(I hope Microsoft decides to pay Hoefler and replace Comic Sans with Inkwell in a future Windows upgrade.)

6 typefaces. 12 years in the making.

When physicists at CERN discovered the Higgs boson ”the so-called ‘God particle” they used Comic Sans to make the announcement. For all the hate it gets by designers, humans love the typeface, and researchers felt it added an approachability to the science. So, they used it to announce arguably the biggest discovery in physics.

Had the announcement happened today, perhaps they’d use Inkwell instead.

I’ve been waiting for the first Comic Sans comparison, says type designer Jonathan Hoefler dryly, when I mention how his new typeface family, Inkwell, all but begs for it. It’s hard not to draw parallels: Both fonts are handwriting-inspired, friendly looking, and designed to appear like they were drawn with ballpoint pens or Sharpie markers.

But the differences are just as instantly clear, too. Comic Sans is shooting for informal but hits amateurish, Hoefler says. I wanted Inkwell to be informal, but proficient. Indeed, Inkwell’s tiny universe of fonts contains both serif and sans versions, plus four decorative fonts including a cursive-like script, a blueprint-inspired all-caps set, even a blackletter. (Think less death announcement,more country club invitation. Hoefler says.)
Not quite a typeface, or even a family of typefaces, Inkwell is more like a family of families, featuring a Serif, a Sans, a Script, a Blackletter, a Tuscan, and a set of Open capitals. While it’s designed for serious content it can effortlessly dispatch detailed maps, complex reference books, or anything displayed in a digital app Inkwell wears its attitude lightly. It’s serious in the sense of thorough, rather than earnest, speaking in a decidedly personal, authorial voice.

It hits the mark.

Aside from its playful nature, the typeface is exquisitely-designed and well-equipped. Inkwell is a tiny universe of fonts, according to Hoefler. It features both a serif and sans serif version, as well as a cursive script, all-caps set, and even a blackletter for more formal announcements.

 

To render anything sophisticated you need typefaces with relationships, Hoefler says. Italics have a syntactic value ”without them you can’t communicate in English. Same for small caps and bold. But a single face doesn’t have those relationships for semantic emphasis. Inkwell brings the classical needs of a typographer to this genre.

All told it took Hoefler over a decade to create, mostly while sketching on pen and paper. Recently though, he began designing on the iPad Pro, which he says is the first digital thing he’s worked on to feel like a real pen and paper.

Inkwell is available now, and you can grab it hereFast Co. DesignTypography.com

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