Classic Grotesque, designed by Canadian designer Rod McDonald (b. 1946), is a sans-serif typeface family influenced by the 1926 Monotype Grotesques. The original family has been entirely reworked and expanded from three weights to seven, including italics. Classic Grotesque is available in seven font weights with Italics from Light to Extra Bold, and four widths: Compressed, Condensed, Basic and Extended. It can be used for signage, posters, magazines, advertisements, company names etc. when a timeless modern look is needed.
The growing popularity of grotesque typefaces meant that many new sans serif analogues were published in the early 20th century. Setting machines were not compatible with each other but all foundries wanted to offer up-to-date fonts, and as a result numerous different typeface families appeared that seem almost identical at first glance and yet go their separate ways with regard to details. One of the first fonts created with automatic typesetting in mind was Monotype Grotesque®. Although this typeface that was designed and published by Frank Hinman Pierpont in 1926 has since been digitalised, it has never achieved the status of other grotesque fonts of this period. But Monotype Grotesque was always one of designer Rod McDonald’s favourites, and he was overjoyed when he finally got the go-ahead from Monotype in 2008 to update this “hidden treasure”.
The design process lasted four years, with regular interruptions due to the need to complete projects for other clients. In retrospect, McDonald admits that he had no idea at the beginning of just how challenging and complex a task it would be to create Classic Grotesque™. It took him considerable time before he found the right approach. In his initial drafts, he tried to develop Monotype Grotesque only to find that the result was almost identical with Arial®, a typeface that is also derived in many respects from Monotype Grotesque. It was only when he went back a stage, and incorporated elements of Bauer Font’s Venus™ and Ideal Grotesk by the Julius Klinkhardt foundry into the design process, that he found the way forward. Both these typefaces had served as the original inspiration for Monotype Grotesque.
The name says it all: Classic Grotesque has all the attributes of the early grotesque fonts of the 20th century: The slightly artificial nature gives the characters a formal appearance. There are very few and only minor variations in line width. The tittles of the ‘i’ and ‘j’, the umlaut diacritic and other diacritic marks are rectangular. Interestingly, it is among the uppercase letters that certain variations from the standard pattern can be found, and it is these that enliven the typeface. Hence the horizontal bars of the “E”, “F” and “L” have bevelled terminals. The chamfered terminal of the bow of the “J” has a particular flamboyance, while the slightly curved descender of the “Q” provides for additional dynamism. The character alternatives available through the OpenType option provide the designer with a wealth of opportunities. These include a closed “a”, a double-counter “g” and an “e” in which the transverse bar deviates slightly from the horizontal.
Since his start in the mid-1970s, Rod McDonald’s career has encompassed virtually every aspect of the typographic arts. He’s been – and continues to be – a graphic designer, lettering artist, educator, historian and writer. McDonald was also among the ﬁrst designers to switch to drawing typefaces on the computer in the mid-1980s.
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