Fonts – The History & Basics

Fonts – The History & Basics

Font History and Font Formats

There are different font formats – which one should I choose?

OpenType fonts (.OTF) – OpenType is a scalable format for computer fonts that was initially developed by Microsoft(TM), then later joined by Adobe(TM) Systems. OpenType fonts were first announced in 1996 and Adobe(TM) completed conversion of its entire font library to OpenType around the end of 2002. In 2005, there were around 10,000 fonts available in OpenType font format, with Adobe’s font library making up under a third of the total. As of 2006, every major font foundry and many minor ones were developing fonts in OpenType font format. TrueType fonts (TT or .TTF) – TrueType is a digital font technology that was designed by Apple(TM) Computer, and is now used by both Apple (Mac(TM)) and Microsoft (PC) in their operating systems. Microsoft has distributed millions of quality TrueType fonts in thousands of different styles. TrueType fonts offer the highest possible quality on computer screens, printers, and include a wide range of features which make them very easy to use. PostScript Fonts (Type 1) – PostScript fonts predates TrueType by about six years.

First, there were many different font formats for digital fonts, none of which were standardized. Then Apple adopted Adobe’s PostScript page description language (PDL) for its Apple LaserWriter printer in 1985. This, combined with the introduction of desktop publishing software, sparked a revolution in page layout technology.

ClearType Fonts – Microsoft ClearType fonts are an unprecedented innovation in font display technology that dramatically improves font display resolution and marks a genuine breakthrough in screen readability. These Microsoft fonts were designed by Microsoft and leading type designers and font technologists to improve the reading experience in Windows Vista(TM) and Microsoft Office 2007(TM). With ClearType font technology, the fonts on your computer screen look almost as sharp and clear as those printed on a piece of paper. The choice of font format is mostly based on the kind of documents you create and your computer environment. Here are some general guidelines:

OpenType TT OpenType TT fonts contain TrueType® outlines, and have a .TTF file extension. This is the default font format of both Macintosh and Windows systems. OpenType fonts with TrueType outlines are popular among home users and both small and large businesses or other enterprises.

OpenType PS OpenType PS fonts contain PostScript® outlines, and have a .OTF file extension. OpenType PS fonts are replacing Type 1 fonts as users upgrade their systems.

Type 1 PostScript Type 1 is the original font format that was part of the desktop publishing revolution that started in 1985. Type 1 fonts for PostScript and PostScript compatible printers consist of more than one file and have a limited character set. These limitations are overcome with OpenType fonts.

Font Characteristics Font Weight There are three basic categories of font weights: light, regular, and bold. The regular font weight for most typefaces is slightly lighter than medium. Many computer fonts for Microsoft Office, Web and common use come with a normal, regular and a bold weight.

Font Weight relative order:

  • thin
  • ultra light
  • extra light
  • light
  • semi light
  • book
  • regular, (roman), plain, normal
  • medium
  • demi bold or semi bold
  • bold
  • extra bold
  • heavy
  • black
  • extra black
  • ultra

Font Width

  • compressed, condensed, narrow
  • wide, extended

Font Families

There are a multitude of typefaces that have been created over the centuries and they are commonly categorized into font families according to their appearance.

At the highest level, one can differentiate between blackletter, serif, sans serif, and decorative fonts.

1. Blackletter Fonts

Blackletter fonts were the earliest fonts used with the invention of the printing press. They resemble the artistic handwritings of cloisters in the Middle Ages and fall into three groups:

  • Gothic fonts and Old English Text – Of all the blackletter fonts, the Gothic ones most closely resemble the Textura calligraphy used with manual copying of books. A Gothic typeface was thus also carved by Johannes Gutenberg when he printed his 42-line Bible, including a large number of ligatures and common abbreviations. While in Germany, Gothic fonts were quickly displaced, they remained in use in great variance and are frequently also referred to as Old English Text fonts.
  • Schwabacher typefaces were predominant in Germany from about 1480 to 1530. Most importantly, all of the works of Martin Luther, leading to the Protestant Reformation, as well as the Apocalypse of Albrect Durer (1498) were printed in this typeface. It was probably initially used by Johannes Bamler, a printer from Augsburg, in 1472. The origins of the font name are unclear; some assume that the font was designed by a typeface carver from the village of Schwabach who worked externally and was thus referred to as the Schwabacher.
  • Most commonly known among the blackletter fonts as those of the Fraktur font family, which stated when Emperor Maximilian I (1493 – 1519) established a series of books and had a new typeface created specifically for this purpose. Fraktur faces were widely used in Germany until the end of World War II.

2. Serif Fonts

Serif fonts are divided into four font groups:

  • Renaissance – this font type has a slight difference in thickness within each font. This font category includes the Garamond(TM) and Palatino(TM) font families.
  • Baroque – this font type has a thickness within each font with greater variety. This font category includes the Baskerville(TM) and Times New Roman(TM) font families.
  • Classicist – the most variance of thickness with each font. This font category includes the Bodoni(TM) and Century Schoolbook(TM) font families.
  • Modern fonts – these fonts are designed mainly for decorative purposes. This font category includes the Rockwell(TM) and Amasis(TM) font families.

3. Sans Serif Fonts

Sans Serif fonts first appeared to be the “Egyptian” font released in 1816 by William Caslons’ foundry in England. The Sans Serif fonts are commonly used for display applications such as signage, headings and other applications where the font is needed to stand out and continuous reading is not a requirement.

Sans Serif fonts are divided into four font groups:

  • Grotesque – This font category includes the Grotesque(TM) or Royal Gothic fonts.
  • Neo-grotesques – This font category includes the Standard, Arial(TM) and Univers(TM) fonts.
  • Humanist – This font category includes the Gill Sans(TM) or Frutiger(TM) fonts.
  • Geometric – This font category includes the Futura(TM) or Spartan(TM) fonts.

Other common Sans Serif fonts include: Lucida(TM), Tahoma(TM) and Verdana(TM) fonts.

How to Download fonts makes is easy for you to download the font. For every item that you purchase there will be a download link on the order confirmation page. Additionally, the receipt that is automatically emailed to you will also have the links.