Our weekly look at a favorite new typeface. Share yours with us on Twitter @AIGAeyeondesign and Instagram @AIGAeyeondesign with #TypeTuesday.
Back story: Three years ago, for designer Yorgo Tloupas’ update of French GQ, Koovit and Baggar created a custom typeface called Baton, which drew inspiration from vintage signs found on French shops, as well as Grotesque and Gothic typefaces. But with a low x-height and condensed proportions intended for display sizes and short texts, it was soon necessary for a more versatile addition to the font family.
“Like a sculptor adding and removing matter until the shape feels right, it’s really more of a visual process than a cerebral one,” says Baggar. “[Type designer] Nick Shinn described it far more eloquently than we ever could: ‘One feels both nostalgia for an obscure Modernist France of the early 20th century, and mystery— or this is not a typeface revival or rendering of a specific poster style, but fiction.’ Our typefaces are a kind of fiction. We really like that idea.”
Why’s it called Baton Turbo? According to the designers, the most important objective was to create a good, interesting, functional typeface that felt more powerful than the original. The name comes from the turbocharger, a device that boosts the power of engines. “If it was simply called Baton Text, that would be a boring and restrictive name,” Baggar says. “Turbo came naturally and makes it clear the typeface is something a bit different. We also find it funny to use a car reference for the name of a font.”
What are its distinguishing characteristics? Baton Turbo looks a bit like Helvetica, Gotham, Gill Sans, and Futura all ran a red light at once and ended up in a heap in the middle of a 4-way intersection. Formally, it’s a grotesque that combines a straightforward approach with eccentric letter shapes, wider and with a taller x-height, than the letterforms of its ancestor Baton. Alternates for the lower-case f, g, and j spice things up a bit.
What should I use it for? Baton Turbo’s proportions, spacing, and family of weights are made to work well in the various environments where modern typography lives, both print and digital.
Who’s it friends with? “It is not our role to prescribe how our typefaces should be used,” says Baggar. “For us, the fun part is to see our work used in a real context, and be surprised by a graphic designer’s choices. I think the pairing possibilities are near endless, but we would love to see it combined with a nice display serif font.” How about Chronicle Display?