The jargon words
We now have to accept font (as the Americans with an uncharacteristic economy took to calling it) as an alternative to fount, even though a font is really what contains the holy water that is used in baptisms in a Christian church. The word is now too widely used to resist. 'A fount of knowledge' is nevertheless a far more appropriate association.
A font is strictly speaking the contents of the two cases - upper and lower - in metal type. It could as easily be a particular size of type in photosetting systems that used different originals for each size. This perfectly proper transition became corrupted when one original was used to generate several different sizes. After that a font has sometimes come to mean all sizes of the same characters that could be found in the two typecases of yesteryear.
Font does not mean both roman and Italic, roman being the characters with upright stems, and italic being the specially drawn and more calligraphic characters that usually accompany a roman font for emphasis. Computer programs sometimes fudged an italic by sloping the roman. These are called sloping or sloped romans, even when they were deliberately designed by somebody who should have known better.
A family is all the fonts that comprise a group, as in Bunface Light, Bunface Light Italic, Bunface, Bunface Italic, Bunface Bold and Bunface Bold Italic.
Some families will also include other weights, like Semi-Bold or Book, and fonts that have been Condensed or Extended, or any combination of these two, weight and aspect ratio.
Here is a term that is increasingly misused.
Weight is strictly an indication of the amount of vertical thickness in the characters of a font. A light font has a much thinner stem than does a medium one, while medium is thinner than semi-bold, which in turn is lighter than a bold.
The four fonts Crumbun Light , Crumbun Light Italic, Crumbun and Crumbun Italic are four fonts, or four members of the same family. But they cover only two weights.
A certain random carelessness has seeped into the terminology of weight, which Adrian Frutiger, among others, tried to correct. His Univers went from 3 which was Extra Light, through to 8, which was Extra Bold. He carried this on to the second digit as well, so that all the 5s were the roman shape, the 7 the condensed shape, the 3s the extended shape, and the 4, 6 and 8 the italics of 3, 5 and 7. Thus, Univers 58 was Univers Medium Condensed Italic.
The main weights on offer these days are Extra Light, Light, Book, Medium, Semi-bold, Bold, Extra Bold and Black. In photocomposition there was some sense to this, but not much. On low resolution devices like a computer screen, where a stem at small sizes can really only be one or two pixels thick, there is no room for such subtleties.
Even colour is what we aim for. It is spoiled occasionally by bad design, one letter looking too dark or too light compared to the others. It is more often spoiled by bad spacing, letters being crammed together in one place and set loosely in another. Either of these conditions create blotches of a different intensity in a word or page, and these blotches distract legibility.
Kerning is the reducing of the space allocated to one or both sides of a letter to make it fit more comfortably with its neighbour, to improve the colour in a word. It makes a better word when cap combinations like LT or AV occur. It even improves word shapes like 'Today', bringing the T a little closer to the o. But since computer setting has made kerning particularly easy, there is far too much setting in which legibility has actually been impaired by over-kerning. Most of the letter shapes we know were designed so that well-distributed weight would compensate for their odd shapes, so that they did fit well with nearly all of their possible neighbours. With over-kerning a pair like rn, set too close together, becomes indistinguishable from an m.
should not be confused with kerning. Tracking is an overall increase or decrease in letter spacing over a line, or over more than a line, to make it fit better.
2. Lines are strokes |
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