I Love Typography

Archer the Elegant Slab Serif

fly me to the moon

It feels as though Jonathan Hoefler has been designing type for about 100 years—a tall order for a man in his thirties. While still in his teens, he established the Hoefler Type Foundry (now known as Hoefler & Frere-Jones, since teaming up with Tobias Frere-Jones, formerly of the Font Bureau). In 2002 he was honored with type’s top prize, ATypI’s Prix Charles Peignot.

If you own a Mac, then you already have a Hoefler font—Hoefler Text a serif face, commissioned by Apple back in 1991. If you’ve never even noticed it before, then do take a look: the family comprises some 27 fonts; it includes old-style figures, small caps, ligatures and even alternative versions of punctuation for use with caps and and small caps.*

But we’re not here to talk about Hoefler Text or H&FJ Didot or Verlag or Requiem, or even Gotham. If you look up at the night sky toward the center of our own Milky Way galaxy, you’ll spot H&FJ’s new typeface Archer, a rather lovely Slab Serif initially commissioned for Martha Stewart Homes.


I’m particularly taken with the ball terminals on the s (used throughout the lowercase). See the outlines below (hairline and bold). There’s definitely something Swanlike in its form. Interestingly (well, I thought it was interesting), the constellation Sagittarius contains several nebulae, one of which, the Omega Nebula, is commonly know as the Swan or Horseshoe. (one of those interesting facts you can raise when next at the pub).

archer S hairline and bold

H&FJ faces are never short on weights, and Archer is no exception, available in eight weights with accompanying italics, old style figures, small caps, lining figures…you name it, it’s in there. I’ve always found the slab serif to be a little sterile, characterless even. Archer though is a more noble, elegant slab serif. If Courier is Jane Doe, then Archer is Isabella Rossellini or Audrey Hepburn.


Sweet but not saccharine, earnest but not grave, Archer is designed to hit just the right notes of forthrightness, credibility, and charm.

I could happily write several more pages on what I like about Archer, but I suggest you take a look at H&FJ’s Archer page. So what do you think of Archer?

Coming up…

A very exciting exclusive on another new typeface and the interview with Jean François Porchez. But before that, I’ll see you all on Sunday for another edition of Sunday Type.

If you haven’t already subscribed to iLT, then a couple of clicks will ensure you never miss another issue.

*Dot-font: Talking About Fonts—John D. Berry. 2006, page 59.
More about the heroic type duo that is H&FJ can be found here.


  1. Dante

    I always fall a teensy bit in love whenever I see a photograph of Audrey Hepburn—particularly those portraying her as Holly Golightly. Sigh …

    By itself, your comparison of the Archer typeface to her was enough to convince me I should buy it. Luckily, it’s also an exceedingly beautiful typeface.

    (Also: Love the web site. Keep it up!)


    Dante—Stockholm, Sweden

  2. TypoJunkie

    Nice! I especially like the hairline and how the ball terminals pop up like stars. I can only wonder how a whole page set in it will look like a starry night. It was also nice to see Audrey Hepburn.

    BTW John, how do you get the headers for each article? Do you buy the typefaces and design them yourself, or do you ask nicely for outlines of the letters, or do type designers provide them?

    Thanks and keep up the great work!

  3. The minute I received the email in my inbox from H&FJ and saw the beauty of a face—I knew there would be an article on it.

    Absolutely amazing Slab Serif and I see the header done in it. If you bought it, I am going to have to come and steal your hard drive my friend.


  4. Dante
    They are indeed both beauties. I was complaining about the cold weather in Japan today; but something tells me, it’s a tad colder in Stockholm :)

    >…how do you get the headers for each article?
    Most of them I design myself; several are designed by type designers. The one used in this post is ‘designed’ by me. Sometimes I buy, sometimes I get a review license, and sometimes they arrive with bows on.

    I had a feeling this one would get you excited. Archer is stored on a bomb-proof hard drive, encased in 3-meter thick steel reinforced concrete, bolted to the foundations of my apartment ;) As George Bush would say, bring it on. ;)

  5. Oh my God! Verlag is just what I need for a project i’m designing right now! Reading this blog has saved my life, thank you!

  6. Most definitely the best header image at ilT so far. I absolutely love it…

    I would so digg a babyblue t-shirt with a white version of this very header image!

  7. I totally agree with you… Bought Archer 3 days ago… Jonathan and his team produce excellent shapes in a calm, sustainable yet modern way.

  8. Beautiful fonts. I’ve never been a huge slab fan, but sometimes they surprise me with their elegance. I’m not sure whether to be enchanted or worried by the contrast of the slabs with the ball terminals, but in any case it’s a brilliant touch.

  9. That is a gorgeous font. I wish it were free!

    I love that ball look and the fact that there are light and bold variations.

  10. Dante

    johno: Cold? Stockholm? Au contraire—we are experiencing the worst (as in grey and wet and completely snowless) winter in many, many years. The current 4 °C (approx. 40 °F for you non-Celsians out there) is far from cold by Swedish standards.

  11. I received the email about Archer a few days ago, and immediately fell in love. I love slab serifs, but for some reason could never be satisfied with using them in a project. (With the exception of Caecilia, which is another wonderful slab, which a little bit less ‘quirkiness’ than Archer).

    Anyway, the moral of the story is that I’ve never met an H&FJ face I’ve not liked. I can’t wait to pick up a license and start playing.

    Oh, and thanks for iLT! It’s a pleasure reading.

  12. Ko

    Marvellous font.

    The use of it in the Sagittarius image inspires me to use it in cartography, which is what I do in my day to day activities. In mapping one often uses a slightly wider range of weights and sizes than in ‘normal’ layouts - even though anti-clutter principles still apply - and I have a feeling that this font will be just the ticket, nice and clean.

    Pairing off filmstars with famous typefaces might be a fascinating subject for an article…

  13. thekiteflyer

    I usually have a pretty big soft spot for all slab-serif typefaces, but I must agree that Archer has a certain charm and elegance that other slab-serifs lack! It has a unique ‘softness’ that I particularly like a whole lot.

  14. Beware my friend. The floor of your house can easily be cut to shreds by the typography yakuza. No lie.


  15. Funny thing - I’d noticed Hoefler before - but since it was a ‘system font’ I never tied it to Hoefler & Frere-Jones.

    Archer is beautiful. Has a modern feel - but could have easily been designed years ago. I’ll definitely be keeping this in mind next time I need a Slab.

  16. Oh no another Robert! Hahaha.

    But anyway Archer is a real thing of beauty. Hairline seems to be my favorite. But good stuff :)

    Oh and thanks John for your input on my site. Really appreciate your input. Anyone else want to take look please feel free to do so. I’m new to wordpress so feed back is much appreciated.

    One more thing! Frank, really impressed by some of your work, where did you go to school?

  17. I do like Archer. And Audrey. Over my shoulder is a poster-sized print of her in that dress, with that tiara, necklace & cigarette doodad.

  18. Ben


    My girlfriend was making some pie yesterday, she had a page torn out of a Martha Steward mag her mom sent her. I immediately picked the font out, “Wow! Archer… but….”

    But, how long has Archer been out? Did they give advance versions to Martha Stewart’s magazine? The article was several months old.

  19. Sachin

    I would second Frank’s mention of PMN Caecilia, another slab serif with a very classical elegance to it. Having said that, Archer does look a tad more beautiful.

  20. miha

    It’s night now, now I can see Archer constellation:)

    Anyway, Archer looks…lovely! – that’s a little bit unusual for slab serifs. If it only was monospaced too! (although there are so many versions)

  21. Jacob A.

    Before now, I had never fallen in love with a font. There is just something about this font that is absolutely gorgeous. I think this may be the first font I’ve ever purchased…

  22. Marco
    Saving lives—all in a day’s work ;) Pleased you discovered Verlag—one heck of a family. I love the compressed black italic.

    Baby blue it is. In fact, today I started preparing my screens for screen printing. Tomorrow I’ll do some test exposures, then those t-shirts should be ready to go within a couple of weeks. Just four designs to start with. I’ll try to make sure Archer is one of them.

    Would love to see how you use it. Great blog you have there, BTW. I’m now a subscriber.

    I think at larger sizes, those so-called ball terminals add a touch of flare; and at running text sizes, they just let in a little more light. I’ve always thought that gargantuan slab serifs on a 9pt ‘s’ makes for a crippled looking ‘8’.

    I’m sure you’re not the only one. There are, however, a number of different ‘packages’.

    Thanks. Be sure to let us know when you use Archer.

    >Has a modern feel - but could have easily been designed years ago.
    And I’ve always thought (in Nietzsche’s words) that Jonathan Hoefler was “born posthumously”.

    I’m a huge fan too. I see her every day, in fact; here in Japan, she’s used in advertising for some bank or other.

    Well, Archer was originally commissioned by Martha Stewart Living, so I guess that’s why they got it first. We don’t have that title in Japan, so if you’d like to show us a scan…. BTW, how impressed was your girlfriend?

    Robert (the elder/younger?)
    Yes, some wonderful work on Frank’s site. I seem to recall seeing a little of H&FJ’s Knox in there somewhere :)

    Welcome to iLT. Looks like Noordzij’s Caecilia too has a several fans here.

  23. Ben

    ” BTW, how impressed was your girlfriend?”


    Me: “WOW!”
    Her: “Yeah! Apple strudel!”
    Me: “No, I mean, this font, it’s Archer, but it only just came out…”
    Her: “Nerd!”

    But secretly I think she was pretty damned impressed with my skillz.

  24. Ko
    Would love to see how you use it in cartography. Did you see AceJet’s posts on the topic?

    Welcome to fontaholics anonymous ;)

    haha! Funny that—I’ve had an almost identical conversation on numerous occasions. However, I’m darn sure she was impressed; she’s probably told all her girlfriends about you informed nerdery :)

  25. miha

    Ben, this was funny!:) You are a real typoholic:P

  26. awesome font, perfekt review.
    I’m wondering how this font might look on a full-page-layout.


  27. Ah yes, Archer is quite the font. And It always amazes me at just how many variants H&FJ (and other typographers) produce. It’s surely not an easy job, but the end result is one versatile typeface. “And that’s a Good Thing” :)

  28. Hamish
    I don’t know why, but upon reading your comment, I had a vision of Jonathan Hoefler sitting at a huge Thunderbirds-esque control panel covered in huge red buttons with a variant inscribed on each; and there he is slapping the ‘hairline’ button, then the ‘bold italic’…

    Perhaps it’s time for me to sleep. Good to see you, Hamish.

  29. John
    Haha, brilliant. If only it were that easy. Of course, that does make me wonder, how in fact do most typographers create each weight? Do you start with the lightest and build your way up?

  30. Wow that typeface has to be one of the sexiest one’s I’ve ever seen.

  31. @Hamish — I always start with the regular weight, then work my way up to bold and down to light. (Actually, with my most recent font, I started with what I thought was regular, but it turned out that when I made the bold version, the bold version was really the way the font should look. I might not even release the regular version, because the bold version is just so much more “right”.) In my experience, working up towards bold is much easier than working down to light.

  32. Sakto

    What a beautiful typeface. Not unlike the others H&FJ offers, it perfectly fits the description and aim of its design.

  33. What an elegant face this Archer has. Every time you’re featuring a new typeface here, I’m trying to see which one would suite Inspiration Bit’s new look. Still hadn’t made my mind. I might ask for your advice, John, since you’re the one with all your fab types making me so indecisive ;-)

  34. Alec
    Thanks for the insight. And that’s an interesting story — just goes to show how a typeface can evolve even as you’re making it.

  35. The astronomy picture example of Archer wasn’t all that impressive, but on my second time reading this article (I check back a few times a week for updates) I clicked the link to the official Archer page and, wow!, the other official examples are very catchy indeed!

  36. I’m generally not a fan of slab serifs—just my reflex, really, upon seeing them. Even so, I must say that Archer is a nice-looking type. I still can’t picture reading a long stretch of it, but who knows.

    As for Hoefler … What I was reminded of was just how long it’s been since I really took notice of what the system fonts are on a Macintosh. I mean, know they’ve grown and changed since my first Mac, a Mac IIx, in 1989 or 1990. Yet I still think that System Fonts means Times Roman, Avant Garde, Helvetica, helvetica Narrow, New Century Schoolbook, Bookman, and Palatino. As well as Zapf Dingbats and Chancery. Did I miss any?

    Back when I got that old IIx and my first laser printer, the IINT, I felt like Ben Franklin or Gutenberg himself. I was free from the miserable—embarrassing, actually—dot matrix print of my ImageWriter II. Especially when a friend had the same dot matrix printer, but his Mac Plus generated much better-looking print.

    Viva the DTP revolution!

    I only wish the Super Bowl broadcast later today includes a great Apple ad reminiscent of the 1984 one. I know, it ain’t going to happen. But I’m hoping, as I haven’t seen a list of all the commercials that will air.

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