Neutral Typeface Ideas?


I want to create a neutral typeface that, effectively, has no personality. I know that Untitled Sans already does this, but I think I can do it better (I don't, I just want practice). If you could spare a minute, please give ideas for each letter and how to make it as neutral as possible. Some more information on the font itself: It will be a Neo-grotesque with close apertures and 90° terminals (not unlike Helvetica). I only will be making the Latin and Greek alphabet, but in the future I might add the Cryllic alphabet. TL;DR ideas on a per-letter basis on making a neutral typeface.


  • See also Kai Bernau’s Neutral.
  • Totally neutral is a moving target, if you make it, it will change.
  • If I was to make a neutral typeface, I'd start by testing out rudimentary shapes, like bowls, stroke contrast, weight distribution etc and then assess see how these shapes interact with each other. Are these shapes remaining 'neutral' when applied to a sample of letterforms (a, d, p, q, b, l) or are they interacting in a way that creates too much character? If they're too flavourful then assess why and adjust. 

    It's easier to have some outlines to work with and make them more neutral as you progress. IIRC Kris tested Untitled by setting long texts (books) in the typeface and reading paragraphs to see what typographic features caught his eye and stood out. He'd then go back and revise.

  • a “neutral typeface” – doesn’t exist and will never exist.
    And why do want to waste your time on the 37.854th mockery of Helvetica, the black hole of type history?
  • Try using Ai for this.
  • What might be interesting would be to explore different ideas of neutrality. Neutrality of form, where all the letterforms are designed to look as similar as possible (like Helvetica), or some sort of conceptual neutrality where you attempt to distill each letterform down to its basics but without making them all look completely similar (kinda like a geometric sans or something).
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 2,127
    edited September 2023

    Adrian Frutiger’s methodology.

    And this from Vanity Fair magazine in the 1930s: the photo-composited movie star.
  • to mix a few great fonts into one does not ensure a marriage made in heaven.  It sounds like a valuable exercise and may teach you what you don't expect.
  • Great idea, Mark!
  • Broadly, I agree with Ray.

    That said, Aptos (Microsoft standardizing this year) and San Francisco (Apple’s system font) and Roboto (Google’s system font) are all neo-grotesques. The first two are definitely in the Helvetica vein, while Roboto is not as consistently so. Yet overall, it certainly seems like between them they define a general area for the 2020s “neutral zeitgeist.”
  • Dave CrosslandDave Crossland Posts: 1,389
    edited September 2023
    I've published a few fonts like Nick referenced @|average
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 2,939
    edited September 2023
    I remember joking with Bruno Maag that in client briefs ‘neutral’ was always a codeword for an Helvetica clone, while ‘clean’ was a codeword for a Frutiger clone.

    @Dave Crossland
    I've published a few fonts like Nick referenced
    None of which are neutral in appearance. In fact, they’re quite strongly flavoured.

    I think part of the difficulty of thinking and talking about this subject is the confusion of concepts like neutral and average, and the former’s conventional—and hence cultural and momentary—expressions in established genres of geometry, structure and detail.
  • To be clear, I’ve never described or thought of the Untitled Collection as “neutral”.
  • Mae from Lettermin
  • And let's not forget the sad reality that the vast majority of people can't tell the difference between typefaces and aren't aware different ones get used. In that sense most type is neutral IMO in that it is invisible. 

    I actually feel this is partly why Comic Sans got so popular among non-designers, it feels different. 

    Also to echo others, default type becomes familiar and then quickly becomes invisible to lots of users. 
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