Clean and conspicuous, Avant Garde is a great headline typeface. In text it is a large type, whichÂ means you can use smaller point sizes and still remain legible. The â€œroundnessâ€ of the charactersÂ stands it apart from many other san serif styles.
History of Avant Garde
Herb Lubalin and Tom Carnase designed Avant Garde around 1968. It was based on Lubalinâ€™sÂ logo for Avant Garde magazine. The original face was all uppercase. Avant Garde was the firstÂ typeface released by ITC when the company was founded in 1970. Next to being used in all typesÂ of art publications, Avant Garde was a classic in â€™70s advertising design.
In 1926 Eric Gill entered the war. He didn’t know he was entering a war. He was just painting a sign for a friend’s bookshop in Bristol. But ever since Gutenberg invented that whole movable type thing, the British had developed a serious font inferiority complex, and those pesky Germans were at it again. In the late 1920s Erbar, Futura and Kabel were developed in Germany and Britain needed a font to fight them. Gill Sans was there man. Gill started with the hand painted lettering he used for the bookshop to build his new font, and Gill Sans was released in 1928.
It was instantly successful, becoming the standard typeface of the British Railway System. Today, it is used by Penguin Books for their paperback jacket designs and by the Church of England for their Common Worship service books, it is the official typeface of the Spanish Government and has been adopted by Saab Automobile for its advertising and marketing communications. It is even used for the iconic call letters of the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation).
But it is not your usual sans serif font. The uppercase letters are based on Roman capitals, but Roman capitals have serifs. The lowercase letters are modeled on fonts like Caslon and Baskerville, but those, too, are serif fonts. Some characters, like the lowercase “a”, have serifs, and some letters are not even consistent across different weights of the typeface. All the literature calls these anomalies “humanist” traits, which I believe can be translated, “We’re humans so we can do anything we want regardless of the rules because we’re in charge.”
For designers, though, Gill Sans offers a nice alternative to more mechanical sans serif fonts like Futura and Univers. And that’s what we are always looking for, really, alternatives. Different ways of delivering the message, of winning the war with all those other messages.
Optima is a hybrid between a serif and sans serif font. Wikipedia classifies it as “humanist”. In font-speak, I guess that means it is a sans serif face with an anything goes attitude.
In the real world it works like a sans serif with a little flair. The ends of the letters are a little wider than the rest of the stroke and some letters use different stroke weights, like the “A” and the “M”, which reflects a classic Roman model. For us simple users it means we can get the legibility of a strong sans serif font and add a dash of character to the look. The only tricky part of using Optima is that the character widths vary significantly and custom kerning, especially in headlines, is usually required.
Optima was originally design by Hermann Zapf in the early 1950s. It has gone through several redesigns which really just added different weights to the basic Regular, Bold, Black and Italic variations. It is the font used for all the names of the fallen on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and is the official branding typeface for companies like EstÃ©e Lauder and Astin Martin (and if it is cool enough for James Bond’s car, it must be okay).
I am not usually a fan of hybrid fonts, kind of like I’m not a fan of hybrid cars, but Optima is a good choice when I’m looking for a softer feel. Chances are optima(l) it will find its way into my work again soon.