Handpicked Typefaces

New Fonts: Usual

February 16, 2015 by
Yves Peters
Yves Peters

Sprung from the mind of Portuguese type designer Rui Abreu’s imagination and rooted in the Modernist tradition, the Usual typeface is not your “usual” grotesque sans serif (pardon the pun). With an number of stylistic sets to dress the typeface up or down, its expressive range is larger than one would expect. This turns the utilitarian family into a surprisingly flexible typographic tool.

Usual is a utilitarian typeface, suitable for whenever typographic sobriety and neutrality is needed. With a clear Modernist inspiration, Usual was born of the attempt at using a scale of proportions in type design. Similarly to Le Corbusier’s Modulor, this scale works as a tool or programme to determine the typeface's metrics, and consequently the rhythm of the stems.

“If a tool of linear or optical measures, similar to musical script, were placed within our reach, would it help in the process of construction?” —Le Corbusier

Each number in the numeric sequence used for the development of Usual is equal to the previous one multiplied by 1.618. The result is a progression in which each number is the sum of the previous two. The widths of the glyphs are sums of various combinations of the numbers from this sequence.

The Titling Alternates (grey) have shorter descenders than the default style (red).
The Titling Alternates (grey) have shorter descenders than the default style (red).

The practical, no-nonsense appearance of Usual belies its flexibility thanks to the many alternate options that can be applied either manually, or automatically by activating the corresponding stylistic sets. The titling alternates feature shortens all descenders and diacritics like cedillas, ogoneks etc. to allow for tighter line spacing. Stylistic alternates are available for the lowercase ‘l’, ‘a’ and ‘k’, as well as for the capital ‘K’. It is remarkable how much specifically the ‘a’ changes the appearance of the typeface. While the default glyph has a hint of DIN, the single-storey variant makes the typeface look more relaxed, while the third variant lends it a more distinguished feel, as does the variant ‘k’ and ‘K’. The alternative lowercase ‘l’ serves a primarily functional purpose, to avoid possible confusion with the uppercase ‘I’.

Top line: Usual with default glyphs in red. Bottom line: alternate glyphs for select characters in red.
Top line: Usual with default glyphs in red. Bottom line: alternate glyphs for select characters in red.

Usual comes in five weights from Light to Extra Bold with matching italics. It was designed to work in a broad range of text sizes, from body text to display. Each weight also comes with a selection of arrows.