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A designer of logotypes, calligrapher, graphic designer, lettering artist, author, editor, and teacher, Sumner Stone has designed over 200 typefaces, including four major superfamilies. He was the first Director of Typography for Adobe Systems, where he originated and art-directed the first Adobe Originals program, which included Adobe Garamond, Adobe Caslon, and Trajan. Sumner founded Stone Type Foundry Inc. in 1990. He has served on the board of the ATypI, and is a member of the boards of the Edward Johnston Foundation and Letterform Archive. We are delighted that Sumner Stone agreed to be the next interview subject in our 4 Questions 4… series.


1. How did you get into the business of type design?

I became interested in letterforms when I studied calligraphy with Lloyd Reynolds at Reed College. I still find it fascinating that letters live at the intersection of mind and body, of the mental and the physical, of language and vision. Their shapes still seem magical.

Through Reynolds’ teaching, I fell in love with letters. During his class, I saw a film of Hermann Zapf making letters.

The film had been produced by Hallmark Cards, where Zapf was a consultant working with lettering artists and designing typefaces. Before long I was at Hallmark in Kansas City, looking over his shoulder.

Then I bought an old letterpress, and started to print with metal type. I designed labels and collateral material for the wine business in California, taught calligraphy at San Francisco State, and entered the world of type design. I wound up at Adobe Systems in the mid ’80s, as their first Director of Typography. In 1990 I started Stone Type Foundry, Inc. I have been designing typefaces ever since.


2. What fonts or type design trends are you loving these days?


I love the fact that Trajan, a typeface that I initiated and art-directed at Adobe, has become one of the typographic hits of the late 20th and early 21st century. I just returned from Italy, where it is very widely used—just as it is here in the US.

I am also fond of the increased level of experimentation that is going on in type design now. I enjoy the process of exploring new directions in the design of letterforms with my type design students.


3. Which of your designs are you most proud of, and why?

Magma II Thin

I am proud of Magma, a humanistic design which I believe pushes the envelope of the sans serif. It is part of a typeface superfamily that is both rich enough for display, and very legible for text. Nvma, based on archaic Roman letterforms, is part of this superfamily. It won an award in the letter.2 Competition, the type design competition of the ATypI (Association Typographique Internationale), in 2007.


Another typeface that I am quite proud of is Cycles. It is intended for setting books, and is part of a superfamily that also includes Arepo, Stone Print, and SFPL.



4. Describe your dream project.

My dream project is usually the one I am working on at the moment. Of course, since I usually work on more than one at a time, dreams abound.

There are two kinds of projects that I find most inspiring. The first is when there is a very specific brief from a client. Constraints create focus, and the result is often very satisfying. The second is when there is no client—in other words, typeface design on spec. There, the vast range of type design is open. This is challenging work, but it allows me to follow paths untrodden, and that is always an adventure.

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Figures (aka numbers or numerals) are a common element in text of all kinds. They appear anywhere from dates, measurements and quantities to addresses, phone numbers, and a lot more.

When typesetting numerals, it’s important to understand the different styles available in some fonts, and when to use which. Prior to current font formats, there was only ‘room’ for one style of numeral in a font, but due to OpenType’s capacity to include thousands of characters, many fonts now contain four figure styles.



Lining vs. Oldstyle Figures

The four kinds of figures consist of two design styles and two spacing styles: Lining and oldstyle are the design styles, while tabular and proportional relate to the spacing.

Lining figures, also called aligning or cap figures, are of uniform height and align on the baseline and the cap height (thus the term aligning). These are a good choice when you want the numerals to really stand out.

Oldstyle figures, on the other hand, are numerals that approximate the shape and form of lowercase letters in that they have an x-height, as well as ascenders and descenders in a set pattern. These figures can be quite beautiful, and look best in running text where you don’t necessarily want the figures to stand out from the surrounding text. They can be very elegant, and occasionally have slight design variations from the companion lining figures.



C. Figures

Lining figures in running text will stand out as if they were all caps (left). If you want a more fluid texture with no extra emphasis on the numerals, use proportional oldstyle figures (right).


Tabular vs. Proportional Spacing

Tabular figures all have the same total width, which consists of the actual glyph plus the spaces added to the right and left, called sidebearings in the type design world. Tabular spacing is necessary to align vertical columns of numbers, such as those found in tables, thus the turn tabular. They’re also used for prices, invoices, financial charts, and any instance where figures have to align vertically.

Proportional figures, on the other hand, are those that are individually spaced so that they blend in with the overall color, texture, and spacing of the upper and lowercase characters. Have you ever seen a numeral ‘1’ in running text with disproportionate large spaces around it? That is a tabular figure, which unfortunately is often used when proportionally spaced figures are the preferred figure style. This is a common occurrence because many type users are not aware of the available figure styles in a font, and thus ‘settle’ for a font’s default figures, which is frequently tabular lining figures.


D. Figures

Tabular figures all have the same total width, while proportional figures have spacing that varies depending on the width of the character.


E. Figures

When setting columns of numerals, use tabular figures so that each column aligns.


How to access figure styles

The task of determining which figure styles are available in any given font is an important first step in selecting an appropriate font for projects that includes figures. (I will discuss the process in Adobe InDesign, so if you are using other design software, it will most likely be a something similar.)

The first step is to activate the font, making sure it is an OpenType font. This is indicated in the font menu with a black and turquoise ‘O’ symbol. Next, open the OpenType panel located off of the Character panel. You will notice, five figure settings on the very bottom of that panel:

Tabular Lining

Proportional Oldstyle

Proportional Lining

Tabular Oldstyle

Default Figure Style

If a font contains any of the top four styles, they will be unbracketed. Any figure style that is bracketed is not available in that particular font, even if it is OpenType. The problem with this method is that it is not always 100% reliable: some OpenType fonts have both lining and oldstyle figures, but do not have them in both tabular and proportional spacing, yet they might still all be unbracketed.

For this reason, the very best way to determine the available figure styles is to typeset the figures in each available style, and then check them carefully to determining if they are what they are supposed to be.

At the bottom of the list you will see Default Figure Style, which usually has a check mark unless it has been changed. The default style in most fonts is Tabular Lining. Therefore, unless you change the default or manually change the figure style in any given document, this is what you will get. This is unfortunate because Tabular Lining Figures are only appropriate for vertical lists of numerals, which is a small percentage of typeset numbers. So be sure to explore the available figures in any font you are considering, and check that it has the one(s) you need.


F. Figures

Figures styles in Adobe InDesign are found at the bottom of the OpenType panel. If any are bracketed, they are not available in that font.

If you frequently use a figure style other than the typical Proportional Lining default, consider changing the default to the style you most frequently use (which in my case is Proportional Oldstyle).

In order to change this or any other default in most Adobe applications, open the app but with no documents open; then change the setting as desired, and quit the app. This will change the default for any new documents, but will not change anything in existing documents, which you would have to change manually.


*  *  *  *  *

Ilene Strizver, founder of The Type Studio, is a typographic consultant, designer, writer and educator specializing in all aspects of visual communication, from the aesthetic to the technical. Her book, Type Rules! The designer’s guide to professional typography, 4th edition, has received numerous accolades from the type and design community. She conducts her widely acclaimed Gourmet Typography Workshops internationally. Sign up for her free enewsletter, All Things Typographic, at

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Happy July, everyone! Today, in honor of the end of June, we’re featuring five fonts that take their names from the first official month of summer.

1. You may think this month is going to be just like it was a year ago, but you’d better wipe away that June Gloom


2. Because, as NewJune will assure you…


3. Summer’s the best time for barbecues, rooftop parties, weddings, and more. Say, what are you doing June 15?


4. For our parts, when we think about days at the beach, we get as excited as Junegull:


5. One pro tip for all that summer fun, though, from Junebug:


Enjoy the July 4th, everyone. And if you use any of these fonts, let us know.

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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.


Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 10.45.37 AM

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…



Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 10.56.05 AM


…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.


Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 11.18.49 AM

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The next great type designer in our Font Founders series: William Addison Dwiggins, who designed the fonts Electra and Caledonia, among others. Dwiggins coined the term ‘graphic designer’ in 1922 to describe what he did, which included book design, typography, lettering, and calligraphy.

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Summertime means romance. Long walks on the beach, rooftop parties under the stars, outdoor concerts, hot days and warm nights. But when you’re just a lonely single font, all that can seem like more torture than treasure. That’s why we are introducing Fonter, the world’s first dating app for fonts. Let’s see who’s signed up so far.


Papyrus is an earnest, fun-loving gal with a big heart and a penchant for vegan cupcakes. Swipe right if you’re looking for a woman who will greet each day like a new beginning. Swipe left if you don’t have patience for people who are always running late.


Futura is kind of a bad-ass. He lives his own life and makes his own rules. Swipe right for late night bike rides and absinthe cocktails. Swipe left if you’re looking of a guy with a great sense of humor.


Stencil is a lovable bro. If you’re looking for someone to bring you to the next Rocky movie, go rock-climbing, or just chill and play video games, swipe right. If you’re more into museums, art films, and fine wines, swipe left.


Helvetica came to the States looking to launch a career in design. She wasn’t expecting to get so popular! Now her social life is so crazy, she can hardly keep track of all her invitations. Swipe right if you’re into glitz and business. Swipe left if you’re looking for a more intimate relationship.

If you’re a designer you know there are thousands of fonts out there to choose from. Whatever type you’re looking for, you’re sure to find one that meets your needs. Which way would you swipe on Papyrus, Futura, Stencil, and Helvetica? Tell us in the comments. And stay tuned for more profiles, coming soon.

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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:

 FontSprint MatcheratorScreen Shot 2016-05-09 at 3.06.26 PM

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.


Screen Shot 2016-05-09 at 3.08.40 PM

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.


Continue Reading »

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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.

Continue Reading »

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Sons and daughters of Extensis let their creative juices flow with Fontspiration in honor of National Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day. With the school year ending, we knew it would be a hard time to bring kids to us, so we brought our work to them! Parents sat down with their kids to engage them in one of our biggest passions: fonts.

Kids ages 9-13 created custom typographic masterpieces using our Fontspiration app. We thought this would allow us to inspire our children. We were pleasantly wrong. They inspired us!


“Show us your girl power!” Kaia, age 10.

Fontspiration - Creative Design App

“The future…”Alex, age 12.

Fontspiration Creative Design App

Fontspiration Free Typeface App

“Graphic Designer in the making.” Jarod, age 13.

Free Typeface tool

“Don’t forget to rise to the stars.” Sam, age 10.

Free Typeface Tool

“Caught in a web?” Edward, age 9.

Fontspiration Free Typeface Application

“Selfies are important.” Vincent, age 10.

Fontspiration Design Tool

“Positivity.” Ryann, age 11.

Free Typeface Tool

We’re impressed! Thanks to all the kids who participated and helped us get inspired.</>

Make your masterpiece!

Learn more about Extensis’s free Fontspiration app and start creating using all kinds of fonts, colors, animation and more. Share your creations with us on Instagram or Twitter using #fontspiration.

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