Rotis Semi Serif not a serif. It’s not a sans serif. It’s an in-betweener with hinted serifs.
Your body text does not want hinted serifs. Your body text wants either full serifs or none. But good news! Rotis does come in a serif and a sans version! In fact, the typeface comes in four variants:
- Rotis Serif — with full serifs
- Rotis Semi Serif — with hinted serifs
- Rotis Semi Sans — without serifs but with stroke width variation
- Rotis Sans — without serifs and with minimal variation on stroke width
That’s a fun idea to develop a typeface that has not just a serif and sans serif version, but versions in between.
The typeface was created in 1988 by Otl Aicher, a German graphic designer and typographer. Wikipedia says, “He is best known for having designed pictograms for the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich that proved influential on the use of stick figures for public signage”.
Despite Rotis Semi Serif being a poor font for body text, it’s a fine experimental font. In fact several large organizations have used it (per Wikipedia):
ABS-CBN uses Rotis Semi Serif as its corporate typeface and the typeface for some of its companies beginning in 2000. Since 2014, ABS-CBN uses a modified version of the font for its corporate logo.
Sound Transit (Seattle) uses Rotis Semi Serif for its light rail, commuter train and bus station signs. (complete 230-page manual available as PDF)
PNC Financial Services, the sixth-largest bank in the United States, uses Rotis Semi Serif for its corporate logo and Rotis Sans Serif for their PNC Grow Up Great initiative, complemented by FF DIN for headlines and body copy.
Open Source Press uses Rotis Sans Serif for all their books’ body text, and Semi Serif for the headers.
This blog post was inspired by Leslie Kuo’s tweet about Rotis semi serif.