Font Friday

Font Friday: “Spirited” – a set of 3 hand-made fonts

The ‘Spirited’ type family is an all-new set of 3 hand-made fonts from the pen of the highly talented, UK-based Set Sail Studios. With a distinctive retro-friendly style, this font set is spot on for anyone looking to creating hand-lettered quotes, logos, or printed designs with a rustic, personal touch.

The full set consists of Spirited Script (a set of uppercase and lowercase cursive characters with plenty of OpenType alternates), Spirited Serif (an upper-case only, narrow serif font), Spirited Sans (upper-case again, but wider than the serif version) and a set of 10 swashes, frames and containers.

The typeface family is available to buy as a complete set from Creative Market, or for more options including webfonts or individual font purchases you can also grab it from You Work For Them.


Fonts: Spirited (Set Sail Studios)

Helpful Things

Type tips Pt 1: Getting uptight with ligatures, and other OpenType fun

OK, so you’ve got got hold of a fancy new font, and you know there are all sorts of slick and swirly delights hiding within it. But when you try to use it, it all just looks a bit… well… plain. So how the heck do you make the most of these extra typographic features?

If you’ve read any of the font friday posts elsewhere on the blog you may have seen mention of OpenType, or references to using “OpenType-aware software”. OpenType fonts (.otf files) are the key to unlocking the extras buried within a font, since they allow type designers to bundle additional characters and features in the typeface, along with a set of rules on when to show them.

Not all OpenType fonts are created equal of course – the extra time and effort needed to make these fonts generally mean you’re unlikely to find advanced type features in most free fonts. And even then, not all paid fonts contain extra typographic features, although most font libraries (such as will make it quite clear if they do.

There are some great free fonts out there though, such as the immaculately produced “Calendas Plus” from Atipo which is available to download for just the cost of a Tweet of Facebook Like from their website. Also, if you’ve installed any Adobe software in the past few years you’ll have had a few feature-packed fonts automatically added to your system. Keep an eye out for any with the word “Pro” in their name – this is usually a dead giveaway that they’ve got some interesting extras hiding underneath the hood.

The most common of these extras are ligatures, where two or more letters are combined into a single shape. Chances are you’ve used one of these several times already this week without even realising it…


The ampersand is a ligature originating from the latin “et”. You can still clearly see the original letters in the ampersands of some fonts, but over time this shape has become abstracted and simplified into the more common “&” shape.

The ampersand originated from hand-written script, and has become commonplace enough to earn its own place on our keyboards. To discover most other advanced type features however, we need to dig a little deeper. This is where we need our OpenType-aware software, as not all software supports these extra features. The list of apps is unfortunately fairly limited, although many will have a copy of Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator or InDesign installed, all of which support OpenType. Oddly, Photoshop Elements still doesn’t have OpenType options. Boo… For anyone who doesn’t have access to Adobe’s professional software, Microsoft Word may fill the gap. Users since 2010 have had access to an “Advanced” font panel with all the extra type features you need.

Photoshop’s OpenType options are available from the Character palette menu:


Illustrator has a dedicated OpenType palette:


Word gives users access to advanced type options through its font panel:


Ligatures in action

So we’ve got hold of some sort of OpenType-friendly software, and selected our font of choice. Lets see how things actually work in practice. (N.B I’m using Calendas Plus here as mentioned above – other fonts may handle their ligatures slightly differently).

It’s handy to have a test phrase when scrutinising fonts for Opentype features – one which contains the right combinations of characters to let the typeface best show off its wares. The phrase I tend to use is a nonsensical sentence, but it contains most of the letter pairings commonly combined in OpenType fonts. Let’s start by taking a look at how it looks without any extra type features activated…


At first glance it seems OK, but after looking at it a bit more closely there’s something annoying about that letter ‘f’. Lower-case ‘f’ has always been a problem for printers… It looms over the lower-case ‘t’, it squares up aggressively to stare out the ‘i’, it invades the personal space of the ‘l’, and just stands plain awkwardly next to its twin.

Problems with ‘f’, ‘l’, ‘t’ and the like were taken so much for granted in the past that most metal type was produced with ligatures for these as a matter of course, with single blocks or stamps containing a combined character that could used in place of the sets of letters. These common stand-in characters became referred to as “standard” ligatures. So lets try that phrase again with standard ligatures activated in our software:


The font has replaced these problem letter groups for the appropriate ligature – the ‘fi’ with a wider loop at the top of the ‘f’ to also provide a cap to the ‘i’, the ‘ft’ shares a common crossbar, the ‘ff’ now look like a much more comfortable pairing and the ‘fl’ are now linked at the top. Much neater.

Even iOS and Android have started to embrace standard ligatures, with the latest versions of each operating system making these substitutions automatically. This makes the type a lot more elegant, particularly on small screens where text can seem cramped at the best of times.

That’s standard ligatures then, but some fonts go a step further and have a secondary set of ‘discretionary’ ligatures. These tend to be more decorative in nature, and are intended to be used at your discretion… Hence the name. Activating discretionary ligatures on our sentence below gives the following:


Some discretionary ligatures combine frequently occurring letter pairs (like ‘ck’ or ‘st’) into a single elegant design. In some cases these reflect a historical usage, while in others the type designers are purely having a bit of typographic fun – you quite often see this in script fonts such as Cantoni Pro, where applying discretionary ligatures to the word ‘and’ replaces the characters with a much more ornate alternative.

I’ll be looking at some of these more creative type features in the next Type Tips post, including contextual alternates, titling alternates, and of course those swooping, swirling swashes.


Fonts: Calendas Plus (Atipo) – Free download / Pay with a Tweet

Design Work · Helpful Things

Font Friday: Deco Neue

Font Friday is a series of posts showcasing new or interesting fonts that have caught my eye this week. This week it’s the elegant free font Deco Neue

I’m a strong advocate of paid-for fonts. Generally the quality and execution is better than their free counterparts, you get support if they don’t work as expected, and you also get to support the designers or artists who created them. There are exceptions of course, such as the wonderful Lost Type Co-Op or the iconic League of Moveable Type, both of whom have seen their professional-quality fonts used extensively in print and screen. Deco Neue is another such free offering that deserves a place in your font folder, from the hand of designer Jonatan Xavier.

Deco Neue was produced as part of a typography course Jonatan was undertaking, and is a well-balanced, elegant example of the sort of Art Deco typefaces that came to prominence in the late 1920s and early 1930s. The font is undoubtedly limited in some areas – there are no lower case characters, numerals or punctuation – but as a free offering there is much to recommend it with plenty of scope for use on posters or invitations.

I’ve put together an example of the font in use below, with the musical soundtrack this week provided by Brett Anderson’s recently-reformed Britpop romanticists

The light version of Deco Neue is available to download for free from Jonatan’s Behance portfolio page – all you have to do is give a little tweet to say thanks, and hopefully Jonatan will develop this into a fully-fledged professional typeface before too long!


Fonts: Deco Neue (Jonatan Xavier)

Design Work

Font Friday: Organically

Font Friday is a series of posts showcasing new or interesting fonts that have caught my eye this week. This week it’s PintassilgoPrints’ extremely adaptable Organically

The type industry looks to be in great health at the moment, with a seemingly never-ending supply of exquisitely drafted fonts pouring out of design studios around the world. Many of them could only really be considered “display” typefaces – that is, fonts that are best suited to small amounts of text such as logos, posters or invitations. This is no bad thing, and most of the fonts featured here have fallen into this category. But what if you had a larger amount of text you wanted to set? However great the likes of Bonbon might look as a headline, trying to use it as the main face in an article would soon lead to a messy, swirly overload of swashes and squiggles.

This is why I quite liked Organically, from the previously featured PintassilgoPrints. Although still a display font at heart (whack it into upper case with discretionary ligatures activated and watch the Pintassilgo magic happen!) the lower case characters are discrete enough to be used in quantity, compact enough to work in a paragraph, yet retaining just enough visual flourish and character to give some warmth to a layout.

While you still wouldn’t want to set a whole book in a font like Organically, it livens up a recipe no end. Inspiration for today’s example comes from baking blogger The Gentleman Baker, with a fabulously floral teatime treat from his extensive archives…

More samples of Organically in use are available on the Pintassilgo store, and more amazing recipes are available on The Gentleman Baker’s fantastic blog.


Fonts: Organically (Pintassilgo Prints)
Cakes: Chamomile Fruit Loaf, by The Gentleman Baker

Design Work

Font Friday: Bookmania

Font Friday is a series of posts showcasing new or interesting fonts that have caught my eye this week. This week it’s the retro curves of Bookmania by Mark Simonson

Ask any web typographer whose work they admire, and the chances are Mark Simonson’s name will crop up. Mark has spent the past thirty years developing typefaces, digitising film fonts, and creating an arsenal of type unique in that it looks just as good on screen and in motion as it does in print.

Simonson’s work has quietly become mainstream on the web over the years, and the chances are you’ll see good handful of his fonts in use today without even realising. Bookmania was released in 2011, and is a perfect example of his understated-yet-iconic approach to lettering.

At heart a revival of the standard book printers’ workhorse Bookman Oldstyle, Bookmania also references the distinctive directions illustrators took Bookman in the 1960s and early 1970s. The result is a strong-minded font with a retro edge packed with a mindboggling near-700 swashes and character variants, which makes OpenType software like Illustrator or InDesign a must if you’re to get the most out of it.

The complete Bookmania family has 10 weights available, although I’ve just kept to SemiBold Italic for the demo below. The soundtrack this week is from everyone’s favourite robot-headed funsters, and you’ve got a choice of the original video or the internet sensation it spawned…

More samples of Bookmania in use are available on Mark Simonson’s store


Fonts: Bookmania (Mark Simonson)