Back story: Darka started as a personal project for Mexican designer Gabriel Martínez Meave. To preserve the hand-written origins and delicate tension in this digital font based on ancient blackletter styles, he developed a comprehensive set of 415 alternate glyphs, flourishes and special signs. “I’ve been quite fond of blackletter types and calligraphy for many years now, as well as Gothic and Medieval art and literature,” Meave says. Darka received an Award of Excellence from the Type Directors’ Club of New York in 2019.
Why is it called Darka? “Because she is a splendid, mysterious dark lady reincarnated in digital vectors as a blackletter font!” says the designer. “Calling it Darka, a Mexican/Teutonic/Slavonic sort of name, seemed appropriate.”
What are its distinguishing characteristics? This stylish, inventive typeface possesses a warm Mexican soul lurking inside its chilly 15th century Northern European origins. Darka is an amalgam of several styles of blackletter, blending the modulated balance of Textura and the flow of Fraktur with the elegant lowercase-to-uppercase ratio of Bâtarde. Its precise terminals (both angled and rounded) and seductive curves contrast with its dangerous sharp edges. Ascenders on lowercase letters keep the little spur common to other blackletter alphabets, and the lowercase “f” drops to an exaggerated dagger-like point. Complex ornamental capitals and flourishes add calligraphic flair.
What should I use it for? “Using blackletter type is complicated sometimes, since today’s typographic landscape is dominated by sans serifs, serif text typefaces, and many predictable display fonts,” says Meave. “Darka makes an excellent display typeface and, surprisingly, even a distinctive, crisp font for short texts. I think it’s a very usable blackletter face, for those occasions you may need it.”
The subtle variations and hybrid quality of Darka’s letterforms help the typeface to step away from its centuries-old roots and feel welcome in contemporary settings. It works best in inventive headings, daring titles, deluxe packaging, tattoos, and other idiosyncratic uses where a dark, sultry Gothic aesthetic is a welcome presence.
What other typefaces do you like to pair it with? A rounded English script face with a bit of handwritten texture, such as Wordless Script, is an unexpectedly harmonious counterpoint to Darka’s dangerous angles. “In fact, these combinations of Gothic bold type with delicate, light connected scripts were quite common in the late 18th and early 19th centuries,” Meave says. “The effect is superb.” For a very legible serif text counterpart, take a look at Afterall, whose gentle quirks play nicely with Darka’s pronounced oddities.