Back Story: Gustella’s reverse contrast letterforms owe a debt to the extreme slab serifs of the late 19th century, seen on everything from the Wild West’s “Wanted” handbills to circus posters. However, Gustella also represents an extension of the slow evolution of this style that crept along through the decades, worming its way into 1960s psychedelic poster lettering and strolling into the 1970s (take, for example, the record sleeve of David Bowie’s 1971 album Hunky Dory). But don’t think of this as a revival of any sort; Thomas Thiemich of the Belgian-based foundry Type By describes Gustella as “a very specific cherry on the pie,” and he’s not wrong. The typeface advances the design of reverse contrast letters, introducing a modern sense of depth and dimension in its flat-sided characters that look almost as if they were razored and molded out of stiff paper. The Type Director’s Club of New York City recognized Gustella this year with an award for typeface design.
Why’s it called Gustella? “Every type project has a work-in-progress name,” says Thiemich. “Mine are often constructed from syllables I like hearing and saying, combined with the letters that represent the overall design of the typeface best.” Gustela was a working name that stuck, although it had no literal meaning. It was just a vague reference to the Latin/Italian word “gusto,” or “taste.” The only change was adding an extra “L” to its original spelling, allowing the word to roll smoothly off the tongue. That’s better.
What are its distinguishing characteristics? Gustella’s stark reverse contrast letters flaunt wide, extended counters inside narrow condensed shapes. Its modular outer surfaces emphasize the monospace quality of the typeface (all variants share identical metrics), while the playful counter shapes lend some sparkle. Its four styles—Solid, Boxed, Inline, and Stripes—come in four weights (Stripes is definitely the most fun, though, as the number of stripes per character corresponds to the weight). The overall effect is as endearingly goofy as a pair of 1970s ultra wide bellbottoms. Different styles can be overlaid and colored in layers for added entertainment.
What should I use it for? Gustella works well anywhere a free spirit is welcome: posters, packaging, wordmarks, movie titles, and bold advertising campaigns all come to mind.
What other typefaces do you like to pair it with? “I like to combine it with Remo to underline the ’70s touch of it,” says Thiemich. Again, he is not wrong. Remo’s fat, juicy characters are not exactly shy, so if you’d prefer to let the other typeface take a backseat to Gustella’s theatrics, try something like Grafik—a quiet typeface that will hold its own very nicely.