H&F-J’s Sentinel

A sample of Sentinel in use from H&F-J's website.

From their site:

“For everyone who’s ever wished Clarendons had italics, everyone whose favorite slab serif is shy a few weights, and everyone who’s ever needed a slab serif to thrive in text: we designed Sentinel for you.”

Sign. Me. Up.

While I don’t use Clarendon all that often, largely due to its limitations, it’s among the first typefaces that stuck in my mind as a student. Its strong slab serifs and sturdy curves have always resonated with my design sensibilities and aesthetic preferences. That H&F-J were the ones who decided to remedy this makes my designer heart sing.

Sentinel differs from Clarendon in a number of ways, but besides the expanded family, the first difference I noticed was the lack of bracketed serifs. I’m betting this feature had to go to give them enough flexibility and crispness for text weights. I think it’ll give Sentinel a correspondingly brisk, fresh feel in spite of its historical origins. Of course, this means that Sentinel will also lack some of the warmth that I associate with Clarendon. I relish all those stocky joins and curves. The stroke modulations and bulbous terminals on the a, c, g and 2 (to name a few), as well as the cupped tail (foot?) on the leg of the R, all draw me in to Clarendon and give it a richness that, even if it carries its own problems, endear it to me.

But, Sentinel certainly doesn’t do away with this character. I suspect (since I don’t have a license) that Sentinel’s design has enough Clarendon provenance to avoid the loss of all that unique character. And since it can perform far more duties in both display and text, I’d be willing to bet that any loss will be long forgotten as one explores its new possibilities. That crisp new suit that Sentinel’s wearing looks like just the thing to bring those Egyptian/Century styles into today’s layouts with impact and integrity. I think we’ll be seeing a lot of Sentinel in the coming months. Maybe it’ll even stave off all that oft-inappropriate use of the glorious Archer that I keep seeing.

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