Back Story: Inkwell grew out of a puzzle Hoefler encountered 16 years ago when designing his wedding invitations. “I typeset the invitations, which felt suitably dignified, and a calligrapher hand-addressed the envelopes, which felt both ceremonial and personal, but neither style seemed right for the map,” he says. “Typography made it look too institutional, and calligraphy lent it a strange air of fantasy that felt jarringly out of place for an outdoor wedding in a Brooklyn park.” He found himself wishing he had a typeface with a set of simple block capitals, and maybe some seriffed upper and lower case for text thrown in, to personalize the map and make it clear it was produced by a couple, not a marketing department.
Why’s it called Inkwell? The name feels warm and charming, evoking rows of old-style school desks with built-in inkwells and kids with dip pens scratching away, lending a personal feel to the act of writing—or in this case, typesetting. “Secretly hiding in the name is an imperative, a suggestion to designers to ‘ink well,’” Hoefler says.
What are its distinguishing characteristics? Informal in feeling, Inkwell nevertheless has an underlying discipline and intellectual rigor that sets it apart from most fonts designed to look “handwritten.” Though there are many lovely and professional options such as Ale Paul’s Business Pen—and Monotype recently created a bespoke typeface that duplicates the handwriting of illustrator Quentin Blake—the majority of handwritten-look typefaces are available as free downloads for a reason: no one in his or her right mind would part with good money in exchange for often inconsistent letterforms and awkward letter spacing.
Inkwell offers the small caps, tabular figures, and swashes that are expected features of today’s best faces. To this it adds a calligrapher’s ability to fluidly move between styles as content dictates, and tops it off with a third ingredient: handwriting. “Inkwell has the look of something made not with a brush or a quill, but with a pen—maybe a ballpoint, maybe a permanent marker,” Hoefler says. Each of Inkwell’s styles comes in the same six weights, so it’s easy to preserve typographic color even if you change styles in the middle of a word. The font includes a roman and an italic, plus a sans serif, a blackletter, a script, a Tuscan, and a set of open capitals.
What should I use it for? Inkwell is intended as a text face for content that’s serious and typographically demanding but not deadly earnest. Says Hoefler, “While designing Inkwell, I kept imagining how it could be used for sophisticated projects like maps or menus, not to mention apps and reference books—but why not use it for a birding guide, a cookbook, or the product packaging for an artisanal business?”
What other typefaces do you like to pair it with? “It’s most at home with other styles of Inkwell. We gave it so many different styles to create the kinds of connections and contrasts that usually require using different families,” Hoefler says.