Unexpected Baskerville: The Story of LoveFrom Serif

Lecture Recording

This is the Baskerville Revival from LoveFrom, Johnny Ives post-Apple studio.

Initially wanted to use a "humble" sans-serif typeface for the LoveFrom branding, but landed on Baskerville. There's many cuts of it (including on MacOS), but none of them are great.

Baskerville entered printing in his 40s, and unusually did a lot of the steps himself: Made his own ink, presses, improved the paper making process, and designed his own types.

Baskeville's types were an important departure from Caslon's types, which were dominant at the time in England. They were solid and hardworking -- Baskerville's, in contrast, and more striking, with higher stroke contrast. Soon, other type founders started to make derivative typefaces.

One of Baskerville's important printing projects is the 1763 Bible he printed at Cambridge. It's one of the finest books of the time. There's a lot of internal variety, even in Baskerville's own types.

Beatrice Warde 1927:

Baskerville was only the first to admit into the typefoundry a letter which had been clamouring outside its door for at least half a century" (That being calligraphy, which was a big deal in the 18th century). There was fertile ground for Baskerville to draw ideas about letter shapes from. You can see this in his engraving work in the 1730s.

You can splice letters from Baskerville's books together to make the LoveFrom wordmark, but when you outline it, it stops being convincing. Another approach you can take is to look at Baskerville's punches, which are held at Cambridge. (see: The Survival of Baskerville's Punches). These are the closest you can get to the original design intent (independent of paper and ink variables), but they're hard to look at because they're tiny. However, there are existing images by Robin Hull.

These punches are what the eventual digital letterforms come from. Punches are cut in anticipation of the printing process (importantly they're thinner than the intended shape), so you can't just trace them. The punches are extremely detailed, and contain all kinds of information about Baskerville's design intent. We think he was going for a blend between geometry (lowercase o in small sizes is nearly a circle) and organic warmth.

The aim was to stay true to Baskerville's intention, not necessarily his 18th century results. Rooted in tradition, but not beholden to it.


There are lots of existing digital Baskerville revivals, including Mrs. Eaves, Baskerville Neo (Matthew Carter) and several Commercial Type faces. Monotype Baskerville is the one that ships with Apple devices. Caps are tall and dark in Monotype Baskerville (a feature which is present in the original), but that makes the camel case wordmark look choppy.

Baskerville only ever drew one weight (regular), but this revival needed the full range. Lighter and bolder weights are immediately successful (fatface Baskerville) and allowed interpolation. Also: optical sizes. At small sizes, the light becomes typewriter-like, the bold moves toward a slab serif.


Baskerville's are great, but they're much lighter than the roman and feel somewhat slower and stiffer than the roman. Modifications:


L, T, and R have wider and narrower contextual alternates when they're used with caps vs lowercase. Tons of alternates elsewhere in the typeface. Stylistic ones are from punches (though they might be later additions), functional ones are LF additions.

Kept as many swashes as possible, but dropped some of the more outlandish ones.

There's an underworld of derivative versions: A stencil cut, a condensed for the Steve Jobs Archive.

In Use