Back Story: Grand Slang’s funky modern letterforms owe a debt to the masterful calligraphy of mid 20th-Century American designers Oscar Ogg and William A. Dwiggins. Nikolas Wrobel, a typeface designer based in Cologne, Germany, also drew upon signage spotted in U.S. movies from the ’40s and ’50s. In the process of designing the typeface, he amassed a vast personal archive of vintage books and printed ephemera as reference material, much of it imported from the United States. “I wanted to examine the structure of the letterforms up close while I held a physical object from of this period of time in my hands,” he says. “When I think about America, I think about freedom, and Grand Slang embodies this.”
What are its distinguishing characteristics? Grand Slang is based on a non-modular structure that merges grotesque and serif forms together in over 310 individual upper and lowercase characters, ligatures, figures, and signs. “Every glyph is drawn from scratch, so similar forms are not simply doubled as usual when drawing a typeface,” says Wrobel. “It was a massive effort, but also so much fun; I firmly believe this made a big difference in bringing a certain warmth and human touch.”
Some typical proportions are reversed: the top of the capital B juts out over the bottom, and the E, F, and G all share this bucktoothed look. The curves of the S feature a similarly inverted relationship, with the upper curve appearing more generous than the lower one. Some strokes finish up in thorny little serifs while others end abruptly in clipped straight-across terminals. The leg of the capital R is perhaps the oddest member of the family; it looks like a ribbon going for a walk. Check out the weird little backwards flourish on the right leg of the capital italic N!
Why’s it called Grand Slang? “I decided to go with a joyful and honest name that is also catchy,” says Wrobel. “Grand pays tribute to a magical period of time for typography, while Slang reflects its modern and new approach.”
What should I use it for? It’s best used as display type, both digital and analog, in a variety of media. Try it for web, apps, e-books, broadcasting, branding, print—whatever comes to mind.
What other typefaces do you like to pair it with? Grand Slang’s expressive letterforms mix well with neutral sans serifs. Chiswick Grotesque from Commercial Type has a little bit of matching quirkiness. A lightweight typewriter font such as Pitch from New Zealand’s Klim foundry is also a good bet.