User friendly family naming

Alex VisiAlex Visi Posts: 44
edited March 29 in Technique and Theory
For the sake of elegance and user friendliness the wheel is being reinvented here.

I’m trying to come up with a clear and simple naming system for middle sized families:
  • no Extra Extended / Semi Bold / Demi Condensed or other double worded names;
  • trying to avoid long and similar looking words if it’s possible (Extended and Expanded; Condensed and Compressed – those look too similar and confusing in the menu, user have to read them);
  • trying to avoid contractions or whatever you call it (Ext Exp Cond Comp Nar Bld );
  • numerical systems are ok, but rather redundant unless you have about 7 widths.
(these rules can be bent if there are no other options)

Weight range is easy to do:
Hairline
Thin
Light
Book
Regular
Medium
Semi / Demi
Bold
Heavy
Black
Super / Ultra

But what can you do with widths? Ben Blom’s system XXXNar XXNar XNar is good for really big families. But what if there are like five widths? Then you’ll get only one X, meaning XNar and Nar, not so good. I like Narrow and Wide (shorter than Extended and Condenced), but how to add one more step on each side, except for Extra Narrow and Extra Wide? Are there any other words for that? Perhaps words that are unusual for font design, like Oversized or something like that?

A bit more specific question within the topic:
At the moment I’m working on a geometric typeface, its normal width with circlular O is quite wide. Would it be ok to use the word Text for a slightly condenced width? Like this: Narrow – Text – Normal – Wide – [Extra Wide]?

Comments

  • I've always felt that Book/Regular/Medium was not the most user friendly system of weight names.
  • Thomas HelbigThomas Helbig Posts: 30
    edited March 29
    i agree with your commends on condensed and compressed
    too long, eating up alot of menu space and on first glance not looking too distinct

    wide and narrow do not have that problem to the same extend.

    ---

    your weight names seem to be a no brainer,
    agree on what u have there.

    ---

    I recently did a custom job where I supplied lots of widths to test in layout
    to figure out which are the best. At the time I didnt think too much about it and came up with a simple numbering to address the widths.

    I simply called it: Regular 1, Regular 2, Regular 3, Regular 4, Regular 5, Regular 6, etc…

    This Clusters the widths to the weight. not a bad thing per se…

  • Craig EliasonCraig Eliason Posts: 739
    The word "text" is already overloaded with different meanings in this domain--I wouldn't suggest also using it to describe a width.
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 1,458
    For five-width families, I've use ExtraNarrow Narrow [Regular] Wide ExtraWide.
  • Is there any benefit for having the regular weight simply labelled as the typeface name? So the progression goes "TypefaceX Thin", "TypefaceX", "TypefaceX Bold" etc.
  • Alex VisiAlex Visi Posts: 44
    edited March 30

    I recently did a custom job where I supplied lots of widths to test in layout
    to figure out which are the best. At the time I didnt think too much about it and came up with a simple numbering to address the widths.

    I simply called it: Regular 1, Regular 2, Regular 3, Regular 4, Regular 5, Regular 6, etc…

    This Clusters the widths to the weight. not a bad thing per se…

    I like this simple system (and I saw it’s being used somewhere). But I think Normal width should be the ground floor in this case, shouldn’t it?
    So perhaps it might be something like:
    Regular -2, Regular -1, Regular (0), Regular 1, Regular 2.
    Does it look functional or confusing?

    While “Medium” is pretty widely agreed to be heavier than “Regular,” there is no such consistent difference betwixt “Book” and “Regular” as to which is heavier—it seems pretty random among existing families that have both. Because of this, the words do not differentiate clearly for users, and I would only use both in a single family as a last resort.

    True! Are there any reasons to use words like Roman or Book instead of Regular?

    Is there any benefit for having the regular weight simply labelled as the typeface name? So the progression goes "TypefaceX Thin", "TypefaceX", "TypefaceX Bold" etc.
    Seems like it’s not a big deal, but I prefer to have the word Regular, because it’s easier to find by typing (you can type the name in the menu, like “Font Re…”, instead of scrolling).
  • Thomas HelbigThomas Helbig Posts: 30
    edited March 30
    actually in my case the higher numbers constituted higher degree of being condensed.
    kind of arbitrary.

    im not liking the minus visually I guess i could accept it if the opposite is clearly denoted as such.

    Regular +1 / Bold -2 etc…
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,293
    Here is my short essay about Book weight, on Quora. 
  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,087
    Might it have been that books were set in a paper with a bit more absorption and tended to spread a small amount, therefor, a slightly lighter weight would account for the difference?
  • Alex VisiAlex Visi Posts: 44
    What about percentage, like Regular 75, Regular 100 (normal), Regular 200? Can it be confused with “Helvetica 55” system?
  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,087
    It was Univers, not Helvetica. Any tabular system like Frutiger's can work. It would have to be expanded to cover the wider systems of today.
  • Kent LewKent Lew Posts: 793
    What about percentage,

    Are you talking about width designation or weight designation? I’ve lost track.

    Regardless, what would that percentage mean exactly? Literal percentage? Perceived percentage?

    In terms of width, for example, an ‘n’ that is condensed by 50% (of what — advance width? glyph width? counter width?) and then corrected to look acceptable will end up a different percentage than an ‘m’ that is treated similarly and made to relate consistently.

  • Alex VisiAlex Visi Posts: 44
    edited April 5
    Kent Lew said:
    What about percentage,

    Are you talking about width designation or weight designation? I’ve lost track.

    Regardless, what would that percentage mean exactly? Literal percentage? Perceived percentage?

    In terms of width, for example, an ‘n’ that is condensed by 50% (of what — advance width? glyph width? counter width?) and then corrected to look acceptable will end up a different percentage than an ‘m’ that is treated similarly and made to relate consistently.

    Good point! I didn’t think about it from this point of view. I meant it without direct mathematical relationship between the number and the width of letters (yes, it’s for width designation).

    50 – Condenced
    75 – Semicondenced
    100 – Normal
    150 – Semiextended
    200 – Extended
    300 – Extra extended
    etc…

    That seems logical to me, but I can’t judge it objectively, so if you’re saying that it’s confusing I trust you :smile:
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 1,109
    It is then in effect just another system of arbitrary labels... only done up in a way that makes it *look* like those numbers are some kind of percentage of something. So I am not excited about it for that reason, it feels a little misleading.

    As dislike goes, this is pretty mild, but why create a system that is unnecessarily confusing?
  • I think the problem here is simply that there are only a small handful of words in English that have been used to designate type widths, and other English terms tied to width would likely be interpreted as describing weight rather than width (e.g. skinny, anorexic, bloated, distended, broad, ethereal, dilated, etc.).

    Though on reflection, I do like 'ethereal' as a style name.
  • Alex VisiAlex Visi Posts: 44

    Though on reflection, I do like 'ethereal' as a style name.
    Sounds amazing :smile:

    It is then in effect just another system of arbitrary labels... only done up in a way that makes it *look* like those numbers are some kind of percentage of something. So I am not excited about it for that reason, it feels a little misleading.

    As dislike goes, this is pretty mild, but why create a system that is unnecessarily confusing?
    True!

    So most likely I’m going to use “Semi / Extra + Narrow / Wide” system, which is an ok compromise for me (and users).

    Thank you all guys!
  • Mark SimonsonMark Simonson Posts: 955
    edited April 6
    Very Tall, Tall, Average, Short, Very Short. Height doesn't actually change in normal practice, but it does describe the proportions.
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