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Equitan – A versatile sans and slab super family

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At the beginning of 2015, Satya Rajpurohit approached me to design a new type family for the Indian Type Foundry. Together we decided that it would be great to develop a larger family with slab and sans versions, as well as italics. About one year later, on the 1st of February 2016, the family is complete and has been released on the ITF website with a total of 28 weights. You can try it for free through Fontstand or download a PDF specimen here.
 

In a few words

Equitan Slab and Sans form a large type family ready for editorial use, packaging, and branding. Each version has 7 styles and italics, ranging from Thin to Black. Equitan Slab features dynamic shapes and upper case letters with oversized serifs, which create an almost woven pattern when set together. The italics follow suit, and include long outstrokes. These curls create a playful take on recognizable elements of the ‘Scotch Roman’ genre. Equitan Sans, with its closed apertures and arched shapes, resembles nineteenth century gothic/grotesque types and offers a quiet balance to the outspokenness of Equitan Slab, while retaining similar skeleton forms. Despite this, it is not sterile, like so many of the mid-twentieth century neogrotesque typefaces. My idea was to make a usable family that is sturdy yet flavorful.
 
Equitan weights overview
 

Old shapes as inspiration for a contemporary design

As usual when starting a type design, I had the ambition to make something usable and contemporary, but without being directly inspired by current trends. In my opinion, if you want to make something current, you cannot look at current trends because those shapes have already passed through the filter of time and technology. If you distill one of those designs yet again, you will end up with a flavorless collection of letters. One solution is to look at old designs, checking out the direct roots of what created today’s shapes. Having those shapes as your starting point gives you many more chances of creating a relatively unique contemporary adaptation.

While browsing through the old specimen book of Palmer and Rey’s 1844, the skeleton forms of their typefaces really spoke to me. They had some typefaces called Antique, some Clarendons, and some Gothics that looked very related with each other in their basic shapes and proportions. Without forming an official family, they were obviously following the same logic.

Equitan inspiration from Palmer & Rey's Antique

I was fascinated by the shapes and general character of these Antiques, with very long serifs and closed apertures, wide capital letters, and curly ‘R’s. Although the letters seemed clumsy for today’s standards, the shapes were overcorrected, and the caps were much to heavy, it seemed that these letters were hiding a secret elegance that I could only release by making a new typeface. So this is what I started doing.
 

6 months, 12 Masters,  hundreds of test sheets

I started with the Slab versions first, because these would have the most personality. But I did not wait to perfect one weight. When you work on a family, you should work on multiple weights at the same time, developing them in parallel. Only like this you can make them work with each other. Over the next half year, I would end up working on 12 masters at the same time. It was important to me to test these in all possible ways, so I spent a lot of time designing with Equitan, testing the numbers in all kinds of contexts, changing small details, and printing stacks and stacks of paper.

making of Equitan WIP

After 6 months of work, in August 2015, I handed over the final source files to the Indian Type Foundry. They were not yet kerned and the character sets were still rather small. In January of 2016, I was asked to add kerning and expand the character sets of the Equitan family. This was a great opportunity to see the typeface one last time, and I ended up making, once again, all kinds of small corrections.
 

The specimen and banners

ITF asked me to create some banners for them, mentioning how important these are for selling fonts on MyFonts. In some way, a type banner is like the cover of a book: it has to attract you to open it, to use it. The PDF specimen gives more in-depth details and an idea of how text looks like in all kinds of circumstances, so you can decide based on your needs.

This type family is really a part of me, and this is why I had to ask for help when I was asked to produce promotional material: banners and a specimen. Part of my weekly work is to test and design specimens for Bold Monday, and I consider it one of my strengths. However, when it comes to creating advertisements for yourself, it is like creating a logo for your own company: you are lost in the sea of possibilities and are unable to approach the task impartially. So I approached my colleague and friend, Barbara Bigosińska, who also works with me every Friday at Bold Monday. Since we often collaborate on projects, I knew that she could help me design these promotional materials. Her attention to typographic details, creativity, playfulness, and speed is unparalleled. She created these beautiful banners and typographic layouts, while I worked on the nitty-gritty aspects of the specimen.
 

The name

The name Equitan is an anagram of the word Antique, which is the name of the typefaces that inspired me from an old specimen book by Palmer & Rey’s from 1844. Apparently, although we associate slab serifs with the word “Egyptian” or “Ionic”, the name of the first Slab-Serif for print, which was revealed by Figgins in one of his specimens in 1821, was “Antique”. So yes, I guess I designed a modern Antique.

 

The details

I aimed for a rather low contrast, as you might expect from a slab and sans serif design, without extreme optical corrections. The letters have tight curves and arched shoulders. Wherever possible, I let the counters be round, so that the bowls of the b, d, p, q blend into the stems. The counters of 6, 9 and lower bowl of the g are also rounded. The most characteristic shapes of the family are the Q, R, g, and k. The family features oldstyle numerals as defaults, and lining numerals, tabular lining, and tabular oldstyle numerals are accessible through OpenType Features.

The caps of the slab family create an almost woven pattern because of their oversized serifs. The slab italics follow suit from the romans, with long curly endings (that create a playful take on a Scotch Roman with low contrast).

The sans, which resembles grotesques because of its closed apertures and arched shapes, offers balance to the outspoken slab, white retaining similar skeleton forms. I did not want to design a sterile sans serif, not another Helvetica. I wanted to make a type family that is sturdy, yet flavorful.
 

Gallery

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Equitan-banner-web-23

Equitan Sans-16

Equitan Slab - 14

Equitan Sans - 14

Equitan Slab - 13

Conclusion

The family works well in print. The thin and black weights work well in logos and in large sizes. With Equitan, you have a type system that is flexible and usable in many design situations.

Below are some impressions from the PDF specimen that you can download here, and print at your office to see how the Equitan Slab and Sans families work together in print. On the ITF website you can see more examples of use of Equitan Slab and Sans and you can buy the family. With Fontstand, you can test it easily and free for one hour, and then rent it for one tenth of the price for a month.

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Equitan specimen 02

equitan specimen 01

Go try and buy Equitan on the ITF website now!