Courtesy William Lyall/12b.

Name: PM Grotesk
Designer: William Lyall
Foundry: 12b
Release Date: August, 2018

Back Story: Back in the winter of 2015, London-based designer William Lyall began sketching an alphabet he hoped would offer a modest alternative to today’s contemporary and traditional grotesque typefaces. “It was an impulsive design process,” he says. “PM Grotesk wandered along many different paths, drawing influence from early grotesque designs used in letterpress and wood printing as well as the contemporary neo-grotesque typefaces seen today.”

Lyall says his typeface owes a shout-out to the now-shuttered Colby Poster Printing Co., the legendary L.A. print shop that cranked out posters for everyone from Jimi Hendrix to artist Ed Ruscha. There were no graphic designers on staff at Colby; the posters were created by members of the letterpress, screen printing, and typesetting unions, who unintentionally broke every design rule on the books—resulting in a distinctive aesthetic characterized by crazy fluorescent inks and bold, all-caps text in a wildly contrasting mashup of sizes. PM Grotesk’s mixture of condensed and extended weights that pair fluently at all sizes is a hat tip to Colby’s archetypal typography.

Blending traditional nuances found in original grotesque wood type with the contemporary feel of International Typographic Style, PM Grotesk acts as a modest alternative to its 21st-century sans serif peers.

Why’s it called PM Grotesk? PM Grotesk was three years in the making. At first, Lyall worked on PM Grotesk during late afternoons and evenings after his other work was done. He based the name on the Latin “post meridiem,” meaning past mid-day—a reference to the two 12-hour periods that define the moon and sun cycles that make up the structure of a calendar day.

What are its distinguishing characteristics? PM Grotesk is available in five weights, offering subtle charm and character across a range of formats. Blending traditional nuances found in original grotesque wood type with the contemporary feel of International Typographic Style, PM Grotesk acts as a modest alternative to its 21st-century sans serif peers. Teardrop-shaped counters and delicate stroke contrast give the typeface emotion and character, not to mention an approachable, friendly look and feel.

What should I use it for? Its legibility at very small sizes makes it a good choice for packaging and mobile applications. Lyall also adds that whether the font is used in stylistic typographic posters or for subtle text detailing, it “should be used with a certain innocence, energy, and confidence.”

What other typefaces do you like to pair it with? Historical influences used throughout PM Grotesk make it a suitable match for traditional serif typefaces such as Sabon Next, or a Scotch Roman-derived font like Austin. It also works well with slab serifs—try Din Next Slab.