With four distinct flavours, Jim Ford's Alfie family mixes versatility with midcentury charm.
It all began with a brush pen, given to Jim Ford by fellow Monotype designer Terrance Weinzierl. After pages of experimenting with the pen - which he describes as his new favourite calligraphy tool - the Alfie family began to come to life.
"I started to develop a group of styles, and I curated the lettering from the different ways that I was writing," says Ford, who continued to use his sketchbooks as a way of checking that Alfie, once created on screen, retained its hand-drawn roots. "I kept them in front of me and when I got to unusual shapes, I would write them again to make sure the shapes were informed," he adds.
The family borrows from designs of the 50s and 60s, with a sly wink at Emil Klumpp's Murray Hill script face, created in 1956. "You saw this style in advertising and greeting cards a lot in that era," says Ford. "Murray Hill is my favourite script ever, so a little bit of that is channelled. I think there's so many things about type in the 50s that never go out of style, it's like Art Deco. There's always a place for retro scripts."
Alfie's four flavours - Casual, Informal, Script and Small Cap - clearly belong within the same family, but each offer a unique voice. Casual is loose and calligraphic, while Informal adopts a slightly more refined yet still playful tone, with its set of springy, irregular serifs. Script borrows straight from the nib with its loops and flourishes, while Small Cap is a more sedate, utilitarian take on Alfie's personality. They all offer an irresistible sense of rhythm and movement, which binds them together despite their differences.
While the styles aren't designed to be interchangeable as individual letters, they are clearly all expressions of the same design DNA - something that's particularly noticeable in the S, which Ford describes as "the heartbeat of this font".
"I like it because of how it balances," he says. "It's bigger on the top and has the little hook on the bottom, with these great flicks and movement and finishing strokes. You could draw that S in so many different ways and it'll look different, but it'll always have that swing style."
A thoroughly display-ready family, Alfie is at its best at larger sizes - although Ford also says the Informal style works surprisingly well when set as text, for those looking for some "quirky texture".