ITC Franklin Gothic: Oblique vs. Italic

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

I understand the difference between an oblique or slanted cut versus a true italic one... But I am curious if anyone knows why ITC Franklin Gothic has both oblique and italic versions of its weights... Were they all developed at the same time by Victor Caruso? If so, what would be the reason to develop both a slanted and an italic version of a sans serif face? (For instance, the condensed and compressed weights that David Berlow created for this typeface only have italic versions, no obliques.)

One last question: I imagine that it is better to purchase the italic versions of this face rather than the oblique versions, but if anyone thinks differently, I'd like to hear what they have to say.

Thanks!

Norbert Florendo's picture

> difference between an oblique or slanted cut versus a true italic

Hello Ricardo,
The terminology to describe letterforms whose stems are NOT perpendicular to the baseline have gotten very fuzzy with constant misuse over the last few decades.

With sans and grotesk/grotesque faces, oblique forms are often the design convention, which essentially is the roman form with re-adjusted stress for rounds, often slight condensing of width and redrawing of connecting stroke intersects. We made a little stink about "true cut" obliques versus "slanted" forms with the release of Avant Garde Gothic Pro Oblique (see Mark Simonson's post in Typographica).

As long as a typeface (generally sans) has "true cut" oblique weights that's fine, as long as that was the actual designer's intent. Creating "italics" (or after the Italian style as it originally was meant) are based on completely different design principles and models, and meant to compliment the roman, not necessarily "re-invent" or "italicize" it.

Without specific regard to what Vic Caruso did with ITC Franklin Gothic, strictly using or purchasing a set of weights based on terminology (oblique, slant or italic) is strongly not advised. You need to inspect the characters to determine whether they were "drawn" correctly and weighted properly.

If both ITC Franklin Gothic Oblique and Italic are well designed (I am not looking at specimen, just memory of pre-digital cuts), then it is up to YOU to decide what you prefer. Neither choice is actually wrong... but one may work better in your design than the other.

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HMMMMmmmmm...
Just looked at your link to MyFonts for all ITC Franklin Gothic weights, and it is confusing with "italic" being used as the term in most cases, but "oblique" in certain cases.

I think this is a Linotype naming issue, or years ago the Linotype release was verly slightly different (maybe in spacing), since in the original ITC Release specimens, only the term "Italic" was used.

If you go to the ITC website, you will see that they ONLY use "italic" in descriptions of the non-roman weights of ITC Franklin Gothic.

Norbert Florendo's picture

Here's what I think are correct naming distinctions between oblique and italic versions of san serif faces:

Gill Sans with Italic


Goudy Sans with Italic


Avant Garde Gothic with Oblique


hrant's picture

The -valid- terminological confusion issues aside, usually when a font
has both (not common) it's because an oblique version was rushed out but
then eventually a so-called "true" italic was produced. As a rule, the italic will be better, at least because it's made non-mechanically*; I can think of rare cases where using the oblique would be better (like if the italic was too free-wheeling) but generally you want the italic. That said, users don't always think the italic is better: there is one very interesting case, Treacy's Arrow typeface, where the replacement of the oblique with the italic was met with an uproar on the part of his customers! He ended up providing both.

* Which is not to say I agree with Norbert's opinion that it must be designed from scratch to be good.

hhp

Norbert Florendo's picture

> Which is not to say I agree with Norbert’s opinion that it must be designed from scratch to be good.

I agree with Hrant disagreeing with Norbert if he felt that I felt that obiques need to be designed from scratch to be good. ;-)

Its fair to say that whatever methods are used to expand family weights and optical scaling, they should be regarded as steps in development. Final assessment should always be done visually and appropriate adjustments made.

And yes, it's true... "rush to market" frequently birth more baboons than swans.

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

Thanks for your comments, gentlemen.

Norbert, thank you for the link to the Typographica article about Avant Garde Pro Oblique; I had forgotten about that... In it, Mark Simonson links to his explanation on fake-vs.-true italics, which illustrates the differences quite well.

I think this is a Linotype naming issue...

You know, I had also been looking at Adobe's offerings of ITC Franklin Gothic and, interestingly, in PostScript they offer both italic and oblique, while their OpenType versions have italics only. So it's good to know that the ITC website only displays the italics! (Thanks for that link, too -- I was having trouble with ITC's website, earlier...)

Just looked at your link to MyFonts for all ITC Franklin Gothic weights, and it is confusing with “italic” being used as the term in most cases, but “oblique” in certain cases.

A printout of an online character map will only reveal so much, but it does look as if the Oblique versions of ITC Franklin Gothic are a bit more slanted than their Italic brethren... The italic uppercase O looks rounder than the oblique one, which could be confused with the zero in the same cut (I'm looking at the Book weights)... The @ symbol has the most noticeable difference: only slightly inclined in the italic, while very slanted in the oblique.

If both ITC Franklin Gothic Oblique and Italic are well designed [...], then it is up to YOU to decide what you prefer. Neither choice is actually wrong… but one may work better in your design than the other.

Right you are; I can agree to agree about that. :-) Same goes for the naming distinctions you posted; that's the way I had learned them, too.

...usually when a font has both (not common) it’s because an oblique version was rushed out but then eventually a so-called “true” italic was produced. As a rule, the italic will be better, at least because it’s made non-mechanically; I can think of rare cases where using the oblique would be better (like if the italic was too free-wheeling) but generally you want the italic.

Yeah, that is my feeling as well, Hrant. I just wanted to hear some other opinions on this before taking the plunge. :-)

Thanks again, guys!

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