Back Story: It’s not the most usual of beginnings for a font: F37 Beckett was conceptualized after its designer Rick Banks watched the 2019 HBO TV miniseries Chernobyl. Drawn in by the “wonderfully odd bespoke font” in the title credits, Banks decided he wanted to design something “equally quirky and British” that stood apart from the rest of the F37 library, which has more classical leanings.
Around the same time, Banks also noticed a tweet from Alistair Hall, director of graphic design studio We Made This, which showed the original specimens of the 1933 British Ministry of Transport (MOT) alphabet. “This somewhat idiosyncratic font was used on what are now called ‘pre-Worboys’ road signs,” Banks explains. This is a reference to the time before the Worboys Report introduced the current road sign designs and lettering in 1964, when typefaces like the all-caps Old Road Sign Font were still in use. Old Road Sign was used from 1933 to 1958, when Jock Kinnear and Margaret Calvert’s Transport font was introduced for Britain’s first motorway, the Preston bypass. The F37 gang undertook a ton of research into old transport signage, which went on to inform the images that are being used to promote the new font.
The process of actually making F37 Beckett, which closely references that 1933 Ministry of Transport font, was “relatively straightforward,” says Banks. The main work was in digitizing the uppercase and tweaking the original MOT font’s proportions “to make it more modern and usable,” he says.
Why’s it called Beckett? Banks has long nodded to what he terms an “age old tradition of type designers naming fonts after family members.” His 2018 release, F37 Bobby, was named after his first son, and Beckett is named after his second—and the Irish writer of course. Beckett was born in January, “and it would be a little mean if he didn’t have a font named after him like his brother,” Banks adds. “For me personally it signifies a moment in time.”
What are its distinguishing characteristics? Broadly speaking, the font is “quintessentially British,” says Banks. In more technical terms, the modifications of the original include changes to the “very narrow” C, G, and O. These were added as alternates in OpenType, and the designers created wider proportions for these letters for the main character set. He adds that the original “top heavy K” was altered to become more conventional in style—“it was a bit too much even for us… We made up for this by creating a really funky lowercase k.”
One characteristic of the original font that the team adored, however, was the “super small crossbar on the G, as we loved its character,” says Banks. However, the F37 hands-down favorite letter is the S: “We slightly tidied it up from the original, but I think it’s a perfect balance of ugly and beautiful.
“The sweet spot in design.”
What should I use it for? The simplicity of the font creates a sense of calm confidence married with open, friendly vibes. Banks reckons it would be well suited to big branding projects for companies looking to stand out and add “character to their communications.” It sits right between the traditional corporate world and startups that use more playful typography. “I think F37 Beckett is somewhere in the middle—neutral but still full of character underneath the bonnet,” he says.
What other typefaces do you like to pair it with? As a classic British sans serif, the directional simplicity of Beckett means it would work well with strong serif fonts—Banks naturally recommends its brother, F37 Bobby, as well as GT Super by Grilli Type.