The Northern Block foundry was established by Jonathan Hill in 2006 and throughout its existence, the foundry has prided itself on releasing type designs that are innovative, functional, and appeal to a wide audience. The Northern Block has received particular notoriety for clean, contemporary aesthetics geared toward the advancing industries of our modern world, a list that includes video gaming, computers, electronics, and mobile technology.
One of their latest releases is Ovink, a rounded sans serif designed by Sofie Beier, a skilled typographer from Denmark. Sofie wrote the book on typeface legibility–quite literally. Her published work, “Reading Letters: Designing For Legibility” explores the science behind typography and legibility, a branch of knowledge she has studied to great extent.
“I see type design as the most extreme of design disciplines,” Sofie observed. “What I like is that it simultaneously is about the detail and about the whole. I love the simplicity of working with the harmony of the black and white and to work just as much on the character as on the shape surrounding it.”
Sofie feels that type design improves one’s eye, allowing one to see shapes and forms with far greater clarity. “In my view,” she said, “if you can design beautiful letters, you are a long way to also having the ability to design other things.”
Ovink is derived from an academic exploration and investigation into typeface legibility, and it’s named after the legibility researcher Gerrit Willem Ovink. “I created several different variations of the lowercase letters that are known to be most often misread,” Sofie told us. “My goal was to identify the most legible version of these letters, and then implement them in the finished design.” She enjoys this method of design; the process itself dictates the final typeface and she doesn’t know quite where it will end until she arrives at that point.
The process is a delicate one. “To design a typeface of high legibility, you need to have a certain level of differentiation between the characters, this should be done without losing the feeling that all characters are interrelated,” Sophie explained. “This effect is already incorporated in humanistic typefaces that are based on the broad nib pen where the stroke varies in width depending on the angle of the stroke. In constructed typefaces like Ovink, this differentiation is not inherent in the style, and you consequently will have to look for other ways to implement it.”
Ovink’s design yields incredible distance legibility, with signage being a specific application. It’s suitable for static displays as well as running text, yet it offers a wide range of weights that make it appropriate for a variety of other design applications. In addition to its scientific roots, Ovink is inspired by Danish lettering tradition, particularly the work of Knud V. Engelhard and his signage for Gentofte in the mid 1920s. “I think Ovink has a sturdy unpretentious look to it,” Sophie remarked, “yet compared to its predecessor the curves are tighter, and the characters have a higher level of differentiation.”
The straightforward, modern design of Ovink will find itself quite at home in publishing applications, editorials, advertising, web content, mobile apps, corporate communications, white papers, business cards, and any design application where absolute clarity is key.
Ovink is available in nine weights with corresponding italics for each, and it comes equipped with standard ligatures, oldstyle figures, proportional figures, and small caps. Its multilingual support includes Basic Latin, Western European, Euro, Baltic, Central European, and Pan African Latin.
Ovink is on sale for 70% off its regular price right now through February 22, 2017.
Beyond Ovink, Sofie intends to continue her diligent exploration into typographical legibility. “In spite of the long history of reading, we have very little scientific knowledge of what constitutes a legible typeface in different reading situations,” she said. “I plan to carry out more academic investigations into the influence of weight, x-height, width and so on. Based on these findings, I dream of creating new typefaces optimized for different reading situations such as at great distances, small point sizes and a quick glance.”
We wish her all the best throughout her research and we look forward to her future releases.
The Northern Block currently offers nearly 100 products on YouWorkForThem and we highly recommend that you spend some time looking at their portfolio to view their extensive body of work — you won’t be disappointed!