Jim Ford’s Masqualero is not only named for Miles Davis, but embodies the jazz musician’s spiky personality down to every last one of its sharp serifs. Bursting with character – and plenty of intricate detailing – the typeface can be dark or light, welcoming or menacing, depending on the hand of the designer using it and the words it inhabits. Available in six different weights and italics, each of this typeface’s tailor-made characters has been designed to capture and captivate the reader.
Masqualero first popped into existence during a snowstorm, while Ford was caught up listening to Miles Davis’s song of the same name in his car. With a long way to go, and the song on repeat, Ford was able to mentally chisel out the early details of the typeface. Back at home he started sketching out the ten letters of the word, which formed the basis of the entire design.
“I like the name because it rolls off the tongue and it doesn’t mean anything,” he explains. “It’s an abstract word that Wayne Shorter came up with when he was in the band, so it’s always been about that word and that song.”
“There’s also a lot of details in the typeface that talk about Miles Davis’s career and his personality,” he adds. “He was sharp-tongued and very opinionated, and I think he intimidated a lot of people.”
For a typeface named for a musician with a spiky personality, Masqualero stayed true to character when it came to developing the design, with the intricate details of each of its letters proving a particular challenge.
“It has a lot of extra points that you wouldn’t see or think are there,” elaborates the designer, who credits Matthew Carter’s work as a reference. “But that’s what really gives it clarity and that sparkle. It’s all sculpted, and each letter is unique from the others.”
To create the sharp lines of the characters Ford also borrowed tricks from the world of stone-cutting, which make for particularly clean connections between the elements of each letter. He approached each glyph as if hewing “marble sculptures”, treating characters individually and refusing to rely on copy and pasting.
These methods evoke classic values and a sense of tradition, that contrast the design’s shapeshifting personality. Its dual nature allows it to change voice drastically, depending on how it’s used, capable of appearing equally menacing or sophisticated, and everything in between.
Its personality is further emphasised through its various weights, with its unique qualities particularly brought to the fore with the stencil – which conveys both the decorative nature of the typeface and its uncompromising sharpness.
It also offers more than first meets the eye, including classically elegant ligatures, connecting borders, and even a ‘secret’ printer’s fist modelled after Davis’s own hands.
It’s a bold personality that makes it perfect for the world of publishing, with Ford suggesting magazine mastheads, logos or book covers as an ideal home for its delicately sculpted details. Its weighty serifs could also feel at home on architectural signage, or perhaps as a brand companion to the finer things in life.
“It’s not a ‘workhorse’ family as much as it is a fashion statement,” he says. “It’s the black tuxedo or the stiletto heel. It dresses up words.”