Subtle Variation Between Two Condensed Sans Serifs
Fontribute Review of the Fonts October Compressed from Typotheque and Gabriello from Commercial Type
Say you have a client project where you need a bold, condensed sans-serif. A very narrow scope but there’s tonal variation between two typefaces in the same category. This week, TypeThursday founder Thomas Jockin discusses the typographic nuances of October Compressed, from Typotheque, and Gabriello, from Commercial Type.
Let’s start by looking at October Compressed. We can imagine a skeleton structure that makes the letter /H. Now see a circle stroke moving along that skeleton. The end result is what we see in October Compressed; A sans serif bold font with rounded terminals. Meanwhile, with Gabriello, we can see the stroke terminals are these slanted, rounded rectangles.
Directions of Italic
October takes a traditional left-right skewing of the letterform to create the sense of italicizing. Gebriello introduces a up-down skewing, as well as, a left-right skew in the letterform. We can see this in the angled crossbar of the /H and those slanted terminals.
October is using a two-story /a whereas Gabreillo is using a one-story /a. From this, we can think of October’s italic more as an oblique roman, rather than a “true” italic. The roman /a for October was skewed, and optical corrections for stroke weight were taken. Where in Gabreillo, a simplified /a construction was used. The decision to be an italic or an oblique does dramatically impact the overall tone of the typeface
Before moving on, take notice on the different approach to the side-bearings in the /a. October has a much steeper skew compared to Gabreillo. Which makes sense; October is creating the sense of “italic” with one direction of skewing, where Gabreillo is using two directions of skewing. Gabreillo doesn’t need the same degree of left-right sloping to create its sense of italic. This consideration impacts how the glyph is place within its glyph box. October uses a negative side-bearing on the left side, where October can maintain positive side-bearings on both it’s left and right sides.
Take notice the different approaches between these two fonts. October is sticking to the rounded terminal model we saw in the /H. Gabreillo calls more from a sign painter’s source; look at the pointy-tail nature of these terminals. This give it’s a more spontaneous vibe to the letter, compared to the regularized method of October.
Let’s take a moment to notice how the spines of the /s are treated differently. In October, there’s a down stroke, a horizontal stroke, and then lastly an another vertical stroke. Gabreillo’s spine is a more straight diagonal stroke. You can think of it as a reversed z
First, let’s notice different construction of the /g’s. October continues with its oblique roman method, with its /g placed in a horizontal skew. We can see that with the joint in the upper right corner of the bowl dipping down and connecting to the stem. Contrast that to Gabreillo, where it follows the simplified forms of italics, with a /g that mimics how the /a was drawn.
Even in the very specific parameters of bold condensed sans-serif, typographic voice variations do exist. After reviewing these two fonts, we can discern the following:
- By having such a steeper italic slope, October feels more urgent, direct, severe.
- Yet, the consistent round terminals do soften the overall severity of the design. This may make a good choice for that project that wants some rigid logic, but with a touch of warmth. But not too much.
- The up-down skew gives a much more bouncy, casual tone. We see this in the angled crossbars and the unsymmetrical, angled terminals.
- The point ended terminals in the round strokes gives a sign painter vibe to the design. Perhaps for the project that wants to be structured, but dose not take itself too seriously.
That’s Fontribute for this week!
I hope you learn a new appreciation of letterforms.
What do you see when reviewing these two different typeface? Share a response and let’s start the conversation.
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