I Love Typography

Malabar type family released

Last week, Linotype released my newest typeface family, Malabar. With six fonts for the Latin script, Malabar is a sturdy oldstyle serif. Designed for extensive reading, Malabar was originally part of a larger design project conceived for Indian newspapers, and a Devanagari addition will be released at a later date. After that, who knows?

malabar typeface

I began work on Malabar about 17 months ago, as a postgraduate student on the MA Typeface Design course at the University of Reading in the UK. Back then, it had the working title Martel. My brief was to create a Latin and Devanagari newspaper face for the Hindi press.

malabar sketch

The above sketch is from November 2007. I had been looking at a lot of Hendrik van den Keere, and a little bit of Miklós Kis, and it was time to start drawing Malabar’s first letters in FontLab. I should point out that I don’t work out all of my ideas on paper before I begin drawing digitally, but I do use my sketchbook to record thoughts about letters, and to occasionally try out a few shapes. I don’t expect these sketches to be pretty or accurate; my sketchbooks—when I keep them—are much more stream-of-consciousness.

So what are we looking at here? This is my observation of some van den Keere-y display type, or at least the sixteenth-century book equivalent of display type. The relatively high x-height and the combination of the chunkiness of the letters with a high level of contrast captured my attention most. There is some degree of angularity in the letters, especially the a. The letters’ terminals are on the heavy side.

malabar progress

Above are the same letters from Malabar’s released version. What happened from there to here? Well, the terminals became even heavier, and the serifs have changed, too. There has been some reduction of the angularity, but I’d still say that this has a sharpness to it. Certain characters are much wider, particularly the s; the lowercase s is just expected to be wider now than it was during the Renaissance.

malabar family overview

Is 17 months a long time for a typeface like this? I spent about nine of those months working on the typeface as a student, plus another two after I returned to Germany. There were a few months in between where I was working full-time on other projects, and did not touch this typeface at all. And then the necessary production work gets added in…

iLoveTypography.com accompanied me along almost every stage of Malabar’s development. The site launched in August 2007, about two months before I began my MA course. I can’t exactly recall the first article that I read on iLT, but it was probably the Decline and Fall of the Ligature, from the beginning of that following September.

As John pointed out recently, we tend not to offer detailed PDFs of our typefaces at Linotype.com, although every font does have a basic PDF that may downloaded and printed. Malabar, however, is one of a few exceptions. Also, at the Reading MATD Alumni site, there is a detailed PDF that may be downloaded for Martel. Note, however, that the Bold and Heavy weights have changed significantly since that Martel PDF was published. Bold Italic and Heavy Italic fonts have been added to the family, and none of the Malabar fonts have Devanagari character sets.

Malabar received a Certificate of Excellence at the Type Directors Club of New York TDC2 2009 competition in 2009.

Interested? Go buy Malabar now, at Linotype.com!

About the author:
Dan Reynolds is font engineer and typographic specialist at Linotype in Germany. You can see his personal blog at www.typeoff.de


  1. I plan on purchasing this face… I really like it! I appreciate getting a look at your process, as well.

  2. Dave K

    I like it too, but the “s” doesn’t work for me.

  3. A lovely family!

  4. Nice to see you and Malabar on iLT, Dan. I hope it will be a huge succes.

  5. Beautiful one!
    Now I have to find a suitable project to use it ^__^

  6. Muzz

    looks likea bad mix of swift and minion to me mate. but well done on your first font!!

  7. Eric

    Not a terrible face, but like so many Reading faces, it looks like a Reading face. And looking at Mr Reynolds’ previous publications it is clear that this is the only semi-decent piece of work he has or will ever produce.

  8. Everyone’s got their opinion. I’d like it better with less clunky serifs. But my mom said I shouldn’t say anything if I don’t have anything nice to say. So I either take it back or complement the heavier weights. Frankly, I don’t understand how we’d improve without criticism. I’m sure there are plenty of designers who will love this face.

  9. Muzz

    ah sorry mate I didn’t mean bad i meant odd!!

  10. pat

    I think it looks pretty decent which makes it usable for different scenarios. great job!

  11. Congrats Dan with this great achievement! Good luck with Malabar.

  12. Hey Dan!
    I am from Chennai, India and I cant wait to see malabar out on the newsstand!
    I am a typographic noob, so it might not matter much, but i love the font.. i think it would look great on the Indian papers

  13. Nice to finally see it released, Dan. Congrats!

  14. anishsaha


  15. @Johno
    Thanks for the opportunity to publish this here.

    @Ryan, Alec, Jos, binocle, Mr Koppa, pat, Sander, Christoph, and anishaha
    Thank you all for your kind words and comments!

    @Dave K
    Sorry to let you down with the “s”. What would you have done differently with it?

    Are you the famous Australian Muzzer from Typophile? If so, I love what you have to say about type and typography. You can call my work odd or even bad any day of the week!

    Hey, the Reading look isn’t a bug, it’s a feature. And don’t worry, I’ll keep producing plenty of semi-decent work for you to peruse.

    Yeah, that would be really sweet. I’d like to see that, too. But who knows? Now that the typeface is out in the wild, it is the designer and document-maker public that really gets to decide when, if, and how Malabar should be used. I can only recommend.

  16. Rob

    Agree’d about the S’s serif. I would of preferred it if it were more like the sketch.

    Overall good font though.

  17. I think you’ve done an excellent job. I particularly enjoy the flow of the serifs on the lowercase rounded characters, such as the f, a, s, r, and n. My only criticism is that you seem to have some issues with the lowercase f running into neighboring tall characters, particularly the l and i. Otherwise, I think Malabar is a great font.

  18. Stacey Maloney

    Beautiful work.

  19. Dan, congrats on the release and the TDC award.

    I’m curious, what does the name Malabar mean? A Devanagari reference, I assume.

    I think the s serif is fine the way it is. The serif in the sketch would have been too meek when reproduced in text, and I assume that’s why you changed it.

  20. Sure, it’s a wonderful work! But isn’t it overpriced? I mean, type could be more accessible…

  21. Anthony Inciong


    Congratulations! I see your s has raised some questions;) it’s wide but workable and it reminds me of the s in Amerigo (which is to say that Malabar exhibits an appreciable lineage). The lowercase foot serifs fascinate me. Are they a slightly lower profile to match (or contrast with) the uppercase? The design is a pleasing blend of contrasts: sharp/blunt, graceful/vigorous. It’s a distinctive voice among many.

    Good luck it!

  22. hi Jeremy
    Malabar refers to the coast on the south western part of the indian peninsula. It is to the south of Bombay, near about Goa and extends southwards. Hills on this western ghat are also called malabar hills. Hope that clarifies!

  23. Fonthausen

    @ Lailson
    Overpriced ? Nice joke. Made my afternoon.

    @ Malabar
    My first impression was good, overall. I’d need to try it out to be more precize.
    On screen the Italic and Bold Italic look a little tiny bit too light.

    Congratulations !


  24. @Fonthausen
    Yes, overpriced. Have you ever wondered how expensive it could be for people that lives outside Europe/North America? I’m in Brazil and here the EURO/BRL conversion rate is greater than 3!

  25. Ricardo


    I think Lailson really meant “expensive for us in Brazil”… buying all 6 weights (couldn’t find a pack) is €354, what amounts to more than half a month’s pay for a designer around here (~R$ 2.000 or ~ €650).


    However, Fonthausen’s right in that it’s not “overpriced”, at least compared to other Lynotype Original’s Pro OTFs, that cost the same €59 per weight, as I could take from their Original’s first page.

    You can find cheap but quality fonts that won’t break the bank, but not at Linotype. I sugest MyFonts and googling for Brazillian foundries/typographers.

    Like: http://www.outrasfontes.com/

    So, don’t even bother with how much Malabar costs… it just reflects their cost structure. If you ever find a project that begs for Malabar (or other similarly priced fonts), take its cost into account when setting the price.

    OTOH, we might not be able to experiment with it at that price point… I know I wouldn’t.

  26. Fonthausen


    I may have sounded a little harsh, not knowing you were from Brazil.

    The reaction was because I know how much work the making of a typeface is. You probably know as well. A typeface of this quality will take you at least several months to finish.


  27. Very good and useful article

  28. @Wade
    Although there are kerning pairs in the Malabar fonts to keep the top of the f from being too close to the top of the i and the top of the l, I intended that these combinations actually be replaced by fi and fl ligature glyphs. If you look in the PDFs linke to above, just about all instances of fi and fl in the texts would be in ligated form. Are you making same texts with the previewer on the Linotype website? That previewing engine doesn’t show a fonts OpenType features or kerning. Hope this helps!

    Thanks! And Satwick is right on about the meaning of the name “Malabar.” At the bottom of this article on my blog, I write a little more about something else that helped me pick this as the name: good coffee.

    Thank you, too! Indeed, the Italic and Bold Italic are lighter than the Regular and Bold (the Heavy Italic is lighter than the Heavy, too). This was necessary so that, when a word or words within a text set primarily in the upright font is switched to Italic for emphasis, that this emphasized text not be too dark. When I have the two fonts at the same optical weight, the Italic wil look too dark when used in this way. So that is how I choose the weight for it that I did.

  29. I think it’s a beautiful family, I like the ‘s’ too! For me it’s a very readable font, which is obviously a bonus, and I agree it will look fantastic when used for newspapers.

    Well done Dan!

  30. @Fonthausen
    I think I didn’t express myself properly too. As Ricardo pondered, the word is not overpriced, but expensive. I surely imagine how work is put on a high quality piece like Malabar, so sorry. =)

  31. Jeremy

    Hey Dan, that blog posting is really interesting. I’m curious why you didn’t post more of it here. There are so many great images. It really provides a context for the work.

    I recommend everyone interested in this article check out the full album here: http://www.typeoff.de/?p=436

  32. @Jeremy
    Thanks! This iLT article is different because I didn’t want readers to have to read the same thing twice on both of the sites. I thought that it might be more interesting to change it up a little here. I wrote the article on my blog first, and then this one.

  33. Christopher A.

    Nice! but i have to say that i just don’t get the “s” :)

  34. I like it! It sort of reminds me of the type of fonts we used to created in design school (and I’m dating myself) with that flat, wide pencil (the name escapes me) that you had to sharpen with an x-acto blade (geez, an x-acto blade!) and hone on a sandpaper block.

    Of course, now that you are gasping in horror at the “rock and flint” tools of the trade circa. 1983, I wonder what you would think when I tell you that I actually used to “paste up” type with rubber cement.

    Ah, memories!

  35. Matt

    I have a minor complaint… when I navigate to this post I see a block at the top that said:

    “Google Search Results
    You arrived here after searching for the following phrases:
    * type
    * Malabar
    Click a phrase to jump to the first occurrence, or return to the search results.”

    And then all the times “Malabar” or “Type” appear on the page they are highlighted. Problem is, I didn’t use Google to get to the page… I clicked on the link in the blog. And I can’t seem to turn this highlighting off, which makes reading the article and the comments difficult.

    Do you have some sort of caching going on that is serving me a version of the page that was built for someone else? If so you might want to disable either the caching or the search term highlighting until you can get them to play well together…

  36. Thats awsome! Love the font! It’s a great twist on the standard fonts I use for text and I think it will be a great addition!


  37. Nice serif font!!
    Well, I would love to hear (more on) why it was named ‘Malabar’.
    I come from the ‘Malabar’ region (south India, Kerala).

  38. Hi,

    I like this font. To me it has en earthy feel groping towards the shapes you wood see on the old wood cut lettering.

  39. Muneef
    Satwick in one of the above comments is right on about the reasons for the Malabar name (“Malabar refers to the coast on the south western part of the indian peninsula. It is to the south of Bombay, near about Goa and extends southwards. Hills on this western ghat are also called malabar hills. Hope that clarifies!”)

    But in your Malabar region, you have some of the world’s best coffee, too. And that played a big role in the name. As I wrote on my own blog, after returning to Berlin from Reading, I spent a few additional months finishing up this typeface for its release. The nearest coffee shop to my apartment is Barcomi’s, in Kreuzberg’s Bergmann Straße. Quaffing copious amounts of India Monsooned Malabar was the balm I needed to complete these character sets.

  40. Wow, I’m pretty excited ;)
    The font has ‘simple and neat’ touch of malabar..
    Thank you Dan.

  41. umd

    Face is nice and like it. being from the same region (i do not call it Malabar anymore for personal reasons!!) Kerala, I just can’t relate any character of Malabar in the font face. or was it intentional?

  42. There isn’t any connection to the Malabar region, other than what I mentioned in the comments above. But who knows? It would be great fun to design a Malayalam extension after the Devanagari fonts are finished! Thanks for your kind words, umd!

  43. Oh boy!
    Malayalam do urgently need some great fonts..
    seriously looking forward for to it.
    [ 100% assistance (if any) guaranteed…]

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