The Lap of Luxury – a preemptive critique

Luxury fonts were originally designed by Christian Schwartz and available via Orange Italic. I was excited, my family business is jewelry and these typefaces are intended for the upscale market.

The type family names are Diamonds, Platinum and Gold, a cinch that I would want to use them. In 2011, House Industries purchased the rights to sell them (at least I think), and added a 3 text weights in the deal. Well, this is a partial review…

Why Do Chickens Fly?

I am not sure that the original set of Fonts, the Display faces, were meant to be a serious attempt at a typeface. At first, I imagine it was conceived as the typographic equivalent of “sprockets” from SNL.

I, however, was enthralled at the simplicity and the utility of 3 display faces, all aligned and weight matched and looking like they stepped out of a Gucci ad. Joke or not, I was obsessed with having them, and even e-mailed Orange to request an update about when and where I could buy them.

I remember learning of them from a trade pub, but I don’t remember which one. With a whimper, it was gone, with just a tease remaining.

I guess the very infrequent use of something specialized didn’t warrant the attention of the greater type community, as I found only one review-which was positive but lacking robust testing. Like chicken wings, which aren’t great for flying, but are great for eating, these faces are limited in optimal application.

Models Enjoy Cocaine

As mentioned before, the Display set is the the money. Three full sets of characters, with lots of fun extras. I have examined most of the set, there are also Greek glyphs, the control points are impeccable and the kerning is excellent.

On the other hand, as I mentioned before the faces are so specialized that they preclude use in most other design, without a certain amount of cheek. The glyphs are so unique and perfect, they exude sexy sophistication in such a way that they are permitted a certain amount of leeway.

If Luxury Diamond were caught doing lines in the ladies room, it would probably just get more work.

Duck Tape and Fairy Dust

As there are 2 major parts to this set, the text set seems to be the bastard child in this family lacking the refinement a youngster would, yet holding onto the arcane elements that found the Display sets.

I can’t understate this, they aren’t just ugly, they are homely. Damn homely. With the exception of the masterful kerning, they are beyond salvation. It would be a difficult task to match one text face to 3 distinctly dissimilar Display faces, only tied together by their use in Upscale advertising.

Understandably, the text falls into indistinct indirection. I would take ugly and interesting, in fact, I took her to the Prom, but this is practically unusable.

Sparse haut design

So is it worth it to buy the whole set? If you need a wealth of contextual alternatives to set Romanized Czech, Polish or Greek (without accents). Then yes, this is a very special case but for everyone else…

No. $250 for 3 Display, 1 text weight and a plethora of extras… not hardly. Why, you ask? Well this appeals to a very small market in the first place, people who can afford it (and then pay the licensing on commercial production, not included in the price) and people who already have type for these ads.

The second group already has typefaces that work, and I am here to help with the first group.

Alternatives on the cheap

The biggest issue that I see here is the redundancy of faces. With a quick little bit o’ research, I was able to secure cheap alternatives that lack the refinement, but wholly inhabit the style and function of 2/3 the faces.

These examples are gleaned from invaluable resource to the budget conscious fount-a-soir) and may not reflect accurate kerning/character spacing/etc.

To find alternatives, I cross-referenced serif, sans-serif and humanist; which is the primary style of the three typefaces and then added engrave(d) to the search. My search yields a few contenders:

For Luxury Diamond:

Engravers SB | An excellent choice for an engraved serif, the medium is very close in design to Diamond. What it lacks in distinctiveness it makes up for with a light weight version and a decent character set. Medium and Light weights, $17.50 each. This is a subset of:

Engravers General | This is a list of other Engravers versions, all stemming from an origin set cut in the late 1800′s. This is just a line up of the alternatives, there are VERY FEW differences besides price. As most of you will do a bit of hand kerning, the well-kerned and higher-priced versions are moot.

For Luxury Gold:

ITC Blair | A san-serif geometric that echoes the engraved process that it would have come from 100 years earlier. Lacks the distinct flavor of Gold, but meets the need for a classic sans that could be letter-spaced nicely or used on a watch face.

Engravers Gothic | Notice the trend? Just you wait. This is a more basic and less refined sans that comes to us from the early 1800′s as far as I know. There is little subtlety in the strokes, terminals or intersections and it smacks of utility rather than aesthetics. But it is still better than Bank Gothic.

Aviano Sans | This is less like the Gold font set but still deserves inclusion for its usefulness. It comes in 3 weights and is $21.99 per. This is an excellent, elegant type that would serve as a decent alternative to Gold.

For Luxury Platinum:

I had an exceptionally difficult time finding a replacement/alternative for Platinum. But I am sure my first pic will guarantee my place in typography hell.

Optima | There, I said it, and to ensure my fate I will add that you should expand to 125% to match some of the letter forms of Platinum. The price is right, as most windows users have it on their machines, and it is ubiquitous… not to mention you can match it with a text block easily. Brb, my riot gear is done at the cleaners.

Donatello Alternates | This is a less-than-great typeface which bears a little passing resemblance to Platinum, but the Alternates have the wider E, F, Etc. which hint at the House Type.

Honorable mention:

Cotoris | Another close but no cigar approximation that deserves inclusion as a serious display contender is this gem. A truly attractive typeface fresh and slightly fantastic. Cotoris would be at home on a variety of products and is a natural for green products sporting the universal leaf icon. I would like to see a more even width variation, which would be fantastic in this category.

In Summary

I love the work at House, all of it. It is interesting to look at the history of a fairly new foundry and see evolution, valuation and a commitment to typographer’s rights. This set, unlike many others from the folks at house, is not worth the expense.

Most would do better to read a book on the history of engraved type or even an essay from The Tubes. Just about an hour on Myfonts would also be worth while, I know I could use the education.