Normal/bold difference in width

pablohoney77's picture

i can't remember where now, but i saw a font the other day that had the same width for several different weights of a font. i'm wondering when is this useful? is this adviseable under "normal" conditions?

hrant's picture

I call that "uniwidth". One of the MRF fonts (Delicato?) does this. Another example is the graded fonts at Font Bureau (although that's meant for compensating for gain, not for marking visible weight differences). And then there's the Hoefler display font series - Proteus Project. But probably the most prominent example is the Compatil system by Linotype - an amazing effort. BTW, my own Patria does it too, but only for the Regular and Demi weights, not the Light and Bold.

I think it is -or at least can be- highly useful. The only problem is that beyond a certain weight range you have to start sacrificing the width/narrowness appearance of the whole to maintain the widths: the lights start looking wide and the darks narrow.

hhp

Stefan H's picture

I agree with Hrant that this can be used within a certain degree. In my case with Delicato I only used regular, medium and bold. If you're using typefaces like this for huge masses of text, you can easily change weight, without having the textflow to change (or rather character of the print, regular could represent modern sharp print and bold could be equal to older techniques when lead was used).

Stefan H's picture

I agree with Hrant that this can be used within a certain degree. In my case with Delicato I only used regular, medium and bold. If you're using typefaces like this for huge masses of text, you can easily change weight, without having the textflow to change (or rather character of the print, regular could represent modern sharp print and bold could be equal to older techniques when lead was used).

rs_donsata's picture

What about Trinite?

All characters without ascenders or descenders (capitals, and numberals for example ) are identical across all 4 versions. This makes it possible to switch effortlessly from Roman Wide 1 to Roman Wide 2 or Roman Wide 3 without reflowing the text. Also, the 'regular' fonts (Roman Wide, Roman Condensed and Italic) have the same width as the corresponding medium variants (Medium Wide, Medium Condensed and Medium Italic) thus making it possible to switch from regular to medium weight without the problem of reflow.

http://www.teff.nl/fonts/trinite/trinite.html

rs_donsata's picture

What about Trinite?

All characters without ascenders or descenders (capitals, and numberals for example ) are identical across all 4 versions. This makes it possible to switch effortlessly from Roman Wide 1 to Roman Wide 2 or Roman Wide 3 without reflowing the text. Also, the 'regular' fonts (Roman Wide, Roman Condensed and Italic) have the same width as the corresponding medium variants (Medium Wide, Medium Condensed and Medium Italic) thus making it possible to switch from regular to medium weight without the problem of reflow.

http://www.teff.nl/fonts/trinite/trinite.html

pablohoney77's picture

so is this kind of thing fairly common then? is using this kind of uniwidth spacing scheme viable from a roman weight to a bold weight? or is the scope more limited? i'm sure it depends on the design... i would think this kind of uniwidth scheme would work better for a sans than for a serif, or does it matter? What elements of design would allow this kind of spacing to work? what design elements would keep it from working? is there any literature on such models that i should be reading? i'd like to know these things!

Thomas Phinney's picture

It's pretty rare, really. And the bolder the bold weight is, the more divergent the two designs seem.

T

pablohoney77's picture

originaly i wondered how useful such a scheme would be. it seemed to me that this kind of thing would compromise either the design of the bold weight or the spacing of the lighter weight. but maybe one could strike a happy balance? I'm trying to think what are some instances one would be so concerned about spacing as to make this kind of spacing scheme desireable? sure it might be nifty, but is it really necessary in any particular instances?

Thomas Phinney's picture

It's very rarely "necessary."

In a normal monospaced design, of course, one would expect the bold face to be the same width as the regular.

I seem to recall old typesetting systems that duplexed the italic with the upright, so that the italic had to be the same widths. But my admittedly foggy recollection of this does not include matching bold to regular weight.

It can doubtless be done well or badly, relatively speaking, but mostly I'd wonder why do it at all.

Cheers,

T

raph's picture

The example that bugs me the most is Sabon, which as I understand was designed around the quirks of both Monotype and Linotype systems. All in all, Tschichold did an amazing job with the constraints he was working with, but there are definitely widths that seem off to me. I'm sure that I'm not the only one that finds the italic 'o' to be too wide, and others have observed the same of the roman 'a'.

jfp's picture

Uniwidth for letters is not really useful in the different weights. Note that is a FF Balance feature. But for figures and monetaries quite important for tabular setting.

What bug you in Sabon is corrected in Sabon Next.
http://www.typofonderie.com/alphabets/view/SabonNextLT

hrant's picture

> I'd wonder why do it at all.

Well, for one thing, if you derive multiple weights from a single source weight, you can just leave the widths alone (as long as you derive accordingly). So in a way not changing the weights is easier! Coupled with the fact that uniwidth can be useful sometimes (like if you prefer to mark emphasis through weight change instead of italics*, and would like to maintain linebreaks**) it makes sense - as long as you realize that there's a threshold beyond which the compromise to the integrity of the design (in terms of its characteristic width/narrowness) is too much. That's why Trinite (and Patria) only apply it to the Regular and Medium/Demi weights.

* Like in TYPO magazine.

** Another place uniwidth is relevant is animation.

BTW, Raph, there was once an interesting Typophile discussion about Sabon's constraints.

hhp

Joe Pemberton's picture

I was just going to weigh in and mention tabular figures. FF Unit
has tabular figures which makes lining up charts, invoices, or
anything with columns of numbers nice looking. But, I can't see
strong reasons for a bold and regular weight following the same
width. (But there are always exceptions.)

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