Although a humanist sans might not look like a classic serif face at first glance, both typographic genres share a common ancestor. The humanist sans is the sans-serif-descendant of the handwriting styles practiced by the Italian Humanists during the Renaissance. The very same handwriting inspired the early serif typefaces of Nicolas Jenson and Aldus Manutius. Humanist sans serifs tend to be the most legible kinds of sans, particularly because of their open counterforms. As such, they are often used in wayfinding design, as well as for setting long passages of text intended for immersive reading. If you want to set a whole book in a sans serif, a humanist sans will likely be the choice your readers will find most comfortable.
Today, we are pleased to introduce you to our two newest humanist sans families: Guide and Alpinist. Both were developed in France. Guide was designed by Elliott Amblard for road traffic signs and similar signage systems. Alpinist was optimised for magazine designs and other editorial applications by Alisa Nowak and Jeremie Hornus.
The Guide family has eight fonts on offer: there are four weights ranging from Regular to Bold, and each is equipped with a companion italic. In the upright fonts, all of the strokes end in either horizontal or vertical shears, rather than on a diagonal. Guide’s italics have an 11° angle. The forms of the ‘a’, ‘b’, ‘e’, and ‘p’ are more dynamic in the italic fonts, like ‘true italic’ letters. Each Guide font includes 20 arrow glyphs. The tops of Guide’s uppercase letters and numerals align at the same height, and the ascenders rise slightly above this. Guide’s lowercase letters have a large x-height. The diacritical marks in the typeface are quite prominent. By default, the ‘a’ and ‘g’ are both double-storey in Guide’s upright fonts. In the italics, the ‘a’ is single-storey and the ‘g’ double-storey. However, the upright and italic fonts alike include an alternate single-story ‘g’ in a stylistic set. A second stylistic set contains smaller versions of the fonts’ default arrows. Finally, the fonts each include a contextual alternates feature, which substitutes a shortened ‘f’ before the letters ‘b’, ‘h’, ‘i’, ‘j’, ‘k’, and ‘l’ for better pair-building.
Alpinist is humanist sans with a small x-height. The family includes six weights: Thin, Light, Regular, Medium, Bold, and Black. The strokes of each of Alpinist’s letters have slightly rounded corners; this rounding is more apparent in the heavier weights. The in- and out-strokes in Alpinist’s letters end in a 30° angle; this corresponds to the marks a broad pen would leave, if Alpinist was handwritten. The capital letters in this typeface’s design are all rather wide. This harmonises well with the lowercase’s long ascenders and descenders. As the family increases in weight, letterforms become more wide than tall, in order to accommodate thickening strokes. Alpinist features some very distinctive letterforms. For instance, the capital ‘G’ has a beard, but no crossbar. The lowercase ‘a’ and ‘g’ are each double-storey, and the ‘g’ has a flamboyant ear. The tail of the ‘y’ ends in a curve. There is generous white space around the typeface’s diacritical marks, and the cedilla has a detached form. Alpinist’s numerals are proportional oldstyle figures – exactly the kind of numerals that look best in running text.