Sumner Stone describes his typeface Silica as “solid but subtle.” Distinctive without being quirky, Silica is appropriate for everything from advertising to branding to publication design. Stone confirms, “It is a highly versatile design.”
History of the Typeface
Creating Silica was an unusual process for Stone, in that he drew the design entirely on-screen. “I already had the design in my head,” he recalls. “I also knew that I wanted to build a family with a wide range of very light to very bold weights.” Initially trained in the lettering arts as a calligrapher, working directly in a digital environment was a new experience for Stone. He reflects, “Silica was my first attempt at doing the design process completely on-screen. No drawings. The experience was both difficult and rewarding.”
Silica also represents another “first” in Stone’s distinguished career. To date, it is his only slab serif typeface. Whereas his many other designs grew out of calligraphic and/or historic letterforms, Silica is a constructed, slab serif design. Broad shouldered and straightforward, Silica projects a sense of honesty and no nonsense.
London type founder Vincent Figgins released the first successful slab, or “square,” serif typeface in 1815. The face was a cap-only design called “Antique” and was offered in three sizes.
Within the next ten years, slab-serif typefaces were issued with lowercase characters. These designs enjoyed great popularity until the early 1900s, and then lost favor in the first three decades of the 20th century, when geometric sans serif typefaces became popular. After a several decade hiatus, slab serifs are again among the more sought-after designs. Silica absolutely has the legs to become a new classic.
About the Designer
Stone is a world-renowned calligrapher, typeface designer, typographer and writer. He is also a celebrated educator, continually striving to elevate the practice of the typographic arts. His first type design, ITC Stone, is a super family that contains “Serif,” “Sans,” “Informal” and “Humanistic” versions – and became the foundation of his well-earned reputation. Subsequent typefaces by Stone include Magma, Munc, and Leaves & Straw. Stone’s work encompasses a wide range of typographic styles, including original designs and historical revivals, serif, sans serif, slab serif, and uncial families. Stone was also the art director and one of the designers of ITC Bodoni, another super family. From 1984 to 1989, Stone served as Director of Typography for Adobe Systems, Inc., where he conceived and implemented Adobe’s typographic program, including the Adobe Originals.
When he is not making type or teaching, Stone writes. He is the author of many articles and two books on typography and type design: On Stone: The Art and Use of Typography on the Personal Computer, and Font: Sumner Stone, Calligraphy and Type Design in a Digital Age.
After leaving Adobe, Stone founded the Stone Type Foundry Inc., where he designs and produces new typefaces, including proprietary designs. Clients for whom he has created custom designs include Mobil, General Motors, Stanford University, and the San Francisco Public Library. With the exception of his custom work and the ITC Stone family, all Stone’s typefaces are distributed exclusively by Monotype.
Silica’s letterforms have old style proportions but otherwise conform to traditional slab serif design parameters. They have heavy serifs with no bracketing, and changes in stroke weight that are almost imperceptible. Stone has also weighted the character strokes so that letters can be manually condensed somewhat (to about 95%) without negative effect.
The Silica family is available in six weights, from a svelte extra light to a commanding black. While no italics yet exist to complement the roman designs, Stone has said that he may develop these designs in the near future. The family is also available as OpenType Pro fonts which offer an extended character set supporting most Central European and many Eastern European languages.
While the absence of italics may limit Silica’s use in complex text documents, the family will perform gracefully in a variety of environments, thanks to its highly legible characters, full-bodied shapes and robust design traits. Silica communicates with strength and clarity, whether at small sizes on screen or a meter tall on billboards.