Fractions are an essential element in typesetting. They appear with great regularity in measurements and quantities, recipes, scores, numerical charts and listings, textbooks and manuals, as well as math and science.
Diagonal fractions are the most commonly-used fraction style in typeset copy. When they are called for, the challenge lies in knowing which diagonal fractions are available in any given font, and how to access or create them. Here’s some tips and general rules for typesetting diagonal fonts.
Diagonal fractions fall into three categories: basic, extended, and arbitrary.
Basic fractions are the ones that are available in most fonts regardless of the font format, and usually compromise ¼, ½, and ¾.
Extended fractions are a broader collection of diagonal fonts that are found in many – but not all – OpenType fonts. They consist of 1/8, 3/8, 5/8, 7/8, and sometimes 1/3 and 2/3. Extended fractions are also referred to as prebuilt fractions, as they are part of a font’s character complement.
Arbitrary fractions are any other random fraction, such as 25/1000 and 76/389. They are created on-the-fly by the fraction-building function available in some OpenType fonts, and therefore are not actual glyphs found in a font.
Setting Basic and Extended Fractions
The first step is finding out which fractions are available in any particular font. Both basic and extended fractions can be found in the Glyphs panel of most design software, usually under the Numbers subset.
Once you determine that a font has the prebuilt fractions you need, there is an easier way to set these fractions that does not require accessing them from the Glyphs panel.
Here’s how to access basic and extended fractions in InDesign:
- Set the fraction manually, that is, using full sized numbers separated by a slash
- Highlight this horizontal fraction
- Then select Fractions via InDesign’s Character panel > OpenType panel (or submenu)
If using Illustrator, the process is slightly different:
- Set the fraction manually
- Highlight the horizontal fraction
- Then click on the Fractions icon in the OpenType panel
(Note that Illustrator has a separate OpenType panel vs. InDesign’s OpenType submenu accessed off of the Character panel.)
In both cases, the horizontal fraction will automatically be replaced with the prebuilt, diagonal style, if available in that font.
Setting Arbitrary Fractions
Arbitrary fractions are built on-the-fly using superior and inferior figures as well as a fraction bar, and therefore are not located on the Glyphs panel. As previously mentioned, the ability to create arbitrary fractions on-the-fly is a feature that is programmed into some, but not all, OpenType fonts.
The bad news is there is no easy way to determine which OpenType fonts have this ability; it is mostly a matter of trial and error to determine which do and which don’t. But the good news is there are still plenty of great-looking fonts that do, especially those intended for text.
The steps to setting arbitrary fractions are the same as prebuilt ones:
- Set the fraction manually
- Highlight the horizontal fraction
- Then select Fractions via InDesign’s Character panel > OpenType submenu, or Illustrator’s Fractions icon.
If the font in question has the ability to set arbitrary fractions, it will automatically be converted. If not, nothing will happen.
Note: Only use the Fraction command for individual fractions, and not for an entire block of text, or all full-sized numerals will be converted to superscript/superior or subscript/inferior figures.
Other fraction styles include nut or vertical fractions (often used for math and science formulas), horizontal fractions (considered unattractive and unprofessional in most typesetting), decimal (5.25, etc.), and spelled out. Make sure you do your research, and use the appropriate fraction style for the job at hand.
Small caps are capital letterforms that are shorter than full-sized caps. They are usually the height of the lowercase or slightly taller when part of a text font, and can be even taller – sometimes slightly shorter than the full caps – when designed for a display design. Small caps have many uses.
They can be used for titles, subtitles and title pages in publishing, headlines and subheads, text lead-ins, page headings and footers, column headings, as well as a substitute for full-sized caps in acronyms and abbreviations.
The most important thing to know about small caps is to only use the true-drawn variety as opposed to the fake, computer-generated ones.
True-drawn small caps are designed by the type designer to match the weight, width and spacing of the lowercase (or caps if designed for an all-cap typestyle). The fake, computer-generated ones look too light, too tight, and in some cases, too narrow.
For these reasons, they are considered a “type crime” by type-sensitive designers. Unfortunately, the use of these “fakers” is an all too common occurrence. Here is how this amateurish and unprofessional typographic practice can be avoided: if one knows ahead of time that small caps would be a useful feature in any particular job, only use font(s) that contain the true-drawn variety.
If small caps are such a useful typographic tool, why don’t more fonts have them?
Prior to the OpenType font format that can accommodate thousands of characters, the older Type1 and TrueType formats could only accommodate 256 characters, and therefore did not have room to include small caps – even if they were originally designed and available in older font technology such as phototypesetting and hot metal.
In order to work around this limitation, typeface designers and foundries wanting to include small caps had to put them in a second font – either an additional font designated with a SC in the name, or an Expert Set. This made it more expensive for the foundry, and more time-consuming and tedious for the type user, who had to access them from a separate font for each and every usage.
But with OpenType’s expanded character capacity, there is more than enough room for small caps, as well as many other characters desirable to graphic designers.
Identifying and Setting True-drawn Small Caps
So how does one know if a font has true drawn small caps? And if it does, how does one access them?
When using Adobe InDesign, the industry standard for page layout and typesetting, the user interface can be a bit confusing. One can always view the Glyphs panel to see if the font contains small caps, but there is a better way that combines identifying the availability of small caps and applying them.
Here are the steps:
– First, select the font in question in the font dropdown menu in the Character panel or Control panel.
– Next, open the OpenType panel. If the All Small Caps option is not bracketed, there are true-drawn small caps in that particular font. If it is bracketed, that font does not contain them. (Note that some typeface families have small caps for just some of the versions.)
Once you determine that a font does have small caps, you can apply them in one of two ways:
– If you want to convert both caps and lowercase to small caps, select the All Small Caps option in the OpenType panel.
– If you want to convert just the lowercase so that you have a blended cap/small cap setting, select the Small Caps option in the Character panel.
Note that if a font does not have true-drawn small caps, InDesign will create the fake version by reducing the full caps to the default 70% of the cap height.
If you want to eliminate the possibility of fake small caps from ever appearing in your work, you can change the default Small Cap Size from 70% to 100% via Preferences > Advanced Type > Character Settings.
This will not affect true-drawn small caps from appearing when available in a font.
August 31st, 2016 by Extensis
Michael Shavalier, Director of Creative Operations joins us on September 14th for a live webcast to share SANDOW’s font management success story.
During a recent interview Michael talked about the critical role font management plays at SANDOW, and how finding the right font management solution has helped him and his team improve their efficiency and productivity.
Join us live on Wednesday, September 14th, 10:00 a.m. Pacific; 1:00 p.m. Eastern, where he delves deeper and shares best practices he used from planning to implementation.
Michael will talk about
- the importance of brand consistency and font license compliance
- challenges that led to the need for a font management solution
- the most critical components to SANDOW in a font management solution
- learnings in preparing for and implementing a font manager
- SANDOW’s continuing journey with font management
Michael will be available for a live Q&A session after the webcast. After the webcast a recording will be emailed to everyone that registers.
To register, please follow this link.
Hope you can join us!
August 17th, 2016 by Jim Kidwell
Learn font distribution best practices so you don’t get caught in a font licensing conundrum
Think of font distribution as a process. Not only does it keep your fonts organized and efficiently distributed, it also helps you maintain the appropriate number of font licenses by helping track which fonts are authorized, purchased, shared (with appropriate team members), and reviewed.
A proper font distribution process helps in many areas:
- Time and money spent. Incorrect font usage can cause unnecessary misprints from text reflows and require reprints that waste time and money.
- Tracking issues. Without a proper font distribution process, your team has little (if any) insight into which fonts are being used. Some fonts may be underutilized which can result in purchasing more font licenses than needed. Proper tracking and reporting give you a meaningful way to make future font purchase decisions.
- Unhappy employees. Confusion and frustration reign when your design team can’t find the fonts they need when they need them. Life is easier when a process is in place that allows them to find what they are looking for.
- Legal concerns regarding font licensing. Without a controlled distribution and system of font access, unlicensed fonts can gain easy access into your organization or even worse, custom fonts could be released into the wild. All of which could potentially lead to a lawsuit.
Read on to learn font distribution basics and best practices to help alleviate these potential problems.
Five Font Distribution Best Practices
1. Decide how you want to organize your font collection
We recommend organizing your teams by workgroups. Workgroups are groups of fonts and users. Basically, you give a specific number of users access to specific fonts. Below are three common methods to choose from.
User Type: user types may vary, but we commonly hear about editorial, design, and production user types. These different groups have different needs and will use fonts for different reasons so it makes sense for some organizations to divide their font teams by user type.
Client: Every client is unique and so are the fonts they are using. For example, Times New Roman was built specifically for the Times of London. Companies want a specific brand identity and they can do this by creating and commissioning their own typeface, or selecting groups of fonts that most effectively represent their brand.
Project: Just like each client is unique, so is each project. However, since projects don’t have to be client specific, sometimes grouping by project makes more sense.
2. Set up compliance using permissions
One of the easiest ways to be compliant and avoid piracy issues is to set up user permissions. Instead of a whole department or company having access to certain fonts, only people who need rights to particular fonts have permission to use them. Permissions ensure your company is following branding guidelines and avoiding even inadvertent piracy because users can only use approved and/or purchased fonts that they have access to.
3. Choose roles
Who is going to be choosing, purchasing, and uploading fonts into your system? Is it your Lead Graphic Designer? Is it someone in your IT department? Having a key person who is in charge of this process helps you avoid a guessing game that can lead to problems.
4. Keep record of your font licenses and track usage
When you’re managing the distribution of your fonts, you can gain a level of control over font compliance. You have direct access into who has access to your fonts, and how many users are activating them. This helps ensure you have the right number of licenses for your actual usage and lets you make improved future font purchasing decisions – remember when we discussed saving time and money? This is your ticket to doing just that. Keeping track of all this can be a huge challenge, but font management software can help you.
5. Pick the right enterprise font management software:
Having reliable, robust font management software to save time, money, and maintain license compliance is key to making font distribution possible and successful. Look for a solution that has a dashboard allowing you to easily compare fonts side by side. Check for the ability to search for a font by specific type and set up user permissions by workgroups. Make sure reports are available so you are able to see if more font licenses need to be purchased or scaled back for future use.
What does your font distribution process look like? Let us know in the comments section.
August 3rd, 2016 by Ilene Strizver
Hyphens, en and em dashes appear with great frequency in typeset copy. Unlike the days of typewriters where the only character available to represent these three punctuation marks was a hyphen, all three are available in today’s fonts. They all have different usages, as well as varying design characteristics for each typeface design.
In today’s digital world where graphic designers are responsible for so many aspects of typesetting and production, it is up to us to know the difference between these three symbols, and to check for appropriate usage and appearance in every job we come into contact with. From reviewing the initial copy (text) to proofreading the final output, designers need to be aware of these punctuation marks, and edit typeset copy accordingly for typographic accuracy as well as good taste.
When to Use Hyphens, En and Em Dashes in a Sentence
Hyphens ( – ) are the shortest of the three, and are used to hyphenate words at the end of line. They are also used for compound, or hyphenated words and phrases, such as sister-in-law and merry-go-round. In addition, they are the correct punctuation for phone numbers, as well as game and sport scores, and contest results.
En dashes ( – ) are the middle width of the three, and are used to indicate a break in time, or a span or range. (An easy way to know if an en dash is the correct punctuation for a range is if it can be replaced with a preposition, such as to or through.) They are also used to indicate a connection or contrast between pairs of words, such as an east–west flight, and a Democrat–Republican split. The en dash is probably the least understood and most incorrectly used of the three; it is often substituted with either a hyphen or an em dash, both of which are wrong when the en dash is the correct punctuation.
Em dashes ( — ) are the widest of the three. They are most often used for a break in thought, or a thought within a thought or a sentence.
While hyphens are usually consistent in their design relative to each typeface (usually short horizontal or slightly angled strokes), en and em dashes can vary greatly from typeface to typeface. They can differ both in the width of the actual glyph, as well their overall spacing, that is, the space added (or not added) to both sides of the glyph to give them ‘breathing room’ when they appear next to other characters.
The historical standards in the days of metal type for the width of both dashes were fixed for each point size, that being 1000 units to the em square, while en dashes were half that, at 500 units to the em dash. (An em is a measurement relative to the point size of the type, therefore in a 12-point typeface an em is 12 points.)
In addition, dashes had little or no additional space on both sides (referred to as side-bearings in the world of type design). Today’s specs are not that rigid, and can (and should in my opinion) vary dependent on the overall width of the typeface design.
A good rule of thumb is for en dashes to approximate the width of the cap or lowercase ‘n’, while the em dash to approximate the cap or lowercase ‘m’. This results in dashes that are in proportion to the typeface they are designed for: dashes in condensed or compressed typestyles will be narrower, while regular or expanded typefaces will have dashes that are wider, and in proportion to their width.
In addition, dashes should have some space surrounding them so they aren’t crowded and don’t appear to crash into other characters.
So how does the type-sensitive designer deal with em dashes that look too wide in any particular typeface? And what about either dash that appears too tight? It is an accepted practice by many designers to substitute an en dash for a very wide em dash.
While this might not be ‘grammatically correct’ according to grammar references and style manuals, it is a typographic practice that takes into account the varying widths of dashes from typeface to typeface, and serves to eliminate the visual holes that a very wide em dash can create.
As for any dash that appears too tight, space can be added to the right and left to give them a more open appearance. This can be achieved via kerning, or with the use of thin spaces if you are using InDesign. Keep in mind that this should be done on a case-by-case basis, and done consistently for any particular typeface, project, web site or client.
Final Thoughts On How To Use Hyphens In Writing
Never use two hyphens in place of a dash in professional typography. This is a holdover from the typewriter days when the limited keyboard did not include dashes, thus two hyphens were used in place of dashes.
The problem arises today because many copywriters continue to use this outdated practice, and submit copy with double hyphens that are not corrected by designers and webmasters. The best way to avoid this is to proofread and correct all copy before it is typeset.
In addition, when setting type for the web or other digital media, always try to adhere to professional standards of typesetting, including the correct usage of en and em dashes. While there are some instances where this is not possible (such as some email clients which do not support the use of dashes), in most cases it is.
Some instances might require special HTML coding, so be sure to inform all those responsible for the type styling, including webmasters and developers who might not be aware of the correct typographic practices.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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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 www.thetypestudio.com.
May 9th, 2016 by Joe Spencer
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:
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.
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.
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.
IdentifontIdentifont 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!
Happy hunting, type nerds!
August 19th, 2015 by Jim Kidwell
You’re no girl scout. You aren’t designing bake sale fliers anymore. And even if you were, the font list in your favorite pro design software is an endless black pit of scrolling, turning a simple font selection task into a pull-your-hair-out, existential crisis sort of situation. Have you seen that thing lately? Go ahead, open it up and take a look. That list is a behemoth!
You could choose to get lazy and make a “James Cameron” decision (i.e. opt into an overly-trodden and dare I say disgusting font like Papyrus for your high-profile project and thus make every designer that presses ‘play’ nauseous). OR, you could check out the wide world of font management, tame your font game and take control of your workflow while improving your final products.
If you’re hearing church bells in your head, but are a Macintosh user, reroute over this way; if you use Windows, swerve this way to download the PDF booklet, or tread on for an abbreviated version in this post.
So, here are some highlights of our Windows Font Management Best Practices Guide. Increasing workflow and getting more organized with your typography starts here:
May 12th, 2015 by Richard Turgeon
The Art of Font Identification
Pretty much every designer has seen a font they love on the web, a billboard, packaging, in a magazine…maybe even in a TV commercial. Maybe it’s an oldie but goodie, or a trendy new font that seems to be showing up just about everywhere. You want exactly that font to use in one of your projects.
The tough part is when you don’t know the font’s name.
We’ve all been there, right? That’s why I recently took an informal poll of some fellow designers on how they “find that font.” I asked them: Do you use a font-identifying website? Consult a “go-to” friend? Do you scour a print catalog hoping you find it? Maybe go about ID’ing through your knowledge of font anatomy?
What I found is that the “correct” is a combination of all of these options, with some interesting nuances in everyone’s unique specifics.
Using FontBook As A Font Identifier
- First “reach out to design buddies” on Skype or IM.
- Second is to scour his personal collection of 3,121 fonts (!) on his Mac for a match.
- Lastly, he browses the FontBook app for iPhone and iPad by FontShop International—the undisputed mother of all printed font catalogs (remember those?)
An overview of tools and techniques for finding your favorite fonts—along with some insights on how to choose the right fonts for your project.
Why Typography Matters
I’ve been fortunate enough to blog about typography for Extensis for the last several years. As a published author, avid reader and designer, I’ve always loved fonts and typography, but my research for this forum in particular has only deepened my respect and appreciation for the art and craft.