New Font ‘Chronicle Hairline’ Is for Men Who Wear Dress Shoes Without Socks
Chronicle Hairline, the latest typeface from type foundry Hoefler & Co., is a genteel yet relaxed family of letters created for the fashion world. Like dapper men who wear dress shoes without socks, Chronicle Hairline favors a deliberately dressed-down look. It looks formal, yet approachable.
That’s what luxury e-commerce site Net-a-Porter wanted when it asked Jonathan Hoefler to develop a font for its then-new magazine, Porter, in 2014. “A name like Porter is intriguing enough that it could be anything,” Hoefler says. “The title needed to immediately signal fashion, but the creative team wanted it to be different from Vogue and Bazaar.”
So he dusted off Chronicle, a descendent of Didot, the reigning typeface for fashion titles. Chronicle’s lineage made it ideal for a glossy fashion magazine, but it needed updating. Hoefler calls Didot an “elevated, almost aloof typeface” and says the organic shape of Chronicle Hairline updates the look. “For Chronicle, we wanted what Didot does well, but to expand the envelope of what fashion typography can be,” he says.
Didot Light Roman & Chronicle Hairline Roman
If you’ve ever read Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, or Elle, or watched the opening credits of The Devil Wears Prada, you’ve seen Didot. The modern serif typeface has been a mainstay of fashion magazines since the 1930s, when Harper’s Bazaar art director Alexey Brodovitch embraced high-contrast modern typefaces. He chose Didot, introducing artistic expression to what generally had been considered catalogs. According to the American Institute of Graphic Arts, “models in Parisian gowns and American sports clothes ‘floated’ on the page, surrounded by white backgrounds, while headlines and type took on an ethereal presence.”
Hoefler updated Didot for Harper’s Bazaar in 1991, and created Chronicle in 2012 as a newsier alternative. The two typefaces resemble each other, but look closer and you’ll see that Didot follows a rigid set of rules. The stems and diagonals on most letters are slab-thick or hairline-thin. Those elements connect to a serif at sharp angles. Chronicle features softer, rounder joints. It’s slightly varied, as well: a Didot ‘C’ sports two identical spear-like serifs; a Chronical ‘C’ uses just one, up top. “With a typeface like Didot, you’re getting this repetitive drumbeat of the same forms, but Chronicle is a more musical line of things changing quite a bit,” Hoefler says.
These details matter, because typefaces send subliminal messages. “They convey to readers what a topic is going to be, even before a reader reads words,” Hoefler says. Chronicle Hairline conveys high fashion. But as fashion changes, so too must the designs around it. Blogging, the web, and even athleisure have democratized the fashion industry. The new typeface reflects that. “In Chronicle you begin to see a bit more of an organic quality than the rule and pompousness of Didot,” he says. “That gives it a little warmth.”
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