Back Story: Oded Ezer and David Jonathan Ross created Fit Hebrew as an expansion of Ross’s Fit typeface, a display font that fits just about any text into just about any space. The letterforms maintain their distinct identities, even as they morph from super-wide bloated characters to stick-thin ones, depending on how much room is available for them to spread out or squeeze into. Ezer says, “In recent years, I’ve been investigating the possibilities that motion can bring to typeface design. As part of my experimental ‘Memory Palace’ (acquired by MoMA for its permanent collection in 2013), I mouthed, ate, burned, and broke letterforms to investigate new methods of reading time-based paragraphs. I thought Fit Hebrew could be a great expression of my experimental side.”
The designers learned that using variable font technology creatively was quite a conceptual and technical challenge. A variable font is a single font file that behaves like multiple fonts, with an infinite variety of potential weights, widths, and other attributes. Variable fonts became reality in 2016 when the OpenType Font Variations jointly developed by Google, Adobe, Microsoft, and Apple made it possible for type designers to interpolate a font’s entire glyph set or individual glyphs along up to 64,000 axes of variation (weight or width) and define specific positions in the design space as named instances (bold or condensed). Variable fonts make web design truly responsive, allowing for subtle typographic adaptations on the fly and helping type to look its best no matter what limitations of size or width are imposed upon it.
“The work progressed through dialogue on Skype calls; I think the process itself was the heart of the matter, just as important as the font that came out of it,” says Ezer. “For me, the essence of the project was: Can David’s achievement (that is, the maximum coverage of the text area) be translated to the Hebrew script, which has principles that are so substantially different from the Latin alphabet?”
Looking at the two typefaces side by side, the answer is clearly YES.
Why’s it called Fit Hebrew? Shocker: Because it is the Hebrew companion of the Latin Fit.
What are its distinguishing characteristics? For starters, it’s the first commercially-available variable font for the Hebrew language. Hebrew has neither capitals nor lowercase letters, so the designers combined traditional block-script and cursive forms to emulate the dual quality of the Latin. Fit Hebrew has an impressive range of widths, anchored by white shapes that cut through the letterforms. Regardless of character width, the space within the letters and the space between the letters always remains the same—the extremely narrow, Skyline style characters grow by 3,600% on average to transform into the gargantuan Ultra Extended.
“When working on the Hebrew, I chose to break one rule of the Latin,” Ezer says. “In the Latin Fit, curves are only located in the northwest and southeast corners of the characters, but for the Hebrew I used curves more freely to preserve the DNA of the letters. The arches follow the traditional skeleton of the letterforms without attempting to reconstruct the Latin pattern, creating a real partnership between the two scripts without compromising the Hebrew. I followed the Latin by ‘filling’ the open Hebrew letters to minimize the white spaces between them.”
What should I use it for? Fit Hebrew is well-suited to fashion and underground editorials. It’s also great for posters, as even one word can carry enough impact to do the job for the whole project. Go big or go home—“I think it could be amazing in large-scale supergraphics used over building walls, floors and ceilings,” Ezer says.
What other typefaces do you like to pair it with? Fit is such a loud design, it needs to partner with typefaces that have a quieter voice. “When designing the Fit Hebrew online page, David and I used OE Doo, a crystal-goblet-type of sans-serif typeface I previously designed as a Hebrew companion for Font Bureau’s classic Benton Sans,” says Ezer. “The two look great together, balancing each other’s nature.” In a similar vein, try Dada Grotesk with Fit Hebrew.