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Work / Graphic Design

GT Super: the typeface inspired by the lowercase “a” in a newspaper clipping

When Swiss designer and founder of Rollo Press, Urs Lehni showed fellow designer Noël Leu a newspaper clipping, it kickstarted an extensive investigation into display typefaces from the 1970s and 80s, resulting in Grilli Type’s latest release: GT Super.

It was the lower case “a” which captured Noël’s attention so much, with pointed terminals instead of the usual serif at the top. From here, Noël began to draw the typeface, adhering to notions of opulent curves and a constant flow throughout the design. With the help of Mirco Schiavone and Reto Moser, Noël has created a typeface family, focussed on the “expressive and idiosyncratic nature of calligraphic motions, compelled into stable, typographic shapes.”

Through his research, Noël found three references that largely influenced the look and feel of GT Super. Firstly, Perpetua Super (which lead to GT Super’s name): a typeface used in a series of advertisements for Buick. “The 1960s and 70s saw many such titling serifs created for the then-new phototype technology, and ofttimes quite different designs were marketed under the same name,” reads the specimen website for GT Super. It was Trooper Roman and Times Modern – both different versions of Perpetua – that also largely swayed the look of Noël’s high-contrast display typeface.

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The newspaper clipping that started the project

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A version of Perpetua Bold used for Buick ads.

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Trooper Roman

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Times Modern

Although wanting to mimic the expressiveness of these titling serifs, these qualities limit typefaces’ potential for text usage. Additionally, most typefaces of this ilk were only available in one weight. GT Super, however, comes in both Display and Text styles.

Reversing the common approach taken when designing a typeface family, they began by developing the Display subfamily, in particular, its lower case “a” which features flowing curves, from nose to tail. This characteristic is mirrored throughout the typeface: its uppercase glyphs have a distinct lack of abrupt serifs and the heavier the Display styles, the steeper the angles of their terminals. However, in the Text subfamily the sides stay vertical; more restrained and focused on “an even texture for long reading.”

By providing such a breadth of weights and styles, GT Super takes its historical references and makes them contemporary. In a world where designers are expected to apply their visuals to multiple platforms and sizes, GT Super’s subfamilies offer uniformity as well as flexibility. Or, as Grilli Type concludes: “From flashy headlines to highly readable body text, it always provides dynamic, fierce and consistent expression.”

To find out more about GT Super, visit its website, designed by Grilli Type alongside Informal Inquiry.

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GT Super

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Grilli Type: GT Super. Animations by Josh Schaub

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Grilli Type: GT Super. Animations by Josh Schaub

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GT Super

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Grilli Type: GT Super. Animations by Josh Schaub

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Grilli Type: GT Super. Animations by Josh Schaub

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Grilli Type: GT Super. Animations by Josh Schaub

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Grilli Type: GT Super. Animations by Josh Schaub

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Grilli Type: GT Super. Animations by Josh Schaub