Are Fonts like fine wines?

By Rebecca Harvey


Recently when I was learning about font metrics I discovered that the description of the of the font (which is optionally embedded in the font file) often sounds like the language used to describe a fine wine. I can easily imagine that the font designers who wrote this stuff were drinking fine wines when they wrote this stuff. Here a few excerpts:



Contemporary sans serif design, Arial contains more humanist characteristics than many of its predecessors and as such is more in tune with the mood of the last decades of the twentieth century.  The overall treatment of curves is softer and fuller than in most industrial style sans serif faces.


Book Antiqua Bold    

This is a roman typeface based on pen-drawn letters of the Italian Renaissance. Because it is distinctive and gentle in appearance it can be used to give a document a different feel than is given by the more geometrical designs of most text faces. It is also useful for occasional      lines, as in letter headings and compliments slips. Its beautiful italic has many uses of its own.


Bookman Old style

Although called 'Old Style', the near vertical stress of the face puts it into the transitional category. A legible and robust text face.


Calisto MT

A typeface whose appeal as a text face lies in its very even colour on the page, while its robust construction means that it can work equally well at display sizes. The slightly calligraphic treatment of letter shapes and the classical proportions of the face give a clean elegance on the page. Calisto is a graceful and interesting addition to the typographer's repertoire and will prove particularly useful for book, magazine and advertizing work.


Century Schoolbook

This face does the job it was meant to do very well. It is round, open, and sturdy, and although heavier in appearance than many other serif fonts, it comes near the top of the list of no-nonsense text fonts that will withstand a lot of punishment. Generations of children learned to read with this font.


Eras Demi

The inspirations for ITC Eras are twofold: Greek stone-cut lapidary letters, and Roman capitals. The result is at once a linear emphasis and a blend of sharp angularity and broad curves. The combination of wide curves and close letterspacing emphasizes the large open areas, the inner forms of the letters. ITC Eras is not a precise, geometric face. It appears spontaneous, like a 'serif-less' written script, particularly in its slight forward slant and its compound characters. This touch of style enhances the commanding appearance of its capitals which can also function as a titling face.



Garamond is a beautiful typeface with an air of informality which looks good in a wide range of applications. It works particularly well in books and lengthy text settings.


Gill Sans MT

A twentieth century sans serif that has a simplicity of form which does not reject traditional forms and proportions, and gives the face a humanist feel. The lighter weights are highly readable in text and suitable for magazine and book work, whereas the heavier weights are best used for display in advertising, packaging, and labels.


Goudy Old Style

Elegant, yet surprisingly hardy, Goudy Old Style has never gone out of fashion. Its resemblance to classic Italian typefaces is coincidental. This Old Style is not an adaptation of previous letterforms.

With round curves and thin strokes, Goudy Old Style brings a little gentle humanity to a document that might look too austere in a more workaday face.



It was immediately picked up by designers at Paris Match who cut up pictures of it to make headlines. Soon everybody wanted it. In due course, extra-bold extra-condensed faces for families like Helvetica began to appear, looking remarkably like the original Schmalfette.

Photoscript had made a lowercase version quite early on. Later, they made a less condensed version and called it Haettenschweiler Extended as a tribute to a designer whose idea so greatly affected the graphic scene in the second half of the century. Use this distinguished face in large sizes for headlines.



Unlike many of the other art nouveau fonts, however, Harrington came with a full character set. For some years, the need for a typeface of this kind has only been met by fonts like University Roman. Harrington deserves to be seen once again, nearly a century after it first appeared.


Lucida Bright

Complementary fonts include Lucida Sans; Lucida Icons for ornament and decoration; Lucida Calligraphy combines well with Lucida Bright Italic.



The assistants were right to be devoted; the creative space he filled remains empty to this day. But among the many faces that came out of Excoffon's studio were the Antique Olive family and Mistral, which probably will never be successfully imitated. What better testimonial can a designer have? Mistral was a tour de force in metal type making, because this apparently casual script joined flawlessly (although the ragged outline helps to disguise the joins). Now it looks just as good in electronic form.



An italic typeface made in the style of the early Italian cursives, as exemplified by the work of the writing master Ludovico degli Arrighi in the sixteenth century. The capitals are of swash design, with characteristic flourishes, designed primarily for use as initial letters. Corsiva can be used for short text passages in advertising but is best used to add sparkle to invitations, greeting cards and menus, and to give a sense of occasion to certificates and awards.


Niagara Solid

While not a revival in the strictest sense of the word, Niagara recalls the crisp, elegant geometry found in some of the best American styles from the thirties and forties. The four condensed weights were designed by Tobias Frere-Jones, who found inspiration in the straight-sided geometric fonts from that era.


Palace Script

Its steep incline and dramatic color variation give its letters the appearance of being engraved.

Sparing use of the capitals is recommended, lest the frills become overwhelming.



The incised quality of Perpetua will lend distinction to any work compatible with its serenity.



Rockwell is notable for its judiciously clipped slab serifs, and is given a particular sparkle by means of its angular terminals. In more recent years this style of typeface has been increasingly used for text setting where their even colour and visual impact can be fully exploited.


Times New Roman

it has many old style characteristics but was adapted to give excellent legibility coupled with good economy.


Tw Cen MT

This is a face based on geometric shapes which originated in Germany in the early 1920's and became an integral part of the Bauhaus movement of that time. Form and function became the key words, unnecessary decoration was scorned. This clean cut, sans serif with geometric shapes was most appropriate.



They exhibit new characteristics, derived from the pixel rather than the pen, the brush or the chisel.