Typographic terminology

Dear TypeDrawers,

where to find good typographic terminology in the world’s languages?

At Unicode, I help maintaining a localization database called Common Locale Data Repository (CLDR). For example, when you change the timezone of your computer, your computer will need a name for every timezone translated to your language. Collecting all those translations is painful. Therefore, these days most apps and operating systems are sharing some of their translations via Unicode CLDR.

Now, we’ve just added some typographic terminology to CLDR:

  • labels for the registered OpenType design-variation axes, such as Weight, Slant, or Optical size;
  • labels for typographic styles, such as Light, Book, Narrow, Back slanted, or Display;
  • labels for typographic features, such as Old-style figures.

Future apps would still check out a font’s ‘name’ table for all these things, but if the font has no translation for the user’s language, the app could display translations from Unicode CLDR as a fallback. Modern systems work in about 80 to 100 languages or more, so it it would be unrealistic to expect every font to have every needed label in every language.

For seeding Unicode’s translation database, Adobe, Apple, Microsoft and Google have kindly contributed their existing translations and I’ve merged them. However, I believe the current translations still need improvement. For example, in German (my native language), most translations seem to have been entered by translators who’ve never worked in a print shop or graphic design studio; so I’ve cleaned up the German terminology by referring to a specialized site.

As TypeDrawers, you will probably know better than typical general translators how to call “Optical size”, “Back slanted” or “Old-style figures” in your languages. Can you tell me the correct typographic terminology? Either post it here, or send e-mail to [email protected]

Many thanks,

— Sascha


  • Typolexikon is ‘mit Vorsicht zu genießen’, it’s run by a guy with an agenda, who tends to make up his own terminology. Of course that’s just my personal experience. E.g. I have never read ‘Typometrie’ anywhere else.

    Typography.guru has a community-built resource of translations of typography terminology.

    Is your terms collection for CLDR available somewhere already?
  • For the current terminology in CLDR, see here: http://www.unicode.org/cldr/charts/dev/by_type/characters.typography.html

    The style identifiers are intended to match OpenType’s registry for the Weight, Width, Slant, Italic and Optical size design axes, but they’re not intended to prescribe any type design decisions. For example, the there’s an entry slnt-12 in CLDR but this doesn’t mean that a slanted font should necessarily use a 12° angle; we just needed some ID for the string.

    Looking forward to corrections/additions from the type design community. Thanks a lot in advance!
  • Ben BlomBen Blom Posts: 246

    Joe, I don’t have an opinion about the substance of what you suggest in your post—but I really dislike the tone of it. Someone who doesn’t answer an email within a day, is not some kind of dictator. If I would receive an email with the same tone as your post, I would just delete it.

    Sascha, I have the impression that you are trying to be helpful, but Joe clearly disagrees. Sometimes Joe’s posts fall short concerning courtesy, subtlety or nuance. If you don’t recognize the substance of what Joe is saying, I would suggest to ignore Joe’s post.

  • Just to clarify, there’s no intention to override a font’s ‘name’ table; the data is merely intended as fallback when a font doesn’t supply a name in the user’s language. As a font designer, you would still be in control. At least that’s the idea.
  • Dave CrosslandDave Crossland Posts: 1,052
    edited February 2018
    "I gave him a day" LOL that's the funniest thing I've read on this forum in ages!

  • Too bad it's been taken down ;(
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