Back story: Quainton started life eight years ago, when Sawdust co-founder Jonathan Quainton started experimenting with a high contrast serif typeface in between his client projects. “I was in awe of typefaces like Bodoni and Didot at the time,” he says. “The idea was to try and blend Didone and Bauhaus characteristics in the hope of creating something new.”
The files resurfaced last year while Quainton and studio partner Rob Gonzalez were reorganizing their work archive. Seeing the sketches with fresh eyes, they recognized something special in the initial designs and began to develop them anew.
Of course, a lot has changed in those eight years; Quainton and Gonzalez have built an award-winning design partnership and gained a wealth of experience in the process. “This meant we were able to take the project into a much stronger place—although it brought with it a whole new set of challenges to overcome,” says Quainton. “Somehow it grew into a huge, multi-language typeface containing over 350 glyphs, which was something we’d never undertaken before. Luckily, we’d recently developed our skills in FontLab Studio, which proved to be hugely important, giving us control over everything from the design to development and testing.”
Why’s it called Quainton? Surely that must be self explanatory by now?
What are its distinguishing characteristics? Quainton is an elegant, high-contrast serif typeface with a geometric quality. It features thick, vertical Didone strokes, ultra-thin stems, and chunky, angular serifs. Strikingly, an unusual curved detail marks the tail of the Q letterform, the crossbars of the A and H, and bowl of the lowercase a.
Quainton’s Didone-inspired qualities put it in good company. Its bold serifs and hairline strokes are reminiscent of Rick Bank’s voluptuous Didot-inspired typeface, F37 Bella, Neil Summerour’s indulgent Lust, and Jean François Porchez’s Ambroise.
Meanwhile, a rich line of luxury, high-contrast serifs precedes it: think Christian Schwartz’s Giorgio, or, as previously mentioned, Adrian Frutiger’s Linotype Didot. As high-res screens become the norm, we’ll be seeing more delicate, high-contrast serifs for digital use.
What should I use it for? Due to its extreme contrast and stylized serifs, Quainton works best as a display typeface; legibility is reduced at body copy sizes, thanks to its ultra-thin strokes. With a luxury feel, it’s particularly well suited to fashion, retail, and premium packaging.
“We’re intrigued to see how others will interpret it,” says Quainton. “We’ve already had a couple of enquiries from fashion and lifestyle magazines though, and it seems very suited to that area.” Still, he continues:
“It was designed with diversity in mind. We didn’t have any preconceived ideas as to where it might be used; it was purely concept-driven, from start to finish.”
Who’s it friends with? Quainton’s sharp angles and sophisticated curves pair well with geometric sans serif typefaces like Futura, Neuzeit, or Sofia. If in doubt, stick to strong, yet understated options.
On the other hand, Sawdust’s founders recommend using it alone. “I’m not a big advocate of pairing different typefaces,” admits Quainton. “I’ve always held a purest view on type usage. Most of our work involves a great deal of bespoke typography, but when it comes to type layout, we tend to have a more modular approach, sticking to a single typeface and weight.”