Name: Banana Grotesk
Foundry: Monkey Type
Release Date: October 2018
Back story: The font was originally based on an attempt to sketch Akzidenz Grotesk from memory, with some interesting characteristics of Gill Facia thrown into the mix. The Gill Facia details are evident in the lowercase ‘a’, ‘g’, and ‘f.’ The original sketches had a wide, round, somewhat irreverent aesthetic that seemed promising, so Monkey Type ran with it. After creating hundreds of iterations over the past three years, Monkey Type has just finished Banana Grotesk—the foundry’s first commercial release.
But who is behind this mysterious type collective that named itself “after the dancing monkey emoji on Skype?”
“We are a group friends that work professionally at design agencies in the U.S. and Europe that spend too much time on Skype critiquing each others typefaces rather than focusing on our respective studio’s design work,” the foundry tells me. “We set up Monkey Type back in 2015 as kind of a joke. We all generally felt the type design industry is a bit too highbrow and established foundries take themselves way too seriously, which is understandable. Spending day after day magnifying old type specimens and researching the unsung heroes of design can quickly make you pedantic. However for us, while we are as nerdy as they come, we are very comfortable with the fact that spending three years fine-tuning a lowercase ‘s’ is completely ridiculous.”
As such, Monkey Type was formed as a place where the designers can explore and develop their type design craft and simultaneously make fun of themselves, their work, and “the stuffy type design industry.”
Why’s it called Banana Grotesk? Taking a look at the design, the foundry agreed that font just screamed “Banana.” It’s also requisite that all Monkey Type fonts must be named after something loosely monkey-related. Moving forward, there will continue to be a constant stream of monkey-related fonts, as well as “ball busting, pranks, harsh critiques, bananas, and gratuitous usage of the dancing monkey Skype emoji.”
What are its distinguishing characteristics? The font is quite wide in its proportions, giving it a rounded feel. The ends of the ‘a,’ ‘g,’ ‘f,’ ‘j,’ and ‘t’ accentuate its curvy shape, swooping up like a monkey’s favorite fruit.
What should I use it for? Even with its sweeping tails, the font is quite flexible. It works surprisingly well at a small scale, for books and editorial work. However, Monkey Type recommends the font for brand identities, where it can show off its personality in a wide range of scales and formats.
Right now, Banana Grotesk is available to purchase via email. “Luckily, we all have the extreme luxury of working in studios that provide consistent income, so there is no pressure for Monkey Type to become commercially focused,” say the designers. “This allows us pursue aesthetic concepts that we find interesting personally rather than worry what will be marketable.”
Monkey Type licenses its typefaces on a case-by-case basis, but since it sees its typefaces as perpetual works in progress, it lets designers know that what they receive is ‘beta’ and will probably evolve and be refined years beyond their purchasing point.
What should I pair it with? It’s best to pair Banana with a bunch of workhorse serifs. Perhaps Untitled Sans, Times New Roman, or Dutch 801 would work nicely.