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Allium Text gets down to business

Bigger is not always better. Occupant Fonts’ Cyrus Highsmith adopted an unconventional approach to create Allium Text, a new incarnation of Allium destined for smaller sizes.

A typeface is a lot like a person. Just as you wear different clothes for different occasions and different jobs, so does a typeface. Underneath those clothes, though, you’re still you. The way you dress doesn’t change who you are, and people still recognize you. The same applies to type design. The concept of a typeface is like the person inside the clothes; the different variations are the clothes typefaces wear.

Display cuts dress up. Meant to be set big, their design has the opportunity to shine and show off its details. Text cuts, by contrast, wear tough work clothes. Counters and apertures are opened up; ink traps are carved out; x-heights are usually raised; and spacing grows looser, allowing more air inside and around the characters to avoid clogging up at small sizes. Delicate parts grow sturdier so they don’t break up in less favorable conditions. (For more on the differences between display and text faces, see Inside the fonts: optical sizes.)

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Highsmith dressed Allium in more rugged, expressive clothes to arrive at Allium Text. A larger x-height and generous spacing allow more air inside and between the characters; Highsmith also emphasized certain design traits to make them stand out in smaller sizes.

Contrary to Highsmith’s previous, more energetic designs, Allium is a calmer, quieter face, an exercise in harmony and balance. Instead of toning down its personality for small sizes, Highsmith did the opposite: he amped up Allium’s characteristics to increase differentiation between characters and aid legibility at small sizes. To return to our earlier analogy, he didn’t just roll up Allium’s sleeves to create Allium Text; he completely undressed it and sent it back outside in more sensible work attire.

Highsmith brought his display design back to its essence by evaluating what Allium conveys and aims to achieve. He then outfitted the typographic concept with confident formal attributes. For example, he made the ear on the g, the outgoing curve on the l, and the shoulder of the r more prominent, and gave the a a tail. Besides introducing the usual adjustments—a bigger x-height, opened-up counters, and looser spacing—Highsmith also emphasized the tapers and bumped up the contrast.

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Allium Text’s refinements guarantee excellent legibility in very small sizes.

These changes may not be readily perceptible, but they considerably improve reading comfort in continuous text—precisely what Allium Text needed to achieve. The new optical size comes in four weights, from Light to Black, with matching italics; the two lightest weights would become too frail at small sizes. Discover Allium’s new, practical suit that soothes the eyes and makes copy flow.

Like all Occupant fonts, Allium Text is available for print, web, applications, and ePub licensing. Webfonts may be tested free for thirty days. To stay current on all things Occupant, subscribe to Type Network News, our occasional email newsletter featuring font releases, foundry happenings, type and design events, and more.

The Type Network staff dresses up, and then down.