1996type's picture


I haven't seen this yet here on typophile, so I thought I'd post it. Resently Gerben Dollen's first typeface has been released, named Actium, under the new founded Type Mafia foundry. I think it's really a great typeface. Hope you agree.

Jasper de Waard

Robert Trogman's picture

I think we have been exposed to many sans serifs this year. It's hard to select this font family because there is always something that is unique in the other sans serifs. I like the family but I don't think Actium is a commercial success.
Dr. Type

penn's picture

I think it's the $125 per weight price tag that would keep this from being a commercial success — though I like the look very much.

dan_reynolds's picture

I think that you might be wrong about Actium, Dr. Type. Actium seems more interesting than most new sans serifs I can think of that came out in 2010. 2009 had some interesting new sanses, but 2010? We've had a couple of gems already, but not as many as in previous years, and definitely not too many! I think that Actium is ready to steamroll to success on the MyFonts charts.

Nick Shinn's picture

I like it, especially the bold italics.
It would have been interesting to have angled terminals in the roman, too, like Kabel.
Can't think of any other faces that have that, though.

Actium, sounds like an element.
(Memo to self: next typeface to be named Readium.)

rolandstieger's picture

I really like this sans serif! I like the humanistic touch especially in the upright version, whereas the italic has quite a strong written character which in my opinion could be reduced a little bit. I mean I like it how it is but this strong character reduces the area where I imagine I could use it.

ebensorkin's picture

I have to agree with Dan. This design is pleasant and engaging. It is mellow where others are shrill; warm where others are cold. But it is also quite restrained which will make useful. Well done!

rubenDmarkes's picture

Reminds me of Fedra, Auto, Lucida, Quadraat and Legato. It's like he took five brilliant inspirations and mashed them up into a single, all wonderful thing in its own.

I think I'd just like to see a respective italic which could be a tiny little bit more serious. It looks great, I just don't see it as a great pair to the roman. It looks to me a bit “cartoony” in the bolder weights (looks close to perfect up until “Medium”).
Oh, and the “fi” ligature seems to be a bit too wide for the spacing shown on MyFonts, in the bolder weights… in fact, the whole spacing in the bolder weights seems strange. But who am I.

I love it and thank you for introducing me to it. And thanks to Mr. Gerben, if he ever sees this! Wonderful stuff!

Grrrben's picture

Thanks for all the kind of words, everyone!

Interesting topic, what makes a typeface to a commercial success. Although it's very welcome, it wasn't the intention with Actium. It's created by a labour of love and passion, not money.

As we speak there's a specimen on press. For those who aren't convinced yet, the booklet may do otherwise (type for print shouldn't be judged on screen anyway). Out in a few weeks, published by De Buitenkant.

All best,

Gerben Dollen

Grrrben's picture

@Nick Shinn I feel touched that Actium as a name inspires your future release. However, I'm afraid Readium might read as radium which might be associated with things you don't really wanna be associated with.

@penn By licensing the complete bundle it only costs €45 per weight — a bargain for a pretty pro font, no?

@rubenDmarkes Looking at the 'fi' ligatures, haven't you seen how the connection changes when going from a light to a bolder weight?

R.'s picture

I found the diacritics to be rather on the huge side, which makes the typeface hardly usable for some languages:

rubenDmarkes's picture

Hey, Gerben!

Yes, I did notice that there's a change; first it comes down, then it goes up. What I was talking about, however, was the distance between both letters (“f” and “i”) and how that relates to the distances between the ligature and other letters and amongst other letters. They seem a bit far apart. But that might be from the display method used on MyFonts, I don't know. And I might be wrong, for sure.

rubenDmarkes's picture

And I'm not trying to be annoying, but the “r” and the “v” in this sample from R., above my previous post, are a bit wide, too…

1996type's picture

No I disagree. The width of the r can only be judged on text sizes, and the v looks fine. The diacritics can also only properly be judged on text sizes. It might be a bit expensive, but it's worth it. €45 per weight isn't that expensive. I like the fact that you have the guts to make your first typeface an (just a little bit) exclusive one. Looking forward to future releases.

tmac's picture

This is wonderful. The italic looks kind of bumpy along the baseline, until I saw it in the example layouts where it looks perfect.

Is there a PDF available to test print this typeface?

And: "€45 per weight isn't that expensive." Is that the euro pricing on this? For me, myfonts lists it at $125 per weight, which is about two times as expensive as the euro pricing. Does myfonts practice gouging certain markets? I hope not ...

Bert Vanderveen's picture

Saw the ’first book’ Adium is used in and it’s really impressive. Especially the effort put into duplicating the airbrush effect of the inside pages on the cover, done by (steady!) hand with green fluo-paint and real airbrush.

Great Job, Gerben.

penn's picture

It's €45 (≈$65) per weight if you buy the whole family at once — which isn't a bad price per weight. The bad price comes into play when you actually want to buy per weight and not the whole family. Seems to be a bit of a marketing tactic to get people who are on the fence about buying the whole family vs. a few weights; "Look! Each weight is half price when you buy the complete set!"

All the same, this is great work Gerben. I enjoy the playfulness of the italic set next to the more rigid, yet still personal roman.

Nick Shinn's picture

I'd just like to see a respective italic which could be a tiny little bit more serious.

With regards to the italic being substantially "looser" than the roman, as I noted, it's an interesting quality.
More feature than bug!

Yes, the boldest italics are over the top, but what use are such styles to "serious" typographers anyway?!

rubenDmarkes's picture

I realize I didn't make myself clear, I'm sorry; I was referring to spacing, the space between those two letters. But I agree with you, 1996type: at text sizes these things will not only not be noticeable, but can, in fact, become helpful.

And I do understand that the fact that the bolder italics could be seen as a mismatch is precisely why you would like them, Nick. I like them too, but I think they wouldn't work easily and seamlessly combined with the roman in running text. But these weights probably won't be used for long stretches of text, either, so this won't really happen that much, I guess.

But like I said, I really like the whole thing a lot, and I'm putting it up there with all the inspirations I saw in it, all of which I love dearly. This immediately became one of my favourites. And that's precisely why I felt I needed to jump in and say something.
I thoroughly appreciate all the idiosyncrasies; many times they're precisely what turns nice fonts into greats.

Grrrben's picture

Thanks again for all the kind of words. That. Means. A. Lot.

About the italics... I can say that much effort is put in getting the italic its colour equal with the roman (which actually isn't the usual case for italics supporting a roman). Wasn't easy, as the italic has a higher and more flexible contrast than its roman counterpart, but they do match and combine perfectly. I can add to this that also its width is somewhat a bit non-conservative. As italics usually are significantly more condensed than their roman counterparts — so it's not with Actium. Because of a personal preference and, again, for the purpose to let them fit better when used together, they're very close in sharing these proportions. So the italic doesn't jump out of text due to its narrowness or colour, but just by its very own form!

Also, the italic was (obviously) designed to automatically avoid letters clashing into their neighbours by replacing these combinations with alternates or ligatures. For instance, there's an extra 'j' which has a much straighter descender; this alternate version of the 'j' will be used if it follows another character that has descending elements that cause problematic situations. The additional advantage of this approach (using alternates above ligatures) is that it would have less affect on text setting than ligatures if end users tighten the white space by tracking text. The ligatures in the end, like 'fi', of course have been double checked to see how they perform; shape-wise as well as fitting.

I hope this takes away the worries some have with Actium's italic.

More about the book @bert_vanderveen is referring to: Thank you Bert for bringing it to our attention!

Yes, the boldest italics are over the top, but what use are such styles to "serious" typographers anyway?!

I do actually know a pretty serious typographer — and I'm sure some of you know him too — who found a good use for that 'over the top' black italic weight. Recently: +



ultrasparky's picture

It's true — I am a big fan of Actium. I really love that tbe black weight has so much personality. In general I find that much weight works better for display use, so the extra dash of style is always a plus.

Nick Shinn's picture

Right. I always liked Gill Kayo, and once used it for subheads in a "serious" financial document with Gill Sans and Perpetua.

But on reflection it seems to me that if a typeface, or italic style, has personality to begin with, then that will manifest itself strongly in the heavier weights.

rubenDmarkes's picture

Hey, come on, now… no need to use those quotes on the word “serious” all the time, Nick… I know I'd surely use them too, all the time, on lots of words, but that just becomes a bit disrespectful… yes, these are judgement calls, but they exist and we need to live with them, even when we're aware of their subjectivity.

I just meant that I thought the roman bolder weights didn't pair up with the respective italics as well as what I was seeing in the lighter weights, which is, I believe, at least to some extent, true. I thought the roman has a certain air to it and the italic has another altogether different air, which could clash with the previous in some applications. But as I said, we probably wouldn't use them together all that much, anyhow. And in display applications, as ultrasparky mentioned, this will – of course – not only work, but be a welcomed addition to a typographic swiss-army knife. Yes, a designer can make or break the typeface he's using, but there's no denying that typefaces have a life of their own.

Maybe I need to be more specific.
I don't know, I was getting a kind of “contemporary, cool-and-collected, clean and still humanistic and lively” vibe from the roman, and this is true also in the lighter italics; and then I was getting something like “comic book chic” from the bolder italics. [I'm not getting samples from Actium at MyFonts, right now… don't know why. This is from memory.]

That's fine, I have no problem with that! But I was thinking the bolder italics had so much in them that they stood almost as a different typeface, and that would warrant them their own name; and in the same way, maybe this family deserved a (let's say) “muter” bolder italic. It's funny you should mention Gill Kayo!

But, you know… splitting hairs. It's what we do. No harm intended.
Again, I must stress that I really like Actium a lot. I didn't mean to offend, quite on the contrary.

And Gerben: I do appreciate the difficulties of making a typeface – well, somehow, at least – (I've tried and failed!), and I share with you this idea that maybe a matching italic should have similar proportions to the roman. I, too, feel kind of sorry when I see a wonderful roman paired up in running text with a too-compressed – even if wonderful on its own – italic. I completely commend your efforts in this regard. But I still thought that, at times, this didn't translate in the finest possible way with regards to the spacing of the italics (i.e., what I mentioned with the fi ligatures being too spaced out in the bolder weights and the “rv” spacing/kerning or lack thereof); and this type family merits perfection, I believe.

But of course – and I really don't need to tell you this, but I will, nonetheless –, I am in no way an expert. I might be completely wrong and my opinion is worth only whatever you think it should.

tmac's picture

Just a little off topic:

Ultrasparky, I sincerely hope you live a long and meaningful life -- but when the inevitable comes, I hope you have made arrangements to have your arm preserved and put on display.

Grrrben's picture

True, @rubenDmarkes, the displaying feature at MyFonts didn't work for a day or two. It's fixed, up and running well again. Now the typeface family page also includes release information — @1996type was a little too early with 'leaking' it to this forum :-)

Frode Bo Helland's picture

This does in fact look interesting. Can you give some detailes on the Typo Capo feature? Also, there's something about the lc g that bugs me: I think the tail could be longer, and also the bowl slightly smaller. (How about raising the bowl ever so slightly?) I'm speaking as a rather unexperienced and unreleased type designer, so take my comments with a grain of salt. This is out there, so I understand if you'd like to keep any changes at a minimum.

piccic's picture

type for print shouldn't be judged on screen anyway

Out of curiosity: which laser printing resolution would you consider enough to judge (or to use) a typeface which is designed without particular attention to screen behaviour?

The spacing in the bolder weight looks weird. Is that the Myfonts engine?

Grrrben's picture

Spacing in the bolder weights looks good to me. Feel free, though, to send me your observations at

@piccic Depends on many criteria and what you would like to check; e.g. judging the colour at paragraph level or something else, also the corps sizes you print your document at make a difference. Even the laser printer its resolution doesn't say all, for instance there's also the toner level which influences the output — no kidding.

@frode frank Could you be a little more specific on what you do not understand? Have you read this piece about Smart Capo™ yet?

Frode Bo Helland's picture

I’ve read that, but it’d still be great to hear your thoughts on why you choose to do it and also see some real life examples.

piccic's picture

@Gerben: Thanks, but I did not mean I wished to check something. I was just curious to hear which resolution you judge good enough to print fulltext-intended typefaces on a laser printer. I know it also depends on the design, and on the toner level, but in general, if you have to produce prints, say, at 9-12 point size, which resolution would you think enough?
Since your design is also quite free in form, which would be the lowest point size you would dare on a laser printer with, say, 600ppi resolution?

About the spacing: I did not think there were spacing issues with Actium, just that the MyFonts engine seems to scramble a little the spacing, but maybe it’s just because it’s optimized for text sizes, so seeing it big with some combination makes a strange impression. Also, is kerning always ON by default on the MyFonts site?

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