Introducing FS Brabo, the eloquent type
Fontsmith, London’s leading type design studio, publishes a new font that brings a beautifully bookish personality to hardworking modern applications.
FS Brabo is a four-weight serif font that reinterprets early book typefaces and whose swashes and ligatures bring colour and character not just to editorial projects but also signage, advertising and identities. It makes its debut in a specially-commissioned four-page sampler, designed by traditional type specialists, The Counter Press, to celebrate FS Brabo’s literary leanings.
Created by Fontsmith’s Fernando Mello, FS Brabo takes its inspiration from a class of book typeface that originated in the 16th century. ‘Garaldes’, which include Bembo, Garamond and Plantin, have rounded serifs and moderate contrast between strokes. FS Brabo’s serifs are chunkier and squarer than a garalde, to give it crispness in text.
Fernando was inspired by the extraordinary archive of early book typefaces at the world-renowned Plantin-Moretus Museum in Antwerp, which he first encountered while attending Frank Blokland’s Expert class Type Design course at the Plantin Institute of Typography. It was there that he became engrossed in the collection of early metal type, matrices, punches and type samples by figures such as Garamond and Granjon. So much so that he took on the mighty task of developing ‘a beautiful, functional, serifed text font’ of his own.
For the four-page sampler, The Counter Press have produced a typographic tour-de-force, displaying FS Brabo in all its variations and sizes. Taking its cue from the font’s literary lineage, the sampler employs a number of different typographic formats, including book title page, chapter openings and a play manuscript. The series of texts re-tell the legend that inspired the name of the font, of the Roman hero, Silvius Brabo, and the evil giant, Antigoon – the same tale that is said to have given Antwerp its name. Antigoon had been charging ships’ captains extortionate tolls and chopping off the hands of those who refused to pay up. Brabo finally downed Antigoon after a long and terrible duel, cutting off the giant’s own hand and throwing it into the river Scheldt, unwittingly giving the town its name: the Dutch for ‘hand-throw’ is hand werpen.
In addition to the main type specimen, The Counter Press also designed and letterpress printed a limited edition print.
More on FS Brabo
FS Brabo is not a revival, but a very much a contemporary, personal interpretation of a garalde. Brabo’s ‘ct’ and ‘st’ ligatures, upper-case italic swashes and contextual ending ligatures – ‘as’, ‘is’, ‘us’ – all preserve the beauty and character of traditional typefaces, but its serifs are thicker than a garalde. Their sharp cuts and squared edges give them a crispness at text sizes. The contrast in stroke width in Brabo, not as pronounced as in typical 16th century fonts, allied to the presence of generous counters, gives the family a strong, sturdy, affable character in body text.
OpenType features such as cap italic swashes, contextual ending swashes – programmed only to appear at the end of words – and stylistic alternatives make FS Brabo a complete and well-equipped typeface. Comprehensive testing was carried out at text and display sizes, too, to prevent counters from filling in. All of which makes it a very modern take on a traditional workhorse serif typeface: colourful and versatile enough to adorn editorial projects, signage, advertising and logotypes.
Fontsmith is a leading boutique type foundry, famous for creating fonts that are distinctively human and full of character. Founded in 1997 by Jason Smith, today Fontsmith represents a truly international team of designers working from a London studio.
The Fontsmith library includes an extensive collection of typefaces – elegant and traditional, contemporary and quirky – suitable for a range of applications. In addition, the team designs and creates bespoke typefaces for global brands, design and advertising agencies through their new Brandfont® service.