Fonts have been around for decades, but the jargon surrounding them can still confound even some of our most experienced colleagues. Despite fonts having played such a formative role in the digital workspace, there aren’t a lot of easy-to-read articles that lay it out in one place, so we thought…why not write one? We reached out to one such expert—a luminary in this field and cofounder at URW++ (which has Its headquarters near Hamburg), Peter Rosenfeld—to get his take on what helps when you’re faced with so much information about font names (and styles)!

Thin, Light, Regular, Medium, Semibold, Bold, Extrabold, Heavy, Black…

Font families can be categorized by their “weight.” The regular style usually has 12-15% stem weight, while semi bold and bold have 16 -20%. Other weights such as ultra light or extra book match these ranges but with different proportions attached to them which determine how much thicker or thinner each letter will appear when printed on paper designed for those specific types of desired appearance in printing products like books where page length may vary depending upon demand levels within a given market Some modern super Families contain between 20 & 60 styles!

Book, Regular and Normal Fonts

Normal is just another label for the “regular” style. It is up to the designer or the foundry to choose which one they want to use for a font. Book is a style which is especially readable, with a slightly lighter font weight than the regular style.


Oblique vs Italic Fonts

Oblique usually indicates that the font was electronically slanted, while Italic means the font has been individually created by the font designer, and features special characters to better fit the cursive style, e.g. lower case “a.”

Extended/Condensed Fonts vs Wide/Narrow Fonts

The widths of a font family can be referred to as either wide or narrow. “Wide/narrow” relates to “extended/condensed” in the same manner that oblique relates to italic. Wide and narrow styles are usually automatically created emulations of the extended and condensed styles, while extended/condensed have been manually elongated or compressed by the font designer, so even balance remains within the lines.

Grotesque vs Grotesk

Grotesque is a genre of sans-serif that originated in the 19th century. (“Grotesk” is simply the German translation.) Many did not feature a lower case or italics, since they were not needed for such uses.

Why do some fonts have the classification “gothic” in the name?

A gothic typeface does not necessarily have to differ from a grotesque one, but will most likely have more open apertures and more static forms that have a lower contrast than those of a grotesque.

What does “pro” mean?

The pro version features an extended character set, OpenType (see What is OpenType) features and/or language features. A Pro font is more suitable for international use, and for those who wish to more finely tune the typography.

What are those initials in font names, URW, PT, P22, YWFT, TT, etc…

When you’re looking at different fonts, it can be hard to tell which one was made by who. The initials of a foundry or designer will help identify the origin and version of any particular typeface they may have created; for example: the foundry URW++ has their own “URW Garamond,” so that it does not get mixed up with another competing version from another publisher/designer.”


Why do some font names have the name “mono” in them?

This means that it is a monospaced font, which means that every character has the same horizontal width.

What does “humanist design” mean?

This generally refers to an “emotional” nature, in that the font is most likely organic, vivid and soft rather than being linear. Humanist Sans Serifs have true italics whereas Linear Sans Serifs often come with obliques. Our article “What is a Humanist Typeface?” goes into this topic in much further detail.

And there you have it, friends. We didn’t think we needed to tell you about Serif vs Sans Serif, but if you’d like that answer, or any others, don’t hesitate to drop us a line. After all, the more you know…

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