Designing New Reason
Early sans typefaces were not organised as they are now. Weights and sizes were designed and manufactured separately, and a single font would startle with its unexpected combinations of structures, terminals or apertures.
Current trends either fetishize the peculiar features of early grotesques or sterilised them. Our goal posts were set between these opposites. We wanted to design something that was authentic to the demands of the age; a style that embodied practicality, equality and reform. It was the Grotesque series of typefaces from Stephenson Blake of Sheffield, England, that met those needs in their day, but which are now mired in nostalgia.
The diversity seen between the capitals and lowercase in late 19th century type designs is striking, wide and stable capitals were united with a narrow, lively lower case. The difference in stroke weight is also surprising, the capitals are heavier and almost monolinea compared to the light tapering strokes of the lowercase.
Finding the Balance
Initial drawings of New Reason were an exploration of the limits; how much funk could we get away with? We got away with a lot, resolving the relationship between capitals and lowercase without being slaves to harmony. A little narrower and the capitals could retain their charm and lose their sense of sprawl.
It also meant a more nuanced consideration of where New Reason’s character lay. The crackle and fuzz of the upturned leg on the R, cross-barred w and the notched j gave way to clearer forms:
The lowercase supplemented its sharpness with modulation and at the same time, punctuation and symbols were made more elegant. Fat parentheses and mathematical symbols lost weight to become light, monolinear and capable of gently lifting supplementary material above their sentences. The crossbars of the currency signs got a similar treatment and the sterling sign the swirl of a pig’s tail.
The grotesques of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century were not intended for extended body text, their idiosyncratic forms and vitality is too self-conscious for extended reading. New Reason is different. With modern eyes accustomed to reading san serif text, the pathway to mobilising these early sans into broader use was clear. With the replacement of just a few letters with more contemporary forms, a supreme text face is revealed.
Drawn from a time when san-serif typefaces had yet to be stripped of the kink and whimsy, New Reason seeks to revive the bounce between capital and lower-case letters whilst celebrating the drawing board mechanics of its early grotesque predecessors. New Reason is neither fancy nor some crowded super family. New Reason is an ode to commerce when it was sincere, when industry meant effort and service was silver.
With five weights and two character sets, one for headings, the other for text, New Reason presents itself as warm, dignified and capable. Respecting the craftsmen of the past whilst holding its own as a typeface for today.