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Want to learn how to use our flagship font manager Suitcase Fusion 7? We’ve made it easy by creating a large number of videos that go through all of the basics of setup and use.

This video covers adding fonts to Suitcase Fusion. Get started with your font journey here.

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Comparing Rs between Helvetica and Arial

One of the most pronounced differences between Helvetica (shown in black) and Arial (shown in aqua) can be found in the cap R. You can also see Arial’s slightly higher waistline in this example.

Helvetica and Arial are two of the most commonly used typefaces. They are frequently used for print, the web, and other digital uses.

Most designers know they are not the same design (and might even express a snobbish preference for one), but if asked, are hard pressed to be able to tell you what those 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.


Design Differences

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.

Other differences between the two typefaces are noted in the next three illustrations.

Other differences between the two typefaces are noted in the next three illustrations.



The differences between Helvetica and Arial are most noticeable in larger sizes, while they look fairly similar in smaller text. Excerpt from 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, By Charles C. Mann.

The differences between Helvetica and Arial are most noticeable in larger sizes, while they look fairly similar in smaller text. Excerpt from 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, By Charles C. Mann.


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.


The differences between Helvetica and Neue Helvetica are subtle yet significant: wider rounded shapes, a wider arm on the r, extended crossbars, and larger punctuation.

The differences between Helvetica and Neue Helvetica are subtle yet significant: wider rounded shapes, a wider arm on the r, extended crossbars, and larger punctuation.


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.

One of the biggest problems with Helvetica Neue Ultra Light and Thin (heading and text, respectively) is their use for text and other smaller settings, due to their very tight spacing (upper). This can be improved by opening the tracking as needed: +50 for the heading set in Ultra Light, and +40 for the text set in Thin (lower) in this example.

One of the biggest problems with Helvetica Neue Ultra Light and Thin (heading and text, respectively) is their use for text and other smaller settings, due to their very tight spacing (upper). This can be improved by opening the tracking as needed: +50 for the heading set in Ultra Light, and +40 for the text set in Thin (lower) in this example.

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UTS-Fly-FontRiskAssessment-CheckList-EN-ThumbFonts are seemingly innocuous pieces of software, but when treated improperly can cause big problems for you, your team, and even your entire company.

The problems that fonts can cause come in many forms, from the mere embarrassment of a client, all the way up to multi-million dollar lawsuits.

These are a few ways font problems can be created:

  • Casual font copying & trading
  • Misuse of open source fonts
  • Under-licensing of fonts
  • Distribution of fonts to outside groups
  • No formal internal training procedures
  • Misunderstanding of copyright laws
  • Inadvertent or overt font piracy

Font compliance issues like these have caught many teams off guard, and it hasn’t been limited to one type of organization. Presidential candidates, toy manufacturers, broadcasters, publishers and creative agencies have all had serious issues with font compliance.

To help you assess your risk, we’ve put together a free tool – Font Compliance & Risk Assessment Tool.

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dc jpeg

If you don’t know David Carson, you should. One of the world’s most distinctive—and most imitated—type designers, his boundary-busting typography broke the mold for how type on a page could look, and ushered in a new vision of type and page design. Complex listed him among the 30 most influential designers of all time, and Apple selected him as one of their 30 most innovative users, calling him “a pioneer with a profound impact.” David’s first book is The End of Print, and his latest, a collection of his recent work, is Trek. We are over the moon that David joined us for our mini-interview series, 4 Questions 4.


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


When I was designing the music magazine Ray Gun, people were sending me fonts from all over the world, hoping they would get used in the magazine. The internet was still in its early stages, and font designers needed exposure for their work. Back then they looked primarily to print for that. Seeing all these fonts I was being sent sparked my interest in font design. I started a font company called Garage Fonts. I thought that was a good name at the time, and better-sounding than “homemade” or “grunge”! We sold many of the fonts that I used in Ray Gun through Garage Fonts.


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

I’m enjoying seeing a continued and renewed interest in those done by hand. Early on, I was against trying to do fonts that looked hand-done on the computer, but font design has come a long way since then. I enjoy new twists on old, traditional fonts, and I think it’s important that fonts have a unique feel or personality. That is often best achieved in subtle ways.


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

I’m proud I designed my poster for the movie Helvetica in Franklin Gothic! (Laughs)


I’d say my early magazine work with Beach Culture Magazine, along with work from the band Nine Inch Nails is what I’m most proud of. My work for Microsoft and Armani were also unique challenges. Both involved finessing the traditional fonts they’d used for all their branding materials. Those I’m pretty proud of.


But I hope the work I’m most proud of is still to come. I’m currently designing the look and feel, and fonts, for the world’s first PAV (personal air vehicle, i.e. flying car). That is a completely different audience and product, so its a great challenge. Hopefully this fall you’ll see the results.


4. Describe your dream project.

I think I’ve done a few of them already. I’ve been given an unusual amount of freedom in my career, due in part to my early success with the magazine work. Any project that gives me a lot of creative freedom, and a new topic or audience, is great. So is good visibility. And if the design can be for something that actually helps make the world a bit better or humane, then that’s extra special.

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Font auto-activation plug-ins can make your design work much more efficient.

Learn how to implement and use the new plug-ins for Adobe Creative Cloud and QuarkXPress in Suitcase Fusion 7.

Ready to check out a font manager for yourself?

Download a fully-functional, free 30-day trial of Suitcase Fusion 7.

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Font Founders: John Baskerville The next in our Font Founders series is John Baskerville (1706–1775), the English businessman, printer, & type designer, who said: “So much depends on appearing perfect.”

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7947d7339601a6f2b0cb3c5c91d7e526Planning in advance pays off, and it’s no different when implementing a font management strategy. Join me for this Designcast where I will share best practices to help you build out a strategy that will help you:

  • Efficiently distribute your font collection
  • Keep everyone’s fonts in sync
  • Understand your team’s font usage
  • Maintain a legally licensed font collection
  • And more


July 21, 2016

10:00 AM – 11:00 AM Pacfic
1:00 PM – 2:00 PM Eastern


I will share pro tips and key questions to get you well underway in developing your strategy, such as:

  • Who is currently buying and using fonts in your organization?
  • How many team members need access to your fonts?
  • Do you have any new production workflows that need to be supported?
  • How can a font server help ensure software compliance?

Join me for the webcast


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Whether you’re new to font management, or an old pro, it’s easy to get started using Suitcase Fusion.

We’ve made it even easier by recording videos that cover the few steps that you’ll need to take.

Ready to give it a shot yourself?

Download a free 30-day trial of Suitcase Fusion 7.

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SS w Rothko edit

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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