Designing type can be like searching for gold: Some type designers treat past art movements or pop-culture trends as streams for nugget-panning. Once a particular stream is depleted, they move on to another one. Other designers find a rich vein of typographic or calligraphic history and mine it over and over.
Robert Slimbach, a principal designer at Adobe, takes the latter approach. For 20 years, Slimbach has turned to the Renaissance Humanist tradition—the work of Griffo, Garamond, and Arrighi—for new fonts. In 1989, he designed Adobe Garamond, the most accurate revival of Garamond’s types attempted at the time. Then, more than a decade later, he reconsidered his design and, taking advantage of technical advances, created Adobe Garamond Premier Pro. In the period between his two Garamonds, Slimbach found inspiration in the same sources for original designs such as Minion and Brioso, Sanvito and Poetica. Even when he has attempted other styles of type, they have carried undertones of the Humanist tradition, as is evident in his neoclassical Kepler and his sans-serif Cronos.
Arno Pro, Slimbach’s newest design, is the latest font in this vein. He calls it “a distillation of his design ideals and a refinement of his craft.” It is his second foray into the Aldine tradition, but Arno is no Bembo or Poliphilus. It is a new design that springs from the same calligraphic soil as Griffo’s original faces for Aldus. It is livelier than Minion (Slimbach’s first exploration of the Aldine letter), yet not as loose and carefree as Brioso.
Arno (which has five optical sizes: display, subhead, text, small text, and caption) is an OpenType font with many features for complex, multilingual designs. Its Cyrillic version includes characters used in the former Soviet republics while its Greek version contains a complete polytonic set for setting classical Greek—details that bring extra utility and sparkle to Arno. Slimbach’s latest strike shows that the Renaissance Humanist mine is still worth exploring. PAUL SHAW