Typographic “voice” alludes to a typeface’s personality and the ways in which we experience a text. The shapes of letters can influence how a reader perceives them and, by extension, the text they are part of. By convention, straight lines and tense curves have come to speak to us in a formal, sometimes technical manner; humanist shapes commonly seem warm and approachable; rounded stroke endings lend letters an air of friendliness; and swooping swashes and delicate hairlines create a refined, romantic atmosphere. With New Atten, however, it’s the other way around. Miles Newlyn found inspiration for its design in, very literally, a voice—that of world-renowned broadcaster and naturalist Sir David Attenborough.
Newlyn’s link to Attenborough starts with the place they both hail from: Leicester, a city in the East Midlands of England. In an interview with the Independent, Newlyn revealed that, when he was young, his paper route led him past the pond where Attenborough is rumored to have discovered his fascination with the natural world. But the connection goes beyond geographic happenstance. Since the 1950s, Attenborough’s gentle, measured diction has seduced BBC viewers. It has permeated his documentaries and other televised projects with a quiet authority befitting the venerable national broadcasting company, turning Attenborough into nothing less than a national treasure, an indelible part of the fabric of British society and culture.
Like so many other Britons, Newlyn grew up with those natural-history programs, and Attenborough’s voice became a key factor in his love for the English language. While enjoying a documentary one day, Newlyn realized that Attenborough’s delivery and timbre had the precise qualities he wanted to instill in a typeface. He started with classical proportions, similar to the engraved capitals at the base of Rome’s Trajan Column. These inscriptions also served as the inspiration for Gill Sans, the typeface used in the BBC’s iconic visual identity, so turning to them again seemed a logical choice given Attenborough’s long career at the company. But Newlyn decided to jettison the serifs and round the stroke endings to make his design more approachable.
With New Atten, Newlyn wanted to achieve a typeface with noticeable charm and a personable tone, while still preserving the integrity of the text. He based the construction of the lowercase on simple geometry, as a metaphor for Attenborough’s clear and unmannered elocution. Interestingly, Newlyn designed New Atten Round first, as part of his continued research into creating typefaces that are warm and familiar—typical attributes of the rounded genre—but also classical and educated, characteristics he associated with Attenborough’s voice. When Newlyn moved on to New Atten, he was surprised when he experimented with flattening the terminals. The square stroke endings subtly shifted the typeface toward a more formal territory without undermining the core qualities of the design.
By infusing a duo of robust type families with approachability and familiarity, Newlyn has created an ideal typographic toolbox for corporate solutions, visual identities, and branding, as well as for editorial design and book production. New Atten and New Atten Round have harmonized weights in a comfortable range from Light to Black. Because the metrics are also practically identical, switching from one variant to the other to adjust the tone of the copy is painless, since it causes little to no text reflow.
And even if not everyone recognizes Attenborough’s character in New Atten’s characters, that doesn’t really matter. Newlyn used the beloved naturalist’s spirit—and his voice—as a starting point, a springboard for demarcating a design space in which New Atten could evolve.
Like all Newlyn fonts, New Atten and New Atten Round are available for print, web, applications, and ePub licensing. Webfonts may be tested free for thirty days. To stay current on all things Newlyn, subscribe to Type Network News, our occasional email newsletter featuring font releases, foundry happenings, type and design events, and more.
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