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Type Tuesday: Hoefler&Co’s Cesium

Hoefler&Co is known for consistently producing outstanding typefaces—but one of our favorite parts of any release from the foundry is the way Hoefler tells a type tale.

It’s a seemingly Herculean job to take months (if not years) of work and distill them into a paragraph or two that not only describes the typeface and its possible applications, but speaks to its inspiration, backstory and perhaps even the psychology behind it. When executed well, it can create a symbiosis that deepens the entire experience.

Take Hoefler&Co’s new release, Cesium.

“Cesium is a chemical element, one of only five metals that’s liquid at room temperature,” Jonathan Hoefler writes. “Resembling quicksilver, cesium is typically stored in a glass ampule, where the tension between a sturdy outer vessel and its volatile contents is scintillating. The Cesium typeface hopes to capture this quality, its bright and insistent inline restrained by a strong and sinuous container.”

The face is an inline descendent of Hoefler&Co’s Vitesse—but as Hoefler describes, infusing the inline involved renovating each and every character, from ‘A’ to ‘Z’ to the period and the space, resulting in a design that can be equally at home in athletic applications as it can in a magazine spread or anywhere from “hardware stores to Hollywood.”

Vitesse vs. Cesium

The foundry calls special attention to the impact that spacing has on Cesium’s personality: The tighter the leading and tracking, the more the sport and tech flavor. The greater the letterspacing, the more literary associations develop. (To that end, Hoefler&Co offers its perpetually useful “How to Use” page.)

The end result is a versatile, expressive display face that—giving Hoefler the last word—was difficult to adapt and execute, but “its puzzles were immensely satisfying to solve.”

“Cesium is one of only three H&Co typefaces whose name comes from the periodic table, a distinction it shares with Mercury and Tungsten. At a time when I considered a more sci-fi name for the typeface, I learned that these three elements have an unusual connection: They’re used together in the propulsion system of NASA’s Deep Space 1, the first interplanetary spacecraft powered by an ion drive. I found the association compelling, and adopted the name at once, with the hope that designers might employ the typeface in the same spirit of discovery, optimism and invention.”