Bath City Typeface

A new wayfinding typeface for the city

In 2010, David Quay and Ramiro Espinoza were asked by FWDesign to create a custom type family to be used as the new signage and orientation system of the city of Bath.

The process was intensive, and demanded a well-documented research into local values, history, and vernacular lettering tradition. The new family had to be flexible enough to be employed in variable sizes, and to work harmoniously on the beautiful maps and orientation graphics devised by FWDesign. Originally, only a sans-serif was required, but during development, it became obvious that due to the system’s complexity, more clear typographic hierarchies were required.

The new Bath font was intended to work within the existing lettering tradition of Bath. To be distinguishable but not to supplant the lettering that exist in rich abundance on almost every street, but to enrich and work with it. The typeface has many idiosyncrasies, it is fluid and modern and certainly not sterile unlike the generic typeface used in Bristol which has no connection to the city or its history. We hope that our new Bath typeface has its own story to tell that relates to Bath City and its traditions and at the same time reflects the aspirations of the dynamic city that it wishes to become. The photograph from Milsom Street above shows this rich diversity; here you have the original 18th century street name incised in stone and above a hand painted late 19th century grotesque. There are more images below all showing a juxtaposition of styles.

Bath type family comes in sans and serif versions, each with regular and bold weights. It displays strong vertical contrast and pronounced counters. Though it’s not based on any existing or previous typeface, it does pay tribute to a group of alphabets and lettering models described as ‘English Vernacular‘ by historian James Mosley, and characteristic of the Neoclassical period.

Below a few of the dozens of photographs taken in Bath during th research stage.