Back Story: FS Benjamin, a new flared serif typeface, was inspired by the visual contrasts seen throughout the neighborhoods of London. As Fontsmith founder and creative director Jason Smith walked through the city, the juxtaposition of glass, steel, and modern architecture against buildings featuring centuries-old signage and coats of arms sparked an idea: why not design a modern typeface based on the kind of alphabet traditionally carved from stone? “Much of the typography we see today is so similar,” he says. “What if we created a typeface with traditional roots but modernized it to sit amongst the punk and noise of the streets of London?”
To publicize the font’s launch, Fontsmith retained the DixonBaxi creative agency to layer in the soundscape of London, creating a 365-degree immersive experience that captures not only the visual aspects of the city, but also its unique aural signature. The team took to London’s streets over several weeks to capture a huge mix of sounds, noises, and snippets of conversations at different times of day, from the morning commute to a weekend in the park. Zelig Sound remixed these field recordings into a soundtrack of London, which Fontsmith has released as a limited-edition vinyl record. Side A features a track of conversation, looped noise, and sound design fused into an immersive soundscape that captures the essence of city life. Side B is 10 minutes of raw field recordings.
The record cover features a close crop of the words “Sounds of London” (typeset in FS Benjamin, of course!), while the reverse features coordinates of where the sounds were recorded, laid out true to their location on a London map. The vinyl is accompanied by a large-format unbound booklet featuring the sounds and overheard snippets transcribed and expressed typographically to showcase the typeface. A dramatic range of expressions was created, from quiet to loud, ambient to conversational—testing the font to the limits of legibility and demonstrating its ability to work in a modern way.
Why’s it called FS Benjamin? The name comes from the most iconic sound in London: Big Ben’s great bell on the Houses of Parliament.
What are its distinguishing characteristics? FS Benjamin comes in 12 styles including Light, Book, Regular, Medium, SemiBold, and Bold, all with italics, and supports 122 languages. De Rozario’s design draws upon engraved inscriptions of a bygone era, then adds a modern pen-written twist to create the font’s brutal, chiseled angles. The overall feel is of calligraphy set in stone, with gently flared triangular serifs lending the letterforms a spiky, arrow-headed crispness. Thanks to classical proportions of x-height to cap height and ascender to descender ratio, the typeface feels familiar and highly legible.
What should I use it for? The typeface, echoing the diversity of London, is designed principally for versatility—it could be applied to a classic, formal financial account document or incorporated into a punkish, modern, and dynamic brand identity.
What other typefaces do you like to pair it with? FS Elliot’s sans serif characters contrast nicely with the sharp features of FS Benjamin, while FS Lucas’ sharp angles and round forms create visual unity.