Font Friday

Tarnac & Tarnac Sans

The wonky slab serif typeface Tarnac in the headline and pull quote of a mobile phone. Tarnac Sans in the body text.

Slab serif, Sans-serif Superfamily

by Marc Rouault, from Sharp Type

20 styles

5 weights: Thin to Black
with matching italics
in Slab serif, and Sans-serif

License for web/app usage

Single: from $ 60
Family: from $ 300
Superfamily: from $ 500

Best for

  • Headings (display text)
  • Long reading text (body text)
  • User Interfaces (functional text)

Specialty

Charmingly clunky, refreshingly wonky, constructed, but in a handmade way.

My thoughts on Tarnac & Tarnac Sans

I have never been to France, but I can vividly imagine home some old road signs on the countryside, look like Tarnac. This typeface has such a beautiful feel of imperfection, and being hand made. Designed by Marc Rouault and released by Sharp Type, it goes back to the slab serifs of the early 1900s. They were obviously made for display text – headlines, posters, and the bespoke classic French road sings “plaques Michelin”.

Tarnac began as a revival of the Turlot foundry's 1905 Égyptiennes Penchées Noires. Featured in posters, Newspaper headlines, and the classic French road signs.
Look at Tarnac’s gorgeous slab serifs! They scream vintage, how they were meant to be formal. But in our contemporary view, feel beautifully informal.

The approach, for the sans-serif, was cutting the slabs off. Which interestingly was the origin of the first sans-serifs in the early 1800s (I only learned this recently on a great episode of the Weekly Typographic Podcast). This way, refreshingly wonky Tarnac Sans was created. It still is rather loosely spaced. Also, the punctuation marks are very strong (see the dot of the i), like if the slabs were still there. The italics are special, too. They are not slanted, but actually rotated, which seemed to be common in sing painting at that time in France.

Tarnac Sans started as the slab serif then the slabs were cut off! It turned out to be a refreshingly wonky monolinear sans with not really slanted, but rotated italics. Very interesting.
Tarnac Sans is even more informal. With the slab serifs removed, it almost feels naked or exposed. Reduced to its essence, but without the polishing. Beautiful.

Tarnac and Tarnac Sans make a good choice, if you want to convey a rational, but still approachable, warm feeling with a vintage touch, in headings or other display text. It looks constructed, but in a handmade way. For a little reading text, it is okay, don’t use it for more than that. After all, these are display typefaces.


What do you think? Is Tarnac or Tarnac Sans something for an upcoming project? Tell me in the comments below!

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2 Comments

  1. Tarnac Slab Thin is my bet here. Only in that version would I use it! It has a vintage spirit, especially if we look at Black weight, from the Westerns, cowboys🤠

    Tarnac Sans – not much distinction from what I see these days all around the design globe.

    P.S.Seems like every other brand on the planet right now is redesigning with typography. Every agency invests in type-fused visual identity. My eyes are tired of so many letters, little to no uniqueness.

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Jana. At least typography gets more attention now. However, I agree, that in most cases it is not vey unique. Most geometric or grotesque sans-serifs … Feels a bit like the trend of having stock photos back then 😉.

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