These unique stand alone serif’s come together in a collection aimed at those who tell stories. Their diversity and versatility ensures whatever the narrative this suite of faces will provide a memorable voice.
So this month I delved deeper and spoke directly with the designers behind this quirky collection.
“These fonts are storytellers, from brands to books to newspapers and magazines, to online editorial platforms. Whether those tales are hard-hitting news stories, poems, plays, gossip or serious non-fiction, these fonts are designed to tell them perfectly. These serifs all work across an impressive range of settings: headlines, large body copy, smaller body copy and more. What they have in common is a marriage of classic, utilitarian values and striking, original touches that make them at once eye-catching and versatile.”
Fontsmith’s library already boasts a selection of serifs, FS Kim, FS Neruda and FS Ostro were all created to bring something entirely new: a fashion-influenced showstopper, a quirky Sabon-inspired old-style serif and a contrasting Modern-style serif respectively.
“Everyone’s getting tired of the same old geometric fonts we see online,” says Fontsmith founder Jason Smith. “Screens are so much better these days and audiences are much more educated, so you don’t have to dumb down fonts. People want to read things properly, and to see and importantly feel something different – we can, and do, use serif typefaces digitally.
FS Kim is both dramatic and functional.
Designer Krista Radoeva said: “FS Kim is rule-breaking, bold and intriguing – exuberant and unmissable, but playing a supporting role when needed. FS Kim shines brightest as a display font, and is perfect for applications across fashion, theatre, cultural projects and pretty much any brand that wants to make a statement. While this font is dramatic, it’s incredibly versatile, too, and works to showcase content in a stylish, daring way with its text versions.”
Krista writes “When designing the display styles of FS Kim, I wanted to start completely wild and free, insert as much character as possible, without worrying about functionality or consistency… I just wanted drama!
Then I slowly stripped some of that craziness away during the design process in order to achieve balance. But I find it easier to simplify and rationalise a complex design, instead of starting with a simple design and trying to make it more exciting.
With the text styles it was a similar process. I printed the display styles at small size and I started adjusting everything that wasn’t suitable for text: the thin strokes were too thin, the proportions were too narrow, the spacing was tight, I needed completely different serifs, and some of the crazy details just didn’t work. I changed enough to get the right texture for reading, without oversimplifying and killing the strong character.”
FS Neruda is both readerly and radical
FS Neruda designer Pedro Arilla said: “FS Neruda takes its name from Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, described as ‘the greatest poet of the 20th century in any language’. As such, it’s a font informed by the very best literary typeface traditions, with a very different feel in thin weights to its bold counterparts. Smart, sharp and classical, FS Neruda bridges the gap between the traditional and the offbeat. It’s clear and legible in body text, and in larger sizes becomes a different beast – livelier, quirkier, but no less sharp. This font started life in the world of newspapers and books and is the perfect storytelling typeface for savvy, inquiring readers whether in printed journals, hard news, short online missives or poetry.”
Pedro’s main goal was to take a contemporary approach to the classic text typefaces we all love. “I had to be extremely careful with proportions, details and colour. But it was also important to me to take the design of FS Neruda further. I was looking for a warm sense of sharpness. That’s why angular terminals coexist with bulbous teardrops.
For example look at the lowercase f: it has thin elegant serifs, subtle curves to join stem and arch, and a strong ball terminal. I also wanted to bring a different aroma to each weight. FS Neruda is not a slave to interpolation and each cut belongs to its own idiosyncrasy.”
The Neruda italic has a distinctive energy about it. The form feels unique while also pairing beautifully with the uprights… Pedro writes “The Italic companion was born in the same place as the Roman: classic text typefaces. I simply added a touch of calligraphy to the well-known recipe. How? By converting terminals into curvaceous shapes — especially in the Thin weight where I kept them noticeably inky — and translating letter shape construction from mechanical rhythm to handmade flow. The rational is the same, so Roman and Italic match perfectly, but at the end of the day, an Italic design is all about movement.”
FS Ostro is both well traveled and well considered.
FS Ostro designer Alessia Mazzarella said: “Named after a southerly wind that blows over the Mediterranean sea, FS Ostro breathes warmth into letterforms with their roots in colder, stark Modern typefaces. This elegant, cosmopolitan font comes in three display versions and four text versions, and is characterised by its thoughtful contrasts between thick and thin; between sharp angles and sophisticated curves. The letterforms are confident yet fluid, creating an overall sense of refinement and modernity. One for the discerning, well-travelled reader.”
Noting “Ostro is a response to modern style typefaces, and to their rich and well-established design legacy. I set out to take inspiration but also to analyse and question decisions at every step, aiming to achieve something that is not a reproduction of previous designs but a fresh interpretation.
Ostro’s design evolved from a variety of elements, deriving from diverse sources – sturdy text types as well as delicate display styles. I think this synthesis is one of the elements that I aim to carry forward in my future work.”
Alessia writes “I had quite a clear idea of what I wanted to achieve from the beginning and it was mostly a smooth process. One challenging but also fun part was to devise a system to make the set of frames and borders as accessible and easy to use as possible. I decided to draw all the ornaments using the space character width as the main unit, so they all fit in the width of one or two spaces. This organising principle makes it very easy to space them as they will always fit in a grid. Making versatile patterns with them becomes effortless and more fun.”
Unsurprisingly I was also head over heels about the type specimen (and digital campaign) for this collection - designed by David and Elizabeth of the counter press & their consulting venture the counter studio. “The design and content were inspired by the world the serifs live in, as well as the things the typefaces were influenced by. FS Ostro, the cosmopolitan, Modern-style typeface expressed itself through facts and fiction, plays and poetry; FS Kim, the striking showstopper came to life through all things stylish; FS Neruda, the smart, inquisitive type with its roots in newspapers, showcased tongue-in-cheek headlines alongside playful asides. The campaign culminated in a printed specimen that combined all three serifs in a newspaper-style supplement. The format allowed the trio of typefaces to feel unified, but allowed each of them to have their own individual chapter. The result is a beautifully curated collection of typography.”
Fontsmith founder Jason Smith writes, “We had already decided we wanted to launch the three new serifs at the same time but each one is very different from the next and we didn’t want them to blend together, each needed its own space to breathe so their individual identities wouldn’t be lost. To achieve this we released one at a time online over 3 weeks, giving each typeface one week under the spotlight. The specimen came out in the fourth week and showcased all three together. We have seen a lot of homogenous online design over the last few years but there is an appetite in the market for unique designs that will help brands stand out against their competition. These typefaces are our response to that trend. With over 50 styles between the three families there was a lot to show. We wanted a beautiful print piece that really focused on the design of the fonts, showing details large and highlighting the individuality of each typeface.
We’ve worked with David and Elizabeth on several past projects, they design our magazine TypeNotes and worked on the specimens for FS Brabo and FS Siena. They always nail the brief and understood what we wanted straight away. The simple format of the specimen they designed lets the fonts take centre stage and shows off the details so people really get a feel for the typefaces and how they could be used. There is a lot to show and they have managed to pack a lot into a relatively small space. Over 50 styles including text and display versions, uppercase and lowercase, numerals, large format as well as paragraphs of text, special characters and decorative borders and ornaments.
The contrasting paper stocks work really well and the singer sewn binding looks great. But the most successful aspect of the design is in their treatment of the typefaces. Designers will see how versatile they are and (hopefully) be inspired to use them.”
Buy one of these gorgeous specimen here and try all the fonts (remember Fontsmith have recently enabled trial versions of their entire library!) here. These diverse storytellers are sure to serve you well!