Steven Heller’s Font of the Month: Oposta

I found myself charmed by Oposta for various logical and visceral reasons, much in the same way I am attracted by the sensual streamline of a 2022 BMW 8 series Convertible. Obviously, there is no commonsensical link between this extremely expanded slab serif typeface and the bullet-nosed high performance Bavarian Motors automobile but there is a common sensation. I admit to having BMWs on the brain these days and Oposta conjures up the sleek perfection of a smartly proportioned (and exquisitely photographed) one. I’d like to test drive both.

The allure comes from the fact that every top and bottom slab is precisely in sync with the letter adjacent to it. Picture the word JULY, for instance, the upper slabs fit together geometrically as one. The lower bowls of the J, U, Y have sensual balance. As complex as the letterforms are, simplicity nonetheless reigns.

The thin lines on the lower a, e, p, y are delicate to the extreme. Magically, the upper and lower cases flawlessly combine to form distinct units.

Then there is the most ingeniously designed characteristic of all: When composed as words in sentences, the midpoint of each letter aligns to suggest a straight line that is slashed through the center of each setting. This is arguably one of the most dynamic conceits I’ve ever seen – and no small design feat either.

Exaggerated heavy Italianate 19th century slab serifs were revived during the 1960s Psychedelic era; they were designed to ebb and flow and their shifting contours achieved dreamlike effects. Oposta is the opposite of that. It is meant to be set in continuous blocks, in solid darks and lights, and as if compressed into an inflexible mass of words.

Steven Heller is nothing short of a legend in the design community. Award-winning graphic designer, author and editor of hundreds of books (yes, 100s!) and one of the world’s foremost authorities on graphic design history; and arguably its best design commentator. You can also follow Steven on the must-read The Daily Heller and read his latest book, Type Speaks.

The wonderful part is that it reads perfectly well. Each letter and therefore every word is entirely legible. There are no encumbrances to thwart meaning or understanding. That is if you don’t veer away and fixate on how beautiful the Oposta O is. The horizontal inner oval is so gorgeous, like a squinting eye in every word in which it appears. The O is my favorite letter, that is if you don’t count the lowercase r; it is the joining of square, rectangle, line and half circle that always triggers a smile.

Font of the Month #2: Oposta by DSType

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