Most designers know Helvetica & Arial are not the same, but hard pressed to tell you what the differences are.
So Here’s The Inside Story!
A Bit of History
Helvetica, one the most widely-used typefaces for decades, has a long history. It was originally designed in 1957 by Swiss typeface designer Max Miedinger for the Haas Type. It was commissioned by Eduard Hoffmann, managing director of the Swiss foundry, to compete with other popular sans serifs of the day, particularly Akzidenz Grotesk.
This new design was therefore named Neue Haas Grotesk (translation: New Haas Sans Serif) to reflect this lineage.
The name was changed to Helvetica (an adaptation of Helvetia, the Latin name for Switzerland) by the Stempel type foundry, the parent company of Haas, to reflect its Swiss heritage. Its popularity soared in the mid-1980s when it was included in the core fonts for the Apple operating system and laser printers, alongside Times Roman and Courier.
Over the years, the Helvetica family was expanded to encompass an extensive range of weights and width variants.
Arial, on the other hand, is often viewed as the “poor man’s” Helvetica by designers. Although designed to compete with (and therefore be similar to) Helvetica, it has its own individual history and backstory. Arial was designed in 1982 by Robin Nicholas and Patricia Saunders for Monotype.
Although created for use in an early IBM laser printer, its roots lie in the 1926 Monotype Grotesque design. In 1992, Microsoft licensed Arial to be included in the suite of fonts supplied with the Windows operating system.
The family has since been expanded beyond the original weights, and now includes 28 versions: six weights plus companion italics for the regular width, four condensed, four narrow, four rounded, and four monospaced versions.
What’s hot? What’s not? Learn more about the latest font trends by downloading our Font and Typography Trends Report.
Many of the differences between these two popular typefaces are related to their intended usage: Helvetica was designed for print, while Arial was designed for laser printers and then adapted for use on computers, both being lower resolution environments than print.
Helvetica has sharper, crisper, and more stylish details, such as the leg of the cap R, more curvy diagonal spine on the numeral 2, and horizontal or vertical end strokes on many characters.
In addition, Helvetica has a slightly higher waistline and an overall less rounded appearance than Arial. Arial, on the other hand, has a less elegant, blander appearance, most likely so that it prints well on the laser printer it was intended for. These traits also make it better for other lower resolution environments, including the web and other pre-retina and other hi res display digital environments.
Arial has softer curves and fuller counters, as well as a characteristic diagonal terminal on the t, and a curved tail on the cap Q.
Helvetica and Neue Helvetica
In 1993, D. Stempel AG, Linotype’s daughter company, released a reworking of the original Helvetica entitled Neue (New) Helvetica.
This freshened up version includes the refinement of some characters, strengthened punctuation, cap and x-height adjustments, widened cross bars, and a new numerical system to identify the weights, similar to Univers and Frutiger. It also has additional weights: eight upright versions plus italics for the regular width, obliques for the expanded versions, as well as nine weights plus obliques for the condensed.
There is also a bold outline version for the regular width. The resulting total is 51 weights in all – many more than in the original family.
Two of the most popular new weights are Ultra Light and Thin, which are intended for display usage.
For this reason, the spacing of these weights is a lot tighter than the heavier weights. The problem arises when they are used for small text (which has become a common usage), where their tight spacing makes the text look very cramped and hard to read. The solution is to open the tracking as needed to give the text more “breathing” room.
This will expand the usable size range of this still extremely popular typeface.
Not ready to quit reading? Take your font expertise to the next level. Check out our recent blog post about Abbreviations in Font Names and crack the code to various font abbreviation mysteries.
For more information on font trends, check out our Font and Typography Trends Report and get up to speed on the latest typography trends.
New Year’s tends to bring a few traditions you can always count on. Champagne, Auld Lang Syne—and the inevitable yearly predictions listicles. With 2017 around the corner, we’ve been anticipating these predictions and considering how to categorize and quantify what we’ve seen in the world of typography. Our conclusion for the year: track the technology and you’ll find the trends.
There are an estimated 2 billion smartphone users in the world, and the average American spends anywhere from 5 to 11 hours per day using electronic media. Unsurprisingly, typography trends have been influenced by the challenge to increase readability, aesthetic desirability, and language-accessibility across multiple media platforms. Most people in the U.S., for example, are not only using a laptop or smartphone, but a combination of many gadgets that have access to the ever-growing Internet.
Generally speaking, predictions articles fall into one of two categories: aesthetic trends and industry or functionality trends. We’ve seen technology heavily influence both. Here are five trends that we found particularly exciting to watch this year:
1. Custom Fonts
Custom fonts were a hit this year, as tech giants created custom typefaces for their latest devices. Readability was widely debated among techies, artists, and internet-users alike. Amazon created a typeface called Bookerly to decrease eyestrain for Kindle readers. Google launched Product Sans and Apple created the typeface San Francisco for the Apple Watch. Meanwhile, new tools like Prototypo and FontArk were introduced to help typographers create custom typefaces to meet the marketing, branding, and creative needs of clients who want to keep up technologically and aesthetically with these tech giants.
2. Responsive Typography
Another trend driven by increased consumer demand for readability and accessibility, responsive typography went mainstream this year—and with good reason. Not only are we spending more time online, we are doing so across numerous platforms, often simultaneously. Anyone looking to brand, market, or share anything on the Internet is now hard-pressed to ensure that their reader can do so on their desktop, laptop, smartphone, tablet, or any other tool they may be using to access information. Responsive typography has made major strides in solving for this issue, and has become more accessible to designers who must get their message across to large and diverse audiences.
3. Personable Font Selections: Watercolor, Handwriting, Script, Grunge, and Caps
So readability and accessibility are essential. But typography is still an expressive art form. Typographers have been tasked with utilizing technology to enhance the practicality of their art, while creating work that is inventive, fresh, and beautiful. 2016 saw an increased use of watercolor, script, retro fonts, grunge, hand-lettering, and titles in all caps.
Most of these trends touch on how we are consuming—and, perhaps, feeling—about the greater technological advances. As we’ve spent more time on our phones and computers, and less time with older, more traditional types and texts, a sense of nostalgia seems to have grown. Some artists have been making their mark with handmade lettering, while others have paid tribute to the bright, whimsical signs and symbols of the pre-internet-boom 80s. In a time when many of us threaten to spend increasingly more time with machines than with one another, it seems that we’ve wanted to humanize our online text and media.
4. Innovative Fonts & Accessibility
The public response to the hand-lettering craze has been significant enough to push many designers to digitize their work. These lettering trends coupled with new font technology and availability has brought the “font game” to a new level. From small foundries to larger corporations, a number of new and exciting fonts were released this year.
Even more thrilling, artists, creatives, and entrepreneurs were busy inventing and innovating in ways that were both cross-cultural and multi-lingual. A large Norwegian study was conducted on readability for the visually impaired; Comicraft artists took on the ambitious project of inventing hand-lettered fonts in Japanese, Taiwanese, and Chinese. And two Guinean brothers hit the ground running and invented a script that would make their native language available on every smartphone. As font accessibility grows, we expect this trend in font innovation to continue.
Apple, Google, and Microsoft teamed up and launched variable fonts this September. The gathering of these tech giants marks the beginning of a new age in typography. Instead of downloading separate files for every font style and width, variable fonts allow developers to place everything in one, highly optimized file. We are eager to see how and when this trend will grow, and whether it will go mainstream in 2017.
Because that, after all, is the question of the hour: What will happen in 2017? What do we anticipate? What will take us by surprise? What trends are you seeing? What have we missed? Where will the technology and our typography take us next? Let us know! And—
Happy New Year from all of us at Extensis.
Want to learn more about type trends? Check out Getting Free Fonts From Google Fonts.
This year we had the pleasure of interviewing type designers, foundry founders, art directors, educators, calligraphers, graphic designers, hand-letterers, and more. Our 4 Questions 4 series showcased these ultimate typographical innovators and some of their stories. We asked each artist four questions, and they shared what led them to typography, which trends they were admiring, the projects in which they took the most pride, and their dream projects.
As 2016 draws to a close, we want to celebrate the project by thanking our 4 Questions 4 contributors, and sharing a few of their excellent responses.
1. How did you originally get interested in typography and design?
“I used to make little teen magazines as a kid – tiny folded spreads about the Jackson 5 and the Partridge Family.” – Gail Anderson
Many of our interviewees are like Anderson; they’ve been involved with art and typography since a young age. Going back through all of our 2016 interviews, we are inspired by the number of grandparents, teachers, and friends who encouraged our budding type-stars.
Roger Black’s dad was an architect. “While grounded in history,” Black said, “my father was an individualist, and he said that good designers should have their own styles.” Alejandro Lo Celso’s father and grandfather were architects, too, and his grandmother was a calligrapher. Of his early influences, he said: “it came naturally.” Even for those designers who did not necessarily have artistically inclined families, early exposures and positive encounters with art were important motivators. Dan Rhatigan recalled: “Although I thought I wanted to draw comic books when I was growing up, my time helping with my high school newspaper really exposed a much greater love for design and playing with type.”
2. What typography trends are you loving these days?
“Hand lettering…. We live in such a digital world nowadays that anything made with evidence of the human hand has become something special.” – Alexandra Snowdon
Many of our 4Q4 artists expressed a sentiment similar to Snowdon’s. The rise of hand lettering has been an exciting trend to follow, admire, and practice. Some of our interviewees explained it as a response to the internet boom; others cited improvements in web type and technology. “Web typography is no longer just trying to imitate print, but is developing into a culture of its own,” said Shoko Mugikura and Tim Ahrens. And Ludwig Übele rejoiced in aesthetic and functional typographic innovations. “The quality of use releases creative energies!” Übele exclaimed. Jackson Cavanaugh also acknowledged that graphic designers have been more committed to creative type. “Designers are looking for more expression and authenticity,” Cavanaugh said, “and this is opening the door for some people doing really interesting (and great) work.”
Our foundry founders and type makers chimed in as well. As a font creator, David Berlow considered his relationship with trends. “As a tool maker,” Berlow considered, “I love what I’m making for others to use, and when I let it go, I love the next one.” According to Berlow, trends are for those consuming his work to decide, while he moves on to the next creation. Alejandro Lo Celso summed up Berlow’s ideas saying, “A typeface you publish is like a daughter that leaves home and makes her own path. One day she comes back home with a boyfriend… and who knows if you’ll like him.”
3. Which of your projects are you most proud of thus far in your career, and why?
From window displays to experimental multicolored designs, our interviewees had ample projects to be proud of. The range of creations were impressive, and the reasons to consider them fondly were even more endearing. A few of our artists were proud of the project that most challenged them. Kyle Bean described a highlight of his career by saying: “It was an amazing experience, but also kind of terrifying.” Bean wasn’t alone in embracing fear to create an unforgettable product. Chank Diesel is most proud of his Liquorstore font, which was used on the cover of the Hunger Games and Zodiac Legacy books, “because it’s taken a long time to mature but it looks stronger than ever now.”
The struggle and the pride that comes with tackling a challenge were echoed throughout many interviews. Laura Worthington talked about Charcuterie, which she designed in 2013. “Very few collections were out at the time, and the concept of a collection was still very new,” Worthington said. She described Charcuterie’s launch as a huge risk, but one she continues to take pride in.
Artists are innovators, and innovation is driven not only by talent, but also by a willingness to take a risk, and step into the unknown.
4. Describe your dream project.
“Hi, it’s Costa Rica calling. Would you mind coming over for some weeks to design a new typeface for our tourist board? We have a beautiful apartment for you at the sea.” – Ludwig Übele
Our artists’ dreams ranged from redesigning the information system on Germany’s highway to working with the Detroit Red Wings hockey team. Other artists were nostalgic, dreaming of finishing the first typeface they ever designed. However, on the whole, most were either content in the present or eagerly looking forward to the future. Roger Black was especially enthused about his present work. “It’s always the current project!” he said proudly. Mark Simonson felt similarly saying, “I don’t think I have a ‘dream project.’ I’ve always tended to follow my interests wherever they might lead.” David Carson mentioned enjoying projects that give him creative freedom, or a new topic or audience, but he agreed that he’s done some of his “dream jobs” already. Our future-facing artists dreamed of working with large design-conscious brands and good-hearted non-profits alike; they were excited to produce work across a series of platforms, and to get into the details of typesetting.
Others dreamed of travel, guided by their passion for type. “My dream project starts with: ‘And so we’re sending you to Italy for a few months…’ Enough said.” We think so, too, Anderson.
We wish each of our 2016 interviewees good luck on their current projects, dream projects, and beyond. From those who felt “inside the dream” to the artists on the brink of the next best thing, we are grateful for your tenacity and creativity and look forward to all that you will accomplish in 2017!
Vincent Connare was trying to fix a communication problem: He was working on a computer program called Microsoft Bob that was intended to appeal to children—but the Times New Roman typeface being used in the word balloons felt too serious for the unsophisticated, cartoony artwork. He needed something more whimsical and silly to make the design feel coherent.
Connare created a brand new typeface (based on the lettering style of his favorite comic books) that he felt would be more appropriate for the target demographic.
And that’s how Comic Sans was born! To achieve visual unity, to properly convey the right feeling to the right audience. (Oh, the irony…)
Comic Sans quickly became popular with educators and parents as the go-to typeface for everything kid-friendly.
That was 1994. Fast-forward to 2016 and no typeface has been used more frequently to convey the wrong message to the wrong audience than Comic Sans.
You’re probably heard of the EPIC DESIGN FAILS. Comic Sans at the Dutch war memorial. Comic Sans on printed materials giving advice to rape victims. The salty Comic Sans letter that Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert wrote when LeBron James decided to leave Cleveland in 2010.
TragiComic Sans, indeed.
The internet went meme crazy with snarky delight. Artists everywhere created intentionally crappy designs with Comic Sans as the centerpiece. The much-maligned typeface (“most hated” by countless surveys) became such a punchline that eventually designers banded together to speak out against it, some even (semi-seriously) calling for its demise.
Here’s a witty excerpt from the BanComicSans Manifesto:
“Like the tone of a spoken voice, the characteristics of a typeface convey meaning. The design of the typeface is, in itself, its voice. Often this voice speaks louder than the text itself. Thus when designing a “Do Not Enter” sign the use of a heavy-stroked, attention-commanding font such as Impact or Arial Black is appropriate. Typesetting such a message in Comic Sans would be ludicrous. Though this is sort of misuse is frequent, it is unjustified. Clearly, Comic Sans as a voice conveys silliness, childish naivete, irreverence, and is far too casual for such a purpose. It is analogous to showing up for a black tie event in a clown costume.”
So naturally there was a rebuttal from “defenders of Comic Sans” who imagined an entire Comic Sans world because “Helvetica is so 2011.”
It’s really fun to ridicule Comic Sans. We’ve all done it. But if you’re designing some artwork for a very casual event—a kid’s birthday party, school function, or lemonade stand—you might be considering Comic Sans. Or wondering where to find alternatives to Comic Sans that won’t incur the wrath of your judgmental designer buddies. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Our friends at Identifont, Fontspring, Typewolf, and MyFonts recommended several similar typefaces to help you broaden your design palette:
Lexia (or Lexie) Readable
Lexia was designed by Ron Carpenter in 2007 as an alternative to Comic Sans that had maximum legibility and clarity but without the comic book associations. The non-symmetrical letter forms are widely believed to assist dyslexic readers, though no official proof of this exists.
Designed by James Greishaber in 2011, this “low contrast, semi-geometric typeface” is a suitable Comic Sans replacement that works well for medium-large text sizes.
Craig Rozynski designed Comic Neue in 2014 specifically to be a modern, more refined version of Comic Sans.
“Comic Neue aspires to be the casual script choice for everyone, including the typographically savvy. The squashed, wonky, and weird glyphs of CS have been beaten into shape while mantaining the honesty that made CS so popular.” -from ComicNeue.com
I hope these suggestions are useful in making your design elements feel more connected and complete. There’s a time and a place to be silly…and you need to be armed with the right typefaces to make sure that nobody takes those moments too seriously.
Vincent Connare didn’t create Comic Sans to be the laughingstock of the industry. He was simply ensuring that the message of his work wasn’t being lost because of a disconnect between visual and text. FWIW he also designed Trebuchet and Magpie and has a reputation as an excellent graphic communicator.
Looking for alternatives to Helvetica next? Check out my previous post here.
Today we’re celebrating typographer, book designer, teacher, and writer Jan Tschichold. The son of a provincial sign writer, Tschichold trained in calligraphy. His artisan background and calligraphic training set him apart from almost all other noted typographers of the time. As an adult he took a job as a teacher in Munich, but after Hitler came to power, all designers had to register with the Ministry of Culture, and all teaching posts were threatened for anyone who was sympathetic to communism. Tschichold was denounced as a “cultural Bolshevist” and, ten days after the Nazis came to power in 1933, he and his wife were arrested. After six weeks a policeman somehow found him tickets for Switzerland, and he and his family escaped. Tschichold lived in Switzerland for the rest of his life.
What do Jennifer Aniston, Thomas Edison, Cher, Andy Warhol, Steve Jobs, Steven Spielberg, Pablo Picasso, and Ozzy Osbourne have in common?
They were all diagnosed with dyslexia.
(Albert Einstein, Alexander Graham Bell, Galileo Galilei, and Leonardo da Vinci were also believed to be dyslexic but were never officially diagnosed.)
Dyslexia is a disorder that affects the ability to read, write, and interpret letters and symbols despite normal (or often above normal) intelligence. Researchers estimate that 3-10% of the population is dyslexic while up to 20% may suffer from some degree of symptoms.
The National Institute of Health identified many neurological and cognitive differences that contribute to dyslexia and the vast majority appear to be caused by genetics rather than environmental trauma. Dyslexia was first identified in 1881 but didn’t become widely known until 1980. For years, dyslexics have been dismissed as “stupid” or “lazy.”
A dyslexic’s brain is perfectly healthy but the frustration associated with dyslexia can cause emotional and psychological problems that last a lifetime. A dyslexic preschooler is typically unaffected but then pressure begins to mount in subsequent years as the student fails to meet reading standards and teacher/parent expectations. Dyslexic children frequently have problems with social situations, leading to poor self-image and less peer acceptance. Dyslexia can hinder oral language development, too: Affected kids might stammer, stutter, or have trouble finding the right words.
Dutch designer Christian Boer suffered from dyslexia as a young man and decided to invent a typeface to help others like him. His Dyslexie fonts emphasize key differences in characters so that few of them are similar and/or easily confused with each other.
Here’s some of the design features that make Dyslexie easier for dyslexics to read:
Boer isn’t the only designer who believed that the presentation of text has a significant impact on its accessibility to dyslexics. In the past thirty years, many studies have been done about which fonts/typefaces increased/decreased readability.
A study by Luz Rello and Ricardo Baeza-Yates suggests that Helvetica, Courier, Arial, Verdana test high for reading performance. Sans Serif, monospaced, and Roman fonts were also favorable. Italic fonts were most difficult for dyslexics.
Other fonts believed to have “strong legibility” include Garamond, Myriad, and Computer Modern Unicode.
Herman Bouma and C.P. Legein did a study in 1977 that suggested crowding between characters limits recognition in dyslexic readers. “Difficulty recognizing letters occurs in the parafovea of the retina of the eye when visual objects are too close together in relation to their distance from the center of vision.” Based on Bouma and Legien’s findings, many type designers have tried greater spacing between letters as a way to reduce crowding and make it more readable to dyslexics.
In addition to Dyslexie, there are currently several other options available that were created specifically to aid dyslexics.
Read Regular is “designed with an individual approach for each of the individual characters.” For example, the ‘b’ character doesn’t simply mirror the ‘d’ character—each character is unique. Unnecessary details (like serifs) have been removed to create striking outlines. Ascending and descending lines are long and clean. Space inside of letters like ‘o’ or ‘g’ is open and free of clutter.
Most typefaces are tested for legibility after they’re designed. Rob Hillier refined and modified his Sylexiad (get it?) typeface based on feedback from dyslexic readers during a series of tests. He compared early versions of his font to Arial and Times New Roman. This manner of progressive testing raised questions over whether or not dyslexics read words as shapes, a core principle of type design.
OpenDyslexic is an open source typeface that includes regular, bold, italic and bold-italic styles. It’s updated constantly based on feedback from the dyslexic community and is free for commercial and personal usage. According to their site, OpenDyslexic is “inspired by Andika, Apple Casual, Lexia Readable, Sassoon, and Comic Sans.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, there’s no “cure” for dyslexia—it’s a condition that’s hard-wired into the brain caused by inherited traits—but most children with dyslexia are capable of succeeding in school with tutoring or focused educational assistance. Thanks to awareness, research, and technological advances, plenty of options are now available to help kids previously referred to as “stupid” or “lazy” achieve great things and be the next Albert Einstein. Or Steven Spielberg. Or Ozzy Osbourne.
You might or might not remember typewriters, but their use is responsible for many of the type crimes committed today.
Typewriters had a very limited keyboard, and did not accommodate many of the typographically correct characters we use in professional typesetting. Quotation marks and apostrophes are one example of this: although different from inch and foot marks, they are all represented by the same keys on a typewriter.
But when setting type in the professional arena (as opposed to just “typing”), they are separate and different glyphs.
Quotations marks, also referred to as smart quotes, typographer’s quotes, and sometimes curly quotes (although they don’t have to have the curly design), are design-sensitive, that is, are designed to match the typeface they belong to.
Each typeface has different versions for the left and right (or open and closed) quotes. Apostrophes, which are use to indicate possession and omission, are actually the same, exact glyph used for the single, closed quote, and therefore are also design-sensitive.
Inch and foot marks, also called primes, are different from quotation marks in that they more neutral in appearance (as opposed to matching each typeface), and are either straight or slightly angled, and usually tapered. The glyphs used to set primes are most often the typewriter quotes (also referred to as straight or dumb quotes) available in most fonts, which are vertical strokes.
Note that true primes are slightly angled, but since they are not available in most fonts, the vertical typewriter quotes are the accepted glyphs for measurements in typesetting.
How to Avoid the Wrong Symbol
If the differences between smart and dumb quotes are so obvious, why do we see so many incorrect appearances of these characters in both print and digital media? Part of the fault lies with writers who were taught to type using old-fashioned typewriter conventions, and are not aware of the differences between these characters in proper typesetting.
Either that or they know the differences but don’t know how to access the right character in word processing software. In other cases, copy is lifted from the web, a PDF document, or from an email – all of which can result in quotes and primes being improperly designated.
Even if the copy does contain smart quotes, there are some instances that might still be wrong.
All text should be reviewed for the accurate use of primes in measurements, which might have automatically – and incorrectly – been converted to smart quotes. In addition, be sure to check that abbreviations, contractions and omissions, or all words that should begin with an apostrophe, in fact, do, rather than an open single quote.
But no matter how copy appears, it is up to the designer, production artist, and webmaster/programmer to make it right. Here are some tips to help get it right:
- Begin with typographically correct copy. The default setting of most design software is to automatically use Typographer’s Quotes when typing, but this is not true for all word-processing programs. Therefore, set these preferences to convert to smart quotes. Another way to correct these errors is to use a utility such as Tex-Edit Plus that can clean up a document in seconds.
- Import text properly, using the Place command available in most design software. When using InDesign, select Show Import Options where you can choose the Option to Use Typographer’s Quotes.
- Review imported text and make sure all measurement are set with primes, not smart quotes.
- Check for apostrophes (and not open single quotes) in contractions.
- Always proof the final text carefully.
Smart Punctuation in Digital Media
The same rules and standards for printed matter apply to digital media as well, but the process of applying them might be different. If the copy is formatted correctly, smart quotes might appear automatically when inserted in digital media such as web sites, but in other cases, they will need to be replaced with HTML codes to appear correctly.
When using content management systems (CMS) such as WordPress or Drupal, the ability to set these special characters (as they are often called) is often controlled by preferences in the back end. But even when set to display smart quotes, you might loose the ability to change them back to primes or apostrophes. Additionally, not all email clients (such as Constant Contact) support “smart” punctuation.
Setting type like a pro requires close attention to these – and many other details. No matter what role one plays in the process, it is important that all involved know the proper usage of quotes and primes, and review for their correct appearance.
Let’s face it: back-to-school fonts tend to be boring and cheesy. So much chalkboard! So many bubble letters! That’s why for the month of September we’re bringing you a fonts roundup that’s as escapist as it gets. Introducing: FONTS FROM SPACE! A selection of typefaces that will get you not just out of school, but out of the atmosphere… into the stratosphere… and straight into the intergalactic.
Revisiting our own school days got us into a retro frame of mind.
First, Space Age makes the introductions:
Then, Orbitron shoots us into orbit.
Warning! Things may get dramatica with Plasmatica.
Of course, designers have different aesthetics. If you feel the space age theme is a little thin…
…try Quarterly BRK…
Meanwhile, if your design process is starting to feel a little robotic…
…maybe you’ll want to check out Anita:
But you can always preserve your humanity. With these typefaces humans and cyborgs can really have a dialogue.
Dual Font asks:
Terminal Dosis answers:
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.
Typographic terminology is sometimes very specific, and the nuances can be confusing. Understanding the distinctions will enable you to communicate more clearly, typographically speaking, and help you to make the best use of your fonts and software.
Character vs. glyph: A character is the symbol representing an individual letter, numeral, punctuation, sign, symbol, accent, or other elements in a typeface. A glyph is the actual representation of that character.
Several glyphs may represent one character, such as the lowercase a being represented by the default lowercase a, swash version, small cap, and superior a.
Typeface vs. font: A typeface is all the letters, numbers, punctuation, and other signs and symbols of a language system designed in a particular style.
A font (in today’s digital world) is a complete character set of a particular weight and style of a typeface in digital form. It is the delivery mechanism of a typeface, and is considered software.
Each font consists of one digital outline for every glyph, which then can be scaled to any size. In the days of metal type, a font was one version of a typestyle in one particular size. A typeface would then consist of many fonts, one for each size: thus Caslon Regular 10 point was one font, while every other size was considered a different font.
Italic vs. oblique: Italics are a slanted typestyle most commonly designed as a companion to a roman, or upright version.
It is usually a unique and separate design, and is often somewhat calligraphic in nature. Oblique refers to a slanted version of its upright companion with few or no design changes other than the angle. (A proper oblique is designed by the typeface designer, and not slanted by a computer command.)
Although these two terms have slightly different meanings, not all typefaces apply the technically correct term. For instance, in the many versions and rereleases of Helvetica, one can see both italic and oblique used for the name of the same design.
Slash vs. fraction bar: The slash (aka forward slash) is a diagonal line going from upper right to lower left, occasionally extending slightly below the baseline.
It is easily found on the keyboard, and is frequently used in numerical dates as in 1/25/58, as a substitute for a conjunction such as in East/West and Y/N, math and ratios, and URLs.
The fraction bar is also a diagonal line, but it is on a more extreme angle, and extends from the cap height to the baseline, and not above or below as do some slashes. It is designed specifically for diagonal fractions, and thus its width and weight is sensitive to each typeface design.
Diagonal vs. nut fractions: Diagonal fractions are those where the numerator and denominator are separated by a diagonal stroke (usually a fraction bar), while nut fractions, also called stacked or vertical fractions, are those where the top and bottom numerals are separated by a horizontal line.
Diagonal fractions are used for proportions, ratios and percentages, while nut fractions are frequently used in – but not limited to – math and scientific formulas.
Kerning vs. tracking: Kerning in the digital world is the addition or reduction of space between a pair of characters to improve the overall balance and consistency of the spacing.
Tracking, on the other hand, is the digital term for the addition or reduction of spacing between a range of characters.
This can be used to improve the overall spacing of a font at a particular size, or to create the appearance of a more open, letterspaced look, usually reserved for a brief, all cap setting.
Widow vs. orphan: A widow is a word, hyphenated word, or several short words that appear at the end of a paragraph.
They are considered undesirable in fine typography as they create a visual hole, whether they appear in-between two paragraphs, or on the bottom of a column of type.
An orphan, on the other hand, is similar, in that it too is a word, hyphenated word, or several short words, but appearing at the top of a column.
Orphans also create a visual hole in a line of type, resulting in a disturbance of the alignment and symmetry at the top of one or more columns. Both should be checked for towards the end of a project, and fixed if possible, either by altering the line breaks or column width, or by editing the copy to either eliminate the short line, or lengthen it.
Monospaced vs. proportional spacing: A monospaced font is one in which each character has the same total width (the width of the glyph plus the space added to the right and left) as in typewriter type as well as tabular ﬁgures.
The width and design of some glyphs are occasionally altered to create a better fit within the fixed width of the font.
Proportional spacing is the spacing used in most typefaces where each character has a unique width in proportion to the shape of each glyph.
Copyeditor vs. proofreader: A copy editor checks the text for accuracy, clarity, usage, consistency of style, as well as house style, if a requirement. This is most often done at the beginning of the design and typesetting process.
A proofreader is generally the last person to check the text before (and sometimes after) it goes into final production, whether it be print or digital media.
It usually consists of checking for spelling, grammar and tense, syntax, punctuation, extra spaces, and sometimes font size, styling, and other characteristics.