The New Standard of Unicase Sans-Serif Fonts

alexandergunnarson's picture

I've been trying to create a website for my software design company and, at least for some of its functions, I think a unicase sans-serif font would look good. I used some font creation software to create a unicase version of Myriad Pro, but it's nothing polished—I'm only an amateur at typography. It represents the basic look of the unicase font I'd like to see, but do you know of any already-created fonts that might bear some resemblance to it? I included in the title of my post the phrase, "the new standard", because I feel as if some of the existing unicase fonts aren't quite up to par with the "classics" of Helvetica, Myriad, Frutiger, etc.

Oh, and by the way, I've already visited this page about unicase fonts on Typophile. It was helpful, but didn't really cause me to come to a decision about any particular font.

Working title—Myriad Miniscule (yes, I understand there are copyright laws involved; it's just a concept) :

Thanks for your help.

nina's picture

Maybe check out ITC Franklin – it has unicase alternates, and it's very well drawn.
http://www.fontbureau.com/fonts/ITCFranklin/

Nick Shinn's picture

Here's a commission I did a couple of years ago.
My client was a design firm which had pitched the idea of a unicase to their client by mocking up comps using Avenir.
It ended up with more personality, as it's being used for advertising heads.
Note that it departs slightly from the alphabet 26 scheme, and that the numerals are drawn quite wide.
Not commercially available.

alexandergunnarson's picture

Great suggestion, nina. I really like ITC Franklin, and I'd forgotten that it now has unicase alternates. Thing is, I don't much like the "r" or the "t" (in the unicase)—they seem not to be geometric enough. Then again, that's just a personal preference. I like the rest, though.

Nick, I really like your Avenir spinoff—I'd say it comes the closest to what I'm looking for out of any unicase font I've seen (except perhaps my own, but yours has things like pair kerning and correct metrics and such, I'm sure). The dotted "i" is a distinctive touch. I actually appreciate the numerals drawn wide—they look like they belong with the rest of the font, rather than as afterthoughts.

I look forward to more replies in this thread (and appreciate the existing ones), but something tells me I'm going to have to commission a new font. I have too specific an idea of what I'm looking for. Essentially it would have these qualities:

—Unicase
—The width-to-height ratio of the "x" (and by extension, that of most other letters) would be 1:1, or square
—No variation in stroke width—for instance, an "o" would appear as two equally proportioned, intersecting shapes (as in Helvetica Neue Ultra Light)
—A blend of geometric and humanistic—minimal differentiation between letters, but some freedoms (e.g., the slanting on Myriad's "M", and its careful tuning of the rounded part of the "P")
—Minimal differentiation between letter width—most letters should appear roughly x-width; of course, "i" and "j" are notable exceptions
—Likely, numerals would be roughly x-width or slightly thinner, as in the example given above by Nick Shinn
—Possibility of a one-story "a", but not certain
—The tail on the "Q" would be straight, directed roughly 30 degrees below baseline

Even as I make this list, it sounds as if I'm heading in the direction of font commissioning. How expensive is it to commission one? Or is the price, by nature of it being commission-based, highly variable?

Stephen Coles's picture

Consider also Newut.

alexandergunnarson's picture

Wow. Thanks, Stephen—Newut comes really close to what I'm looking for. Now if Newut's unicase properties and squarish proportions could be blended with the elegance of Helvetica Neue (especially Ultra Light) and the flexibility of, say, Hoefler & Frere-Jones' Gotham (tabular figures, language support, and more varied widths and weights), that would be the perfect font.

alexandergunnarson's picture

I would edit my above post, but I can't; apparently there's a time window. Anyway, I stumbled upon H&FJ's Topaz Inline (not Topaz Background). I love everything about it, besides the fact that it has no lower case (which is a rather significant detail). It's as if every other font seems irrelevant after taking in its beautiful proportions. I wish H&FJ would fill in the rest of the font's potential features.

Thomas Phinney's picture

I'm not sure that humanist and mostly-mono-width are compatible ideals. But I guess the unicase variants in my own Hypatia Sans fit a lot of your requirements (varied weights, extensive language support, relatively monoline, geometric/humanist hybrid, one and two story a's both available).

http://www.thomasphinney.com/2010/05/hypatia-sans-typeface-shipping/

Regards,

T

Nick Shinn's picture

Don't be shy Thomas, post a picture of the Hypatia unicase alphabet!

alexandergunnarson's picture

I see your point, Thomas. I've given up the mostly-mono-width ideal. Perhaps I was simply looking for a more open font—for instance, the height and width of the "O" being roughly equal rather than somewhat condensed. Good suggestion on Hypatia Sans, by the way. I like its flexibility—the fact that it includes all the features you've mentioned is indeed a very big draw. I also like that it is, as you say, relatively monoline. Oddly enough, its capitals are strikingly similar to Topaz Inline, which, I've decided, is probably the look I'm going for (in terms of caps, because it sadly doesn't offer lowercase). I just find Topaz Inline so elegant and well-proportioned. To me, its perfect geometry, and yet its yielding departure from overregularity, make for a unique and unsurpassable combination. Now if only H&FJ would offer the flexibility of Hypatia or even Gotham (adding lowercase glyphs would be a start)...

——Topaz Inline——


——...versus Hypatia Sans——


and for Nick (although not a thorough sample by any means) :

Thomas Phinney's picture

I must say, every time I look at the Hypatia Sans unicase alternates, I really wish I'd gone with the "R" rather than "r" shape. I think it would have been much better. Oh well, not the only thing I wish I could change there... I just need to let it go!

Cheers,

T

Nick Shinn's picture

Hey, fonts are software.
Send the publisher a formal proposal for an upgrade.
I believe they're familiar with that kind of thing.

alexandergunnarson's picture

I agree, Thomas. Capital R's would have definitely been better. But no use worrying about it now ;) There are plenty of good aspects of your font, and you can use them as building blocks for similar fonts you may end up designing in the future. Unless, of course, you design your fonts from scratch...

And Nick, great suggestion—one I took up. Unfortunately H&FJ are too busy at the moment. I suppose I'll just have to wait a while for things to die down. Might you happen to know what times of the year are generally the most and least busy, respectively, for typographers? Thanks.

Nick Shinn's picture

If you have designed a typeface for a foundry, and suggested an upgrade, there are many possible responses, eg:

1. No.
2. Yes, please go ahead, we will pay you for the work.
3. Yes, go ahead, we won't pay, but will publish the upgrade
4. Thanks, we will implement your suggested changes.
5. Can we renegotiate the contract?

I am always busy, but never too busy to reply to an email that seems legitimate.
Therefore I expect a professional signature (name, business, title, address, etc.)
If I get an email and the signature is "Joe" and that's all, I usually ignore it.

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