A serene humanist typeface, with a familiar personality

A serene humanist typeface, with a familiar personality

A lower-case g of Allium, interpreted as an etching. The first ten customers of the full family are being sent a numbered, signed print.

A lower-case g of Allium, interpreted as an etching. The first ten customers of the full family are being sent a numbered, signed print.

Cyrus Highsmith has unveiled a new typeface that pushes his design vocabulary in a new, quietly-voiced direction. It's A calm design, with graceful and reasoned forms.

Allium began under the codename “Cyrumanist,” signifying a humanist san serif typeface with a personal twist.

Detail of the lower-case o.

Detail of the lower-case o.

Cyrus is one of those type designers whose work is unmistakable. He’s been compared to Gerard Unger, and even to Adrian Frutiger. The way you can spot a Highsmith is to look for the distinctive characters—not done just to be different, but to be add originality. He injects effective flavor into the very structure of core letters, like n and o. You can see it in the o.

This glyph has a slight push toward the right side, a detail that blends into the rest of the text, but makes this typeface have a warmth and movement that is lost in over-rationalized humanists.

Like harmony, balance comes from paying close attention to the white shapes. Their proportions influence how we perceive a letter’s stability. . . . However, a stable letter doesn’t need to be a stiff letter.
— Cyrus Highsmith

“While drawing Allium, I was thinking about the second kind of harmony, in terms of accord. I drew the interior white shapes to be as similar as possible to the exterior black ones,” Highsmith writes on his foundry’s site. My goal was to make their relationship calm and quiet. No tension between the inside and outside.”

In recent years, Highsmith has spent time in Asia, creating two children’s books published in Japan, lecturing in Korea, and serving as a judge on the biannual Morisawa Type Design Competition. (Awards will be presented in Tokyo next month, and he’ll be there.) Highsmith is also slated to speak in Thailand at the BITS conference in October.  

The design culture of Asia may have rubbed off on him. After very vigorous (and successful) designs like Antenna and Stainless, this new sans has a sense of calm and equilibrium. It’s likely to be a hit—either because it’s a truly fresh take on the humanist sans style, or because it’s a Cyrus Highsmith. 

Four of Allium's 12 styles.

Four of Allium's 12 styles.

For his NeXT trick, Steve Jobs buys an expensive logo

For his NeXT trick, Steve Jobs buys an expensive logo

If you can read this, flip me over

If you can read this, flip me over