MuirMcNeil Stem is an OpenType family in five weights for display use. It has been produced as a development of MuirMcNeil Cut, a stencil type collection inspired by designs from two different historical periods.
Following similar principles to Cut, Stem’s letter proportions are based on those of typefaces produced in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries by Firmin Didot, Giambatista Bodoni and Justus Erich Walbaum.
The sharp stroke contrast and vertical stress of these neoclassical types is pushed to an extreme in Stem, with cross-strokes that dissolve into open intervals. Letterforms are reduced to slender individual strokes with detached, razor-sharp serifs. At the same time, the systematic construction methods used to assemble Stem’s characters follows the model of modernist geometric types created in the early twentieth century, in which letters were broken down into small sets of basic components used to build alphabets by means of scaling, reflection, repetition and redistribution.
Although it would be an oversimplification to say that modular type design originated directly from either the rational designs of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries or from industrial stencil typefaces of the same period, they can all be seen as stages in the development of a common lineage that is rational, reductive and modern.