The Role of Lowercase in Typefaces

Fontribute Review of the Fonts Mislab by Typofonderie and Jubliat by Darden Studio

Welcome to a new series on TypeThursday; Fontribute.
Each week, TypeThursday founder Thomas Jockin reviews two fonts to reveal the considerations and approaches of different typeface designers. With these discussions, you can expect to gain a deeper appreciation and understanding of typography. Enjoy!


This week, Thomas discusses the typographic nuances of Jubilat from Darden Studio and Mislab Std from Typofonderie. Fonts with similar uppercase letters can be radically different in their lowercase. Different lowercase designs create entirely different typographic voices that impact your design decisions.

Uppercase H

What should strike the reader in this slide is how similar these uppercase /H’s are. There are differences, but I would not fault anyone who, on a quick glance, would mistake which /H belong to which font.

Lowercase /a

Looking at the lower case /a, the designers have taken their respective project in radically different directions. Notice how open the aperture of the Mislab /a and lack of ball terminal compared to Jubliat. Also notice how the bowl of the /a is flat on the top in Mislab, compared to the angled top of the bowl in Jubilat. Mislab’s /a counter is more symmetrical in shape than the teardrop shape in Jubilat.

All of these attributes give Mislab’s /a more from a calligraphic source. Its rigidity in some of the strokes, particularly in the bottom connection of the bowl to the tail, gives this a textura/ blackletter-y feel to the letter. Jubilat is much closer to the traditional model of a Clarendon.

It’s the similarity of the uppercase /H that draws out the dramatic shift in the lowercase between these two designs.

Lowercase /s

Moving on to the /s the different approaches of these designs reveal themselves. Mislab open aperture contrast with the enclosing terminals in Jubilat. Also, the narrower width of Mislab’s /s compared to Jubilat.

One note I want to discuss is, notice the different terminal treatment in the Jubilat /s compared to the /a. These terminals are slabs rather than ball terminals. Many times in typeface design, different terminals may be introduced to change the typographic voice the design.

A rule of thumb type designers use when introducing such inconsistencies is the question when reviewing a proof: “do I notice this variation? Or does it blend in?” The first rule of typeface design is to be consistent with the inner logic of the design. Except for the times when a variation is needed.

Lowercase /g

Mislab’s proportions are more closely related to a Humanist than the Clarendon typeface. You can think of Mislab’s /g as more of a box, compared to a triangle for how the Jubilat /g is proportioned.

Also, take notice how the link of the Mislab g is treated compared to Jubilat. Notice the abrupt transition in this region compared to Jubilat. 
A design tactic for Mislab appears to introduce abrupt transitions into complex strokes, a method seen in typefaces sourcing broad-nib calligraphy. Where with Jubilat, the transitions in complex strokes like the neck, are smooth and gradual, with the use of stroke contrast introduced to make enough room for all the stroke elements to play nicely.

Conclusion

When we started looking at the /H, I dunno about you all reading, but I was surprised to see how different the lowercase are from each other. When taking all these points into consideration here are some of my conclusions:

Jubilat

  • Jubilat’s tight default spacing and closed apertures suggests this is better used for headline usage.
  • Its smooth transitions of strokes mixed with a large x-height give it a warmth great for projects that want that downtown sandwich shop vibe, but would like the structure a slab serif provides.

Mislab

  • Its looser default spacing and open apertures suggests this font is better used for text and perhaps subhead usage.
  • The texura/ abrupt approach to complex strokes gives the design a more serious, rigid and modular tone. Dare I say this font could be used for a project about science, logic, engineering but would like the warm and more contemporary approach a slab serif provides.

Watch The Fontribute Review on Youtube

That’s Fontribute for this week! I hope you learn a new appreciation of letterforms. What would you use these fonts for? What do you see when reviewing these two different typeface? Share a response and let’s start the conversation.

Kara in discussion with Michelle about her lettering project at GoogleNYC

Fontribute is a project of TypeThursday, the meeting place for people who love letterforms.

Come join us for the appreciation of letterforms at our upcoming meet-ups.

RSVP is requested.
San Francisco on January 19th
New York City on February 23rd

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Thinking about using these fonts? 
Rent Jubilat from Fontstand
Rent Mislab from Fontsand.

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