Steve Matteson found his inspiration for the Massif™ typeface family in the dramatic granite formations of North America’s Sierra Nevada Mountains. The faults and fissures that define a massif formation are integral to Matteson’s design, providing rich texture at small point sizes and revealing the characters’ distinctive shapes and proportions at larger sizes.
Matteson has been designing typefaces for over 20 years, but many of these projects were custom designs fulfilling clients’ typographic requirements. With Massif, Matteson set himself a personal challenge: “to incorporate particular rocky features found throughout the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the foundation of my design.” He elaborates, “My goal was to embody, in Massif’s two-dimensional letterforms, the angular tension and smooth curvature characteristic of the rugged terrain of Yosemite National Park’s Half Dome, which was formed by eons of glacial and tectonic activity.”
Matteson drew the first weights of Massif in 2004 and completed additional designs in 2011. The family now ranges across six weights, from a willowy light to a robust extra bold design – each with an italic companion. The family is also available as a suite of OpenType® Pro fonts, allowing for the automatic insertion of small caps, ligatures, and old style figures, plus offering a small suite of decorative ornaments. Pro fonts also include an extended character set supporting most Central European and many Eastern European languages.
Massif’s rugged and organic typographic demeanor becomes apparent at large sizes, making it ideal for display use. However, because its basic shapes and proportions are refined, Massif is also an excellent choice for short blocks of text copy. All weights present several subtleties that make Massif a noteworthy text face, such as sheared terminals (on the d, h, and i, for example), the curve at the base of the lowercase l, and the 45º terminals on all diagonal strokes (k, w, x, and y). Matteson acknowledges, “The heavy weights set the tone of the design, which is typical for a typeface with this much character. But I was surprised at how the lighter weights take on an equally distinctive but more delicate, twig-like quality.”
With 12 designs, Massif’s range of usage is deep and wide. “The typeface is very organic, so applying it to formal invitations or financial reports would probably be out of place,” advises Matteson. “But I can see it used in many projects that are less reserved.” Massif’s distinguishing design traits, large family size, and extensive character set also make the design an excellent choice for a variety of branding, advertising and publication design projects.