Type Tuesday: Unlocking Jeremy Tankard’s Yale Solis

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Dating back to 1840, Yale is a company with history—and it made history when Linus Yale Jr. experimented with ancient Egyptian mechanisms and created the Yale cylinder lock.

Today, the company that revolutionized the industry remains a leader in locks—but it needed a rebrand to keep visual pace with the increasingly digital home security market (not to mention a way to counter counterfeiting).

One key part of the solution: a bespoke typeface by Jeremy Tankard, Yale Solis.

Creative consultancy GW+Co issued the commission for the project with a brief of unifying and maintaining visual consistency throughout Yale’s portfolio. The face went live last week on the brand’s website, and will be rolled out in marketing and packaging beginning in September.

Tankard drew initial inspiration from the lettering of Yale’s new logo—a roundness and softness, alongside capitals and ascenders that are matched in height. (The orange circle of Yale’s previous logo was subtly made into a sun—a warm, positive image intended to convey consistency and security.)

Tankard also drew inspiration from the work of Yale’s product designers.

“There was a whole product design language that I could absorb and filter into the typeface design,” Tankard writes. “It became obvious that the typeface needed to be simple, pure, constructed and engineered. But without the coldness and mechanical issues that the early 20th-century industrial typefaces often have.”

As Tankard worked, he was focused on two factors: regularity and individuality. For the former, “the proportions of letters, their internal and external spaces, as well as their fit, were slightly adjusted to maintain the illusion of an even pattern. Optics are more important here than a grid structure, and previous work on the Pembroke typeface showed the positive effect that individual letter proportion can have on the fit and rhythm of word shape and set text.”

As for individuality and personality, Tankard turned to 1960s-era typefaces designed for computers to read and interpret—functionally, the letters had to be distinct for the machine to comprehend them, and aesthetically, they had to appeal to the machines’ human counterparts.

“This approach to individuality also continued through to the design of the numbers,” Tankard writes, “a part of the typeface that is vital considering the client and the requirement for timings and passcodes.”

As development continued, Yale Solis—which was initially influenced by Yale’s new logo—began to influence that very logo, in a typographic symbiosis.

Ultimately, the resulting typeface took the form of three fonts—Light, Regular and Bold—with 542 glyphs.

“It has a softness to its appearance though not soft in its outline,” Tankard writes. “The proportions create an even rhythm that elegantly and effortlessly conveys Yale’s voice.”

We agree.

For much more of the typographic tale behind Yale Solis, visit Tankard’s Studiotype.