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Posts Tagged ‘italics’

by Allan Haley

Italics are the aristocrats of type: elegant, beautiful, and dignified. Their history can be traced back to a time before there were fonts of type, when only scribes and the most educated communicated with the written word.

Traditional typographic history would have us believe that italic types were invented by Aldus Manutius in the late 15th century as a space saving device. The story is told that Manutius hired Francesco Griffo da Bologna to develop a cursive type for a new series of small books that he was planning to produce. It is said that Manutius’ goal was to reduce paper costs and thus make his publications less expensive. Then, as now, paper was expensive, but saving paper was not the goal in the creating of italic type – and Manutius never sold an inexpensive book.

Mantika Sans Italics

Printers of the time spoke of “writing” a typeset page as if it were a letter to a friend. As this somewhat unusual terminology implies, the typeface provided a much closer link between printer and reader than it does today. Certain styles of type were reserved for specific groups of readers. Manutius was not so much trying to save space with the development of his italic, than he was appealing to the educated, worldly, and wealthy readers of the early Italian Renaissance (who’s handwriting style the italic type mimicked). As for the books’ size, Aldus’ goal was to sell books that were portable.

Jürgen Weltin also had something special in mind when he drew the italics for his Mantika™ Sans typeface family. The characters are inclined at only 4.5° (the usual angle for italics is between 10° and 12°) and, as a result, appear to be almost upright. In contrast to this, character shapes are quite fluid and reminiscent of brush-drawn scripts. The overall effect is enhanced by the script-like terminals. “Within the variety of forms of the italics there are many contrasting elements that create dynamism,” Weltin explains. “The result is a pleasant, but distinctive, interaction between the rounded and almost upright forms.” Mantika Sans Italic, in addition to being a perfect complement to the Roman designs, can also be used on its own to set display headlines and short text passages.

Mantika Sans is available in two weights; regular and bold, both of which have corresponding italics sets. It has been designed so that the widths of the four related cuts are identical, meaning that a change of font within a single layout will have no effect on line length or layout consistency.

Click here to learn more about – and to license – the Mantika family

Allan Haley
Allan Haley is Director of Words & Letters at Monotype Imaging. Here he is responsible for strategic planning and creative implementation of just about everything related to typeface designs.



by Allan Haley

I was sent a press release yesterday about how a senior citizen was defrauded by sweepstakes scams. It’s a sad story about an 88-year-old woman who was bilked out of her life savings by truly bad people. Fortunately, it appears that she will be getting back at least some of her money.

The reason the press release was sent to me was because one of the culprits in the fraud was a typeface. And no, it wasn’t Comic Sans™.

Actually, it wasn’t a specific typeface, but a style of type. Italics were sited as part of the blame for misleading the octogenarian. According the release, “The words ‘no donation necessary’ were written at the bottom of the page in italics, which italicized fonts are 18% harder to read for seniors rather than regular fonts.” The poor woman could not read the copy that told her she did not have to send money to get money.

Truth be known, italic type is harder for everyone to read. A little while ago, I wrote about italic typefaces in my “Italics: Typography’s Aristocrats” post. In it, I extolled on the beauty of these designs – but I did not share any of their shortcomings.

So, to set the record straight, Italic typeface may be beautiful – but they can also be problematic. The first problem is that italic fonts, especially the cursive variety, are too pretty for most graphic communication – and too weak to be assertive. Readers may say that they think italics are attractive, but when it comes to reading them, studies have proved that italic fonts slow down the reading process by as much as 14 to 20 words per minute. Readers have to work harder to read text copy set in italics, which not only impedes the reading process, it also retards copy comprehension.

Italic types are also normally lighter in weight, and more condensed than their roman counterparts. This delicate quality may add to their beauty but it detracts from an italic design’s ability to be a graphic emphasizers. Truth is, italics don’t emphasize very well at all. Bold typefaces highlight. Italics, well, they just look pretty.

Allan Haley
Allan Haley is Director of Words & Letters at Monotype Imaging. Here he is responsible for strategic planning and creative implementation of just about everything related to typeface designs.



by Allan Haley

Italics are the aristocrats of type: elegant, beautiful, and dignified. Their history can be traced back to a time when only scribes and the most educated communicated with the written word. When they were first made into fonts, italics were designed to be communication tools for the most affluent readers.

Traditional typographic history would have us believe that Aldus Manutius invented italic types, in the 14th century, as a space saving device. The story is told that Aldus paid the type designer Francesco Griffo da Bologna to develop a cursive type for a new series of small books that he was planning to produce. It is said that Aldus’s goal was to cut paper costs and thus make his publications less expensive. These inexpensive books would thus be available to those who previously could not afford them. Then, as now, paper was expensive, but saving paper was not Aldus’s goal in the creating of italic type – and Aldus never sold an “inexpensive” book.

Aldus’s italic type evolved from a popular writing style used by the educated. Its heritage can be traced back to Niccolo de Niccoli, an Italian scholar of the early 15th century. De Niccoli started to oblique and added flourishes to his letters when “he wished to write in a faster more relaxed fashion than usual.” By the mid-century other scholars began to imitate his writing style, and by the late 1400s, italic became the official writing style of the educated, and of the professional scribes of southern Italy. In fact, the style came to be called Cancellaresca because of the large volume of work produced in that type for the city chancelleries.

Most of Aldus’ customers for his books were the same people who used the cursive style of writing. In adapting the style to print, he and Griffo were making books more appealing to their intended audience. Today, we would call this concept creative marketing.

Aldus’s Idea proved very successful; so successful in fact that other printers felt obliged to produce their own books in this new typestyle. The problem was that Aldus knew a product differentiator when he saw one, and was not about to sell fonts of his new invention to the competition. So the early printers did what has become a tradition in the history of type design – they copied the designs they could not buy. Not wishing to call attention to the plagiarism, but still needing to give the new offering a name, they chose “italic,” after Italy, the country in which Aldus worked.

Allan Haley
Allan Haley is Director of Words & Letters at Monotype Imaging. Here he is responsible for strategic planning and creative implementation of just about everything related to typeface designs.


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