The Oscars of Type

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By: Ellen Lupton | February 10, 2010

Assaulted with ceaseless buzz about the Academy Awards, I can’t help wishing that a well-wrought typeface could attract as much attention as a 90-minute film. Various type blogs and font foundries released their own best-of lists at the end of 2009. I sifted through them and cast my own votes. Each of the selections presented here comes from a published list of the year’s top typefaces. Most of these lists reflect the personal tastes of the editor, while some are based on a font company’s own sales figures. What’s the Avatar of the type world? According to, the all-around best-selling typeface of 2009 was Eduardo Manso’s GeoGrotesque. Watch more winners walk down the red carpet below.

Best Typeface: GeoGrotesque, by Eduardo Manso, Em Type

A tough modular sans with a soft edge, GeoGrotesque has an emotional range that revs up fast from razor Thin to beefy Bold. This crowd-pleasing typeface capitalizes on big, memorable gestures rather than psychological nuance.

Nominated by,, and FontShop

Best Actor: Mr Eaves, by Zuzana Licko, Émigré

Finally, the dainty and graceful Mrs Eaves has found her sans-serif counterpart. With his diminutive x-height, loose letter spacing, and lovely bones, Mr Eaves offers a balanced match for his lyrical sister. Like Colin Firth in A Single Man, this elegant sans really knows how to wear a suit.

Nominated by

Liza Pro, by Underware

Best Actress: Liza Pro, by Underware

A brush script with bite, Liza Pro merges artifice and spontaneity. Tapping the power of OpenType, this fast-moving font uses automatic substitution to conjure a constantly changing performance from 4,000 unique glyphs. Take that, Penelope Cruz.

Nominated by MyFonts

Best Sans: Alright Sans, by Jackson Cavanaugh, Okay Type

The kid’s Alright. This ballsy geometric sans has a humanist underbelly that helps him play those sensitive scenes in between car chases. The Matt Damon of typefaces.

Nominated by MyFonts and

Best Serif: Calluna, by Jos Buivenga

Calluna brings a dash of motion to the static archetype of the slab. In the tradition of 19-century Egyptians, slab serifs anchor a letterform solidly to the baseline. Not so with Calluna, whose serifs are animated with a subtle forward direction.

Nominated by and

Best Superfamily: Trilogy, by Jeremy Tankard, Jeremy Tankard Typography

Inspired by nineteenth-century commercial printing styles, Trilogy includes not only sans and slab serif typefaces but also a surprising new “fat face” variant, with ultrawide verticals and wafer-thin serifs. Trilogy packs an enormous range of expression into a single family: John Wayne meets Johnny Depp.

Nominated by

Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Giorgio Sans, by Christian Schwartz

Commissioned for The New York Times T magazine, this gutsy typeface takes on character roles that demand a big personality and an even bigger x-height. Nominated by

Best Revival: Burgundica, by Gerrit Noordzij, The Enschedé Type Foundry

Burgundica is the love child of Gerrit Noordzij, one of the Netherlands’ most influential typographic designers, teachers, and scholars. Noordzij is a strong advocate for the role of Bastarda scripts in the evolution of roman typefaces. His inglourious Burgundica is based on a 1450 manuscript produced in Hainaut (present-day Belgium).

Nominated by

Best Foreign Language Font: Nara, by Andrej Krátky with Nikola Djurek and Peter Bilak, Typotheque

Nara combines the oblique axis of humanist letterforms with the sharp contrast and flat serifs of modern faces (Garamond hooks up with Bodoni). The italic forms are especially exotic. Like many typefaces in the Typotheque stable, Nara supports dozens of languages, including Bosnian, Croatian, Hawaiian, Hungarian, Lithuanian, and Swedish. Playing soon in a theater far far away.Nominated by

Best Visual Effects: Klimax, by Ondrej Jób, Typotheque

With its engorged strokes and super-slim counters, Klimax delivers “the money shot.” This fantastically foxy typeface brings an undercurrent of theoretical rigor to a blatantly sexy genre. Pamela Anderson, meet Meryl Streep.

Nominated by and

Best Free Font: League Gothic, by the League of Moveable Type; revival of Morris Fuller Benton’s Alternate Gothic No.1

Not all free fonts are oozing monsters suited only for horror flicks or heavy metal shows. League Gothic, a well-constructed revival of a Morris Fuller Benton classic, is designed and distributed by the League of Moveable Type, dedicated to expanding the culture of free fonts.

Nominated by

Lifetime Achievement: Wim Crouwel

Among the most esteemed awards in the typographic world is the Gerrit Noordzij Prize, which recognizes an individual for extraordinary work as a type designer, typographer, or educator. The 2009 prize wen
t to the Dutch master Wim Crouwel, whose “new alphabet” of 1967 provided an early vision of the digital future. The prize was handed to him by Tobias Frere-Jones in a moving ceremony in the Hague.

Nominated by

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