Roma Neue, the Swiss-style sanserif

Here we are with the latest sans released by CAST foundry. Designed by Stefano Cremisini, Roma Neue is a historical hotchpotch of the most representative of the late 19th-century grots and their popular 20th-century descendants – such as Helvetica, Univers and the like. Practical, neutral, timeless, Roma Neue can deftly support even the most complex projects

Stefano Cremisini concocted design features from diverse types, incorporating both refined and organic letterforms with more rugged and geometric ones. With some skilful smoothening, he put these disparate sources together to achieve a consummate harmony of shapes – an equilibrium that balances tension with calmness, and roughness with smoothness. His Roma Neue is great for exhibition design, book design, corporate identity, and more.

How would you introduce Roma Neue?

Roma Neue wants to be a practical, clean, blank, legible and timeless typeface.

As a name for a grotesque typeface, ‘Roma Neue’ sounds like ‘Helvetica Neue’… It’s a challenging one, isn’t it? 

Yes, it is a challenging name. Expressly inspired by the Swiss design, Roma Neue tries to avoid any connotation other than simple and unadorned neutrality. It displays the best visual features of the Swiss Style (also known as International Typographic Style) which has been at the forefront of Western visual communication since the 1950s — and also how these features have reenacted by some contemporary foundries in their typefaces. And yes… Roma Neue was designed in Rome.  

What is Roma Neue intended for?

I’d rather you asked me who it’s intended for. Roma Neue is for designers working on jobs where typographical awareness is a necessity. As Sascha Lötscher says:  “a critical understanding of the underlying parameters — focusing on the contents and aims” (see Swiss graphic design — A communication tool, in

Roma Neue has an appealing nonchalance that makes it a natural choice for exhibition design and corporate identities. But it also fits snugly into a wider range of applications such as artbooks, packaging, signage and wayfinding — and even UI and web design. 

Its nonchalance would have been called ‘neutrality’ 60 years ago. Back then, there was a search for the neutral low-contrast sans which was supposed to display the most neutral shapes — the least possible letterform expressivity.

What can Roma Neue offer? 

Roma Neue is a versatile and functional typeface, it works well in large sizes and keeps its readability in small ones. The whole family includes eight weights from thin to black, with slanted italics. Its variable font version also includes the italic variable-axis: the slant of the letters can be changed from 0° (upright) to 16° (default italic). 

Roma Neue slanted axe allows to set different angles for the slanted version.

Finally, Roma Neue features several alternate letters: lowercase a, g, l and t, as well as uppercase G, J, R. It has 598 glyphs, including tabular lining figures, old-style and tabular old-style figures, superscript, subscript, fractions, slashed zero and arrows. 

Roma Neue alternate letters.

Your business as a graphic designer and co-founder with Edda Bracchi of Etaoin Shrdlu Studio ranges from editorial to exhibition design. Why did you design a typeface?

I met Edda in Milan and having worked together on a few jobs, we decided to set up Etaoin Shrdlu Studio in Rome. Typography underpinned all our work and even the name of our studio hints at it. (‘Etaoin shrdlu’ is a typographical error that appeared in old newspapers, when Linotype compositors used to signal a typesetting mistake by running a finger down the first two columns of the keyboard.) Thanks to Edda’s encouragement and after years of  typography I designed Roma Neue because we really wanted our own sans for our work and I felt that I was ready to do it. Though my intention was to design a contemporary low-contrast typeface inspired by the early grots and 20th-century sanserifs, I had no clear idea in mind when I started drawing the typeface. It was only during the design process that things sorted themselves out.

Did you ever use Roma Neue before its official release? 

For sure! In 2023, at Etaoin Shrdlu Studio we used its beta version for three projects: ‘Mario Cresci. Un esorcismo del tempo’ exhibition, MAXXI museum, Rome; Marina Caneve’s ‘Are They Rocks or Clouds?’ exhibition, Italian Cultural Institute, Bucharest and Switch Lab, Bucharest; and The Pinocchio Paradox, ADI Design Museum, Milan. 

Marina Caneve. Are They Rocks or Clouds?, 2023, Italian Cultural Institute, Bucharest. Design: Etaoin Shrdlu Studio.

Etaoin Shrdlu Studio, The Pinocchio Paradox, 2023. Poster designed for Carissimo Pinocchio exhibition, ADI Design museum, Milan.

What about your collaboration with CAST foundry?

Working with CAST, means working with professional people with stacks of experience in type design. It was such a hard journey for me, but with interesting and stimulating discussions about consistency in design and technical topics. During the early design process, I was supported by Andrea Amato, mainly a friend, a course mate and CAST art director. He gave me some advice, we discussed design matters, and at one point he introduced me and my typeface to his partners at CAST foundry. We worked together for almost a year: ratios, numbers, S and s, g and g.alt, horizontal strokes and vertical stems together with intersections were the main issues. Discussing these topics with Luciano Perondi and Riccardo Olocco was stimulating and good fun too. With their help the typeface took a step forward towards its testing stage and official release.

How would you summarise your design in a nutshell?

Roma Neue is precise, functional, contemporary; the ultimate Swiss-style typeface of the CAST type collection.