Better term for "Virtual Typefaces"? Wikipedia category

Hey guys,

So, somebody on Wikipedia has been fairly successfully propagating the label "virtual typefaces" for what I would call digital typefaces or digital fonts. That category has been getting applied to many typefaces, apparently the distinction being that they are *only* available in digital form, and were not phototype or metal typefaces.

So, two related questions:

1) I might argue that every typeface that is available in digital form should also get the same label (whatever that label is). Agree or disagree?

2) I think the label "virtual typeface" is silly. Nobody uses that term that I am aware of, except this one person. The actual link redirects to "computer font." Some possible labels:

  • Computer typeface
  • Digital typeface
  • Virtual typeface

For the category label, "font" does not work so well because we are indeed talking about "typefaces" (the entire family).

What do you prefer?

Personally, I prefer "digital" over "computer" because these fonts are used on many devices that are not thought of as computers, even if they do have computer chips inside them.

Thomas Phinney's picture

Off topic much?

I mean, I actually find the discussion interesting, but it seems a bit far off of “virtual typefaces”....

T

hrant's picture

I can let people like David get away with distorting my views*, but -unless a moderator tells us to stop- I can't let them get away with distorting genocide, especially when one of them is mine.

* Like I did here: http://typophile.com/node/98443?page=1

hhp

Chris Dean's picture

@John Hudson: Re your (our) definitions of font and typeface, I think for the most part we mean the same thing but with different words. In the context of metal, I define Univers—all sizes, all styles—as a typeface. Nine point Univers 45 light is a font. Do you agree?

I am working at my friends farm for the next while and am away from my library so I can’t provide any proper references (as formatted in a previous thread: Two space, or not two space?)

I will most certainly do so as soon as I return as clear operational definitions are essential to this sort of discourse.

John Hudson's picture

Chris: In the context of metal, I define Univers—all sizes, all styles—as a typeface. Nine point Univers 45 light is a font. Do you agree?

No. I thought I'd been pretty clear: the term typeface does not refer to a family, it refers to one stylistically homogeneous component of that family, e.g. the roman design or the italic design or a particular weight. Univers is not a typeface, it is a family of typefaces.

Now, I fully accept that many people -- me included -- use the term typeface in a general and imprecise way to refer to a typeface family, but this is a form of synecdoche -- pars pro toto --, or simply abveviation. So, for instance, one says commonly that 'I admire the design of the Univers typeface', when what one probably means is that one admires the design of the whole family.

But the more precise use is important because one sometimes wants to talk about the individual members of a typeface family, i.e. to talk about the individual typefaces.

A font is always a technical instantiation of a typeface, part of a typeface or, in the case of MM fonts for instance, more than one typeface. I think this is the fundamental concept to bear in mind when using the word font: it refers to a functional thing within the context of a given technology, not to a design, and that thing may be a tray of metal sorts, a case of brass matrices, a film strip or glass disk, or a computer binary file (or files in the case of e.g. PS Type 1 fonts). It is the functionality of the thing that defines its 'fontiness'.
_____

PS. I have no doubt that, when you return to your library, you will find numerous citations to contradict my definitions, and to contradict each other. You will also find many, many sources that use the word 'character' to refer to what we now tend to call 'glyphs'. Over the past twenty years some of us who have worked in font development have found a need, unsurprisingly, to be able to talk precisely and unambiguously about the things we have to deal with on a daily basis. That has meant introducing distinctions that didn't used to exist, or to clarify and be more consistent in our use of existing distinctions. There is no way to talk clearly about the ins-and-outs of text encoding and text display without a distinction between character and glyph. Likewise, there's a professional usefulness in clearly distinguishing between typefaces and fonts, although most people in common usage do not.

Chris Dean's picture

Do you have quotations from primary sources with references to support your definitions? I have not heard the terms defined this way before.

John Hudson's picture

I am a primary source. So is Thomas. We've been at this a long time, and have developed working definitions that enable us to talk clearly about the work we do.

John Hudson's picture

Maybe it will help if I parse your Univers example.

In the context of metal, I define Univers—all sizes, all styles—as a typeface. Nine point Univers 45 light is a font. Do you agree?

Univers is a typeface family.

Univers 45 light 9pt is a typeface, i.e. it is an individually homogeneous design component of the Univers typeface family. [We're talking about metal here, so individual sizes also constitute separate typefaces because they are individually homogenous designs.]

A font is any technological instantiation of that typeface. In the case of foundry type, this will usually be regarded as a single case of type with all the characters needed to set text in that typeface, i.e. in that style and size. If someone is working with more languages than are supported by a single case, they might have more than one font for the single typeface. In the case of hot metal type, the font will be a set of brass matrices, and again they might have more than one depending on the extent of their character needs.

That a single typeface might require more than one font in a particular technology in order to meet the functional needs of the typesetter should alert one to the disadvantage of saying 'Nine point Univers 45 light is a font'. Such usage provides you with no way to discuss technological particularities. Note also that if you talk with letterpress typesetters, they will not say 'I have the 9pt Univers 45 font'; they will say 'I have a font of 9pt Univers 45', by which they mean they have a case of that typeface.

hrant's picture

I am a primary source.

Ah, well put! :-)

hhp

charles ellertson's picture

Do you have quotations from primary sources with references to support your definitions? I have not heard the terms defined this way before.

John's right, he is a source. But in the greater scheme of things, just what *counts* a "source"? I just wrote a chapter in a book (pub date 10 June 2013) that *may* get into this distinction, does that make me a source?

But an earlier work: here is the definition of Typeface from the Glossary of Typesetting Terms, Chicago: 1994, page 106 (& part of the series, Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing.

Typeface: One of the variations or styles in a type family. The design of a type family, including its shape, weight, and proportions, makes it distinct, but it usually exists in many sizes. See also Appendix 3.

I'd note that this was written before the significance of PostScript fonts, and one of our authors included a Brit -- though an LCP rather than a Reading graduate... The definition of font, for example, suffers because only metal and photocomp are considered.

Edit:

Sources do matter, of course. Here's another definition of virtual

Another word used in place of "cool" or "awesome" by urban white punk kids

(From the urban dictionary...)

Rob O. Font's picture

"Off topic much?"

Hell no, we found out Hrant's a virtual voter.

Thomas Phinney's picture

John wrote:
> I am a primary source. So is Thomas. We've been at this a long time, and have developed working definitions that enable us to talk clearly about the work we do.

I am flattered, but unfortunately on this particular issue, we disagree! I use the word “typeface” like Charles E and Chris D. That is also a clear majority usage within our industry, at least as of four years ago: http://www.thomasphinney.com/2009/04/font-terms-survey-results/

John Hudson's picture

Thomas, as far as I can tell, Charles and Chris are not using the word typeface in the same way. Chris is using typeface to mean type family, while Charles appears to agree with me that a typeface is one part of a type family. The definition that he cites from the Chicago glossary of typesetting terms is pretty much identical to my usage.

[That definition is from 1994, so I take its reference to multiple sizes to imply scalable type. In discussing metal type, I expect there are people who don't treat size as a constituting individual typefaces, i.e. who would consider 9pt Fubar Italic and 10pt Fubar Italic to be a single typeface, but I think that usage is influenced by pantographic production in which different sizes are closely related designs. If one looks at older types, and at things like Koch's Neuland, in which the individual sizes are quite distinctive and may even involve different letter shapes -- consider the variation of the shape of Q in Caslon's different sizes of text type -- it quickly becomes obvious that a generalised definition shouldn't treat different sizes as a single typeface.]
_____

I'm interested in terminology that enables one to talk precisely about phenomena. The use of typeface to mean typeface family and font to mean individual typeface, while common -- as your survey revealed --, strikes me simply as hopelessly inadequate to actually talk about the phenomena of typeface designs, their organisation in families and their instantiation in specific technologies.

John Hudson's picture

BTW, Thomas, looking at your survey results, I see that among type industry professionals 73.2% responded that 'A typeface is the abstract design; a font is a computer file instantiating a typeface in a specific format' -- which is pretty much my definition of font, at least in the digital context (I don't like the word 'abstract' in referring to the typeface design, though) --, and only 47.9% considered typeface to encompass more than a single style and font to mean an individual style. Given the total number of respondents and the number of positive responses to the proposed definitions, it appears that some people overlooked the contradictions between them; this might have been a problem with the design of the survey.

charles ellertson's picture

John, no, differences in sizes wasn't particularly a reference to scalable type. We were including metal type, and remember, with photocomp, there could be different masters, an 8-point, a 12-point, an 18-point, all for the same type family. We were talking about differences in *design.*

But the point that the Glossary is from a time before PostScript is relevant, partly technical, particularly in a legal/sales context. Take "font protection": A font would only work on one brand of machine, sometimes only one individual machine. Linotron 202 fonts took advantage of a chip in the typesetting machine, so if you bought a new 202, you couldn't just load your old fonts into the new machine. Some similarities to PostScript fonts there, but I doubt the notion of copyright was the same.

Anyway, back to scaling type -- any number of books composed in hot metal were scaled in printing. People forget that the metal type was good for only about 5-7 thousand impressions. You don't print a best-selling author from the type as set, you make stereo plates, or pull repro and print offset. With repro & the subsequent camera work, you can scale. I doubt, for example, my first edition of Rex Stout's The Doorbell Rang was really set to a 21 pica, nine point measure. From the look of it, probably set to 2o picas & shot up a bit.

Chris Dean's picture

@John Hudson: I in no way refuting or discounting your knowledge, skill, and experience. Quite the contrary. You are significantly more specialized and experienced than I in this field. And most other Typophiles for that matter.

“I am a primary source“

To the best of my knowledge, you would have to be the originator of those terms to be a primary source. If you heard or read them somewhere and they are unavailable for reference, that would make you a secondary or indirect source, but a source none the less. A formal APA example:

————
A font is any technological instantiation of that typeface. In the case of foundry type, this will usually be regarded as a single case of type with all the characters needed to set text in that typeface, i.e. in that style and size. If someone is working with more languages than are supported by a single case, they might have more than one font for the single typeface. In the case of hot metal type, the font will be a set of brass matrices, and again they might have more than one depending on the extent of their character needs.

That a single typeface might require more than one font in a particular technology in order to meet the functional needs of the typesetter should alert one to the disadvantage of saying 'Nine point Univers 45 light is a font'. Such usage provides you with no way to discuss technological particularities. Note also that if you talk with letterpress typesetters, they will not say 'I have the 9pt Univers 45 font'; they will say 'I have a font of 9pt Univers 45', by which they mean they have a case of that typeface.” (Hudson, J. 2013).

Hudson, J. (2013, May 06). Re: Better term for "Virtual Typefaces"? Wikipedia category [Online forum comment]. Retrieved from http://typophile.com/node/102722
————

However,

We've been at this a long time, and have developed working definitions that enable us to talk clearly about the work we do.

If this is the case, perhaps we are indeed in the midst of (re)defining these terms. Which is quite likely given the multitude changing technologies, and quite exciting too. I am fully aware of the phenomenon of biolinguistics and it has to start somewhere.

The very genesis of this thread is indeed about the development of language and meaning.

Perhaps requesting a “primary source” wasn’t what I was going for. I was simply interested if there is documentation of someone else using this language the same way as yourself.

@charles ellertson:

“John's right, he is a source. But in the greater scheme of things, just what *counts* a "source"?

That’s a pretty big question. I would have to do a bit of digging to provide you with a formal answer, but as mentioned earlier, I’m working on a friends farm right now sans-library, and there is daylight, which means I need to put things in the ground. To the best of my ability, and under these conditions, I would say that a source is artifact (book, article, radio interview &c) someone references, that another person could then find at a later date and validate. Without sources, the statement would be considered anecdotal.

I just wrote a chapter in a book (pub date 10 June 2013) that *may* get into this distinction, does that make me a source?”

Yes, this makes you a source. In fact, according to APA, you already are a source:

Ellertson, C. (2013). Title of work. Unpublished work [or “Manuscript
submitted for publication, or “Work in publication”]

And in all instances, one must always be mindful of a source’s reliability.

I wish I had more time to spend. This is a great discussion. I look forward to seeing what has transpired after the sun goes down.

charles ellertson's picture

Yes, this makes you a source. In fact, according to APA, you already are a source:

Ellertson, C. (2013). Title of work. Unpublished work [or “Manuscript
submitted for publication, or “Work in publication”]

But I don't remember if I talked about "typeface" versus "font." Maybe not. I know I covered "character" versus "glyph." Remember I went back & changed a lot of "foundries" to "publishers" in the text itself, but probably not all. It's really hard to go back to something you wrote, even for a quick look. Nothing like having all your mistakes shoved in your face, esp. when it's you-yourself doing the shoving...

Chris Dean's picture

A quote/reference example I meant to use earlier:

To me John Hudson is Typophile's most valuable member (and yes, I am counting myself :-).

Papazian, H. H. (2013). Re: Suggestion: move Type ID Board to top of Forum Menu [Online forum comment]. Retrieved from http://typophile.com/node/101437

John Hudson's picture

Wow. That was very nice of Hrant to say that, and until this moment preserving of my humility to put it in a thread that I was pretty much guaranteed not to read.

dezcom's picture

Digital Type.

Thomas Phinney's picture

John: See the answers to question 3 as well.

John Hudson's picture

Yes, I saw those, but they simply don't make any sense to me. Saying that the definition of a 'single typeface' is 'a family of one or more styles' just means that you've made the terms 'typeface' and 'typeface family' synonymous. That doesn't seem useful. And your question didn't provide the option 'It is a single style within a typeface family', so that thought, which seems the most obvious definition to me, wasn't presented to respondents to consider.

People will doubtless draw different conclusions from your data, but I'm afraid what conclude is that a) a lot of people have not thought about this very systematically, and b) the survey could have been better designed.

Question 4 employs the phrase 'a single face/style of a font family'. In this phrase 'face' -- which I presume corresponds to 'typeface' and not to some other kind of face -- is equated to a single style, which is my own usage.

____

I've got nothing against sloppy language in any informal context. I'll regularly refer, pars pro toto, to 'type' or 'typeface' when I mean a type family -- e.g. 'Neuland is a great display type' --, just like most other folks do in casual conversation, but I'm aware that in such a situation I am employing a synecdoche, not a careful analytical terminology. If one wants to be able to accurately describe a complex of phenomena then one needs a systematic terminology that enables distinction of those phenomena.

Nick Shinn's picture

That’s all very well John, but few people, professional or amateur, are going to agree with you that Caslon Regular and Caslon Bold are different typefaces.

I have always referred to my font families as typefaces.
As far as I’m concerned, that is careful analytical terminology.

I would even go so far as to say that Karloff is a typeface, because if it’s not, how can the singular principle that created and unites its family members be otherwise described? Is it a clan of families?

…the disadvantage of saying 'Nine point Univers 45 light is a font'. Such usage provides you with no way to discuss technological particularities.

Nine point Univers 45 Light (metal) is indeed not a font.
But Univers 45 Light (digital) is, and that doesn’t discount variations such as language encoding or Pro/Standard.
The default is assumed to be digital, with a minimal Latin script encoding, so there’s no need to mention that.

hrant's picture

I think Karloff is properly termed a typeface system, but calling it a typeface is potentially confusing. And I remember calling the Rotis fonts a "clan" in a short piece I once wrote for the ATypI journal. Even the regular and narrow cuts of Emigre's new Program* I might consider different typefaces.

* See my comments (in particular the second one) here: http://typographica.org/typeface-reviews/instant/

Nine point Univers 45 Light (metal) is indeed not a font.

In metal, it must be - what else to call it?

hhp

Nick Shinn's picture

John’s point is that it’s a description of the kind of type pieces which can constitute a font, but it gives no indication of which characters are present.

OK, Karloff is a typeface system.

John Hudson's picture

Nick, do you acknowledge the existence of such a thing as a 'typeface family'? You used the term 'font family', but I'm not clear if family is a concept that you apply only to fonts and not to typefaces.

John Hudson's picture

Also, can you tell me how many typefaces you consider there to be illustrated in this image, and if your answer is anything other than 'One', please explain your criteria.

John Hudson's picture

Nick: ...few people, professional or amateur, are going to agree with you that Caslon Regular and Caslon Bold are different typefaces

You may be right, but then I don't require people to agree.

I would say that Caslon Regular and Caslon Bold are coordinated designs, which together are part of a family. A family of what? Of typeface designs, each design constituting an individual typeface. A typeface, in my reckoning, is the design of a set of character representations (glyphs in modern parlance) in a single weight and style, because although other weights and styles might be coordinated with it, it also stands alone. If we want to talk about coordinated typeface designs, we can talk about families; if we want to talk groupings of e.g. larger functional sets, we can talk about typeface superfamilies or typeface systems. But families, superfamilies and systems are all made up of component designs that also stand alone. You don't need all the parts of the Caslon family in order to have a usable Caslon typeface. What do we call those things that stand alone if not typefaces (and presuming that we're reserving the word font for technical instantiations, not for designs)?

Chris Dean's picture

So now we have:

a) Virtual typeface (computer font)*
b) Typeface
c) Font
d) Family
e) Superfamily
f) System
g) Design
h) Clan
i) Scalable type
j) Typeface family
k) Font family
l) Typeface superfamily
m) Typeface designs
n) Coordinated designs

And I am probably missing some more.

We appear to be getting even farther from defining “Typeface” and ”Font.” In addition to this, we are clearly demonstrating that many of us apply different meanings to the same words, and that our definitions are are purely anecdotal (So far, Charles is the only one to provide a reference—for Typeface).

Hence the importance of providing quotations with references. With enough quotes and references, perhaps consistent definitions that we agree upon may emerge? Or perhaps we may find that not even the history books have/can answer this question. For example, two sources defining the same word differently.

In addition to providing references, perhaps individuals participating in this conversation can begin by providing their own definitions to the afore listed terms so we can at least have an organized compilation to work from.

Presently, this is a conversation between individuals about semantics (but still a good conversation).

Looks like I’ll be leaving the farm this weekend. Not sure how long until I leave the city (and regular inter internet) before it’s back to the farm. Possibly only 24h. If I have time, I’ll try to provide some more as a starting point.

If this can be achieved, we may well be in a position to assist in the formal definition of many typographic terms, or demonstrate that to date, this has not been done.

One of the better threads I have followed in some time.

*I don’t count Wikipedia as a reliable source given people can modify definitions at will without providing references.

eliason's picture

But families, superfamilies and systems are all made up of component designs that also stand alone. You don't need all the parts of the Caslon family in order to have a usable Caslon typeface. What do we call those things that stand alone if not typefaces (and presuming that we're reserving the word font for technical instantiations, not for designs)?

I think I'd be inclined to call them "typeface styles."

Do you think

After careful consideration, Brill has taken the initiative of designing a typeface. Named “the Brill”, it presents complete coverage of the Latin script..."

should actually read "...taken the initiative of designing four typefaces"?

Rob O. Font's picture

"We appear to be getting even farther from defining “Typeface” and ”Font.”

Speaking for yourself, perhaps — my upbringing's definitions of class, typeface, family, style and font are solid into the digital era, augmented by the addition of "Super-Family", changed by an even more tenuous modern attachment to the definition of "italic" than there once was, and re frontier ed by the addition of increasingly plausible virtuality.

But the old definitions still apply, like that the angles of the same width apply across weights and sizes, nothing I know changes that, or that the font class and font family names, make it possible for each foundry to have their version of that typeface from which to make fonts, and most people'll understand... nothing can change that.

There's more, to the end-nub of the smallest un-repeating terminal, but somehow ya'al'l have to argue John's extra-galactically off off-curve points back into the em of this universe, yourselves. :)

hrant's picture

Huh, I must've signed in to spokenwordophile.com by mistake.

hhp

dezcom's picture

Yes, you are missing Digital Type.

Nick Shinn's picture

Categorization often bogs down in a face-off between historico-cultural considerations (phylogenetics) and empirical description of physical features and mechancis (taxonomy).

In this case, John is arguing for the precision of taxonomy.
That can be problematic, as words don’t have accurate meanings (This and That being the only strictly logical words)—or often even a single meaning.

I lean more towards phylogenetics.

From my perspective as a digital typographer, it seems clear that the professional ecology of typography is based on the style-linked RIBBI family of fonts, going under the family name which is the typeface name, and that is how one uses fonts in a layout—with Bold and Italic variants of the Regular default for emphasis and contrast. This named-family system of font organization evolved in the early 20th century, long before Microsoft and the Web.

From my perspective as a type designer, I conceive of type families as a whole, applying the collection of design vocabulary treatments, which constitute the personality of a typeface, across the various styles in the family.

The vocabulary which constitutes a typeface is comprised of feature treatments such as x-height, serif style, amount of contrast, etc.—things which the PANOSE system quantifies.

It is the uniqueness of this vocabulary which creates the virtual concept that people can hold in their heads and use to recognize and identify a unifying principle or “look” in a type family, which transcends the individual fonts, and that is why the fons et origo of a type family needs to be identified and honored as the Typeface.

Thomas Phinney's picture

John wrote: Nick, do you acknowledge the existence of such a thing as a 'typeface family'?

I am not Nick, but I do not. I have rarely if ever heard that term before this discussion. And yes, I am saying that “font family” is a near-synonym for “typeface.” (Actually, if I wanted to be very pedantic, I might say that *technically* a font family is a typeface instantiated in one particular format or set of files.)

To me, John’s Cheltenham image shows one typeface.

John Hudson's picture

Thanks, Thomas. So you would consider this definition, cited by Charles from the Glossary of Typesetting Terms in the Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing series to be categorically incorrect, yes?

Typeface: One of the variations or styles in a type family.

_____

It seems to me that what we have is two -- hopefully not more than two, at least in broad terms -- different categorisation and labeling systems, both with some historical and conventional usage, but quite probably neither entirely systematically codified (in this, type nomenclature is similar to type design classification, but perhaps not so inherently unsolveable).

I'm beginning to see how the terminology Thomas favours can be made to cover the phenomena, especially if one includes Craig's 'typeface styles' as a label for what I term typefaces. If one can map labels to phenomena, then one can also map labels to labels, across different terminological systems. This might be a worthwhile exercise, as it would reveal the weak points or holes in either system relative to the described phenomena.
_____

Craig, the Brill blurb you cite is using the term 'typeface' as I previously described, as what I consider a synecdoche. It's a marketing text, not a technical document. If I'd written it, I would have likely phrased it thus:

After careful consideration, Brill has taken the initiative of producing a family of typefaces.

But then I'm often more precise than I need to be for the given purpose.

John Hudson's picture

As something of an aside, prising open a smaller can of worms (or can of smaller worms):

While Craig's 'typeface styles' provides a neat category for the individual coordinated designs within a typeface(family), I find the term 'style' problematic at that level of distinction, since differences in weight, size and what I would term style (italic vs roman) exist at that level. Are different weight or size designs also 'styles'? Is it satisfactory to re-use the term style in this way:

Style differences:
- style (e.g. roman vs italic)
- weight (e.g. regular vs bold)
- size (e.g. text vs display)

Thomas Phinney's picture

Yes, I would say that definition was incorrect.

I would use “style” like Craig, although “typeface style” still seems like an awkward and unfamiliar construction to me. Usually I would use “font” in that situation (although technically that would include a specific instantiation).

Chris Dean's picture

@bbg: “my upbringing's definitions of class, typeface, family, style and font are solid into the digital era.”

When you have time, could you please provide us with your definitions of these terms? Given your experience, I would consider them a significant contribution to this discussion. No references necessary. Just your own operationalizations.

Rob O. Font's picture

"Usually I would use “font” in that situation (although technically that would include a specific instantiation)."

Why argue with oneself in front of clients.

"When you have time..."

I have the time, but my feelings are, that Virtual Typeface is a great way to describe our products; Linked to "Computer Font", as it is on wikipedia, is not so good, and that's the easiest way to change things there; This thread is filled with confuseding messages, so functional definitions of class, typeface, family, style and font, device, foundry, designer, size, I'll take on elsewhere, if that's okay with your planting schedule.

quadibloc's picture

Well, I hate to contradict a primary source who knows more about this sort of stuff than I do, but I tended to think of a typeface as an entity that has a (simple) name - like "Baskerville" or "Times Roman". That includes different sizes and weights. A font, on the other hand, is a computer file, a package of little lead-antimony thingies, or a round film negative. As for 9 point Times Roman Bold, we have no good and unambiguous name for that.

However, given there are cases where the italic and the Roman of a typeface haven't really been designed to match each other - and other cases where the companion has a different name (Bembo, for example) - saying that the bold and italic are separate typefaces is something I'm OK with too.

But the point size?

Actually, that makes sense too - at least, if the shape is not invariant with size, but instead the letters are optically compensated - 6 point Century Expanded is considerably wider, in proportion to its height, than 18 point Century Expanded, for example, if you look at the ATF hot metal catalog, and the same was true for most foundry types and most Monotype types in the old days.

But I don't think it's common usage.

Instead, if one says 11 point Times Roman with long descenders, one is giving a type specification, if anything.

Using type family for the typeface name, and typeface for the spec, has its attractions, but I think that "type family" was a phrase used only by one typefounder that never really caught on with everybody else.

Chris Dean's picture

Well, I hate to contradict a primary source who knows more about this sort of stuff than I do…”

What primary source are you referring to?

dezcom's picture

A typeface is a family of integrated fonts and includes variations in weight and style.

John Hudson's picture

Thomas: To me, John’s Cheltenham image shows one typeface.

So, in effect, your meaning of the term typeface corresponds to the collection of designs that are marketed under a single trademark. This, I suppose, has the virtue of being able to refer to any such collection, however composed, without regard for the nature of the design. So, for example, Karloff is considered a typeface, despite the fact that the designs are not coordinated in any traditional way, because they are produced and marketed under that name. Such a typeface stretches conventional notions of 'styles', but you can live with that I presume.

Michel Boyer's picture

Pushing too much the "single trademark" criterion would lead to consider "Computer Modern" as a single typeface. Here is from Luc Devroye's page Computer Modern fonts (and the following picture refers to Yannis Haralambous)

I am fine with considering the serif as a single typeface but not the serif, the sans and the typewriter fonts together.

And what about Lucida? To me, it consists of many typefaces.

John Hudson's picture

I agree, Michel, but I'm trying to make sense of the criteria by which the usage of 'typeface' that Thomas and others favours can be considered general and predictable. If it doesn't refer to everything gathered under a single name, then on what basis are divisions made into what, I suppose, must be called 'sub-typefaces'?

Bear in mind that it would be nice if the generic terminology of type were not something that only worked in the context of Latin script, so simply saying something like 'presence or absence of serifs' is not an adequate description of sub-typeface division: it is necessary to describe the kind of division that such a difference constitutes, so that we can identify functional parallels.

Thomas Phinney's picture

Somewhere into here, what you are asking for, John, will confront the same problems as classification in general. There are cases that get pretty fuzzy. This is not a horrible limitation in using the term “typeface” in that way, of course; even if you disagree with the usage some of us are proposing, I think you agree that there needs to be some term or phrase oocupying that same definitional space, right?

Computer Modern, like Thesis, is a kind of meta-family or meta-typeface. I agree that at least some of its members seem like distinct typefaces. But as one can blend and morph between the various fonts and styles of Computer Modern, there will inevitably be grey areas with such a meta-family. I can think of other examples that are similarly troubling: Rotis, or Penumbra.

So in any case, no, I do not think that a collection of designs marketed under a single trademark directly defines a typeface (although at least 95% of the time it will be synonymous). Such a definition would in some cases get one in trouble. For example, Caslon Antique is definitely not a member of any broader Caslon family.

John Hudson's picture

This seems to me one of the better things I have read on this subject, from Yves Peters' FontShop article 'Styles, Weights, Widths — It’s All in the (Type) Family '. The article recognises the variance in usage, and how such variance evolved as type technology changed.

A type family is a collection of related typefaces which share common design traits and a common name. A type style means any given variant of this coordinated design and is the equivalent of a typeface. Just like with the typeface/font debate we understand that some divisions have become blurred. This explains why the term typeface is not only used to specify a single style, but also quite often a type family with a number of weights and styles.

I wonder if the typeface = individual style usage is more prevelant in Europe, and the typeface = family usage in North America?

John Hudson's picture

From the FontShop 'Typographer's Glossary' entry for Family:

A collection of related typefaces which share common design traits and a common name. A type style means any given variant of this coordinated design and is the equivalent of a font or typeface.

Super families are very extensive with a very large number of weights and widths. Type systems are collections of related type families that cross type classifications.

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