Back Story: Every so often, during this century and the last, type designers, feeling a restlessness toward the sterility and soberness of modernist type, will turn to the Victorian era for inspiration. The late 1800s produced a bevy of serifs that occupy a refreshing middle ground between the rigidity of modern fonts and unwieldiness of calligraphic type. Something with irregularity, eccentricity, and a little drama.
Last year, Florian Schick & Lauri Toikka of the Berlin and Helsinki-based studio Schick Toikka, became fascinated with a string of American releases from the period that had an “old style” but with exaggerated elements: long, sharp terminal serifs, thin hairlines, and truncated descenders. These were typefaces like MacKellar, Smiths & Jordan’s Ronaldson from 1884, and Marder, Luse & Co’s Caxton Old Style from 1889. They decided to create their own.
What are its distinguishing characteristics? The thing about taking inspiration from eccentric Victorian typefaces is that the very expressiveness that gives them their appeal also lends itself to inconsistencies. “Some of the sources we were inspired by had a quite extreme variety in the letter proportions,” say Schick and Toikka. “Details were quite rough and not always consistent, curves not always smooth.” With Saol, the pair sought to unify proportions, create polished curves, and offer the type in a wide range of weights without losing its Victorian flair. Their aim was to “draw the typeface perfectly but not too beautiful.”
The result is a crisp, contemporary interpretation of the typefaces they drew inspiration from, with all the idiosyncrasies of the genre intact. With its diagonal strokes, unusually taut shoulders, and razor-edge details, Saol Text is certainly not lacking in character, yet it’s still imminently readable as body copy. Saol Display has heavier hairlines for smaller type, and Saol’s italic is especially flamboyant, “looping and undulating at a fairly deep slant.” Saol is a type that feels confident in its quirkiness.
What should I use it for? Schick and Toikka designed Saol Text with magazines in mind—or any publication that could use some lavish flair. But after accomplishing their goal of modernizing Victorian type for contemporary usage, the pair doesn’t seem particularly picky about how and where it’s used. “Ideally people will surprise us with a nice usage that we would have never thought ourselves,” they say.
What other typefaces do you like to pair it with? “We think it works nicely in many different combinations, such as a clean sans serif and or very quirky techno style monospaced font.”