Back story: Grostexte began as a personal project celebrating the speech balloons, casual typography, and onomatopoetic bursts found in comic books. Pierre Ferrandez, whose father Jacques Ferrandez is a well-known French illustrator, originally designed the first version of the typeface sometime between 2014 and 2015. The work of midcentury cartoonists such as France’s Albert Uderzo (Asterix), and the Belgians André Franquin (Gaston) and Hergé (Tintin), along with his father’s cartoons, were important references during Ferrandez’s process. When the Policestudio team decided to expand Grostexte recently, it added light, regular, and italic weights, plus a set of crazy ornaments, to the existing bold versions to round out a complete family.
Why’s it called Grostexte? The name refers to the 19th century Antique type families that came to be called Grotesque, and exaggerates the meaning of the word: to be ridiculous or even clumsy. “To make the name ours, we turned it into Grostexte which means literally ‘big text,’ as the original typeface was only drawn in the Bold weight,” says Shahmiri. “We loved the big ornaments like Bang! and Boom! which emphasize their origins as callouts within comic speech balloons.”
What are its distinguishing characteristics? Both the character shapes and the exuberant set of onomatopoetic ornaments scream “comic book” while somehow retaining enough dignity to be taken seriously. The terminals of the capital ‘C’, ‘G’, ‘J’, and ’S,’ as well as those on the lower case ‘c,’ ‘r,’ ‘s,’ and ‘t’ curl inward at exaggerated angles, and the lower case ‘a’ resembles someone pulling an all-nighter, slumped in exhaustion over a laptop balanced on his or her knees. The top of the lower case ‘f’ is an odd cross between a bishop’s crook and an ankh symbol, and the tail of the ‘Q’ pokes out from the center of the character’s bottom curve like that of a fat, contented cat.
It’s the ornaments, however, that really set Grostexte apart. Each weight has 439 glyphs and 56 ornaments including exclamation points incorporating stars, energetic tornado-like swirls, impact marks, lightning bolts, and little poof clouds in case you need to typeset some farts every now and again.
What should I use it for? “Use the bold weight for things that need to feel really human and not too serious,” Shahmiri says. “The light and regular are a bit less expressive even if they keep the characteristics of the bold. The family can be used in so many contexts.” Lighthearted signage, barbecue joint menus, cartoon festival posters…this one is at home in any project where a designer has the latitude to cut loose a bit.
What other typefaces do you like to pair it with? “Try some more discreet fonts,” says Shahmiri. “We used it once with our Panthéon I, which in theory doesn’t match at all but it was really nice. We’re working on an identity for a bilingual school at the moment—maybe [for that] we’ll pair it with a quite serious font. Context is everything!”