one- and double-storied letters

nicolefally's picture

dear typophiles,

I’m going to study at the Reading MATD in a few weeks and started my first warmup research-exercise:

I stated this exercise with a quesion of mixing one-storied and two-storied g’s and a’s in one font and how this decision can affect the delivered impression. What are the reasons and arguments to decide which forms to use and what kinds of problems would you associate with this question? In which context does one form make sense and in what context the other?

I know my question is quite general in the moment but nevertheless I would appreciate any hint concerning:

> examples of typefaces which provide alternatives (both styles)
> historical background about the one- and two-storied forms
> any rules or conventions in which one style should be used
> connotations/denotations for the single characters
> ...advices which I’m not able to think of by now

thanks a lot!

PS are there any serif-fonts with one-storied a or g? Or fonts with double-storied a but one-storied g (which is more unusual than the opposite)?

PPS some examples

number one from darden studio – the font jubilat offers geometric and traditional characters (as they call it). this refers to the understanding I had: two-storied letters are more formal and typographic, one-storied letters are more modern and constructed on one hand but written on the other, which is a bit paradox ...

the second example shows an attempt to include both forms of g and a into one font to offer solutions for different purposes (e.g. text versus signage). this example came with the question in the beginning.

and these pictures of ff utility (basic forms and two stylistic sets) bring up the question: is it going to be standard to offer both/more forms in sans serif fonts ...? or is it just to use provided possibilities of layout-programms...

dan_reynolds's picture

Linotype's Compatil family has a double-storey a and a single-storey g in all four of its typefaces (both serif families, and in the slab serif and sans serif family, too).

dtw's picture

Double-storied a and single-storied g on Antykwa Torunska, Benguiat, Birch... to name but three at the start of the alphabet...
Ever since I chose to block pop-ups, my toaster's stopped working.

Florian Hardwig's picture

Hi Nicole,

here are a few older threads about single-storey or infant alternates:
Frutiger Infant
"Schoolbook" Alternates
Single storey g but double decker a
Question concerning the lowercase g and a

The first one has a link to the website of the Typographic Design for Children Project (, where you can find some research results about infant characters.

are there any serif-fonts […] with double-storied a but one-storied g

Štorm has a preference for this combination, see his Aichel, Amor (Sans and Serif), Mramor, Negro, …


kentlew's picture

> examples of typefaces which provide alternatives (both styles)

Trilby, by David Jonathan Ross, (which happens to be the current Featured Face here) includes single-story alternates for both in a stylistic set.

John Hudson's picture

Gabriola (with secondary and contextual variants as well as ‘corsiva’ forms of a and g):

By the way, ‘guidance’ is a good test word for this because it puts the d and a next to each other. One of the things I note about single-storey a is that the counter and bowl always appear slightly larger than that of d if actually the same size. In Gabriola, and in italic fonts, I optically compensate by making the a slightly narrower than the d.

nicolefally's picture

thank you for all those exampes !

but may I also ask for your opinion (as probably more expierenced type-designer and/or type-user): is it useful to have these alternatives? for which kind of effect could it be useful? when do you think does it make sense?

the explanation of the features of trilby calls the single-storied version ‘schoolbook-version’ (some of your other suggestions lead into this direction as well). it covers connotations like simpleness and reduction and this fits to the context of this geometric, constructed style.

do you know about other purposes for which the double- or one-storied variants are typical? (like: one-storied for reading from distances, two-storied for text-sizes ...just a guess)


John Hudson's picture

Personally, I don't think these variants are generally useful. In effect, they are mixing different styles of lettering within a single typeface, so the question should be in what circumstances is this desirable or useful. Gabriola is a hybrid typeface by design, intended to be able to support this kind of variation by providing a base design that combines elements of formal and cursive lettering, such that it can be pushed in either direction by the use of different variant sets. But single-storey letters in the context of roman types always seems weird to me, like a woman in an evening gown wearing combat boots. There's nothing wrong with combat boots: they just belong with a different style of dressing.

Gerry K's picture

are there any serif-fonts...with double-storied a but one-storied g


Nick Cooke's picture

My recent release Organon Sans has those characters as separate style sets: 'a' as style set 1, 'g' as style set 2 and 'y' as style set 3, so that they can be mix-and-matched if so desired. It can be useful if the user knows what they are doing, for example a double storey 'g' may be desired for text setting, single for headings.

BTW John, I just love Gabriola.

Nick Cooke

nicolefally's picture

thank you nick! do you possibly have any pictures from this typeface in use ?? I thought as next step in my research it were helpful to collect examples to see how different combinations work in a certain context.

but thanks anyway, it's a pretty nice example for all the possible combinations!

Syndicate content Syndicate content