DEVELOPMENT / 2006-04-21

About the Catalog Typeface

If imitation was the sincerest form of flattery, then the font Catalog is a tribute to all the classic serif typefaces. The idea behind this type was to bring together the elegance of humanistic Antiqua with graphic design approach in order to achieve both artistry and functionality of a classicist typeface.









The Catalog typeface was designed for a catalog raisonée for the Museum Frac Loraine in Metz, for which re-p (Niklaus Thönen and Maia Gusberti) had previously created lettering as well as its graphical appearance, tasked us with the design of a manifesto-style catalog and provided us with the opportunity of this typographic challenge.
The FRAC typeface we had developed for the lettering embodied the museum’s approach and its visual identity; unfortunately, however, the typeface system was not conceived for body text and was unsuitable for this use. We came up with the idea of a serif typeface for body text that drew on simple design principles. It was developed in parallel with the Catalog. Testing of the typeface as to its function was integrated into the design process. The development process was not communicated to the customer, on the contrary, we saw their reaction as a measure of the functioning and the acceptance of the typeface. In case our client would see any problem with it, find reason for criticism or call its use into question, we would have judged our endeavor to be a failure.



Corporate Font for the FRAC Lorraine Metz (Fonds régional d'art contemporain)


Our discovery of the Budosi typeface, created by Bonbon (Valeria Bonin, Diego Bontognali) in the run-up to the project was an important moment in the development of Catalog. In a brilliant manner, it draws on the simple principles, the graphic style of display typography, and the imitation effect of a text face. The notion that we can imitate, i.e. simulate informed our development of catalog. We conceived our typeface to feature an eye-catching quality, follow a modular system, and, at the same time, achieve the effect of a text face. We eventually realized, however, that the effect of something and its functioning, in this case its legibility, are two different things. This brought us to increasingly reorient our analysis towards text faces and their legibility.


Budosi by Bonbon, Zürich, 2002



The system the Catalog typeface is based on resulted from an attempt to merge the Antiqua’s characteristic humanist style with the design concept of a classic serif typeface.
Dating back to the era of Humanism (15th century) in Italy, the Antiqua first emerged as a hand-written book script and is clearly marked by the use of broad-nib pens.



Garamond, 1540

Didot, 1819
modern face



In contrast, the design language of and mindset behind classicist Antiqua typefaces represent a technological and industrial era. Great variations in line weight, the vertical axis of the shadow, and the resulting vertical orientation of letterforms lend elegance and composure to typefaces. The vertical axis of the shadow, however, diminishes reader guidance.
The basic idea behind Catalog was to bring together the characteristic style of a hand-written Antiqua with the design approach of a classic Antiqua in order to achieve the elegant and uncluttered appearance of a classicist typeface, which, however, featured the reader guidance and writing style of an Antiqua. To achieve optimum legibility, first a design system based purely on geometric shapes had to give way to an increasingly typographical use of form. In order to do justice to typographic regularities, letterforms were subjected to individual corrections and adaptations.


System analysis

Applied principle


Didot Elder Book, 2004
François Rappo, after an original of Pierre Didot, 1819

The didone face
Gras Vibert Romain,
Deberny et Cie, 1809

Catalog g


Designed by Michael Mischler & Nik Thoenen in 2005

Catalog Font Familiy
Catalog in BL-Typewriter
Catalog Webfont
Catalog Glyph Set