OK, font junkies. It’s time to buckle in and get ready for a deep dive into the world of typography. And this time around, it’s all about slab serifs — specifically, Egyptian fonts. Now I know what you’re thinking right now: “But Kevin, what is an Egyptian font?” Well, I’ll get to that in just a minute.
OK, it’s been a minute. Let’s dive in.
What is an Egyptian font?
The idea of an Egyptian font dates back to the early 1800s
. Back then, Napoleon came back from an expedition to Egypt, and all anyone could talk about was how cool that whole culture must have been. Think about it: people living in areas surrounded by pyramids that were essentially giant mausoleums? That’s pretty crazy, even by today’s standards. And one thing that attracted a lot of attention was the language, specifically, the use of cartouches in Egyptian hieroglyphs
. Now if you look at a cartouche you may wonder how any of that resembles an Egyptian font at all. And, well, you’d be right. There are no similarities between the two. As it turns out, it was more about timing.
Since Egypt was so popular, typeface designers at the time decided that they should leverage that as a naming convention on their newest font styles. They created a series of chunky serif fonts that they would name Egyptian Hieroglyph Slab Serifs. Again, there was no physical or design connection between Egyptian civilization and these fonts; it was all about timing.
Where would I see an Egyptian font?
No seriously, that’s what I think of when I see a chunky Slab Serif. Remember the animated newspapers from the books and more specifically the films? They were likely based on the newspapers of the 1800s, which used Egyptian Hieroglyph Slab Serifs. The same is true of anything that’s vaguely steampunk-related, since it too is of that era. Basically, any headline from the 1800s is a good place to start — just don’t look too much deeper in the paper.
Why? Because the argument could be made that the Egyptian Hieroglyph Slab Serif was made purely as a display type — arguably the first of its kind. You wanted to use it to get attention, not for legibility in small sizes. It was for headlines and headlines only, which makes sense when you try to bring attention to an idea.
What kind of Egyptian fonts are out there today?
Lots of them. But how you find them is another matter. It depends a lot on naming conventions. Some people call them Egyptian fonts, which goes back to the history of the design. But today they’re more commonly lumped in with Slab Serifs, which technically they are. It’s just that an Egyptian font is chunky like peanut butter, and even though there are slimmer variants, a solid example will have both the thick and skinny versions in one package (or at least be available).
With that in mind, let me show you a few of my favorites.
When Americans think of Egyptian fonts, they’re likely brought back to our version of the 1800s — the old west. As an Arizona resident, I’m well
aware of our little version of Westworld
, except I kind of wish I was a host sometimes. Anyway, Cowboy Rodeo harkens back to that era, and comes in both standard and italic variations. As they say, yee-ha
I’m not quite sure why, but even though Peckham is a distinctly Egyptian font, it gives me a bit of a Swedish vibe. Maybe it’s the way the “e” and “c” curl, or the angled tips on some of the serifs. Either way, I dig it, because it’s chunky, but also bold and unique. And when it comes to fonts, standing out can be a good thing.
ByLos Andes Type inFonts
You know what I like in a display font? Small caps. I know, it’s not the best use case for everything, but sometimes I want to use them to accentuate the text just so, and Ultra Pro has them. It’s also a western-ish font, which could look at home either on a wanted poster or a cool steampunk poster. Ultra is fun and versatile — which is all I ever want out of anything.
ByStiggy & Sands inFonts
When I read “Revers” I think of the “Reavers” from the classic film, Serenity
, about the Nathan Fillion-led crew from the TV show, Firefly
. And yes, this font would go nicely with the sci-fi/western theme of the show. It’s not the thickest of the Egyptian fonts on this page, but it’s not too thin, either. That kind of balance is also useful.
As it says on the slide: 3 widths, 9 weights, 54 fonts. That’s a whole lot of options, and Artegra Slab seemingly has them all. My favorite part? The condensed variations. I like having choices, and having thick, thin, condensed, light and heavy versions give me tons of options for my next design. Versatility is key.
Achille FY Black
I don’t like playing favorites, but if I’m honest, Achille FY Black is one of them. For me, the detail is in that second slide. It’s curvy, yet angular. The lowercase “a” in particular just looks so distinctive, and I can imagine using the font in a logo design or something similar. Fonts like this get me excited about making my own, because they show me the potential out there. Maybe they do the same for you, too.
I love me some stylistic alternates, and Eponymous is packed with them, giving you — not to beat up a point or anything — options
. And another feature that I dig? The scalloped serifs. Again, it’s a little detail, but I certainly like how it flows into the overall design. And with 600 glyphs per font, there are options galore.
ByPaulo Goode inFonts
CA Cape Rock
CA Cape Rock is fun. I like this fine Egyptian font example because of its curvy Ks, alternates and discretionary ligatures. They make what is a traditionally blocky style into something a little bit more fun.
Newslab is unapologetically Egyptian, particularly in ExtraBold and BBlack. As I’m sure was intended, it’s reminiscent of newspaper headlines, but it’s the type of font I could see using for a logo, similar to other options on the list. And not to hit too hard on this one, but when you’ve got 16 variants of a font, you’ve got lots of choices. And that’s good. Every time.