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Monokrom blows in from the North

The cool Norwegian foundry brings its chill fonts to Type Network.

Monokrom must be doing something right. Their virtual trophy case holds multiple accolades, including Visuelt honors given by the Norwegian Organisation for Visual Communication, a couple of awards in Type Director’s Club competitions, and a number of rave reviews in Typographica’s annual “Our Favorite Typefaces” roundup.

These kudos are evidence of a serious dedication to type and, perhaps, the aligning of stars. Monokrom principals Sindre Bremnes and Frode Bo Helland joined forces in 2012, launching their independent foundry late in the year to fanfare from the typorati. Although born fifteen years apart—Bremnes in 1970 and Helland in 1985—the Norwegian designers share the same approach to typeface design. Small wonder—from a user and reader perspective, typography and legibility played a vital role in their early careers. Bremnes comes from a newspaper editorial background, while Helland formerly designed magazines and websites. With an understanding of how essential quality type is to design and a desire to improve the typographic landscape, teaming up to open a foundry seemed a natural next step. True craftspeople, their approach to creating type is comparable to that of artisans painstakingly working the grain of wood.

The duo’s output is deliberately paced and carefully considered. Every release results from meticulous drawing, refining, and engineering; nothing is left to chance. For some foundries, indiscriminate versatility is key, but Monokrom designs fonts for specific applications: the forms are tuned for text or display (or intermediary sizes) and honed for print or screen use. Rather than limiting the usability of their typefaces, this razor-sharp focus enables Bremnes and Helland to home in on the inner core, the beating heart of each design. This way of working lends Monokrom faces distinct identities that simmer just below the surface—the shapes of the characters never overpower the words.

Vinter for titles and Satyr for body copy.

The refined contrast in Vinter imbues the geometric sans with an almost aristocratic flair. The typeface combines wonderfully with Satyr’s warm utility in body copy.

Monokrom’s initial release on Type Network consists of five exciting font families. Helland’s Vinter came into this world as a single font—a refined geometric sans serif with delicate contrast. The ethereal letters seemed destined to adorn high-end fashion publications and branding for luxury goods, yet were devoid of the haughtiness that so often comes with that territory. The critical success of this quintessentially Scandinavian design led Helland to expand Vinter to a full-fledged family, which now counts five weights with matching italics. The italics offer an unexpected take on geometric models; the round shapes remain perfectly circular, thus creating a fascinating tension with the other letters.

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Mønster’s idiosyncratic letterforms and powerful appearance carve arresting images on the page.

The flip side of Vinter is Bremnes’ Mønster. Its wide, powerful shapes marry a striking reverse-contrast construction with chunky slab serifs. Far from conjuring up tired Wild West clichés of saloons and stagecoaches, Mønster’s subtle Eastern references make for a refreshing clash of cultures. The typeface creates arresting black-and-white patterns of space and counterspace that grab the reader’s attention.

Satyr specimen

Satyr and Faunus are typefaces of delicious contradictions. Their smooth, soothing appearance offsets tense curves and brusque corners.

Satyr specimen

Satyr’s clear, open forms are eminently readable in even the smallest type sizes.

Satyr and Faunus, also by Bremnes, form a surprising pair. Though they were drawn as siblings, they offer different interpretations of the same design concept: Satyr is a bookish text face and—while not a full-blown display face—Faunus offers a fine complement to Satyr for intermediary sizes. Investigations into the relationships between straight lines and round curves and how they connect led Bremnes to imagine letters consisting only of convex and concave curves. The contradiction in the typefaces’ appearance is breathtaking. Their individual forms look sculpted, with tense outlines and confident corners, as if they had been chiseled in wood, yet their overall appearance is soft and soothing. This makes these open and eminently readable typefaces invigorating options for immersive reading.

Nordvest specimen

Nordvest’s reverse-contrast letterforms feel as at home in titles as they do in running text.

Nordvest is Monokrom’s first release by an external designer. The typeface was conceived by Nina Stössinger (now a senior type designer at Frere-Jones Type) as her degree project at Type and Media (2014). Stössinger’s research into contrast in letterforms led her to explore reverse-contrast designs as an option for better readability in a text face. Nordvest’s horizontal stress guides readers’ eyes along lines of text, and gives the italic a joyful, dynamic stride. Two and a half years of further development turned Nordvest into an accomplished, award-winning type family that has captured eyes, hearts, and minds.

Nordvest specimen

Nordvest’s horizontal emphasis guides the eye easily through text.

“It’s so fantastic to welcome Monokrom to Type Network—I’ve had the pleasure of working with Frode, Hans Ivar, and Sindre for almost five years since they joined Webtype in 2013,” said Type Network General Manager Paley Dreier. “I’m constantly impressed by the innovative typefaces they draw and I’m really looking forward to their contributions to Type Network.” 

Monokrom’s deep love for type and commitment to craft and community make them a perfect fit for the Type Network family. In the coming months, we’ll take a closer look at their typefaces, and the designers will share stories of their typographic adventures. Stay tuned for more good things to come from our latest foundry partner!

All Monokrom fonts are available for desktop, web, app, and ePub licensing. Webfonts may be tested free for thirty days. To stay current on all things Monokrom, subscribe to Type Network News, our occasional email newsletter featuring font releases, foundry happenings, type and design events, and more.