A New Type Family For Bath

  • Fonts in Use
Fonts in Use | Ramiro Espinoza | March 30, 2011

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 new revamped city of Bath by Daz Smith.

The process was intensive, and demanded a well-documented research into local values, history, and vernacular lettering tradition. We didn’t want yet another ‘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. However, during the development, it became obvious that – due to the system’s complexity – more diverse typographic hierarchies were required. Because our original sketches had fluctuated from serif to sans and vice-versa in our search to achieve a consistent and coherent family, it proved simple for us to follow up with a serif version.

The 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.

Retail typefaces by ReType.
More sans/serif type systems.

Header image: Colourful Bath at night by Daz Smith.

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  1. Is that a joke? That’s the most ugly & unbalanced typeface I’ve seen in recent times.

    Posted by Herrar on Mar. 30, 2011
  2. Totally agree. I don’t like it one bit. Unbalanced, top-heavy, strangely weighted, badly spaced, irregular in every possible sense. It’s one of the worst “real” fonts I’ve seen in a long time. EVERY word looks like something is wrong with it!

    Plus, it doesn’t help that it looks so much like a tragic knockoff of Museo, which is ACTUALLY beautiful and which would have been far less expensive to implement.

    Posted by DM Cook on Mar. 30, 2011
  3. Oh, how I love the subtlety and thoughtfulness of comments on blog posts…

    Disregarding whether you like it or not, calling the Bath typefaces “a tragic knockoff of Museo” is uncalled for, and plain wrong. It’s like saying Times looks like Garamond, just because they both have serifs. Both the anatomy of the type and the serif structure are quite different. If there are comparisons to be made, it’s to other type designs.

    Please play nice, and refrain from making such statements unless you actually know what you are talking about.

    Posted by Yves Peters on Mar. 30, 2011
  4. This looks fantastic, Ramiro, congratulations! The only thing I don’t like is that it cannot be licensed … ;)

    Posted by Christoph on Mar. 30, 2011
  5. I actually like this. Bit of bad spacing in some areas but overall i find it very appealing. I love how there was hardly any modifications to the lowercase t to make it transcend between the serif and sans. I think it is a good example that there can always be some development and something new within font design.
    I would like to thank you guys at fontfeed for the continuing good and interesting information that you post.

    Posted by Stefan Price on Mar. 31, 2011
  6. Wouldn’t Myriad Pro bold have done nearly the same job (only better) for the sans, and without the effort?

    Chaparral Pro semi-bold for the serif?

    Posted by Maurice Milligan on Mar. 31, 2011
  7. Well, Museo or Myriad or Chaparral would have made it look like so many other things. There is logic in having a custom type family developed for specific purposes. Type as branding is very powerful, and a bespoke typeface gives a project a unique look. Plus it makes licensing issues a lot less complex.

    Posted by Yves Peters on Mar. 31, 2011
  8. Are these two above the only available pics of the type in use in signage, Yves? I would have loved to see more actual signs or other examples. Those two look good actually, using the Sans at least.. the specimen below are a bit messy and maybe don’t do it much justice.

    Posted by Angus Shamal on Mar. 31, 2011
  9. I don’t understand the hate – it’s charming! Type with character (oops!) is perfect for an identity. It also feels very “British” to me. Well done team.

    Posted by Simon Robertson on Apr. 7, 2011
  10. I’m in no way an expert, but (obviously) I’m quite interested in typography. So here are my thoughts for what they’re worth.

    Personally, I like it a lot. The subtle curves seem to make it look kind of “young”, while staying respectable. The only thing is that with some serifs the letters seem to be a little awkward, like the letter “u” seeming rotated (even though it’s just the tilt of the serifs).

    But even that, I think, is what gives this typeface its character. Quirky is not necessarily a bad thing, and it would feel much better and easier to look at this font for directions or whatever, than to look at, you know, DIN or Interstate.

    Posted by ersen akçay on Apr. 13, 2011
  11. Comments are hilarious. some young fellas with no luggage getting their keyboard and getting all expertee on a typeface developed by 2 great type designers. I guess it’s how internet is.
    Not liking is a thing, saying it’s ugly is something strange to me.
    Anyway, Nice type! :)

    Posted by nico on May. 27, 2011
  12. Regarding the negative posts – we designers are so sensitive on designs that we put so much time and effort into!
    I do like the sans serif version, and agree it works really well as shown in the signage examples – but unfortunately, I’m just not liking the serif version…(sorry) Am I the only one in seeing that the lower case ‘y’ just doesn’t sit well with the other letters – the descender is too thin?. Might be good to see some examples of the serif version so as to see it in a different light.

    Posted by Andy Fuller on Jul. 5, 2011
  13. Andy, on The FontFeed we welcome criticism and debate, as long as it is thoughtful and considerate. Your comment is, so thank you for your input.

    Posted by Yves Peters on Jul. 6, 2011
  14. I think the typeface (I prefer typeface to font, font reminds me of a stone bath in a church) is OK. Problem is, just how much Bath coughed up for it. It’s the sort of typeface I was knocking up in about an hour when I was full time signwriting and never charged for it, it was part of the job. Go on, surprise me……worth about thirty quid I reckon! I bet they paid over the top for it didn’t they, ripped off again!!
    There are plenty of styles out there that would look just as good, with ample impact and qualities. In fact, only professionals are even going to notice, most people wouldn’t know their ‘Helvetica’ from their ‘Bodini’!!

    Posted by Michael Jay on Jul. 12, 2011
  15. Nice article, the comments are good bit trolly at the beginning, I am actually from Bath (living in London at the moment). I love the fact that we have a font, I read and article in the Bath Mag that showed how it was developed using the historical evolution of the Bath font.

    I think it’s ridiculous that it cant be licensed though,
    See comment by Christoph on Mar. 30, 2011

    I saw the designer on this site if he can read this comment then make it free, if you want it to successfully become the Bath font then let people in Bath use it.

    Posted by Max on Dec. 5, 2011
  16. Subjective. If it works for the Citizens of Bath, then so be it! Good article, nonetheless.

    Posted by Brian Weck on Dec. 5, 2011

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