A somewhat different Square Sans

A somewhat different Square Sans:
Burlingame from Carl Crossgrove

Unconventional letter forms, primarily optimized for easy legibility in smaller sizes on a monitor, lend Carl Crossgrove’s Burlingame a very particular, unique character. In this way, Burlingame has a special place among the popular Square Sans fonts. If you think outside the box, however, and look back at the history of the font, you will find astonishing parallels that show the great strengths of the font, if nothing else.


Nearly 40 years ago, Matthew Carter designed the font Bell Centennial for the American telephone company Bell. Its first and only use: in telephone books. In this difficult context of cheap paper, fast printing processes and extra-small, space-saving fonts, the letters must maintain the maximum degree of legibility. Carter mastered the task and, as a result, a very readable font resulted – with extreme adaptations and huge ink traps, in some cases.

Fonts on a digital display with low resolution do not need any ink traps. That stated, the countermeasures when letters are made from a small number of pixels are surprisingly similar to those in poor printing. If you compare Bell Centennial to Burlingame, you find numerous parallels. Cropped apexes and a horizontal filling on the inside are visible in “v” and “w” as well as the capital letters “M” and “N”. Even the large ink trap in the apex of the capital “A” of Bell Centennial has a visual equivalent in Burlingame.
There are also parallels in other typographical characteristics. In the center of the “x” for example, or the use of the diagonal in the lower-case “k”.

What leads to stable and legible letters in the smaller font sizes can cause problems for fans of perfect form in the larger sizes. However, Bell Centennial had already demonstrated that its corners and edges in the larger-set text have an entirely unique and very individual character with a high degree of recognition value.

Read also the interview with Carl Crossgrove.

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