A sweeping collection of 32 sans serifs, Knockout restores some much-needed vitality to an overlooked corner of the typographic spectrum.
The notion of the "type familyĒ is so central to typography that itís easy to forget how recent an invention it is. Throughout most of its history, typography simply evolved the forms that were the most useful and the most interesting, generally with indifference toward how they related to one another. Italic faces existed for decades before they were considered as companions for romans, just as poster types shouted in a range of emphatic tones before they were reimagined as "boldĒ or "condensedĒ cousins. The notion that a type family should be planned from the outset is a Modernist concoction, and itís one that type designers have lived with for less than a century.
The organization of typefaces by weight and width may be one of Modernismís great gifts to typography, but the expectation that fonts should cohere to some prefabricated schedule of styles is one of its greatest fallacies. Demanding that every typeface march to the drumbeat of roman, italic, bold, bold italic is an arbitrary imposition on a naturally diverse world; in other professions, this kind of universalist thinking gives us brutalist worker housing, or prairies planted with monocultures. Knockout defies the Modernist canon, in order to reclaim one of typographyís great natural wildernesses: the American sans serif.
For more than a century before Helvetica, the sans serif landscape was dominated by unrelated designs. Gothic woodtypes in a dazzling array of proportions lived comfortably alongside anonymous foundry types, each designís integrity the product of its autonomy. Because none of these faces were intended to relate to one another, none of their design characteristics were beholden to any external constraints: what worked for a supercondensed boldface need only work for that design, not also for the extrawide light face whose design afforded different possibilities and faced different challenges. This sort of "situationalĒ approach to type design allowed for more varied and interesting designs, and itís this approach that Knockout celebrates. With the functional benefits of a family thatís well-organized, and the visual appeal of styles that are individually designed, Knockoutís nine-width, four-weight family offers a range of voices thatís impossible to achieve with even the best Modernist sans serifs.