Last night I spent a little time looking for a serif to partner with Akkurat for a book I’ve been working on. There’s something neutral but fairly specific about the shapes of Akkurat. It’s not as silent as Helvetica or Univers but still doesn’t go out of its way to draw attention. I declares itself without screaming and shouting. Below is a rationale I sent my partner in the project to outline a few thoughts:
Hopefully we can solve the second font problem soon. I have certainly been thinking about it... I still believe the quote passages should have a different visual style than the essays, ideally bringing a touch of warmth and connoting the historical nature of the quote sources (without being too literal or too linked to one certain era). We are searching for something that is essentially a display font, since it will be displayed larger than text size, and is used as much for its aesthetic merits as its content. It should be heavy, but not too heavy, and should be able to share space with Akkurat, our alpha male. Ideally our serif will have straight serifs that mirror Akkurat’s terminals and a total lack of stress to mirror Akkurat’s geometrically-drawn skeleton. Your intuition for Bodoni is spot-on since it achieves most of that. It’s too loaded with historical connotations for our purposes and a bit too contrasty, but it’s in the ballpark. I have been looking at all the serifs I have access to, and at first everything can seem like an ideal fit, then upon closer inspection, the charming idiosyncrasies can start to seem a little too... idiosyncratic. When fonts are displayed at that size all the little details are revealed (that flat a in the samples from a few days ago jumped right out at you, for example). Untitled Serif is unique because it was actually designed to be as neutral as possible. It’s the only serif that I know of that actually started with that concept as its guiding principle. I think it’s worth considering and it’s well within reach (I recently picked up web versions of regular and italic for my website for $75, which turned out to be a great move... it’s a dream to use). We might consider picking up the medium or bold weight for $50. That’s where my mind is at right now, but like always, I want to sleep on it and see if I agree with myself in the morning! I can screenshot some samples and pair it with Akkurat if you’re interested in seeing them. Here is an excerpt from the Kris Sowersby’s thoughtful explanation: “I made all Untitled Serif design decisions while reading. After each round of changes, I embedded the updated fonts into an ePub of Orwell’s 1984 and read several chapters. If a detail stood out, I removed it in the next round of changes. I kept doing this until it was totally comfortable to read.”
The image above shows some screenshots I cobbled together on my phone to show the two fonts sharing the same space. The mix seems to have everything we have been looking for, with nothing more and nothing less. Akkurat sill keeps its alpha status and Untitled Serif has the room to express itself whether it intends to or not.