A new type family for Bath

Ramiro Espinoza's picture

When, in 2010, David Quay was asked by communication agency FWDesign to create a custom type family to be used as the new signage and orientation system of the City of Bath, he teamed up with ReType.
Bath is a beautiful city to design for, and we were delighted to be involved in the project. The process was intensive, and demanded a well-documented research into local values, history, and vernacular lettering tradition. We didn’t want a ‘squarish’ sans with a ‘modern’ look, or indeed any ‘neutral’ type family. We wanted something a little more idiosyncratic, but rooted in the identity and tradition of the urban environment and its surroundings, rather than just appealing to our personal preferences. The new family had to be flexible enough to be employed in variable sizes, and to work harmoniously on the beautiful maps and orientation graphics devised by FWDesign.

Originally, only a sans-serif was required, but during development, it became obvious that due to the system’s complexity, more clear typographic hierarchies were required. Because our original sketches had fluctuated from serif to sans and vice-versa until we achieved a consistent and coherent family, it proved simple for us follow up with a serif version.
Bath type family comes in sans and serif versions, each with regular and bold weights. It displays strong vertical contrast and pronounced counters. Though it’s not based on any existing or previous typeface, it does pay tribute to a group of alphabets and lettering models described as ‘English Vernacular‘ by historian James Mosley, and characteristic of the Neoclassical period.
The Bath family is modern but not trendy, classic but not old, functional but not neutral. As with the city itself, the typeface is conscious of its own rich past, while eyeing the future.

ReType Foundry

Andreas Stötzner's picture

It looks quite Dutch to me, like so many recent faces.

Nick Shinn's picture

One of the first of those "Dutch" faces was Quay Sans, in 1990.

Gerhard Schlee's picture

Forgive my ignorance, but what exactly qualifies a typeface as "dutch"? When I think of "dutch" faces, what usually comes to my mind are modernist, geometric sans.

Bendy's picture

That's a good question. When I see 'Dutch' I think of dark, moderately-contrasted, mannered, oldstyle bookish faces. Almost the opposite of Gerhard!

1996type's picture

Being Dutch myself, hopefully I can shed some light on this. The Dutch are known to find new and elegant solutions for problems of all sorts, not only in the world of design. Over the years several Dutch typedesigners added their piece to 'Dutch type', such as flat shoulders (Unger), lively and calligraphically inspired (Noordzij, Smeijers, Ourtype), completely geometrical (Crouwel) and surely I've forgotten some. To me, 'Dutch design' is recognizable in it's concept. In the world of typography the Dutch have been at the start of many trends. I would even argue that the current 'back to personality, away from coldness' was set in motion by the types of Fred Smeijers, Gerrit Noordzij, Buivenga, Ourtype, Lucas de Groot and probably more.

I guess what I'm trying to say is:
Dutch design cannot be recognized by certain characteristics. It's recognized by it's innovative and smart concepts.

The above might seem like a praisal to Dutch design from a dutchman, but it's not. IMO the ideas of Crouwel might have been revolutionary, but completely rediculous. Choosing absolute geometry over legibillity is completely pointless if you ask me. I admire the ideas of Smeijers and Bram de Does, but their works just lack esthetic perfection IMO. I could go on like this for a while...

Bendy's picture

Andreas, what did you mean by 'Dutch'?

And is it me or does the spacing look a little problematic? (Stu di o)

John Hudson's picture

This looks very English to me. The sans has some of the flavour of Gill Sans, that most English of sans serif types, and the slab serif is one of the key vernacular Victorian forms. What it doesn't look is particularly Bath-like. Bath is a Georgian city, not a Victorian one, and these types are lacking any obvious sympathy with Bath's justifiably famous street lettering.

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