Between: Monotype’s Newest Typeface, Over Easy
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Good morning, graphic designer! Feeling non-committal and indecisive about choosing a typeface, or ever so slightly saddened by limited options? Need to mix up the typographic moods in your work without going overboard in the number of fonts at your disposal? What to do?
Relax! Monotype has a new typeface for you.
The Between typeface embraces a novel yet practical concept. It offers three different designs, each with eight weights plus italics, to satisfy a range of moods while maintaining consistency and harmony. All three designs maintain the same cap height and x-height and share identical letterforms, while certain characters like ‘e’ and ‘g’ show off the unique characteristics of each font. Consider it a family where the siblings bear a great physical resemblance to each other, but sport entirely different personalities: the most formal, slightly rigid firstborn; the more easygoing middle child, the fun-loving kid brother. Or, as Monotype would have it: think of Between as an egg. Sunny side up, scrambled, or hardboiled, it makes for variety in the daily diet without going too crazy on the menu.
Monotype’s veteran type designer Akira Koyabashi (he’s created 53 font families to date) set out to combine the clarity of modern industrial typefaces with the warmth of humanist san serifs. He was further intrigued by a comment from Nadine Chahine, Monotype’s UK Type Director and Legibility Expert, who suggested three distinct energy levels within a single typeface.
Using ideas first sketched out in the 1990’s as a reference, Kobayashi developed Between 1, a crisp, modern fusion of industrial and humanistic san serif styles; Between 2, a slightly more relaxed typeface with natural looking letterforms; and Between 3 – a freestyle sans serif with a more obviously handwritten, calligraphic origin. “I put three designs next to each other and I started to balance the stroke thicknesses, the width of the letters, and the letterspacing so that each member of the family was somehow related without looking too close to the others,” Kobayashi says.
Partly inspired by DIN’s cool rationality and frankness, some of Between’s proportions and shapes are also reminiscent of Kobayashi’s 2008 typeface Eurostile Next, an optically-rescaled and redesigned version of the original geometric sans-serif designed by Aldo Novarese in 1962. Over time, Eurostile somehow became the default “outer space” typeface, featured prominently in many movies about space exploration.
Asked if he foresaw a future where the Between typeface might become the definitive typeface for some other single design genre and if so, what it might be, Kobayashi replied, “I do love Eurostile, but sometimes I had to wonder: “Is our future going to be squarish and stiff like that? Is it really easy to read a spaceship operation manual set in Eurostile? Why can’t the type be more functional and approachable at the same time? Between 1 is my answer to those questions. In other words, I wanted to see a more relaxed future. Between 3 was my suggestion for an alternative to Comic Sans, the default ‘children’s menu’ typeface. I wanted to add some more tension and energy to it.”
It’s always refreshing to switch out the menu (for grownups and kids!), whether the subject is breakfast or typefaces. Kobayashi’s multifaceted approach to Between serves up food for thought, and gives graphic designers a great deal more to chew on when considering typographic options.