Souvenir was designed by Morris Fuller Benton, who served as director of typeface development for the American Type Founders Company in the early twentieth century. However, being the “boss’s” handiwork didn’t result in the design getting any extra push from ATF’s marketing department; in fact, quite the opposite occurred.
The face was first shown in 1914 as a single-weight design with no italic complement. Souvenir wasn’t promoted again until the famous 1923 ATF specimen book, where its modest two-page showing was overshadowed by the 12 and 15-page showcases devoted to other designs. Few orders were placed for fonts of Souvenir’s handset type. After its ineffective 1923 promotion, the design lay dormant for over forty years until phototypography gave it a second chance.
PhotoLettering later partnered with Lubalin, Burns and Company and ITC was formed; exclusivity was no longer an issue and Souvenir became one of the new company’s first typeface families. It was released in four weights with complementary italic designs, all drawn by Ed Benguiat.
Soon, ITC Souvenir became one of ITC’s most popular offerings – too popular, in fact. Ubiquity is never kind to typefaces; as a typeface becomes overexposed it also becomes a cliché with graphic design cognoscenti. Souvenir’s popularity peaked and then receded, but the enduring appeal of this attractive design remains undimmed.
The word that best describes ITC Souvenir is affability. It’s a friendly and undemanding typestyle. It’s also a “soft” design, with no sharp edges, no strong contrast in stroke thickness and virtually no right angles. The lowercase is rounded and large, with several distinctive characters.
All these traits provide practical typographic benefits. ITC Souvenir’s large x-height and open counters make its characters highly legible. Its distinctive characters help the design stand out from the crowd, while the soft edges and round corners allow Souvenir to be used in a wide variety of print surfaces and imaging environments.
ITC Souvenir has gracefully weathered the ups and downs of its first ninety years. Its enduring aesthetic and practical appeal make it a milestone of typeface design and an important graphic communications tool, as well as a true ITC classic.
In 1967, PhotoLettering Inc. (one of the two founding companies of ITC) revived the Souvenir design as an exclusive advertising face for one of its customers.