Back story: Monotype’s newest typeface Masqualero—sleek, elegant, and ever so slightly menacing—is an improvisational riff that, like a great jazz tune, wanders far from its starting point. Think of visuals for “type” and “jazz,” and the design style popularized by the Blue Note recording label from the 1940s-60s jumps to mind: sans serifs and slab serifs, with a condensed Didone thrown in here and there, creating a distinctive album cover look that came to define a whole genre of music.
Masqualero represents quite a departure from this formula. Designer Jim Ford says, “I was influenced by the music of Miles Davis in general, but also by the two sides of his personality combined: warmth from his playing style and lyricism, and menacing or dark touches based upon his exterior persona.”
Why’s it called Masqualero? After the 1967 Davis tune of the same name, which Ford listened to on repeat one day while trapped in his car during a snowstorm.
What are its distinguishing characteristics? Masqualero offers eight different weights and italics, as well as Stencil and Groove display weights. Despite its midcentury jazz inspiration, the typeface has a classical appearance linked to ancient stone carving techniques, giving it a particular sharpness and dangerous edge. “Stonecutters used to turn the chisel a certain way to get a nice clean connection between the stem and the little piece that connects with the bowl of the R,” says Ford. “I tried to also emphasize that sharpness on the inside of letterforms.”
But does the Groove weight owe a visual debt to the grooves in vinyl records? Ford laughs. “Actually, I never thought about it that way,” he says. “It comes from how Miles was all about the groove in the 60s, when he got into electric music and was trying to incorporate more rock and funk sounds where you have the same groove through the whole song and then the soloists change over the top of it.”
What should I use it for? Counterintuitively, Ford sees Masqualero at home on magazine mastheads, logos, book covers, architectural signage, or perhaps as a brand companion to the finer things in life—not in any performing art context. He says, “I think its utility as a font has nothing to do with its design concept around Miles and music. None of its uses are pointed directly at the music industry. I don’t know how to explain, but it ended up in a different place. I don’t want to pigeonhole it.”