A truly beautiful typeface that achieves stellar levels of readability, in print and on screen. Meet Slate, from award-winning designer Rod McDonald. This six-weight sans serif family is a rare example of sublime aesthetics meeting world-class functionality, and no graphic communicator will want to be without it.
The Slate typeface family melds superb functionality and aesthetic elegance into a remarkable communications tool. Few typefaces possess the beauty and power of this design.
Slate is the work of Rod McDonald, an award-winning typeface designer and lettering artist. At one point in his forty-year career, McDonald participated in a typeface legibility and readability research project conducted by the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB). There, McDonald learned which design traits were best suited to maximizing character legibility and text readability.
Shortly after his work with CNIB, McDonald was commissioned to design a large sans serif typeface family for Toronto Life magazine. Although not meant to be a “legibility face,” the design gave McDonald an opportunity to test several of the theories he formed during the CNIB project. Around the same time, McDonald also developed a sans serif family for Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax. This typeface was primarily intended for use on the college’s Web site.
McDonald was pleased with both designs, he says, but craved further exploration. “I felt that I had only scratched the surface of what I wanted in a sans,” he says. “I liked the soft, quiet look of the magazine face but was also encouraged by my success in drawing a good legibility design for on-screen use.”
“One of the things I wanted was a type that could function as well in print as on-screen,” McDonald recalls. To help achieve his goal, McDonald worked with the Microsoft Typography Team to learn about ClearType technology. ClearType was developed by Microsoft to improve the readability of on-screen text, especially on liquid crystal displays (such as laptop screens), flat panel monitors and mobile device displays.
McDonald’s technological savvy and prior work on sans serifs for print and on-screen use have paid off magnificently in the Slate family of typefaces. Slate blends features of McDonald’s earlier sans serifs into a humanistic sans with extraordinary levels of legibility.“Although it’s far too early to know if what I wanted works across the board,” says McDonald, “initial testing in both print and on the web are quite positive.”
In purely aesthetic terms, Slate is a beautiful design. “I didn’t want a face with an ‘engineered’ look, or with any noticeable design gimmicks or devices, says McDonald. “I wanted a pure design. I confess that I was ruthless with any character that wanted to stand out from the rest.”
Slate is available in six weights of roman and complementary italics, with slight changes in style from the light to the black weights. The light is reminiscent of early American sans, like News Gothic; the medium has the feel of Akzidenz Grotesk, and the black functions much like the bold weights of Futura or Franklin. Overall, Slate is a typeface of grace, power and exceptional versatility.