Smaller than Caps, larger than Smallcaps?

Sebastian Nagel's picture

Does anybody know the term for the variant of Capital Letters, that are smaller than normal Caps, but larger than Smallcaps?

I've read about them somewhere, but can't remember where. It said they can be used for terms like "USA" in texts, where Smallcaps would be too small and looking strange on abbrevations, but Caps be too large (especially in english fontdesigns with quite large Capitals).

Thanks for your help
Sebastian (ex sebilar)

SuperUltraFabulous's picture

Quarter Caps... and it depends on how the designer has balanced the ratio of the small caps to full capitals.


Stephen Coles's picture

The height of the small caps depends on the font. I prefer small caps just a tad higher than x-height, and most new designs agree. Then there are those that are very generous with options: FF Atma comes with three small cap sizes.

SuperUltraFabulous's picture

I was just gonna say Atma... that's the only one that has that feature. Mrs. Eaves has Petite caps though.


fredo's picture

We've just finished some additional weights to Berling Nova, including what You could be describing; Berling Nova Semi Caps (there's a small caps set already). I'm not sure there is a conventional name for this, but we thought it well suited. They're somewhere between a capital letter and a small cap in height (could check percentage and upload something tomorrow, if there's time) and was designed with exactly that kind of usage You mentioned in mind.


SuperUltraFabulous's picture

Fredo> You work for Linotype? That must be way cool. Linotype is my favorite large foundry.


fredo's picture

I don't work for Linotype, they are however distributors of the typeface and have been helpful in every way throughout the project.


George Horton's picture

Why the bold?

hrant's picture

There doesn't seem to be a standard term. If I voted, I might vote
for "3/4 smallcaps" since that term is pretty common for numerals.

"Semi Caps" sounds like... uncial or something. :-)

> they can be used for terms like “USA”

Better example: "US", which becomes "us" in an x-height smallcaps.
I'm with Stephen on the ideal general size, although I would say
"a bit" instead of "just a tad". You measure the difference. :-)

> Why the bold?

I'm guessing because 2-pixel-stem type reads better onscreen (although
really at slightly larger PPEMs than I'm seeing on my screen right now).

BTW, our Dan Reynolds works for LT.


fredo's picture

> Why the bold?
What Hrant said, and that certain je ne sais quoi .


andreas's picture

I like to add, the height of small caps can depend also on the optical size, a design is made for.

text small caps: a bit over the x-height
display small caps: more than 75% of the caps height

On display designs I prefer large small caps. So in the same family the small caps height can shift.

fredo's picture

Here's an example (perhaps too big?) from a presentation we held yesterday at the royal library on 'the Berling day'.
YES we have one of those.


dan_reynolds's picture

Oh, those new whatchamacallums look great!

fredo's picture

> whatchamacallums

Oh, Dan... I'm flattergasted.


hrant's picture

Nice demo of what usable smallcaps look like!


Sebastian Nagel's picture

Hej, thanks for the comments and examples :)

If you'd code something like this in opentype: how would be the best way to do it? (additionally to the usual SCs)


twardoch's picture

> If you’d code something like this in opentype:
> how would be the best way to do it?

Assuming the uppercase is in the @UC class, the lowercase in the @LC class, the 3/4-sized quad caps in the @QC class and the lowercase-sized small caps in the @SC class, I'd do something like the following.


feature c2sc {
sub @UC by @QC;
} c2sc;

feature c2pc {
sub @UC by @SC;
} c2pc;

feature smcp {
sub @LC by @QC;
} smcp;

feature pcap {
sub @LC by @SC;
} pcap;

feature ss01 {
sub @SC by @QC;
} ss01;

feature ss02 {
sub @QC by @SC;
} ss02;

feature salt {
sub @QC by @SC;
sub @SC by @QC;
} salt;

Maxim Zhukov's picture

> The height of the small caps depends on the font

Carter's Fenway has the tallest small caps I've ever seen and used.

> I like to add, the height of small caps can depend also on the optical size, a design is made for.

The height of small caps is, or better be, script-related or script-dependent. You better have taller s.c. in Cyrillic. In the Russian edition of Bringhurst's Elements of typographic style (it's just off the press) Dmitry Aronov, the publisher and the compositor of the translated version, had to use s.c. in a slightly larger size (9.3 pt.) than the surrounding text (9.0 pt.), to make them work. The typeface used in the Russian edition is ITC Charter.

In the new version of his typeface Bilss (Bliss Pro) Jeremy Tankard has revised the height of the small caps. They are significantly taller than in the original version of 1996. The reason is, Bliss Pro now has a Cyrillic version (along with Latin and Greek).

In the multilingual ClearType font collection, put together for Microsoft by an international team of type designers, the relationship of the cap-height, x-height and s.c.-height in all constituent typefaces was thorougly discussed among the participants, and co-ordinated across all design and language versions.

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