Spring 2009

Catherine Dixon

‘Serifs are the new sans’

Catherine Dixon is a London-based freelance designer and writer. She teaches typography at Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design.

This is a time of consolidation. Established foundries are revisiting libraries that were perhaps hastily digitised in the early rush prompted by PostScript, and releasing OpenType versions. New designs are calmly considered and updated replete with the ‘accessories’ (true italics, non-lining figures, language extensions, etc.) increasingly expected by the market.

At its best, this trend results in significant improvements to beloved ‘classics’. At its worst, there is homogenisation. International font browsing is easy, with more foundries represented online, especially the smaller outfits.

And at the same time, the revival reigns, with obscure source material providing quirky ligatures and swash characters that bring a distinctive additional flair.

Serifs are the new sans – or least on the upswing (Frutiger serif is one of the more calculated pitches to sell the idea of a serif / sans serif ‘matched pair’ in place of the hit ‘single’). The newest and most formally intriguing serif in a while is OurType’s Lirico (2008), designed by the German calligrapher Hendrik Weber, which is definitely on my ‘to try’ list.

Another font on my list is Samba by the Brazilians Tony and Caio de Marco. Though it is distributed by Linotype, it speaks to the ‘opening-up’ of the global type market – and it is fun. The uncompromisingly eccentric and beautiful expert variant cleverly marks this character font as something altogether more accomplished.

First published in Eye no. 71 vol. 18 2009


Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published quarterly for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It is available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions and single issues.