Sans Companion for Bembo Book - Giacomo 2?

spirit's picture

I am looking for a sans companion for Bembo Book.

The project is a fine art auction catalogue (mainly old master paintings). The main body text will be set in Bembo Book and I am looking for a sans that will compliment this that I can use for side notes, foot notes, tables, image keys etc. It will also be used in some text settings. etc. Given the nature of the information in catalogues like this I really need an opentype pro font with a decent range of weights and large feature set - small caps, lots of fractions (like five eighths), ranging and non-ranging numerals with tabular and proportional spacing, superior figures etc.

I am looking for a sans with an element of humanism - I have made a shortlist of the following fonts and would like your opinions in order to help me make a final decision. I would be particularly interested to hear from anyone who has used one of these with bembo book.

Giacomo
Fresco
Bliss
Scala
Kievit

Here's what I think...

Giacomo - I love it but it was originally off my list as it did not have small caps - although I read a thread here from 2003 where James from TD said he was planning on making some. I emailed him yesterday to see if anything had happened and he emailed me back today to say he had just launched his new site an hour ago which now features Giacomo 2 with small caps! How about that! If for no other reason than synchronicity Giacomo is probably now top of my list. At $380 for the full OT pro set I think the price is right too. The only niggle I have is that Giacomo while having certain humanist characteristics is not quite a humanist face - TD describe it as a face that defies categorisation. I think it will probably work well with Bembo Book but without being able to try it out in context next to BB I cannot be certain. What do you think?

Fresco Sans - I also love this typeface, it fulfills all the criteria I need and it sits comfortably in the humanist category so I am reasonably sure it would compliment BB. Before Giacomo got it's SCs it was my front runner. My main problem with Fresco is the price - it works out to about double the cost of Giacomo. But would it be better with BB than Giacomo do you think? Freso also seems a nice name for a font used for a paintings catalogue but I can't really lend any weight to that observation...

Bliss Pro - This is the last of my shortlist fonts that tick all the boxes, but it works out at about 3 times the cost of Giacomo. Do you think it would work better with BB than Giacomo or Fresco - to an extent that justifies the increase in price?

Scala Sans - I have scala sans already and I think it sits very well with BB but it's postscript - not OT Pro. I am keeping it in my list as a fallback option if I don't go with one of the fonts above. I love scala but I have used it a fair amount over the years and I would like to try something fresh.

Kievit - Yeah, I know it's different from the fonts above and could not be descibed as humanist but there is something about it's lack of character that I like and it seems to work fairly well with BB. This may be because it has so little character of it's own that it doesn't really conflict with anything you put it next to...

So that's where i am so far. I am looking forward to hearing your thoughts. Unless you feel really strongly that I have missed out a prime contender, or I am way off the mark, please keep your resposes/suggestions related to the five fonts above. I am looking to cut my list down and make a decision - I don't really want to make it longer!

Apologies for the essay but I figured the more info I gave you, the better responses you could give me. If you're still reading this...

Thanks.

crossgrove's picture

Why would you not consider Kievit humanist? It's fully within the category. It's just a little more quiet. The oddball in your list is Giacomo; it's as grotesque and geometric as it is humanist. Mundo Sans is now available as OT Pro.

Stephen Coles's picture

Your list is good. All are quality faces. When thinking about a difference of $100-200, think about whether you'll use the fonts again in the future. If the fonts are versatile, you license them once, but you can use them again and again, so the extra cost is minimal.

I second Carl's recommendation of his own Mundo Sans.

Also consider Cronos (very humanist), and on the more modern side: FF Milo, FF Strada (no OT), Vista Sans.

> I have scala sans already and I think it sits very well with BB but it’s postscript - not OT Pro.

Just as a clarification, remember that some foundries have different definitions of "Pro". Every OT FontFont includes special OT features. Their "Pro" fonts are defined by support for extra languages.

spirit's picture

Thank you for your replies and recommendations. Please find my responses below.

> Why would you not consider Kievit humanist?

Point taken. It was it's quietness I was getting at. As I understand it humanist faces have certain calligraphic characteristics and while this is true for Kievit it is far more subtle than the other fonts I mentioned. For some reason I have always mentally filed Kievit as a good/modern alternative to Helvetica as opposed to the others which I have filed as alternatives to Frutiger.

> The oddball in your list is Giacomo; it’s as grotesque and geometric as it is humanist.

Yes. I appreciate that. The question is, do you think that this prevents it from being an appropriate companion for Bembo Book?

> Mundo Sans is now available as OT Pro.

Mundo Sans looks lovely - I have added it to my list. I looked at the pro set on fonts.com but I couldn't see any info about the font (what your aims were for the font, when it was designed etc) nor any PDF samples. Can you point me in the right direction for these? Also, are you recommending Mundo specifically as a companion to Bembo Book? - have you seen it used with BB? - or are you just recommending it an alternative humanist sans which you happen to have designed? :-)

> When thinking about a difference of $100-200, think about whether you’ll use the fonts again in the future. If the fonts are versatile, you license them once, but you can use them again and again, so the extra cost is minimal.

I am not sure if I should be reading something between the lines here. Are you saying that you would consider some fonts in my list as more flexible than others? Do any stick out as being less flexible to you? I would have thought that I would be able to find future uses for any of the fonts I mentioned. As far as prices go, the difference is considerably more than $100-$200 dollars between them. Prices for complete family sets as follows...

Giacomo - $380
Scala Sans Pro - $405

Fresco - $820
Mundo - $950

Kievit - $1377
Bliss -$1750 (gulp)

> Also consider Cronos (very humanist), and on the more modern side: FF Milo, FF Strada (no OT), Vista Sans.
Cronos - too humanist (almost brushy)
Milo - a little too compact, not quite elegant enough
Strada - No OT
Vista - interesting - hadn't really considered emigre for this project, maybe a little to meta-ish?

> I have scala sans already and I think it sits very well with BB but it’s postscript - not OT Pro.

Just to clarify, I have the postscript version, I see it is now available as OT Pro.

Given that Bembo Book is a given, I would be very interested to hear your thoughts on the above fonts in that specific context. Do you feel some fit with BB better than others? Do you feel that some just wouldn't work? like Giacomo for example?

thanks for your help, much appreciated.

Stephen Coles's picture

Your prices are for complete families but do not take into account the number of styles in each family. Most foundries will let you buy individual styles (though it's more expensive per font).

crossgrove's picture

Indeed; the number of styles varies quite a bit from one family to another. The choice you are making is probably a common dilemma. 2 of your choices include Cyrillic, which might be useful to you. I think the consideration about future usefulness simply refers to the ultimate versatility of the design. Can it handle extremely large display application as well as text? Are there enough characters to satisfy all your clients, whatever international location? Is the Italic wide enough? Italic enough? Fluid enough? Are there small caps in the bold faces? In the Italics? Is it neutral enough to serve a lot of different purposes? Are there obnoxious or distracting characters? Do you hate the ampersand? ;)

"Alternative to Helvetica" - My feeling is, any of the above are good alternatives to Helvetica, simply by virtue of their less-ambiguous shapes and open spacing. But Helvetica sits in the middle of the grotesque class of sans types, and the ones you're looking at are all humanist. It's not only calligraphic traits but proportions, spacing, etc.

Giacomo seems simultaneously too stiff and too industrial for pairing with Bembo, but it would be necessary to see them together. Probably this is true for all your options. I'm not a fan of Scala because of its stiffness.

Mundo is less at fonts.com. Cut about $145 off your price. Steve, send me your e-mail address and I'll tell you more about it. Bembo is one of the types it was designed to pair with.

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