Font Family: Sharp Sans Display No.2, Number of fonts: 20*OTF, Type Foundry: Sharp Type, Designer: Lucas Sharp, Design date: 2012
Sharp Sans Display No.2 is an Avant Garde (the magazine lettering, not the ITC typeface) inspired geometric sans-serif.
Lucas Sharp began working on Sharp Sans Display as a student in 2009. Back then, like many young graphic designers of his day, he was obsessed with the work of Herb Lubalin and the typographic ‘A-team’ that coalesced around him in the 1960’s and 70’s. Their work was nothing short of resplendent. Lubalin himself had a mastery of letterforms, which was more cerebral than bodily; an idea man whose typeface designs and loosely jotted, but ingenious sketches of compositions would find their paragonical execution by the hands of such greats as the swashbuckling scriptographer Tony DiSpigna, the unflinchingly precise Tom Canarsie, and the legendarily prolific extra-bold italicised Ed Benguiat. The best examples of these works display a mastery of clean typographic form that pushed the boundaries of contrast, proportion, and construction into previously uncharted territories.
When he began working on Sharp Sans Display, this timeless style was at the height of a particularly concentrated seasonal trend in the NYC graphic design scene. It was peak Lubalin. And while you may think a kool-aid swigging ‘Lubbalinite’ such as Sharp would enjoy that, he was actually pretty critical of what he perceived to be poorly executed and hastily made homages everywhere he looked. There were numerous outliers to this characterization, and many off-shoots that became their own actualized thing, but a large portion of this resurgence was not improving on the Lubalin model, especially when it came to typefaces in the Avant Garde style. The problem was a consistent lack of well crafted options for a style that was very much in demand.
One very important thing to understand about the Avant Garde typeface is that it was not conceived as a digital typeface destined for mass distribution. Its original design was singularly uppercase, and strictly for the context of Avant Garde magazine. Its innovation was its system of interlocking ligatures, its tight-as-humanly-legible spacing, and its relentlessly geometric design (the latter of the two being the pinnacle nuggets of inspiration in the conception of Sharp Sans Display).
Digital editions of ITC Avant Garde Gothic are readily available, but ironically it is two of its original creators who would advise most enthusiastically against its use. Tony DiSpigna once said, "The first time Avant Garde was used was one of the few times it was used correctly. It has become the most abused typeface in the world.” Ed Benguiat has stated that, "The only place Avant Garde looks good is in the words AVANT GARDE.” In our opinion, the beautiful instances that made the Avant Garde magazine lettering so compelling were never properly and artfully translated into a quality digital typeface. Sharp Sans wasn’t meant to be that exactly, but the capitals in Sharp Sans Display No.2 are definitely a direct homage.
While Sharp Sans Display No.1 ends its round monolines with diagonally sheared terminals, Sharp Sans Display No.2 shears those terminals on a 90° angle. This small distinction became the basis for a plethora of exploration on either end. The most distinct aspect of No.1 is its whimsical, almost slab-like true italics, which in turn give way to a full set of swash capitals in all italic weights.
Sharp Sans Display No.2, being the more geometric of the Superset pair, has a more traditional oblique for its italic, as well as alternative reductionist Herbert Bayer-inspired lowercase.
Sharp Sans Display No.2 also has the first truly fluid OpenType homage to the famous Avant Garde interlocking capital style created out of an intelligent system of ligatures and contextual alternates which do not interfere with tracking (we suggest you track them in).
While we make no claims to the ingenious style created by Herb Lubalin, we were tired of all the half-baked imitations, so we did our best to do the style justice. The original photo-type settings will always be the paragon, but this may just be the next best thing.
The Sharp Sans series is divided into three parts. While most superfamilies are organized by a single differentiating principal such as optical size (text, display, etc.) or style (serif, sans, slab, etc.) the Sharp Sans series contains elements of both. There is a stylistic differentiation between the two display cuts of the family, Sharp Sans Display No.1 & No.2, and a nuanced optical size relationship between the display cuts and the newest edition, simply called Sharp Sans.
Although the new naming convention of the Sharp Sans series would suggest a hierarchy of optical size (IE: Sharp Sans and Sharp Sans Display No.1 & 2) their relationship is more complex than the traditional text and display relationship. Sharp Sans is not a text face: it is a one-size-fits-all use-it-for-everything face. While the original Display versions complement the new Sharp Sans beautifully when used in tandem, the choice to use one or the other at an appropriately large point size is a stylistic decision as well as a practical one. Sharp Sans Display is edgy and provocative, while the new Sharp Sans finds grace and utility in its subtle perfectionism.