Cotford, a Contemporary (and Highly Personal) Serif for the Digital Age – Eye on Design


Name: Cotford
Designer: Tom Foley
Foundry: Monotype
Release Date: October 2021

Back Story: Cotford began in 2018 as a back-burner initiative for Monotype creative type director, Tom Foley—but when the world went into lockdown in 2020, he revisited the face with focus and determination.

“It became a form of escapism for me, something I could immerse myself in, and a way to transform the anxiety of what was happening around me into something productive,” Foley says. “In this way, it’s a deeply personal project.”

With a family lineage of sign painting and stonemasons specializing in letter carving, one could argue that all of Foley’s type design was bound to be personal. 

Why’s it called Cotford? Cotford Parade is a British retail area south of London, famous for, among other things, its Woolworth’s that opened in 1933. Positioned in the small Victorian town of Croydon, Cotford Parade is just around the corner from where Foley lives—and where he has remained for over two years in lockdown. Despite recent headlines coming out of Croydon focused on crime and other issues, Foley believes in the district and wants people to know that good things also hail from it—such as, say, the Cotford typeface.

What are its distinguishing characteristics? As a variable font, each of Cotford’s two styles can be pushed and pulled into a seeming endless variety of weights, from the light and delicate to the bold and muscular. Thanks to its optical sizing, designers can enable its micro for very small uses, appropriate for long and intensive book text, as well as titling and display sizes. But the most distinct characteristics of this “pop serif for the digital age” are found beneath the surface, since this typeface connects to Foley’s own journey. “I had to dig quite deep on a creative level for Cotford since it comes purely from myself and not the constraints of a client brief,” he says. Foley had never had the chance to design “from his own gut,” so to speak, and says the approach has brought “warmth and humanity” to the project. 

What should I use it for? Cotford’s suitable for print and screen, from micro to macro applications. This “dynamic, adaptable, and surprising” serif is a workhorse, and a very capable one. Foley hopes interactive designers will consider using it for very small digital sizes, since that space is frequently occupied by sans serifs. (And on the size flip side, if you want to give it a test drive, Monotype is giving away Cotford Display Extra Bold, suitable for title type, headings, and other large-format uses.) 

What other typefaces do you like to pair it with? Cotford’s vintage charm pairs nicely with sans serif staples like Adrian Frutiger’s Avenir or Urby Soft by TypeMates. For a vintage and quirky combo, try Cotford with Bree by Veronika Burian and José Scaglione of TypeTogether.



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