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Type families: Widths, weights, and slopes

From: Foundations of Typography

Video: Type families: Widths, weights, and slopes

A type family is a group of related typefaces which share similar design characteristics and which are designed to work together. Just like our own families, some are very small and some are quite large. The three most common variations in a type family are combinations of different weights, widths, and slopes. In this example you can see several different weights, and also their companion, sloped or italic typefaces.

Type families: Widths, weights, and slopes

A type family is a group of related typefaces which share similar design characteristics and which are designed to work together. Just like our own families, some are very small and some are quite large. The three most common variations in a type family are combinations of different weights, widths, and slopes. In this example you can see several different weights, and also their companion, sloped or italic typefaces.

One example of a super small family is TRAJAN, which you may recognize, because it has been used in many film titles. It only has capital letters no lowercase, it was originally released with only two family members, regular and bold weights. TRAJAN was inspired by the Roman Majuscules carved into the Trajan Column, and there were no lowercase letters in use at that time. Universe is a very large family. You can see some of its widths clearly in this example.

There are other mega families like Chronicle, which has more than a hundred family members, a vast selection of related members stemming from a common parent. Here are some of the many members in the Chronicle type family, and here are a selection of different weights within that family. Most type families offer a minimum of uppercase and lowercase letter forms and a set of numbers and punctuation in regular and bold weights, and in italic, in regular and bold weights.

If you have wondered where we got the terms lowercase and uppercase? The names come from the drawers of the case were type was stored in the days when type was made from metal or wood. One of the characteristics that can vary within a type family is weight. Some typefaces have an enormous range of Weights and while there were no consistent meaning conventions in the Typographic world, it's usually pretty easy to guess from looking at the full name of a font what its weight is. For example, Extra Light, Roman, Semi Bold, Bold, and Black.

The second characteristic of different family members within one typeface is Width. Again, the names are pretty easy to understand just by looking at them. Terms like Ultra-Condensed, Condensed, Roman, and Extended. The third characteristic that can vary within a family is Slope, depending on the typeface Slope can refer to an Italic version or an Oblique version. Oblique, which you see here, is simply a slanted version of the Roman.

The Italic is a slightly more inclined and rounded version of the Roman or upright font, and often features letterforms that had design characteristics, which differ from the Roman. If there are variations in all three, Weight, Width, and Slope, this is the order in which the naming conventions work. First, all of the members of the type family will start with the name of the typeface, then the Weight, then the Width, then the Slope. For example, Helvetica Neue which is the Name of the typeface, Heavy, which is its Weight, Extended which is its Width, and Oblique, which is its Slope.

Georgia, one of my favorites, was originally a small family and became very popular. So, it recently expanded to include additional Weights. If your design requires complex levels of hierarchy, sticking with the members of one family will ensure that your results will be typographically cohesive. Using a large type family will help simplify your design choices. Easy.

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Foundations of Typography

46 video lessons · 31429 viewers

Ina Saltz
Author

 
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  1. 9m 5s
    1. Welcome
      1m 58s
    2. Why good typography matters
      1m 55s
    3. The power of type
      1m 53s
    4. The theory of typographic relativity
      1m 53s
    5. Getting the most out of this course
      1m 26s
  2. 23m 49s
    1. Serif vs. sans serif
      3m 27s
    2. Display type vs. text type
      3m 39s
    3. Type history
      2m 48s
    4. Type classification
      4m 8s
    5. Other type categories
      3m 24s
    6. Guidelines for combining typefaces
      3m 49s
    7. Using cases
      2m 34s
  3. 18m 28s
    1. Anatomy: Parts and shapes of type
      4m 35s
    2. Size and measurements of type
      2m 18s
    3. Type families: Widths, weights, and slopes
      3m 53s
    4. Reviewing the terminology of type, based on function
      3m 27s
    5. Working with color and tonal weight: Exercises
      4m 15s
  4. 20m 27s
    1. Kerning and kerning pairs
      3m 33s
    2. Tracking and leading
      3m 49s
    3. Exploring variations in type alignment
      3m 55s
    4. Hyphenation and justification
      3m 13s
    5. Indents, outdents, and hanging punctuation
      2m 26s
    6. Other typographic best practices
      3m 31s
  5. 10m 3s
    1. Where type begins: The mark of the hand
      2m 28s
    2. Related parts and shapes: Family resemblances
      4m 35s
    3. Designing a typeface
      3m 0s
  6. 22m 19s
    1. How legibility and readability differ
      3m 48s
    2. Examining factors affecting legibility
      4m 46s
    3. Hierarchy and functionality
      4m 29s
    4. Systematized hierarchy
      3m 52s
    5. Paragraphs, drop caps, and entry points
      2m 41s
    6. Typographic abominations
      2m 43s
  7. 11m 8s
    1. Opposing forces of typography
      3m 8s
    2. The grid: A structure for containing type
      3m 6s
    3. Contrast and scale
      4m 54s
  8. 9m 41s
    1. Typographic expressiveness
      3m 22s
    2. The emotional impact of type
      2m 47s
    3. Three-dimensional type
      3m 32s
  9. 8m 55s
    1. Working with numbers
      2m 10s
    2. Expert characters and analphabetic symbols
      1m 56s
    3. Using typography to navigate content
      1m 51s
    4. Using typography to navigate the environment
      2m 58s
  10. 9m 14s
    1. Managing fonts and building your type library
      3m 14s
    2. Developing your typographic eye
      2m 31s
    3. Breaking the rules
      1m 41s
    4. What's next
      1m 48s

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