Courtesy TypeMates.

Name: Norbert
Designer: Philipp Neumeyer
Foundry: TypeMates
Release Date: January 2021

Back story: In 2016, Phillipp Neumeyer was smitten by some gorgeous metal lettering he spied on the signage wrapping St. Petersburg’s 1907 Au Pont Rouge department store. “The letters were rather squarish, which I didn’t care for at all, but the R and G had these little tails at the end,” he says. “I have never seen a G like that before. I was working on a single style, a rather heavy grotesque with a similarly tailed R, and I decided to complement that heavy style with a lighter one. The lighter style got this fabulously tailed G.”

Neumeyer also liked the idea of keeping Norbert’s styles a bit different from one another: connected but not too similar, like old metal typefaces that often vary vastly between weights or sizes. Neumeyer drew Norbert’s letterforms for each weight individually instead of extrapolating them up or down from the usual starting point of regular weight characters, lending them a distinct family resemblance that manages to be playfully varied as well.

The more than a century-old St. Petersburg signage that inspired Norbert’s letterforms. Courtesy Rafael De Cardenas/Architecture at Large.

Why’s it called Norbert? The name was chosen totally at random.

What are its distinguishing characteristics? Intentionally, Norbert has no regular width, variable font, or interpolated weights. Its three weights come in two widths: condensed (Schmal) and extended (Breit), complemented by Kursiv and Kontra, two backslanted styles. This elimination of the middle ground forces designers to consider unorthodox type choices right off the bat, and adds an element of the unexpected to everyday design solutions. The typeface comes with extensive language support and, thanks to its Russian heritage, its Cyrillic version has been proofed, scrutinized, and tested by native experts.

What should I use it for? Norbert is far more spirited than a typical workhorse Grotesque, and should be treated as such. Neumeyer says it best: “I would like to see it on posters, covers, banners, as movie titles, in TV shows, headlines…Everything fun, basically.”

What other typefaces do you like to pair it with? Although Norbert has a great deal of personality all its own, it still behaves well in groups and looks great with fancy high-contrast serif typefaces such as Abril or the more subtle reverse-contrast Nordvest.

Bonus detail: Neumeyer hopes you care about Norbert’s extensive range of arrows, because he does.