Arriving in the mid-1800s, the first Grotesks were generally ‘jobbing’ faces meant for advertising and other short-run commercial copy. Within a few decades they came in a variety of weights and widths, but proper families with coordinated members were not the norm until well into the next century. Printers mixed and matched sans serifs of varying shapes and sizes in the hodgepodge fashion of the day.
Dia is a family that captures the diverse spirit of those early Grots while distilling them into a concise and cohesive family that functions as well for text as it does for display copy. Unlike Modernist type systems, Dia’s four weights (with accompanying italics) don’t adhere to a uniform pattern. Instead, they each celebrate the distinctive formal aspects of various historical models, from light and narrow with curling terminals, to heavy and broad with ends that point outward. Despite this individualism, the eight fonts share the same warmth and mildly quirky personality. This, along with compatible vertical proportions, allows multiple styles to sit harmoniously within the same paragraph or line. The overall effect is unpretentious and workmanlike, but users can dial up the expressive quality by enabling the alternate hairline accents and punctuation.
Dia offers a break from the cold and calculated air of contemporary type without sacrificing its conveniences. The OpenType-savvy fonts include the expected figures and fractions, an extended latin character set, and a batch of circled numbers and arrows.