A true italic

Canonical

on 20 August 2010

In this latest post from Dalton Maag Lukas Paltram updates us on the development thinking that went into the italics in the new Ubuntu font family.

The design of the regular weight of the Ubuntu font, in all three script systems, was a big step forward. All design principles were defined and fixed. We could now proceed to it’s close companion, Ubuntu italic.

The first trials for the Italic were concerned primarily with the question whether this should be simply a slanted and refined version of the regular style, typical for grotesque and geometric font styles, or should it be a classic, true Italic as we know it from serif and humanist sans serif fonts. We felt that only a true italic could satisfy the design of the Ubuntu font.

In typography, the purpose of the italic is to emphasise certain words or sentences. Therefore, a textural difference to the regular is important. The italic angle is of course the most obvious difference but in addition a slight reduction of width further helps to differentiate the italic.
Italic fonts have their roots in cursive handwriting and accordingly some characters have different shapes to the upright version. This is most obvious in the characters a, e, f or g, for example. As Latin script readers we are used to seeing these alternative glyph shapes and they are perfectly legible. Yet Ubuntu is a multilingual typeface, and we also had to consider other scripts and the changes that a switch to the cursive structure would bring to them. So, how does that affect Greek and Cyrillic letters, or other characters that we are not so familiar with?
The principle of the regular design is simplicity and clarity. This principle needed to be carried across to the italic design,  so we introduced just enough true italic elements to give it its own warm and human character without compromising on simplicity and clarity.

Lukas Paltram

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