Type: Retail typeface
Publisher: Omega Type Foundry
Release year: 2021
Purchase links: I Love Typography
Platia is my interpretation of Hellenic Wide that was popular in the 19th century. The name Platia means ‘wide’ in Greek (i.e. Hellenic). It’s a launch typeface of my new Omega Type Foundry.
Hellenic Wide is a subcategory of Victorian-era typefaces which are wide and low-contrast slab serif. It was available from a number of foundries and called by a variety of names: Antique Extended, Ionic Expanded, Breite Jonisch (Wide Ionic in German), and Hellenic Wide which seems to be the most widely accepted label of this subcategory now. For more information, I highly recommend reading Indra Kupfersmidt's article.
My favourite is the original Antique Expanded; it has generous curve strokes in R and Q, and a nice balance between elegance of Scortch Roman and robustness of monolinear contrast. It is not without flaws though; sometimes the aforementioned tail of R appears chopped against my wish for it to extend higher. Some letters like A and M appear rather small and only helped by the long serifs. The lowercase were seemingly added later (in Antique Expanded No.2) which are usually contrasted unlike the caps, and poorly curved.
The subsequent digital releases either stay faithful to the original design, sometimes including the rough letterform texture (e.g. Lonestar and MCM Hellenic Wide), or go for new styles (e.g. FF Zapata and Filmotype Wand). I found my preference to be in the middle: to keep the Victorian spirit and harmonise the uppercase and lowercase in a monolinear contrast.
The addition of lowercase in Antique Expanded No. 2 poses an interesting problem; the teardrop terminals that were typical of the time but usually go better with contrasted styles. I wanted to apply the shape that would work well in a monolinear modulation and in both letter cases. A completely square shapes like Rockwell would not end up very elegant, and completely round shapes would be honestly not a bad option, but I decided to go with the middle solution: one side is round and the other is cornered (moreover, everything is slightly rounded off). As a result, the uppercase K and lowercase a look unmistakably related.
I said I like the monolinear look of Antique Expanded, but also reverse-stressed typefaces. In Latin typography, it is generally advised that you make the vertical strokes thicker than the horizontals if the intended visual ratio is equal. However, I thought that wouldn't have to apply in a style which had reverse-stressed cousins (e.g. French Clarendon). Platia’s horizontals and verticals share the same thickness whenever possible, and get thinner when a letter structure gets too complex. If the typeface looks reverse-stressed because of optical illusion, so be it :)
Hellenic Wide is a display category to me, but also wastes a lot of letter spacing. When you have two capital A’s in a row, the space inside AA is exaggerated because of long serifs. To avoid this, Platia has a lot of alternates with shorter serifs that appear contextually. For example, uppercase A has four different forms: one with full-length serifs on both sides, another with shorter serif on the left, another on the right, and another with short serifs on both sides. The result is still a pretty wide slab serif but fits more words than other typefaces of the genre.
Last but not least, Platia contains Cyrillic (including Bulgarian alternates) and Greek. For a typeface that has a Greek connection (albeit archaic and superfluous), not having a Greek was not an option.