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.

Design info

At the drawing board, a typeface may be optimized for branding, signage, or publication design, but its true success is proven in real-world use. Boreal is a crisp and congenial sans serif that has already been put through its paces.

Born as a custom face for Canadian airline Air Inuit, Boreal is not only the logo font, but also serves branded text on everything from tiny disclaimers and complex route maps to in-flight magazine headlines. It even looks great on the massive liveries of the airline’s fleet of Boeing 737s. Given this range of uses, the type had to be as versatile and legible as possible, while retaining Air Inuit’s welcoming identity. The fonts also required language support for the local Inuit languages of Northern Quebec, now known as Nunavik. This makes Boreal one of the few commercial typefaces with Latin/Inuktitut character sets that were designed concurrently and meant to be used together.

Boreal’s flexibility is bolstered by five weights, each with italics, and a set of useful dingbats, including circled index numbers, arrows, and basic geometric shapes. Two stylistic alternates stand by for a more casual tone: a single-story ‘a’ with an upright italic construction, and a single-story ‘g’. Backed by practical experience, Boreal offers clean, approachable type for any corporate or editorial use, and its clarity and openness are also ideal for UI design and wayfinding. With Boreal, you always know where you’re going.

Design: Jean-Baptiste Levée. Team: Mathieu Réguer, Quentin Schmerber, Marvin Harder. Original art direction: Studio Feed.

Boreal specimen

Character set