Despite its modest size, Scotland’s influence upon the world has been enormous. The television, the telephone, modern economics, golf, and, it is believed, the fried Mars bar were all invented by people of Scottish extraction. The same can be said in typefounding; the companies of Alexander Wilson & Son in Glasgow, and William Miller (later Miller & Richard) in Edinburgh produced some of the finest typefaces of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The omnipresent Georgia owes much to these foundries’ pioneering ideas. Lesser known to contemporary designers is the successor to Wilson, James Marr & Co. of Edinburgh.
Marr Sans is a 2014 revival of a characterful grotesque that appeared in only one weight during the 1870s. Paul Barnes and Dave Foster have expanded this original into a seven weight family. Going from an elegant Thin to an industrial strength wide Ultra Black, Marr Sans captures a utilitarian but sharp and distinctive aesthetic. The family is useful for graphic design, but not out of place in editorial or corporate design. Though its eccentricities belie its nineteenth century origins, they never overwhelm its usefulness. Like Franklin Gothic and Morris Fuller Benton’s other loosely related gothics for ATF in the early 20th century, its organic shapes make for very comfortable reading.
While Graphik and Atlas represent the desire for homogenity and universality of the 20th century sans, Marr, like Druk, revels in the more individual and at times eccentric nature of the nineteenth century pioneers of the form. This means that Marr is an excellent companion to serifs with a stronger personality, such as Austin, Lyon, and Portrait. Its quirks are interesting enough for display, but not overwhelming at text sizes. It can bring warmth to otherwise plain and simple layouts.