Beat! Beat! Drums! The Whitman Family has Grown!

The word Was, shown in Whitman Italic and Whitman Bold Italic, laid on top of each other using semi-transparent colors to show the differences in weights.

One of my favorite type families, Kent Lew’s Whitman, is just about to make the transition from beautiful specialized book face to full-fledged modern workhorse. This is music to my ears.

I’ve been using the original Whitman family with great pleasure since the middle of 2004, even employing it in a few identities, but it was always a tricky decision. Whitman is a thoroughly contemporary serif family that boldly cuts a modern line while planting its feet firmly in history, giving it a double-strength appeal that is rare in type this functional. But its limited book typography set (regular, italic, bold, small caps) made it a problematic choice for more robust, varied typesetting situations. But, happily, this was not to be a permanent roadblock.

A quote from The Two Towers, set in Whitman Regular, Bold Italic, and Small Caps and Italic, reading 'Treebeard, I need your help. You have done much, but I need more. I have ten thousand Orcs to manage. -Gandalf, The Two Towers

A little while ago Kent mentioned on Typophile that the bold italic weight was kicking around Font Bureau, so I made an inquiry and was able to get my hands on a retail copy. Let me be the first to tell you that it is a perfect fit. But were you expecting anything else? At last, I can set section heads containing book titles, and pull one more typographic tool out of my kit when I’ve chosen Whitman.

A paragraph set in Whitman bold and bold italic that reads: I have always enjoyed open gaming over linear gaming. I find myself replaying Crysis regularly, while Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare got stale after a few playthroughs. The Half-Life series continues to stand out as the exception.

The bold italic sits well amidst its family, standing with the strength of Whitman’s contemporary angled curves, while maintaining the rhythm of the italic weight. Whitman is designed to be a working text face, so its individual characters are not always each a work of beauty on their own. But their firm adherence to utility informed by art means there are no drama queens. And, frankly, the distinct look of Whitman has created some real gems of distinct letterform design. Logo designers take note: Whitman’s bold italic is filled with unique opportunities

A comparison of the italic, bold italic and bold weights of Whitman.

But that’s not the best part.

Kent has been busy. Since I spoke with him at the 2006 TypeCon in Boston, where I got a chance to check out the display weights he was working on, he’s also completed a semibold and semibold italic. That puts Whitman at seven text weights and twenty one display weights. Font Bureau will be making all of these available soon (in OpenType, no less!). Now that Kent has gotten the opportunity to fill out this family, I suspect you’ll being seeing a lot more of Whitman in identities, books, magazines, newspapers, and elsewhere. And we will all be better off for it.

Visit Kent’s site for more info on Whitman.

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