« Marian, Une collection de revivals: Paul Barnes », par Lizy Gershenzon & Travis Kochel

Design envy

You may have seen Paul Barnes’ Marian, when it was released in early 2012 by Commercial Type. Unfortunately, Marian, Une collection de revivals, a gorgeous 56-page journey through the process and inspiration, seems to have slipped through the cracks.

Most modern type specimens try too hard to sell themselves. To call this a specimen would be an insult. Instead, it focuses on creating a deep understanding of the process, and a sincere emotional connection with the reader. Its primary purpose is to inspire and enlighten. The fact that it becomes more valuable is just a convenient by-product.

It is rare to see such a detailed account of the thought process, inspiration and explanation of why the design deserves to exist. If that bores you, all of this is sandwiched between jaw-dropping specimens of the many styles of Marian, in all its glory.

The typeface itself is one of those rare designs that makes everyone truly jealous. It’s a wonderfully simple concept for a typeface, but brilliantly executed. A historical study, turned into something exciting, relevant and coveted.

For Marian, Barnes chose historically important typefaces, such as Baskerville, Garamond and Bodoni, to abstract into a simple line. In his words, “The reduction of letters to their core structures, leaves the forms of Marian stripped bare of all that is ‘superfluous, ’ whilst at the same time retaining the life and spirit of the letters. It is an approach concerned with the utmost economy in terms of expression of form.”

The result of this project is a snapshot of our typographic past. When set next to each other, their intricacies are fully exposed and contrasted. That is where the design seems to have the most power.

In an odd role reversal of type specimen economics, you have to pay for this one. However, even if you have no use for this typeface, it’s a valuable addition to any lover of type’s library. It’s not just a specimen, it’s a source of inspiration.