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What does font weight mean, exactly?

The weight of a particular typeface is the thickness of the character outlines relative to its height.  A typeface typically comes in a variety of weights from ultra-light to extra-bold, with as many as a dozen options.

The base weight differs among typefaces. For example, a typeface used for a movie poster might have a different normal than one suited for long blocks of text.

Here’s an example of the Helvetica Neue typeface with numbers that indicate weight:


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You might ask yourself, “How did those numbers become the standard measurement of font weight?”

In 1954, Adrian Frutiger was the first to introduce a range of weights using numerical classification. His groundbreaking Univers typeface featured a “two-digit numeration system where the first digit (3-8) indicated weight and the second indicated face-width and either roman or oblique.” Univers was the first “font family” designed as a complete collection of coordinated weights and widths, with the normal weight of 55 being the starting point.


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Pictured: a “periodic table” he created for the Univers family

In Frutiger’s system, 35 was Extra Light, 45 was Light, 55 Medium or Regular, 65 Bold, 75 Extra Bold, 85 Extra Bold, and 95 was Ultra Bold or Black. He also included alternate numbers for Italics (“6 series”) and Condensed (“7 series”).

The popularity of Univers led to Frutiger being commissioned by Monotype to create Apollo, their first typeface designed specifically for phototypesetting. He was also hired to design the Roissy typeface for signage at Charles De Gaulle Airport (below).


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He became immensely popular and his work quickly spread around the globe—his typefaces appeared on London’s iconic street signs…



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…San Francisco’s BART trains, and even early Apple keyboards.


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In 1997, Frutiger revised the Univers typeface and created Linotype Univers, a family that consisted of 63 fonts, including weight options like Ultra Light or Extended Heavy. The new numbering system was extended to three digits to reflect the expanded number of variations.

*When Web Fonts were introduced, the numbering system was borrowed from this Linotype model.*

For 60 years, Frutiger’s “clean” and “legible” designs were the toast of the typography industry. But perhaps his biggest contribution to design was the introduction of the weight system.

Award-winning typeface designer Erik Spiekermann called Frutiger “the best type designer of the 20th century.” He also paid him a huge compliment when he said “I know of no other typeface designer who can put so much feeling into a systematic approach. Frutiger’s typefaces are always carefully planned, but they never look like it.”

Frutiger passed away on September 10, 2015. For more about the life and work of this amazing man, read Fontshop’s lovely tribute or the informative Frutiger piece in the New York Times.


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Ever see a font you like and wonder what it is? Or need to find a font that’s similar to one you have already? Great news! Font identification apps, software, games, and videos are available to relieve your fontstipation (yeah, I said it).

Got a picture or image you want to match?

Here are a few easy-to-use online resources if you already have a scanned image or a photo of the font you’d like to identify:

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Simply upload your image and the Matcherator will tell you what font it is and find others that match. It even allows you to match Open Type features.


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This search tool by MyFont also finds and identifies fonts based on an uploaded image. WhatTheFont offers helpful advice, like “use characters that have a distinct shape” and “make sure letters aren’t touching.” If WhatTheFont’s tool can’t identify it, you can post your font to the forum and interact with other humans.

FontGenius 2.0


This desktop app features a handy tool for capturing images from sites and documents. Unlike free online services that only identify fonts sold on THEIR sites, FontGenius is a universal source that directs you to any site where the font you seek is available.

No picture/image? No problem.

IdentifontScreen Shot 2016-05-09 at 3.11.43 PMIdentifont helps you identify a typeface by answering questions about key appearance features. For instance, “Do the characters have serifs?” You can also search by font name, similarity, picture/symbol, and designer. Identifont claims to be the “largest independent directory of digital fonts on the internet.”

Rather watch a video than read more articles?

Some dude named Typography Guru made a video tutorial called 5 Best Tricks to Find a Font that’s clear, concise, and easy-to-follow.

 Streamline your workflow

Font Sense™ is an innovative font identification technology that ensures a smooth workflow by identifying, locating, and activating the exact fonts used in documents.

Font Sense works by building a complete font specification that contains information such as the name, type, foundry, and version number.

Fun and (font) games!

Mashable curated a List of Addictive Font Games that’s pretty entertaining and this I Love Typography Font Game is a fun way for iPhone users to test their font knowledge.

Happy hunting, type nerds!

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Choosing the right font style can be a time-consuming and difficult challenge. Typography experts estimate that there are over 30,000 font families to choose from. Yikes!




So…how do you find the RIGHT font/typeface in an endless sea of options? Some basic guidelines might help.


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Handwriting fonts are everywhere these days. Designers love the organic aesthetic they convey and consumers respond to them on a personal level because of their handmade, human quality

The Pen Is Mightier Than The Sword73b3bd585a105cb36c16b7f72731eaea

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Examples of handwriting (also known as handwritten, cursive, or script) fonts

But did you know that modern handwriting evolved because of the Fall of the Roman Empire? When the Romans succumbed to invading barbarian hordes, widespread plague, and political corruption, the educated world experienced a major lull in literary and cultural works.

An Italian poet and writer named Petrarch labeled this period “The Dark Ages” and began to campaign for a form of writing that was infinitely more “simple” and “clear” than the ornate Gothic lettering which was popular with the ruling class at the time.

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Calligraphy fonts are a trendy way to let friends and family know that your upcoming wedding will be not only tasteful but perhaps even elegant. Calligraphy on your wedding invitation says “Please don’t wear shorts, Uncle Richard!” (and we all have an “Uncle Richard” in our family).

Oracle-bone-script(FYI If you found this site because you’re exploring calligraphy options for your wedding, The Knot wrote a very helpful article about where to find local calligraphers or even learn to do it yourself!)


But it might surprise you to know that calligraphy originated in China thousands of years ago as a means to unify the many languages spoken at the time. In fact, calligraphy began as simple pictorial images that represented forms of nature—the earliest known examples of calligraphy were engraved into the shoulder bones of wild animals!



Cangjie, widely credited as the inventor of Chinese writing, drew inspiration from observing animal footprints in the sand. He then created simple images that represented natural phenomena like sun, moon, rain, or dog.

From Encyclopedia Britannica’s page on Chinese calligraphy:


‘Each stroke, even each dot, suggests the form of a natural object. As every twig of a living tree is alive, so every tiny stroke of a piece of fine calligraphy has the energy of a living thing.’

 Western calligraphy first gained popularity during the Roman Empire and helped form the Latin alphabet. At the height of Roman rule, calligraphy spread as far as Great Britain. When the Romans fell, their literary influence remained, often in monasteries as religious texts.


 As mentioned previously, calligraphy is very popular for wedding invitations. But hand-lettering is experiencing a major renaissance everywhere you look. In the digital age, consumers respond to art that feels like it’s made by an actual person (even if it’s not).


The Oxford Dicti1024px-LindisfarneFol27rIncipitMattonary defines calligraphy as “decorative handwriting or handwritten lettering”—which is an overly simplistic description and completely ignores the historical and artistic implications mentioned above. It’s accurate that all contemporary hand-lettering styles evolved from calligraphy, however.


Design expert Gerrit Noordzij referred to calligraphy as “a single pass of the pen/tool to write as a form of art” whereas hand-lettering “consists of built-up lettersdrawing with multiple strokes.” His seminal book The Stroke: Theory of Writing is an interesting analysis of letterforms and the process of creating them.


New York designer Chavelli Tsui outlines some key differences between calligraphy, lettering, type.



 The Greek word kalligraphos literally translates to ‘person who writes beautifully’ but increasingly, calligraphy and hand-lettering are being designed on computers. Purists might reject the notion that calligraphy can be created by something other than a pen or brush but rules are made to be broken, right? As Noordzij once said “Unassailability turns science into superstition.” The digital age has enabled young artists and designers to put a modern spin on an ancient art form. Technically, there’s no such thing as “computer calligraphy” but there are still many artists that do custom hand-lettering.


In a recent interview we did with calligrapher Laura Worthington, she noted that the current calligraphy renaissance is due to “an increased demand for custom, one-of-a-kind items” and “a desire for more individuality and personal expression.”


Gregory McNaughton of Reed College was asked whether calligraphy was obsolete in the digital age. He likened it to walking in the automotive age. “Sometimes walking, like handwriting, is more efficient and practical. When we take a walk beside a dear friend, or down a trail into the wilderness, it transcends transportation and takes us places we can’t go in a car. The same is true of beautiful writing.”


So….long story short, hire an artist (like Stephen Pies or James Lewisif you want your calligraphy to be truly unique. If you’re looking for calligraphy fonts online, here are some great places to check out:



Font Squirrel’s list of “calligraphic fonts”, such as:

Allura Font


Alex Brush Font

Alex Brush

Calligraffiti Font


Aguafina Script Font 

Aguafina Script

Aquiline Two Font

Aquiline Two

Of course, FontSpring offers a number of modern calligraphy fonts, such as:

Mila Script Pro

Mila Script Pro

Salt Spices Pro

Salt Spice Pro

  Storyteller Script Font

Storyteller Script


Adorn Pomander Script

Adorn Pomander Script

 Michael Regular

Michael Regular

If you need further inspiration check out Vandelay Designs 40 most beautiful calligraphy fonts.


Purchasing a font online is a great way to do your wedding invitations on a tight budget. It’s also the safest way to prevent your canine calligrapher from ruining your house.

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On April 21st, the world mourned the loss of Prince Rogers Nelson, one of the most prolific and successful musicians in history. Prince sold over 100 million albums during his remarkable career that spanned four decades. Though he was clearly influenced by legends like Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jimi Hendrix, and James Brown, Prince was always completely unique and creative in his artistic expression as well as the way he chose to live his life. There will never be another Prince.

You might be familiar with Prince because of his long list of hit songs like When Doves Cry, Kiss, or Let’s Go Crazy. Or maybe you first became aware of his genius during his breathtaking performance at the Super Bowl. Though he achieved mainstream success, he never conformed to trends or pandered to his fans. His music was complex, moody, and singular—much like the man himself.

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I’m not a woman, I’m not a man, I am something that you’ll never understand.

In 1993, Prince legally changed his name to this symbol to protest what he believed was a Draconian clause in his contract with Warner Brothers. The Love Symbol, as he called it, was a combination of the male and female symbols and represented liberation from corporate control as well as societal norms regarding sexuality and gender.

“The only acceptable replacement for my name, and my identity, was the Love Symbol, a symbol with no pronunciation, that is a representation of me and what my music is about.” -Prince,1993




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