Process: Centra Superfamily

About the Centra Superfamily

Josh Finklea’s Centra series is a study in utility and restraint. In keeping with his approach of iteration and improvement to the traditional typographic tools of graphic design, Finklea tackles one of typography’s most popular genres, the geometric sans.

Centra Family

Instead of strict adherence to a formal geometric structure, Finklea’s approach to the Bauhaus model is largely aesthetic. While Futura and other historical models of the genre were designed as distilled typographic expressions of modernism, Centra acts as a contemporary typographic expression with modernist characteristics. Centra emphasizes texture and readability over conceptual rationale, attributes that can be frustratingly elusive when using many strictly geometric sans-serif typefaces.

Comprised of two parts, the Centra series shares a standard foundation of consistent characters between Centra No.1 and No.2. A small but consequential selection of differentiated characters give each version its own distinct nature.

The Centra Series is divided into two parts, both sharing a foundational geometric structure. While Centra No.2 leans into its modernist roots, Centra No.1 finds a more humanist voice, drawing inspiration from the great British contributions to the genre like Johnston and Gill Sans.

The construction differences between the two families, as well as their intricate system of stylistic alternates, comprise an interesting stylistic axis, between the geometric and the mildly humanist, and provide designers with a robust set of tools for navigating this axis.

Centra No.1

8 weights, 16 total fonts.

Centra No.1, the more humanist geometric of the two, ends its curvilinear terminals in vertical sheers reminiscent of ancient roman capital construction.

Edward Johnston's drawing of the London Underground typeface from 1916.
Specimen spread of Stephenson Blake's typeface Granby (1930).
Specimen spread of Stephenson Blake's typeface Granby (1930).

Centra No.2

8 weights, 16 total fonts.

The Centra Series is a work of balance and texture. Centra is a geometric sans built to last.

Centra No.2 is a contemporary take on the modernist geometric that emphasizes texture and refinement. It contains geometric, single story constructions of its lowercase “a” and “g” forms, as well as a distinctive wide “M”. As a geometric, its pleasurably spacious rhythm of negative and positive space adapts well to a wide variety of uses.

Design for geometric capitals variously attributed to Paul Renner or Ferdinand Kramer. c. 1925. (Paul Renner: the art of typography by Christopher Burke.)
Designs attributed to Paul Renner, designer of Futura.

Centra Mono

4 weights, 8 total fonts.

Monospaced typefaces tend to reference either the analog and material quirks of a typewriter, or the calculated efficiency of a programming environment. Centra Mono is neither limited by technology or context, but takes its place as a contemporary response to monospace typography. Available in 4 weights in both roman and italic, the typeface is part of an established conversation between Centra’s humanistic warmth and modernist rationale, but operates as its own fine-tuned instrument.

Spacing between letterforms is a major component of typeface design, but when it comes to monospaced typefaces, the focus is instead on finding a spatial sweet spot for all the characters to live comfortably in: a uniform width that accommodates and organizes the entire glyph set, while allowing each character to express itself.

One challenge with designing an overly extensive monospaced typeface is that adding and reducing weight can entirely change its feeling of spaciousness. Thinner weights may start to feel as if they are too loosely spaced, while heavier weights can feel excessively dense and hard to read. Centra Mono pares itself down to 4 essential weights that lend themselves best to the fixed-width format. While the family was designed to be used on its own, consideration was also taken for it to perfectly pair as a secondary font with its parent typefaces.

The Centra Series is a work of balance and texture. Centra is a geometric sans built to last.

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