Over the past two decades, typography has experienced a sort of golden age. More type designers than ever are making high-quality fonts; every year, postgraduate programs like Type and Media (KABK), the University of Reading’s MA Typeface Design, and Type@Cooper release promising new designers into the world. And yet amid this abundance, Underware stands out.
German Akiem Helmling, Dutch Bas Jacobs, and Finnish Sami Kortemäki banded together on the eve of the new millennium. While the studio is officially located in the Netherlands, Underware operates from three separate locations: The Hague, Helsinki, and Amsterdam. This has led the trio to develop a particular way of collaborating. Their unique method is as spontaneous and high-spirited as it is governed by a profound mastery of the aesthetics and technology of contemporary typefounding. Switching from sketches on paper to digital outlines and back again, the group volleys concepts and design ideas almost playfully in a search for meaningful, novel approaches. But make no mistake—while it may seem like they don’t take themselves too seriously, Underware is utterly serious about the art and craft of typeface design. This dedication produces fascinating, technologically advanced type families.
Because every new release from Underware becomes a minor event, it can be easy to forget that the foundry started small. Dolly, their first typeface, is an elegant text family in just two weights–Regular and Bold, with Italic and Small Caps complementing the Regular weight. It is wonderfully balanced, with pronounced serifs and distinct features that aid legibility; its gentle curves, curved stroke endings, and soft finish give the letters a calligraphic feel. A reduced contrast and slightly darker color make Dolly the ultimate friendly book face—immersive reading becomes a frictionless, velvety experience.
With their sophomore release, Underware took the concept of a soft type family and ran with it. Sauna’s half-serifs situate it between a convivial slab serif and an upright script. The typeface displays an interesting shift in tone as its weight increases. With their flexible, wide letterforms, the lighter weights talk to the reader in a confident voice that inspires trust. Ballooning with joy and laughter, the bodacious darker weights turn headlines and titles into strong statements. The inventive Sauna Dingbats font completes the family; every line drawing comes with two additional color shades and a highlight.
Bello, a connected display script, explores brush lettering. Full-bodied, swooshing strokes strike a balance between purposefulness and exuberance. Intelligent OpenType features liven up words with automatic ligatures and gleeful incoming and outgoing swashes. Bello Caps makes it possible to create casual brush capitals that beautifully complement the script style. Bello Words rounds out the collection with catchwords and ornaments that can be embellished with colored shade lines.
Underware’s latest release, Zeitung, goes beyond the functional type family. The sans serif system offers two optical sizes for micro and macro typography. With clear letterforms and sharp details, Zeitung’s characters cut a clear message on the page or on the screen. While the generous x-height and open apertures guarantee excellent legibility in the middle weights, the extremes are fashionably thin or forcefully black in display use. Eight weights with matching italics, all including small caps, come fully equipped to tackle even the most demanding contemporary design and typography projects.
“Since Underware joined Webtype in 2014, I’ve had a front-row seat to this dynamic trio’s amazing designs,” said General Manager Paley Dreier. “It’s awesome to have them join Type Network and I can’t wait to see where they push type design next.”
All Underware fonts are available for desktop, web, app, and ePub licensing. Webfonts may be tested free for thirty days. To stay current on all things Underware, subscribe to Type Network News, our occasional email newsletter featuring font releases, foundry happenings, type and design events, and more.