Most overlooked typefaces: Chaparral

Occasionally, I am going to do a feature on one of our most overlooked typefaces. These are typefaces that I think very highly of, but don’t sell like hotcakes. Today I’m starting with Chaparral, designed by Carol Twombly around 1997.


As you can see, Chaparral is a humanist take on the slab serif genre. It has more contrast than most slab serif faces (even more evident in the semibold and bold weights). The angle of stress is not quite vertical, though it’s close. The ends of the slab serifs are not quite square-cut, either. And of course it’s proportionally spaced, rather than being monospaced like Courier.

The net effect is a sturdy but versatile text face. Adding to this versatility is the range of optical size variants that the typeface is equipped with. As a full-featured OpenType design, Chaparral also features, central European language coverage, small caps, oldstyle figures, ligatures and other typographic refinements.

You can see examples of the optical size variations in the readme, and view the character set in one of the glyph complement PDFs.

Although Adobe has its corporate typefaces (Minion and Myriad), which reduce my opportunities to use other fonts, I have used Chaparral for a number of projects, to great success. I’ve recommended it for usage in a remarkable range of situations, from the body text for a health-related magazine, to general office use when something warm and not too clinical was desired.

10 Responses

  1. John Hudson says:

    Thanks for this, Tom. Chaparral has always been one of my favourite Adobe typefaces. For something with quite a lot of character, it is surprisingly versatile. I used it for correspondence for quite a long time.I look forward to an article about Kinesis, and even more overlooked Adobe face that really deserves to be much more widely used.

  2. Paul Jagnow says:

    Tom, It’s gratifying to see some recognition of this typeface, which serves well for correspondence, memoranda, reports and other uses in which legibility and readability are paramount. More personable than Stymie, Clarendon and other slabs, I’d say. Folks with vision problems will thank you.

  3. Doug Chaplin says:

    Thanks for this. I’ve been using it more frequently of late. I’d also draw your attention to the English newspaper “The Guardian” which has recently redesigned with its own modern humanist Egyptian face. It leaves me wondering whether we’re likely in the UK to see a renaissance of slab serif faces, and which others you feel may be worth a look.

  4. Thomas Phinney says:

    Hi Doug,Yes, I’m familiar with the Guardian redesign. The typefaces (a slab serif and a sans, in a wide range of weights) were designed by Christian Schwartz and Paul Barnes. See have long needed “sturdy” designs, and The Guardian certainly gets lots of attention, so I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we saw more slab serif faces in this role. Hmmm. I wonder how Chaparral would do for that? It would be an interesting thing to test.Regards,T

  5. Don McCahill says:

    Interesting that slab serifs are coming back in newspapers. I worked as a reporter on the Thomson Newspaper chain in the 70s, and they all used Egyptian faces for headings.Karnak was the main face, and Cairo Bold was a condensed version. Both were Ludlow fonts that haven’t made it to digital (or perhaps they are clones of others … I was not very typographically aware in those days).It might be interested to note that there were 30 newspapers with the identical design in Canada, and probably as many more in the US. Thomson Corp was cheap, and thought that paying for a good design for one newspaper would result in a design that could be used anywhere.

  6. Thomas Phinney says:

    Shortly after I wrote this piece, there has come up an interesting thread in the Adobe User-to-User forums that has gotten into testing Chaparral for newspaper text. Here’s a link:

  7. Pam Bishop says:

    I admire Chapparal. The balance of forms in the design is excellent. It’s an integral whole.

  8. noftus says:

    Fonts that match Chaparral:

Comments are closed.

Thomas Phinney

Adobe type alumnus (1997–2008), now VP at FontLab, also helped create WebINK at Extensis. Lives in Portland (OR), enjoys board games, movies, and loves spicy food.

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