Hubsch typeface pays homage to the marker pen, with convex curves and a hand drawn touch

From The Northern Block type foundry, this sans-serif typeface takes cues from the history of the marker pen with references to Keith Haring and Banksy.

11 September 2023


Today, the marker pen has something of a humble place in the stationary cupboard. Often found half dried up, with mis-matched lids, and solely used for ideas sessions, its creative potential has been somewhat sidelined – something The Northern Block’s Hubsch typeface is looking to change. A sans serif font designed by Jonathan Hill, one of the Newcastle-based foundry’s founders and designers, its convex curves and blend of thick and thin lines emulates the unique touch of a marker pen, while reinforcing the joy and fundamentals of handwriting in a hyper-digital design market.

Not only celebrating the visual effect of the marker pen, the typeface is rich with references to its history – especially in the world of street art and graffiti – with the work of Keith Haring and Banksy both inspiring its creation. On a more personal level, Jonathan’s childhood memories of marker pens influenced the project. Their smell and the sound of them on paper, but also watching Tony Hart – from the 1970s BBC children’s art programme Take Hart – drawing with a chisel tip marker pen. What’s more, the sans serif takes its name from a 14th century printmaker Martin Schongeaur, who gained the nickname Hübsch Martin (which translates to ‘Pretty Martin’) for how well the letters in his prints fit visually with their straight and curved sides.


The Northern Block: Hubsch (Copyright © The Northern Block, 2023)

Rather than sticking to any prescribed typeface formulas, Hubsch follows its own set of rules and logic. The marker nib to square elements places it in a mixed-use category, allowing it to be worked on a small scale reading, while adding impact to anything large scale. Jonathan identifies that it would “sit as comfortably in a video game interface as it would in concrete for a piece of public architecture”. Moreover, rather than sitting firmly in the hand drawn or digital category, Hubsch comfortably occupies something in between. “Convex curves flow in a subtle direction but are not utterly rounded, so the aesthetic feels both technical and hand-crafted in the same measure,” says the designer.

Jonathan is better known for his work designing modern geometric sans, so the Hubsch project has allowed him to “push boundaries” and try something a little more experimental. “I really enjoyed how the marks made from a chisel tip marker are unapologetic. There is nowhere to hide; you must accept its path and embrace the mistakes.” Taking something unexpected and underestimated and showing its creative potential in a new light, Hubsch is a typeface that is sure to make its mark.

GalleryThe Northern Block: Hubsch (Copyright © The Northern Block, 2023)

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The Northern Block: Hubsch (Copyright © The Northern Block, 2023)

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About the Author

Olivia Hingley

Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.

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