Naming fonts with different x-heights

Alex Kaczun's picture

I'm in the process of creating an extended family of fonts.

One of the variables I'm introducing is a substantially larger lower case x-height.

Question: Besides calling the "larger x-height" font "TypefaceName_6 point", or distinguishing between text and display, what would be a better approach to an overall naming convention for the entire series?

Any ideas appreciated. Thank you.

eliason's picture

Emigre added "XL' to their "Eaves" versions with taller x-heights.

Not saying it's the best solution, but just throwing it out as a precedent.

riccard0's picture

If you would like to give hints for intended use, you could apply a naming scheme akin of that of “optical sizes” (caption, titling, small text, etc.). Otherwise, if you like to confuse your customers, you could take the New Fournier BP’s approach ( ;-)

Alex Kaczun's picture

>eliason... Thank you for pointing out the 'Emigre' solution. I really like the 'XL' extension solution.

Short and sweet. This would be my first choice. Trying to keep the length of font naming to a minimum. Thanks.

>riccardo... I agree with your point of view, for obvious reasons. 'Small Text' seems like a good choice. Thanks.

Does anyone else have any ideas? I would like a general consensus.

Something that would hold up well going forward. I'm looking for a really elegant solution. Thanks.

hrant's picture

So the x-height isn't the only thing changing? Because it can't
be if this is supposed to be a different size "master" (as they're
often called). And if it is in fact a size master I would follow the
Adobe convention that Riccardo mentions.

Now, if it is only the x-height changing and -hopefully- it's NOT
a size master deal, then I might use Emigre's "XL" convention.



riccard0's picture

What about “Big Eyes”? ;-)

Alex Kaczun's picture

>So the x-height isn't the only thing changing?

Let me clarify a bit more... I created an idea for a new serif font family.

After mastering and testing, I decided that the x-height looked a bit too large overall, aesthetically.

So, I created an alternate version... proportionally smaller x-height, which allowed for taller ascenders and decenders.

Basically, an 85% reduction, with some added weight to keep the color working well with the existing capitals.

However, I think both variations could work well together, or separately, under different typographic conditions, and depending on the copy size.

Soooo, with this in mind, what would be best. Use something like 'XL' or call it 'Small Text'.

I'm not sure which would be more proper. Thanks.

eliason's picture

If a movement to resurrect "gros œil" is afoot, consider me on board!

hrant's picture

Those sound like different masters: the large one for smaller text,
the other for larger text. So I would use "Small" or "Caption" for
the former, or "Large" or "Display" for the latter, depending.


Alex Kaczun's picture that's just wrong... aliens have indeed taken over human form!

Hide your children...

Alex Kaczun's picture

>hrant... I like your solution!

I'll call the larger lower case x-height font 'xxxx caption' (it works great for 14 point down to 6 point), and 'xxxx display' for the more conventional (normal x-height) , which will look better at 16 point and above. Thanks.

hrant's picture

Actually in my book 14 is the max for text, and only for fonts with quite small
x-heights. So I might call the first one "xxxx" and the second one "xxxx Large".


flooce's picture

Fedra’s two versions are called “A” and “B”, the latter being the one with longer ascenders/descenders.

dberlow's picture

Alex, how will everyone decode your names without a guide to your terms?

Bert Vanderveen's picture

IMO: When x-heights differ, that’s two font(familie)s, not one family. A family can be used with intermingling — with different x-heights that would be awkward to say the least.
My advice: divide into two families, eg Fontname vs FontnameXL; subs: Fontname-Bold etc vs FontnameXL-Bold etc.

Alex Kaczun's picture

>David Berlow... Hi, I was hoping you would chime in. It's been a long time.

Exactly, that's precisely why I'm on 'typophile' trying to get a general consensus on this sort of thing.

I think it's important that we all discuss and agree to proper naming conventions. If we don't. who will? Thanks.

Actually, now that I'm back into creating fonts full-time, I'm wrestling between all the things you can incorporate into OT fonts and dealing with the issues of extended families and proper naming conventions. There is a whole new bag-of-tricks, so to speak, that I'm worried about going forward. That's why I'm here to discuss with everyone.

Back in the days, things where a lot easier. Now, much more complicated. Many times I'm just not sure which is the best way to proceed.

I like Bert Vanderveen's suggestion, create 2 font families and call the larger x-height font 'XL'. Very elegant solution. I even like the 'XL' extension... could imply 'x-height Large'. Works for me.

However, David, you are absolutely right, how is the user to know and decode without a guide to terms.

I think we need to all be consistent in order to avoid 'user' confusion on terminology and other issues.

Maybe we all need to talk and come up with an entire set of guidelines for this sort of thing.

I for one would be very interested and appreciative of everyones input. Thank you all.

>David, please link me directly ( I would like to get your email and reestablish a working relationship. I also have a few things to talk to you about personally. Thanks.

hrant's picture

> with different x-heights that would be awkward to say the least.

Except, like I proposed in that other thread*,
if the large one were used for emphasis... :-)



Alex Kaczun's picture

>hrant, yes, I read through the other thread. Thanks. And, I like all your suggestions. You made many good points. The overall discussion was very interesting. But sadly, nothing was really resolved. Just some good ideas and no definitive set of guidelines to follow.

As you know, there are many variables that can change in an extended family of fonts.

Here are some examples: (for general discussion)

1) Weight
2) Styles— Cursive or oblique, small caps, lining vs. old style figures (tabular & proportional).
3) Swash, decorative capitals, special endings and alternate 'glyphs'.
4) Condensed and expanded typeface variations.
5) Optical axis—(x-height, stem, hairline, serif lengths) overshoots and overall body proportion changes.
6) Outline and other effect variations (stencil, distortions (graffiti), etc.)
7) Where no man has gone before...

For weights, I like the numbering solutions... (25 Ultra Thin, 26 Ultra Thin Italic...95 Ultra Black, 96 Ultra Black Italic, etc.)

But, I have also seen type designers name their weights (200, 300, 400...900) and with variations like (200-A, 200-B, etc.)

I like the numbering scheme, simple and elegant. Easy to understand.

But, shouldn't we all be using a 'naming template' or guidelines for just such things?

I think the 'key' here is consistency. A standard 'code' that we should all go by, so that the user is not confused by all this new terminology.

I do not want to reinvent the wheel, perhaps there already is a PDF guideline online for just this sort of thing.

If there is, please point me in the proper direction.

It would be great if we all had and used this 'common' naming scheme going forward.

Maybe we can come up with 'extensions' that would properly tag all fonts with all variations listed above.

That would be great! Thanks all.

Alex Kaczun's picture

This is my feeble attempt to come up with an overall 'font naming' scheme that could work for all of us.

1) TypeFaceName 25, TypeFaceName 26... all the way to TypeFaceName 95, TypeFaceName 96

15, 25, 35, 45, 55, 65, 75, 85, 95 and 100 (allows for up to 10 weights in total). Hell, you could even continue upwards (115, 125) if needed. But I think '100' (10 weight categories) is a pretty generous weight progression scheme.

No need to add 'Ultra Thin...Ultra Thin Italic, etc. This numbering scheme has been successfully used by Neue Helvetica and other such font families. I think many users understand this numbering scheme (55 being the middle and regular or normal weight). Odd numbers for 'roman' and 'even' (like 26, 36, 46, 56...) for cursive or oblique styles.

2) As far as Condensed or Expanded variations on the family could be added as... TypeFaceName 51 (could refer to Narrow), TypeFaceName 52 (Narrow Italic), etc. TypeFaceName 53 (could refer to Condensed), TypeFaceName 54 (Condensed Italic). And, TypeFaceName 57 (could refer to Expanded), TypeFaceName 58 (Expanded Italic), etc. TypeFaceName 59 (could refer to Ultra Expanded), TypeFaceName 60 (Ultra Expanded Italic). Although, for the most part, most families would only include a Cond. and Expanded variation. But, there is room in this scheme for 'ultra' extreme width variations.

3) An added extension for 'Swash' could be SW, an extension for 'Small Capitals" could be Sc, Old Style Figures OsF, Decorative Ornamental Capitals DOC, Display could be DSP, Stencil could be STN, Outline could be OUT, Graffiti could be GRF, etc.

4) Optical axis could have 'XL' for 'x-height Large".

I really think something like this makes a lot of sense.

It eliminates the problem with really long font names. FontLab has a maximum limit of 31 characters for a font name anyway.

This simplifies everything. You can add 'Where no man has gone before...variations' as WNMHGB or whatever.

So, a complete example incorporating a lot of this would look like...

TypeFaceName 25 ScOsF XL

Short and sweet! What do you all think? Is this a possible complete 'font naming' solution to all our problems going forward.

Any and all other ideas welcome. Thanks.

hrant's picture

Well, I'm a big fan of systems myself. What I worry about
is if it's too late, since too many -reputable- people do it
so differently. But really, it's probably not too late.


Alex Kaczun's picture

>hrant,—Yes, I agree, in an ideal world this should have been decided on from the beginning of OT format.

But, it's certainly never too late. Better late then never, as they say.

Anyway, do you like this 'font naming' approach?

As an addition to what I said above, if you think about it, all the font names will line up beautifully, 'alpha-numerically' under the font menu. From lightest to heaviest, and everything in between. Very organized. That's why using numbering scheme is so good. No more 'font styles' not in order, and all over the place.

From a users perspective, a welcome solution. I think, once users get use to the numbering for 'width', 'weight' and variations, it will become second-nature.

Anyone else have any comments? Please... this is really important. Thank you all.

Alex Kaczun's picture

The only other thing I'm also thinking about...

If you have a basic 'skeleton' worked out for your font. A particular overall look.

And you decide to change-it-up, so to speak.

Examples, change the serifs on the same font (or, a variety of different serif styles), maybe you decide to round out the corners on yet another style variation... that sort of thing.

Do you name all these font variations with the same main 'FamilyName'—variation.

Or, can this get too confusing to the user... although sharing similar overall appearance, the details can get really different.

And, maybe better to change the 'FamilyName' completely, for each variation made?

What would the general consensus be for this type of situation? I would be interest to hear your opinions on this matter, as well.

Thank you.

riccard0's picture

The system has its merits… But:
- No system could ever account for all possible variations. Especially outside text families and type systems (a la Univers, which I think was the first to introduce the numbering scheme).
- My ultralight is your hairline, is others’ white. And this holds true for my 15 and your 15.
- If 55 is regular and 56 is italic or oblique, what will happen if my font has both?
- Acronyms aren’t human friendly. And there are already too much acronyms in font names (or you do think foundries will abandon their prefixes just for the sake of tiding up our menus?).
- I don’t think XL is a good solution for large x-heigh. First of all is uppercase, then it looks something which is applied to the entire typeface, being mostly viewed as a size symbol. I would think it’s the cut for clients that want to “make the logo bigger!” ;-)

All that said, sure a system could be useful, but I don’t think you will find consensus. But you can start implementing it with your own fonts, encouraging other to adopt it. If it will make sense to them (as it did with Neue Helvetica), people will follow suit.

Alex Kaczun's picture

>riccard0— I realize getting general consensus from everyone is not realistic. I'm only hoping to offer a possible naming scheme for others to consider.

I myself, plan to adopt this as practice going forward. Unless others have a more elegant overall solution, I need something to work with.

I was only hoping that others might offer suggestions or modifications to what I propose.

Others, coming into the font business, from this point on... can decide on their own.

No harm done. In any event, something to consider.

I also realize that weights will differ slightly from others, but I do not think this breaks this type of approach.

The user will have a general idea, looking down the menu of related numbers, what might work for him, in this application or another.

If not, he/she is free to try another number and view results in text copy being set. That's what they are use to doing anyway. No?

I agree with you that 'XL' may be ambiguous, a bit, for x-height variation. Maybe something else like ''xhLg" would be more appropriate.

In any case, these suggestions are only guidelines. I'm more interested in feedback about the general overall approach using 'numerical' representation for weights and body size variations.

Am I the only one that to see merit in this type of scheme? Still waiting to hear from others on the matter. Thanks.

Alex Kaczun's picture

>dberlow—Alex, how will everyone decode your names without a guide to your terms?

David, I plan to start using this type of overall naming scheme going forward. I need something all-inclusive.

But, you are right, I need to educate the user and help them 'decode' by providing a general guide to this numbering system.

There is established precedence, of sorts, for this already. I'm simply expanding on the 'Neue Helvetica' numerical system to include additional factors.

I will include a 'readme' file, with every font I sell outlining this 'alpha-numeric' system.

Hopefully, they will find it useful, and with time, easier to understand. And, if successful, others may follow.

If you build it... they will come

riccard0's picture

I’s sorry to again chiming in. I would just add that there already exists a different number scheme, limited to weight, which is the one from 100 to 900 that could be used to set the CSS font-weight property and it’s used by some foundries on some of their fonts, most notably Jos Buivenga’s Museos.

Alex Kaczun's picture

>25...95, 100...900—works for me.

One less digit is simpler.

What was the advantage of going to 3-digits?

My main concern is incorporating the 'width' (adding condensed and expanded) numbering system into the mix.

Also, resolving the other type(s) of variations mentioned above.

An, all inclusive, solution. That would cover just about everything. Thanks.

Bert Vanderveen's picture

X for x-height. L for large. For all I care it could be LX… in contrast to t-shirts etc.

dberlow's picture

>If you build it... they will come

Good luck!

Alex Kaczun's picture

Okay... I built it! This is the system I plan to use going forward.

Everyone is welcome to use, in-part, or as a whole. I think it's elegant and all-inclusive. Easy to understand and expand on.

'Font names' remain as short in length as possible, and offer a lot of information about what is contained in font.

I personally, do not think that adding a brief description of weight or 'body proportion' is needed, but others may want to add this as well. I think that the 'user' will quickly get the idea, by the numbers alone, if font is 'regular weight', or 'condensed', or 'expanded' by the numbers alone. Maybe, down-the-road, we can start to drop this reference in order to minimize the font names still further. Anyway, a good start. General consensus, please?

TypeFaceName 53 Cd Rm
TypeFaceName 54 Cd It

TypeFaceName 55 Rm
TypeFaceName 56 It

TypeFaceName 57 Exp Rm
TypeFaceName 58 Exp It

All the other weights (in the family) can be numbered as indicated above.

25 Ult Thin
26 Ult Thin It

35 Thin
36 Thin It

45 Lgt
46 Lgt It

65 Med
66 Med It

75 Bld
76 Bld It

85 Blk
85 Blk It

95 Ult Blk
96 Ult Blk It


These other 'useful' acronyms can be concatenated to end of 'font names':

Small Caps= 'Sc'
Old Style Figures= 'OsF'
Sm Caps & OsFigues= 'ScOsF

Display= 'Dsp'
Caption= 'Cpt''

Swash= 'Swh'
Ornamental Caps= 'OrC'

Outline= 'Out'
Inline= 'Inl'

Stencil= 'Stn'
Graffiti= 'Grf'

Optical Axis (Large x-height)= 'Lxh'

If anyone can think of any others, we can add to this list.

I'm not sure about adding acronyms for 'extended language' support.

But, that can easily be done... example...

Central European= 'CE'

Greek= 'Grk'

Cyrillic= 'Cry'


Looking forward to everyones opinion on the subject. Thank you all.

Alex Kaczun's picture


What does this mean....

TypeFaceName 42 CE ScOsf Out

If you answered...

'TypeFaceName' Light Narrow Italic w/Central European Small Caps and Old Style Figures Outline (font)

You are correct.... and you win the big prize!

flooce's picture

what about naming it "tall" ?

riccard0's picture

"Tall" would suggest higher ascenders, not just larger x-height.

Syndicate content Syndicate content