2004-2005. Commissioned by Mark Porter at The Guardian. Designed with Paul Barnes. Guardian Egyptian Headline, Guardian Sans Headline, Guardian Egyptian Text, and Guardian Agate Sans are available for licensing from Commercial Type. Guardian Text Sans and Guardian Compact will be available in the near future.
The Guardian has been an icon of newspaper design since David Hillman's radical redesign in 1988. In 2003, the management decided it was time for another drastic change, from broadsheet to the smaller Berliner size. The original plan was to adapt, rather than completely change, the design of the paper, and Paul Barnes originally brought me into the redesign project to draw a very faithful revival of Neue Haas Grotesk to replace the Helvetica they had been using. As the project evolved, the Haas Grotesk fell by the wayside. and Paul and I ended up collaborating on an entire suite of related faces.
Our initial work was on an elegant serif family to be used alongside the Haas Grotesk. As we progressed, Mark, the creative editor, became unconvinced that the two families were a comfortable match and wanted to see some tests for a completely new sans. Paul decided to see what would happen if he drew an Egyptian, then trimmed the serifs off to get the Sans - the same evolutionary path that the very first sans serifs had taken - because he had an idea that this would be the best way to get something both interesting and compatible with the serif face. The Egyptian was planned as a "missing link" - an evolutionary step that would help us get from serif to sans, but would not be used in the paper - but it quickly emerged as a clear favorite for both headlines and text.
Our biggest influence was the Egyptian faces cast by a wide range of London foundries in the mid-19th century, from better-known foundries like Figgins to more obscure ones like Hugh Hughes (whose italic was a big influence on ours). Our basic proportions, however, show a bit of Dutch influence. Its unbracketed serifs and spartan detailing make it a serif face with the soul of a sans, but its weight contrast and the fact that the serifs are wedge shaped, rather than simple slabs, make it feel a bit more classy and a lot more contemporary than most Egyptian faces.
The matching Egyptian and Sans families needed to be flexible enough for any situation, so Mark asked us to draw as wide a range of weights as possible.
Because the new presses would not be up and running until long after our deadline, we had to draw four grades of the text and agate families, so they could choose the one that looked best on press as one of their final decisions before launching. These grades will also give them some flexibility for printing different sections on different kinds of paper.
With just over 200 fonts, the Guardian family is one of the most ambitious custom type programs ever commissioned by a newspaper, even though that was not the intention when we began.