Regarding Letters in General.

The hypothesis that there is an ideally correct form for each letter

of the alphabet is just as erroneous as Geofroy Tory’s simple assumption that there is a relation between the shapes of letters and the human body, erroneous, because the shapes of letters have been in constant process of modification from their very beginnings.

Indeed, the shapes of the letters in daily use are due entirely to a convention, so that in preferring one form rather than another, our only consideration need be for the conventions now existing and the degree in which each satisfies our sense of beauty. It should be kept clearly in mind that the perfect model of a letter is altogether imaginary and arbitrary. There is a definite model for the human form. The painter, the sculptor, the architect have their models in nature. But the man who sets himself to make an alphabet has no copy but that left him by former artists on all matters which pertain to the fashion of his letter - he has no absolute standard. Semi’scientific discussions regarding the proportions of letters began as early as 1509, first by Pacioli, then by Durer 1525, Tory 1529, Yciar 1548, and Moxon 1676, down to the present, & all with little practical or valuable results. None of the drawings or writings of these masters contain any practical hints or suggestions for use in designing new forms of letters. Rules or substitutes for the artist’s hand must necessarily be inadequate, yet when set down by such men as Durer, Tory, Serlio and others, probably do establish and fix canons of proportion or construction that may constitute a firm basis upon which to found new expressions. Moxon said of letters that they were originally invented and contrived to be made and consist of circles, arches of circles, and straight lines, therefore those letters that have these figures entire, or else properly mixt, so as the progress of the pen may best admit, may deserve the name of true shape. But these self-same curves, arcs of circles, straight lines, make up also letterforms we do not always consider ’true shape, nor is it possible to entertain the opinion that all letters, although actually composed of these very elements, will necessarily submit to analysis or be reducible to set rules of formation that will make easier the creation of new forms. Such an analysis can, at best, only fix and permit the reproduction of the same form at another time, and even then the quality of life and freedom in the original will largely be lost in the reproduction. The mere blending together of geometrical elements common to all letterforms, good or bad, is not sufficient, ’true shape’ is something more subtle than geometry. Goudy.

Cobalte is the third in a group of loosely related sans serifs by Jean-Baptiste Levée. It follows the warm, modern path of Cogito and Gemeli but adds a subtle flaring to the strokes. Cobalte’s concave stems and angled terminals allude to the chiseled marks of a stone carver, bringing a bit of a monumental quality to what is otherwise an understated workhorse. This sense of stability and prestige was ideal for commissioned projects in the financial and real estate industries where the design was first conceived.

Levée cites various sources as inspiration, from inscriptional capitals of ancient Greece and ornamental French type of the 1920s to under-appreciated modern faces like Adrian Frutiger’s Icone and José Mendoza’s Pascal. What Cobalte adopts from these sources is just under its skin, however. The most apparent attributes are the utility and humanism that are at the core of all Levée’s designs. Bridging the two worlds of sans and serif, Cobalte has a style that is rarely associated with functional typefaces. Without too much fanfare, it can bolster flat text with a touch of distinction.

Awards & distinctions
Tokyo TDC Annual Awards “Excellent work” 2017
Typographica's favourite of 2016

Design: Jean-Baptiste Levée. Team: Sandra Carrera, Yoann Minet, Alex Chavot.

Cobalte specimen

Character set