My Favourite Custom Fonts

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Custom fonts for companies are quite popular nowadays, but it’s sad to see that most are simply plain nonsense. Too many of such custom jobs are unoriginal, and will oftentimes be the typical rip-off of a classic typeface, or a cheesy employment of overused and unconvincing techniques. For example, randomly chopping off corners in every glyph. Or creating miserable clones of the “font without features”: Helvetica. Other such examples include rounding and smoothething out several corners on logotypes, making for a confusing, illogical, uncreative, design; it looks cheap, but many people like to cut corners nowadays.

Thankfully, there still are some good custom typefaces out there. And today I’ll be sharing a couple of them. I’ll start off with the open-source ones.

Livvic

livvic type specimen.
Specimen of Livvic. Image by me because there are no specimens out there that I know of.

Livvic is still relatively unknown font, which is sad, of course, because it contains 9 weights with matching italics, making it a very versatile type family. There’s a fine line between “fun” and “serious” and I think Livvic is very close to crossing that line. Livvic is full of organic curves but still feels slightly restrained. But to be honest, it may not suit the client, an insurance company, very well because it looks a bit childish. Nevertheless, I still think this typeface is refreshing amidst an undistinguishable wasteland of corporate fonts; a bit like an ice-cold lemonade on a sweltering day.

Pairing sggestion: Livvic + Grandstander, when Livvic is used as a text typeface.

(Open-source) Download here. Or here.

IBM Plex

IBM Plex’s scope of work is large. Very large! It has serif styles, sans variants, monospaced versions for coders, AND condensed options for headlines or economic typesetting. On top of that it supports non-latin scripts such as Hebrew, Devanagari, Arabic, Hangul, and Cyrillic. What I love about this type system is the concept behind it.

ibm specimen
From the IBM Plex microsite.

The minisite states: “We needed Plex to be a distinctive, yet timeless workhorse—an alternative to Helvetica Neue for this new era. The Grotesque style was the perfect fit. Not only do these typefaces balance human and rational elements, the Grotesque style also came about during the Industrial Age (when IBM was born)”. IBM Plex combines sharp edges with smooth curves, which gives it a distinctive edge (forgive me for the pun). This type family deserves to be the benchmark of custom type design.

Pairing suggstion: IBM Plex + Signifier from Klim Type.

(Open-source) Download here. Or here.

Fira Sans/Mono

Specimen of Fira Sans and Fira Mono. Image by me.

Fira Sans is based heavily on Erik Spiekermann’s proprietery design, FF Meta. Developed for Mozilla in its rebranding, Fira Sans is not extremely original in any way — some have called it reheated soup from the last millennium — but this bespoke type family should earn a spot here because of the breadth of work done, just like IBM Plex. My favourite sub-family is probably the code version (not shown above) because of the nifty ligatures that allow for better formatting in code.

Download here. Or over here.

Hokotohu

Screenshot taken from Klim website.

Hokotohu is all but enchanting. It’s reminiscent of French Tuscans, but the designer, Kris Sowersby, notes that “Hokotohu’s serifs are modelled on Rākau momori”. I like the triple-lined bars (on the “E” and “H” above). Possibly one of the most fascinating custom display faces I’ve seen. There is little I can comment on, however, because the type specimen on the site is remarkably shallow.

Update 27 Feb 2021: A new investigation on the Wayback Machine has given us some convincing evidence of the existence of a lowercase. The new image is above.

(Client exclusive)

Fanta

The design of Fanta’s corporate face is hardly surprising; with its seemingly haphazard succesion of straight lines and virbant and dynamic nature, Fanta’s brand is evoked brilliantly. I am not so much a fan of Fanta but I am a fan of this font. Above (↑) are some lovely and playful animated GIFs, illustrating how the contextual alternates can be applied to achieve an amusing, dynamic effect when animated.

(Client exclusive)

Burger King

New on the list is Burger King’s Flame typeface, a worderful typeface brimming with character and charm. It is a brilliant asset for the fast food company’s marketing, and fits perfectly with other graphical elements such as illustrations. Greatest custom font of all time.

(Client exclusive)

HF Stencil

HF Stencil was developed for Holland Festival. The designers of the typeface state on their website that the design was inspired Glaser Stencil by the late Milton Glaser. However, it comes with a clever twist: The font is containes a thousands of ligatures. Stencil styles are often hard to pull off. But it seems like this design is successful. I’m also guessing that it’s a chromatic font, since some of the images I extracted above suggest that. How delightful! I honestly wish I had this typeface.

(Client exclusive)

Rio 2016

Rio 2016 is a script typeface for the 2016 Olympics, designed by Dalton Maag, a type foundry based somewhere in England. It’s a fluid, carefree design with much flamboyance. It captures the client’s spirit very well. The foundry claims that there are more than 5,488 glyphs in this font in order to make the it as convincing as handwriting, which makes it rather similar, not by look, but by concept, to HF Stencil.

That Dalton Maag is rather highly-regarded in the type industry it is a trifle puzzling that their recent custom repertoire has been including bland and eye-roll-inducing fonts, including the controversial Goldman Sans typeface for Goldman Sachs and friends. This is either a question of artistical limitation by the client, or just plain laziness. But either way, I shall be grateful that at least this typeface, Rio 2016, has a bit more colour, flavour, and music to it. Even though its name is a bit bland to my liking.

(Client exclusive)

Published by Thomas Rettig

Hi!

2 thoughts on “My Favourite Custom Fonts

  1. Breaking news! I found out just now that Wix released a custom font for their website builders. The link is here: https://www.wix.com/typeface/madefor.

    To be frank, it’s quite similar to Livvic — especially that italic “e”. Also, the subtle wideness reminds me of the ubiquitous Monsterrat typeface. I would call it a more toned-down version of Livvic. I also like the fact that some of the glyphs are reminiscent of bent metal tubing.

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