What do these numbers mean?

dizerr's picture

I am confused when browsing and buying new typefaces. Can someone help me.

After reading a story about Akira Kobayashi last night in HOW magazine, I was interested in his Clifford set but don't understand the difference between Clifford Roman, Clifford Six Roman, Clifford Eighteen Roman, Clifford Nine Roman and so on. What do these numbers mean? I've seen it before in Trade Gothic with Trade Gothic Eighteen and Trade Gothic Twenty but never really understood the purpose of those numbers.

I thought if I'm going to find out any where it would be here on Typophile.

Thanks for any help!

jupiterboy's picture

I think those are optimized for the specific point size.

Don McCahill's picture

Does that mean that Garamond 3 works best in 3 point?

G, D & R

Miss Tiffany's picture

Funny, Don, very funny.

James is right about the sizes Diane. But you can think of them more as guidelines not hard and fast rules. After all Joshua Darden designed his Freight Micro to be used at smaller sizes and then W magazine used it for display work. (After being customized.)

kentlew's picture

Numbering like this can have different meanings. As has already been pointed out, the numbers in Clifford indicate target sizes for which the design is optimized.

Examples of other designs that utilize this type of designation include

Paperback Text 6, 8, and 12; Paperback Display 24, 28, and 96
ITC Bodoni Six, Twelve, and Seventy Two
Cycles Five, Seven, Nine, Eleven, Eighteen, Twenty Four, and Thirty Six

As Tiffany points out, not all designers who work on optically optimized variants use a numbered size designation. The Freight family is one approach (Micro, Text, Display, Big). Adobe uses the approach of Caption, Text, Subhead, Display.

Also, as Don humorously points out, sometimes a number in a name is not a size designation. Sometimes it is just a series designation. This is the case with Trade Gothic, I believe. The two styles Condensed 18 and Bold Condensed 20 are not targeted at 18 and 20 point; they are related series.

Which leads to the other kind of number system: a rationalized matrix of weights and styles. This was pioneered by Frutiger with Univers and the 2-digit system to relate style and weight.

Another example of this approach would be H&FJ's Knockout with numbered styles from 26 to 94 -- the first digit indicates relative weight, the second digit indicates relative width.

FB's Giza family uses different numbers but a similar scheme: first digit is weight, second is width.

However, just to confuse everyone, FB's original Bureau Grotesque family's scheme is the opposite: the first digit indicates width and the second indicates the weight.

I think I got those right. Knockout's scheme is particularly challenging to follow, since the weight (first digit) crosses thresholds within a single weight column.

-- K.

dezcom's picture

Caslon 540 is a very old designation from a catalogging, certainly not an optical size :-)

ChrisL

AndrewSipe's picture

Caslon 540 is a very old designation from a catalogging, certainly not an optical size :-)

But at 540pt, Caslon 540 does look pretty sweet!

dezcom's picture

Yes it does--how about Caslon number 3? :-P

ChrisL

AndrewSipe's picture

- but, of course!

dezcom's picture

:-)

ChrisL

jupiterboy's picture

Does that mean that Garamond 3 works best in 3 point?

Yes, assuming the viewer is in the 2–3" tall range.

dizerr's picture

Wow. Thanks for the help! I guess this is something I will just have to learn from experience. To know and keep all of these straight it may take some time, but I'll get it. Thanks everyone, especially kentlew!

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