Typewriter typeface vs monospace typeface

It just me or there is someone else who gets annoyed when 'monospace' and 'typewriter' are used interchangeably to name a type style? I was surprised to see that Monotype has used the term typewriter for one of the styles of the custom typeface family for Sony. A design inspired by Helvetica and Frutiger, typefaces that do not have any link with typewriters. 
It is true that monospace typefaces were born with the typewriter, however as Jason Cranford mentions in his article for CB 'while typewriter fonts are often monospaced, that is not a requirement' and 'a monospace font could really come from any of the other categories, but is distinguished by spacing rather than by style.'
Not sure if the tendency towards the term 'typewriter' is a matter of fashion because nostalgia is something that sells well today. 
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Comments

  • Mark SimonsonMark Simonson Posts: 844
    edited December 2015
    Assuming the "typewriter" style is intended for office use, perhaps they thought it would be easier to convey to non-designers what the style is meant for. Most non-designers are probably not aware that some fonts are monospaced and some are proportional or what the difference would mean in terms of use.

    Are there other examples?
  • Stephen ColesStephen Coles Posts: 712
    edited December 2015
    Other fonts called “typewriter” that don’t technically have anything to do with a typewriter:
  • I am not surprised to see Monotype and Sony use the term “typewriter” for a new monospace face. I do not think this is bad, all things considered. In the late 1990s, when Linotype released its reworked, expanded Univers (Linotype Univers, which I guess in now Univers Next), there were a few Univers Typewriter fonts in the mix. I believe these are based on actual typewriter adaptations of Univers had Frutiger had first designed decades prior. Kobayashi, who worked closely with Frutiger for more than a decade, may have suggested these Sony Typewriter fonts in the spirit of that earlier project. This is just my guess, I cannot say it it based on truth or not. But, having had this guess, I have no reason to be upset about the naming of these new, not actually for typewriters, fonts.
  • Assuming the "typewriter" style is intended for office use, perhaps they thought it would be easier to convey to non-designers what the style is meant for. 
    That is also a generalization, not all typewriters were intended to be used in the office, many typewriters were designed for personal use. And what does mean 'office use' today? In the case I mentioned we should ask what is this style for.
    Most non-designers are probably not aware that some fonts are monospaced and some are proportional or what the difference would mean in terms of use.
    I think is part of our job to educate de client and to use terminology properly. Considering that American Typewriter, one of the most popular typewriter typefaces is proportional, I don't think the non-designers believe all typewriter typefaces are monospaced.
    Moreover, I would say that when someone chose a typewriter typeface they use it as a way of expression and they are not thinking about its functionality.
    Thank you Stephen for the examples above. It is not the first time I find the 'typewriter' term used wrongly in big typeface families, but I can not remember other example right now. 
  • In the late 1990s, when Linotype released its reworked, expanded Univers (Linotype Univers, which I guess in now Univers Next), there were a few Univers Typewriter fonts in the mix. I believe these are based on actual typewriter adaptations of Univers had Frutiger had first designed decades prior. 
    It is true that Univers was adapted by Frutiger for the IBM Selectric Composer. In this case, it makes sense to include 'typewriter' as a style in the family. There are many typefaces designed for typewriters, mostly those for the electric models, that one would not consider them as typewriter typefaces at first sight. However that is not a reason to justify the use of 'typewriter' randomly.
    The classification of typefaces is not easy, what I am asking for is the use of proper terminology. I think type designers should use terminology properly so to avoid confusion and help to educate the user.
  • Kent LewKent Lew Posts: 653
    The classification of typefaces is not easy, what I am asking for is the use of proper terminology.
    In which case, we should probably take a moment to define what “typewriter” should mean, as a typeface classification/descriptor. I suspect there will be a lot of disagreement.
  • Kent Lew said:
    The classification of typefaces is not easy, what I am asking for is the use of proper terminology.
    In which case, we should probably take a moment to define what “typewriter” should mean, as a typeface classification/descriptor. 
    I would say that a "typewriter" typeface is that one that tries to resemble the appearance of the typewritten text or those ones which are based/inspired by a typeface that was actually created for the machine. Just to mention some examples, FF Trixie, Chadler 42, Valentine or Pitch.
    When I say the classification of typefaces in not easy, I mean that one could classify typefaces considering different factors, the link to historical models, the way of construction, the function, the ideas they express… Many typefaces can belong to different styles.
    Monospaced refers to the way of construction, and typewriter is more link to historical models and what the typeface express.
    Monospaced is a feature of "some" typewriter typefaces. And In all the examples mentioned above "typewriter" is used as a term equal to "monospace". In my opinion that is the mistake. 
  • So, a typewriter face is a revival of a typewriter face?
  • I think is part of our job to educate de client and to use terminology properly.

    Easier said than done. Also easier to take advantage of what people already know.

    Considering that American Typewriter, one of the most popular typewriter typefaces is proportional, I don't think the non-designers believe all typewriter typefaces are monospaced.

    Well, that's not a great example. American Typewriter was never meant for use on actual typewriters. It is a typeface, designed for phototypesetting, not typewriters, that invokes some aspects of the look and feel of classic typewriter faces. The name does in fact confuse some people (even designers) about its intended use. American Typewriter is often used where an actual monospaced typewriter font is called for, for example in movies and books.
  • So, a typewriter face is a revival of a typewriter face?
    That is not exactly what I have said, it can be a revival of a typewriter face, but also a design inspired by the letters created for/by the machine. A good example is Pitch, it is not a revival of an old face.
  • easier to take advantage of what people already know.

    The name does in fact confuse some people (even designers) about its intended use. American Typewriter is often used where an actual monospaced typewriter font is called for, for example in movies and books.
    That is exactly the problem, the lack of knowledge, people think that a typewriter typeface has to be monospaced. If we (designers) use the term properly people may not be confused.
  • edited December 2015
    I’m exaggerating to make a point: The only real limitation* to the design of letterforms in typewriters is the equal widths inherent in the mechanism. (Disregarding proportional typewriters.) You seem to be saying a typewriter face needs to look similar to the letterforms used in old physical typewriters, but I can just as easily imagine a different (contemporary) style adapted to the limitations of the typewriter.

    *If anything, one could perhaps argue a true typewriter face should adhere to the pitch size system.
  • Mark SimonsonMark Simonson Posts: 844
    edited December 2015
    That is exactly the problem, the lack of knowledge, people think that a typewriter typeface has to be monospaced. If we (designers) use the term properly people may not be confused.

    But you were offering American Typewriter as proof that not all typewriter faces are monospaced. American Typewriter is not a typewriter face, but the name misleads people to think that it is.

    Typewriter faces were almost always monospaced. There were exceptions, such as the IBM Executive and the Varityper, and they were expensive. But even these were only slightly more proportional, having only a few possible widths. 
  • You seem to be saying a typewriter face needs to look similar to the letterforms used in old physical typewriters, 
    What I am trying to say is that for using "typewriter" as the name of the style of a typeface, there should be reasons that justify it. There should be a link with the machine, which does not mean the letterforms have to imitate the appearance of the typewritten letters.
    I can just as easily imagine a different (contemporary) style adapted to the limitations of the typewriter.
    The limitations of the machine created the need of monospaced typefaces, but we should not confuse the terms. I totally agree that a contemporary design can be adapted to "that" limitation of the typewriter differently, Input Mono is a good example. It is then when the term monospace is more suitable than "typewriter". These typeface are designed for a different purpose and a different technology, and do not share anything with the machine besides history, the origin of monospaced typefaces.
  • But you were offering American Typewriter as proof that not all typewriter faces are monospaced. American Typewriter is not a typewriter face, but the name misleads people to think that it is.
    Well, I consider American Typewriter a typewriter face. Even it was not created for the typewriter, the design is inspired by the typefaces created for the machine. As it is mentioned in a specimen of 1975 "American Typewriter strikes a happy compromise with its forerunner. The rigid spacing is dispensed with, but he distinctive typewriter flavour is generously enhanced."
    Typewriter faces were almost always monospaced. There were exceptions, such as the IBM Executive and the Varityper, and they were expensive. But even these were only slightly more proportional, having only a few possible widths. 
    In the second half of the 20th century it was very common to see "proportional" typefaces in the electric and electronic models. But you are right, they were not "proportional" as in printing type, the range of widths was very limited.
  • Mark SimonsonMark Simonson Posts: 844
    edited December 2015
    American Typewriter is a typewriter face in the way that "chop suey" fonts are Chinese typefaces. Not as potentially offensive, but similar idea.
  • I guess this topic is more controversial than I thought. I don't particularly like American Typewriter, but the design is based on typewriter letterforms. It is funny to see how it includes those bubbled terminals that were used in the design of typewriter typefaces as a trick for creating sharper contours when the letters were printed.
  • Mark SimonsonMark Simonson Posts: 844
    edited December 2015
    The bubbled terminals of American Typewriter imitate the way letters look when typed on a typewriter. If you look at the letters on the type bars of a typewriter, the designs are linear and not modulated like American Typewriter. The effect it tries to imitate comes from smashing the type bar onto an inked ribbon into paper on a rubber roller.
  • It is true that the spread of the ink caused distortions in the shapes of typewritten letters, but it is also true that it was difficult that the ink reached the corners of the outlines so some type designs for typewriters included distortions in the metal face for getting a better result. Maybe I am wrong saying that American Typewriter was inspired by the design and not the printed letters, it was my guess.
    This is an image taken from a manual for the design of typewriter typefaces.


  • American Typewriter is a typewriter face in the way that "chop suey" fonts are Chinese typefaces. Not as potentially offensive, but similar idea.
    I am curious about how are these "Chop-Suey fonts" are connect to "Chinese" or "Japanese", since Han characters' strokes are not triangular. In China, if a designer wants to show that something is "classic" or "sinic", he will use the scanned fonts from real ancient books, like the Kangxi Dictionary Font from Typeland.
  • Nina StössingerNina Stössinger Posts: 150
    edited December 2015
    María Ramos said:
    This is an image taken from a manual for the design of typewriter typefaces.

    A bit off-topic (sorry) but I’d be curious to see more of this! Can you cite an exact source, and/or say if this is accessible somewhere?
  • I am curious about how are these "Chop-Suey fonts" are connect to "Chinese" or "Japanese"
    They don't have much to do with actual Chinese or Japanese type. They are impressions of how certain foreign scripts look to westerners, readable by westerners. There are also fonts like this that mimic cyrillic, arabic, and so on.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,192
    Being monospaced is only one of the qualities that may qualify a typeface as “typewriter”.
    American Typewriter has shown that this is not even essential to the category.

    With its serifed /I, /i, /j and /l glyphs informed by monospace font design, the otherwise sans serif Officina might be considered a “typewriter” typeface, but it too is proportional and alludes to its precedent, rather than subscribing literally to the genre.


  • For further information and other references in type design for typewriters, look at the dissertation available in academia.edu. I would be glad to see more research in this particular topic.
    FYI, Nicolien van der Keur is currently working on a PhD about typewriter typefaces. Not sure when she's scheduled to be finished, but that will certainly be an incredible resource.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,192
    Strictly speaking, only those typefaces which were used by real typewriters may be considered “typewriter typefaces”. Anything else, especially proportional, is merely faux, pseudo- or allusive.

    After all, would one call Mrs Eaves or ITC Garamond letterpress typefaces?




  • I don't know. ATF had a selection of "typewriter faces" designed to imitate the look of typewriters. They even recommended that they be "printed through silk or ribbon with ink made for the purpose" to get the best effect. Strictly speaking, these were never used on real typewriters, although they were copied from real typewriters.

    If you're going to get that picky, should we even be calling what we make "typefaces" or "fonts"? "Digital alpha-numeric symbol collection" maybe?
  • I remember specking metal typewriter fonts in the 1960s when I wanted something to look like a draft or manuscript.
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