The Typehead Chronicle: Antique Olive
      Of Thomas Christensen, ABCedminded Typesetter  

homeward bound


Antique Olive

image from Identifont

Identifying Characteristics

  • Enormous x-height
  • Extreme stroke variation where curves meet stems
  • s that looks upside down


Roger Excoffon, 1962, for the French foundry Olive ("antique" is used as an equivalent of "sans serif" in France). Designed to compete with Helvetica and Universe but far too eccentric and and peculiar a typeface to rival those in versatility. Evolved from Excoffon's lettering for the Air France logo. The type has remained popular in France.

Character and Use

Little used in book work, rather geometric and compact (but less mechanical than Helvetica or Universe, its original competitors) Antique Olive is a face that has found a place in the world of advertising. It is an unusual and distinctive but difficult sanserif.

I confess I find this typeface intriguing and frustrating. It is so distinctive that it seems there should be situations where it would be a good choice, but almost every time I've tried to use it I've given up the attempt. (I have used it occasionally for drop caps, however.) It may not be well suited to extended text; certainly the slanted pseudo italic is undistinguished.

Antique Olive is tolerant of variations in letterspacing. The rounded characters are slightly squared off, allowing a tight fit if desired, so if you need a san serif to be very tightly fit this might work.

Antique Olive will give even color on the page.

Because of its unusual forms, Antique Olive is worth trying for logo work.

Say What?

"An attempt to offer a more refined sans serif than presented by Helvetica and Univers, but it was too characterful and too late to be widely adopted outside of France."
      -- Lewis Blackwell






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