Back story: Highsmith wanted to set a change of pace from the assertive typefaces like Stainless and Antenna he’s created over the course of his distinguished career. After graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design, where he now teaches in the graphic design department, Highsmith became a senior designer at Font Bureau; winner of the Gerrit Noordzij Prize for extraordinary contributions to the fields of type design, typography, and type education; and author of the type primer, Inside Paragraphs: Typographic Fundamentals. He began sketching Allium with the intent of creating a harmonious, balanced set of letterforms, and ended up creating a soothing typeface for our turbulent times.
Why’s it called Allium? Highsmith’s wife Anna suggested the name, after the genus of flowering plants that includes onions, leeks, and garlic. “I wasn’t very familiar with the term before a couple of months ago. It sounds like a typeface name though. I liked it right away,” Highsmith says. “In fact, Anna has named most of my typefaces. We brainstorm together, but her ideas are almost always the best ones. She’s familiar with the designs but not as close to them as I am, and I think that gives her good perspective. Plus, she has an amazing vocabulary.”
What are its distinguishing characteristics? “Allium’s balance comes from a subtle sense of motion in the curves, and the letters are drawn to keep your eye moving smoothly. I hear a nice hum when I look at the Medium especially. It’s got that warm sound,” says Highsmith. “I drew the interior white shapes and the exterior black shapes to be in strong agreement with each other. No tension between the inside and outside. These kinds of subtle adjustments are hard to see, especially when looking at letters in isolation, but they add up in words and lines of text.”
What should I use it for? Try it for magazines and identities where you need a clear and calm tone without being too boring or stiff. Highsmith would love to see it on signage at a park or museum.
What other typefaces should I pair it with? A great match for Allium is Quiosco, as both have a compatible kind of openness in their structures. However, where Allium is calm, Quiosco is dynamic. “Its white and black shapes push and pull against each other, and it’s got a grittier texture than Allium,” Highsmith says. “I prefer a typographic palette that contains complementary designs. Sweet and salty.”