Community Gothic Highlights the Power of a Simple Typeface

Posted inType Tuesday

Here’s the thing— while fun, quirky typography that’s also legible is consistently adored, there’s something inexplicably powerful about a bold, simple typeface. There will always be a need for typefaces that are uncomplicated, easy to use, and even rudimentary. Community Gothic is a font by Frere-Jones that delivers on this promise.

Think of this typeface as sparkling water: modest and universally appealing, but with a hint of flair. While Community Gothic is straightforward on the surface, it’s inspired by asymmetric curves, buckled lines, and intricate details. It’s understated but warm, making it perfect for a small neighborhood’s newspaper logo or soup packaging.

The story of Community Gothic begins with the sans serif “jobbing” typefaces of the nineteenth century. These typefaces were clear and durable, while often being coarse and even awkward. In many cases they were developed in isolation, without any deliberate relationship to each other. 

Community Gothic revives not only the gritty forms of this genre, but the patchwork sets assembled by typefounders and printers alike. So each style was conceived and drawn independently, but integrated in a conventional progression of weights and widths for intuitive use. Designers Tobias Frere-Jones, Fred Shallcrass and Nina Stössinger referred to historical sources from American and European foundries in developing each style. With design tools they made specifically for this family, the designers pursued irregularity with asymmetric curves and buckled lines. Community Gothic consciously resists the usual smoothness of digital type, and the result is a powerful and emphatically human quality.