The Rotis® II Sans typeface family was announced today. While the design has been exceedingly popular almost since the original Rotis family was released in 1988, it is also one of the typefaces that some designers “love to hate.” Erik Spiekermann even went so far as to claim that it isn’t even a typeface. According to him, “(Rotis) has some great letters, but they never come together in one typeface.” But then, Spiekermann is one of the designers that doesn’t like the Helvetica® typeface either – although for different reasons.
So, why was a Rotis II developed?
First, because even though some designers may not like the design, many, many more do. Rotis has been used successfully in myriad branding programs, advertising campaigns, and design projects. And graphic designers who use Rotis have continually requested that more weights be made available – especially in the sans serif range of the family.
So, why weren’t new weights added sooner? Because, up until recently, the typeface was made available through a license from a large printing firm in Germany (for which Rotis was originally designed) and the company would not allow any changes or additions to the family. When another firm acquired the printing company, the “no change” policy was relaxed.
In addition, the weight range of the original Rotis is such that a new weight could not be easily slotted between two existing fonts. If new weights of Rotis were to be created, the complete family had to be restructured.
Finally, although the Rotis family was first made available as digital fonts, it was developed on the cusp of that technology. Many improvements have been incorporated into the way digital fonts are developed since Rotis was drawn and digitized. Some of its character outlines would benefit from subtle reworking, spacing of the original is good – but could be improved, and kern tables would profit from adjustment.
While Rotis II Sans may inherit its predecessor’s approval rating – both good and bad – I’m delighted that the design has been invigorated as a versatile suite of typefaces that will find their way into a multitude of design projects.