Monotype Grotesque

Category Sans-serif
Classification Realist sans-serif
Designer(s) Frank Hinman Pierpont
Foundry Monotype Corporation
Date released 1926
Re-issuing foundries Stephenson Blake, Adobe Type, Linotype

Monotype Grotesque is a family of sans-serif typefaces created by Frank Hinman Pierpont (1860–1937) and released by the Monotype foundry in or around 1926. It belongs to the grotesque or realist genre of early sans-serif designs.

History and design

Monotype Grotesque is a large family of fonts, including very bold, condensed and extended designs. Like many early sans-serif designs, it is strongly irregular, with designs created at different times that are adapted to suit each width and style at the expense of consistency.[1][2][3] Monotype executive Dan Rhatigan has commented that it "was never really conceived as a family in the first place, so consistency wasn't a goal."[4]

The German families 'Venus' (by Bauer) and 'Ideal', from the H. Berthold AG foundry have been described as inspirations for Monotype Grotesque; its design descends from William Thorowgood's 1832 face titled "Grotesque."[5][6] Uppercase characters are of near equal width, the G has a spur in some weights, and the M in the non-condensed weights is square. The lowercase characters a, e, g, and t follow the model of twentieth-century English romans.

Monotype Grotesque was somewhat overshadowed during the period immediately after its release, due to the arrival of Futura and Gill Sans, also by Monotype. With their cleaner, more constructed and geometric appearance, these designs came to define graphic design of the 1930s, especially in Britain and parts of Europe. (Pierpont was irritated by Monotype advisor Stanley Morison's enthusiasm for marketing Gill Sans, saying that he could "see nothing in this design to recommend it and much that is objectionable."[7]) However, while it never achieved the popularity of Akzidenz Grotesk, it remained a steady seller through the twentieth century. A particular revival of interest took place after the war, and it is often found in avant-garde printing of this period from western and central Europe, such as the journal Typographica designed by Herbert Spencer.[5]

With the rise of popularity of neo-grotesque sans-serif typefaces such as Helvetica in the 1950s, which featured a more homogeneous design across a range of styles, Monotype attempted to redesign Monotype Grotesque around 1956 under the name of 'New Grotesque' in a more contemporary style after Pierpont's death in 1937. The project proved abortive (Monotype's obituary of Morison described him as having agreed to it 'without any great enthusiasm'), and did not progress beyond the release of some alternative characters.[8][9][10] Monotype ultimately came to licence Univers, Adrian Frutiger's extremely comprehensive new family, from Deberny & Peignot.[11] Historian James Mosley has commented that "orders unexpectedly revived" for it around 1960, partly as Univers was only slowly made available on the popular Monotype system, "or maybe they did not want to use the rather bland Univers anyway."[12][6] Mosley wrote in 1999 that the interest in its eccentric design "represents, even more evocatively than Univers, the fresh revolutionary breeze that began to blow through typography in the early sixties," and that "its rather clumsy design seems to have been one of the chief attractions to iconoclastic designers tired of the...prettiness of Gill Sans".[12][6]

Monotype would later use aspects of Monotype Grotesque and New Grotesque as an inspiration for Arial, a new design styled to generally be very similar to Helvetica.[13][14]

Digital releases

Monotype Grotesque

A release of light and regular styles (with italics), bold and black, light and standard condensed, regular extra-condensed and bold extended weights. This set is also sold by Adobe.

Monotype Grotesque Display

A variant with altered designs. The family consists of Bold Condensed and Bold Extended fonts. Digital version was sold by Linotype.

Classic Grotesque

A less eccentric updating designed by Rod McDonald. The design combines the features in Venus and Ideal Grotesk font families. Alternate characters are also added.[15][16] The development was originally approved in 2008, and lasted four years.[17][18]

The font family originally includes 14 fonts in 7 weights, with a complementary italic. OpenType features include numerators/denominators, fractions, ligatures, lining/old style/proportional and tabular figures, superscript, small capitals, stylistic alternates, stylistic sets 1 and 2 (Roman fonts only). Only one width is offered, without condensed or extended designs.

OpenType Pro version supports all western European, most central European and many eastern European languages.

Condensed, Compressed and Expanded widths were added in 2016, increasing the family to 56 fonts.[19]


  1. Coles, Stephen. "Helvetica and alternatives". FontFeed. Retrieved 2 July 2015.
  2. Hoefler & Frere-Jones. "Knockout". Hoefler & Frere-Jones. Retrieved 1 July 2015.
  3. Hoefler & Frere-Jones. "Knockout sizes". Hoefler & Frere-Jones.
  4. Rhatigan, Dan. "Twitter post". Twitter.
  5. 1 2 Ecob, Alexander. "Monotype Grotesque". Eye magazine. Retrieved 1 July 2015.
  6. 1 2 3 Mosley, James. "The Nymph and the Grot, an update". Type Foundry (blog). Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  7. "F.H. Pierpont". MyFonts. Retrieved 15 September 2015.
  8. Shaw, Paul. "Arial Addendum no. 3". Blue Pencil. Retrieved 1 July 2015.
  9. Shaw (& Nicholas). "Arial addendum no. 4". Blue Pencil. Retrieved 1 July 2015.
  10. McDonald, Rob. "Some history about Arial". Paul Shaw Letter Design. Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  11. Moran, James (1968). "Stanley Morison" (PDF). Monotype Recorder. 43 (3): 28. Retrieved 13 September 2015.
  12. 1 2 Mosley, James (1999). The Nymph and the Grot. London. p. 9.
  13. Haley, Allan (May–June 2007). "Is Arial Dead Yet?". Step Inside Design. Archived from the original on July 19, 2011. Retrieved 2011-05-11.
  14. "Type Designer Showcase: Robin Nicholas – Arial". Monotype Imaging. Retrieved 2011-05-10.
  15. "Introducing Classic Grotesque".
  16. "Monotype Imaging Announces the Classic Grotesque Typeface Family". PRWeb. 5 September 2012.
  17. "Classic Grotesque".
  18. "Linotype News - Press Releases".
  19. "Classic Grotesque: three new widths and 42 additional fonts".

Classic Grotesque

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