Akira Says ... Linotype’s Monthly Typographic Tip

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Akira says ...

Typographic Tip of the Month from Linotype’s Type Director Akira Kobayashi!

August 2006: Use a typeface’s swash characters for design variation

Many typefaces are equipped with alternate swash characters that are intended to act as a further element in a designer’s tool kit. Yet swashes – elaborate and flourished letters for decorative initials – are best situated at the beginning or end of words or lines.

Below are seven examples, each drawn from a different sort of typeface. Notice where and when the designer has chosen to employ the swash characters.

Sample 1: Linotype Belle™

Linotype Belle Standard
Linotype Belle standard version

Linotype Belle with Swashes
Linotype Belle with swash characters

Linotype Belle is a font that mimics quick, informal handwriting. Although the base font just has uppercase, non-connecting letters, there is a bonus font that is full of alternate letters and ligatures. These special characters add liveliness to the font that helps it live up to its handwritten expectations. The alternates in the bonus font aren’t swash characters, strictly speaking, but they do add the same sort of variation to text that other fonts often achieve with traditional swashes.

Sample 2: Fairfield™

Fairfield Standard
Fairfield standard version

Fairfield with Swashes
Fairfield with swash characters

Fairfield, a serif typeface inspired by Venetian Renaissance styles, has a very graceful design. Swashed can be used sparingly to make it appear even more elegant. But use these extras sparingly!

Sample 3: Le Griffe™

Le Griffe Standard
Le Griffe standard version

Le Griffe with Swashes
Le Griffe with swash characters

Swashes come naturally in calligraphy, and Le Griffe is a very calligraphic face. Adding in a few swash characters helps make a headline a little more diverse. But not every capital letter in a composition needs to be swashified – nor should they be.

Sample 4: Pirouette™

Pirouette with standard and swash characters
Pirouette with standard and swash characters

Pirouette is a fine engraved hand. Its regular weight comes standard with the doubled stroke you can see here. But the two lines that make up each capital letter may also be used separately. They can even be overlapped, so that the swash letter appears in two colors.

Sample 5: Roundy™

Roundy Standard
Roundy standard version

Roundy with Swashes
Roundy with swash characters

Roundy is a wide informal script. Its simple forms can be given a more extravagant voice by replacing its standard capitals with swashes.

Sample 6: Linotype Gaius™

Gaius Standard
Gaius standard version

Gaius with Swashes
Gaius with swash characters

Primarily a narrow typeface, Linotype Gaius is available as a font family with 12 components. When their letters are mixed and matched with each other, a visual symphony may be composed.

Sample 7: Samba™

Samba with standard and swash characters
Samba with standard and swash characters

Based on decorative Brazilian metalwork, Samba’s name implies the dance-like forms that can be created with its letters. These sorts of swashes are particularly good examples of how the joy of life can be brought into typography.

Curious about the typefaces used in this month’s tip?
Linotype Belle
Le Griffe
Linotype Gaius

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