Back Story: F37 Caslon is, as the name suggests, a new cut of the classic Old Style font Caslon. The F37’s founder, type designer Rick Banks, reckons that we’re seeing a lot of older serif revivals at the moment, “especially in start-up rebrands” as a “backlash to all the geometric sans over recent years.”
Of course, this isn’t the first rework of Caslon: it’s been revived numerous times over the years, and F37 looked to a few of their favorites in order to be able to “create lots of flex within the typeface and flush various styles through the cut,” says Banks. They looked to R.F. Burfeind’s 1905 condensed version and were heavily informed by the “lovely swashes” from Sol Hess’s 1915 font. In creating the extreme hairline version that F37 was looking for, it drew from the 1969 design created by Tom Carnase and used brilliantly by Herb Lubalin. Another 1969 cut from David Farey inspired the team to create a “black” weight, and the most recent Caslon cut inspo was Leslie Usherwood’s Caslon Graphique from 1980, which informed F37’s “graphic” style.
F37 actually began life back in 2014, but the first draft was left half-finished and largely forgotten about for years. “Sometimes that’s the best way as it gives you time to reflect and provides repeated opportunity to keep tweaking and improving on the original concept,” says Banks. “I suppose creativity and the creative process are not always quick things, nor can they be forcibly rushed.”
Why’s it called F37? Pretty simple one, this: it’s the F37 rework of historical font Caslon. Inspired by Dutch Baroque type, Caslon was one of the first English typefaces ever made, created by London-born typographer William Caslon I, who founded the Caslon Foundry in 1739. When it was first published, the font was so popular it was used on the first printed version of the United States Declaration of Independence. “Alongside Helvetica, it was one of the first typefaces I remember as a teenager, so there is a huge nostalgia factor for me, given its longstanding influence on my choice of profession,” says its designer Rick Banks.
What are F37 Caslon’s distinguishing characteristics? “The main distinguishing characteristic in our revival is the sheer amount of styles and flavors, making it very versatile,” says Banks. This means it has four weights, two widths, and three optical sizes—a total of 36 styles. The F37 cut’s letterforms are distinguished by its large x-height, swashes, and discretionary ligatures.
What should I use it for? Designed with versatility in mind, F37 works well for print and digital applications since the text weight can be set for body copy, and the display styles are pretty much good to go for punchy uses like headlines. While this lends itself very obviously to things like posters or book covers, Banks says, “it would be cool to see it in packaging—like how serifs used to be used in the ’70s.” The classic, elegant feel enhances its suitability as a brand font, and the staunchly modernist aesthetic lends it well to a magazine or newspaper masthead.
What other typefaces do you like to pair it with? Since F37 Caslon has such a classic vibe, it works well alongside pretty much anything. If you want to go stylish but not too bonkers, Banks recommends a “clean modernist sans” such as F37 Hooj or a geometric font like F37 Moon to create an interesting contrast.