Futura and Twentieth Century

I know I probably sound really stupid right now, but I can't identify between Tw Cen MT and Futura. If they were side by side, I could tell the difference (seems like Tw Cen is slightly heavier) however if I were just to look at a sign set in one or the other I wouldn't be able to tell what it was. What are some key differences?

Karl Stange's picture

The greatest differences are highlighted when you look at the lower case, particularly the shapes of counters for letters like a, b, d, g, p and q.

pealwah's picture

Could you point out specifically what to look for? I know there's more *totally blanking out on the term right now* "thinning" where the bowls meet the stems but not a large enough difference that I would be able to ID the typeface just by looking at one without comparison to the other. I need something I can tell easily just by looking at one without comparing the two. For example one thing I found was that the arm of the 'r' is cut off vertically in Tw Cen while in Futura it cuts off at an angle

Karl Stange's picture

There are people here who can perform that kind of on-the-spot identification and hopefully give you some pointers, if I am at the point of needing to tell them apart it is usually in a computer environment where I have a number of tools at my disposal (e.g., FontLab, FontForge, InDesign, Word, etc...) to make the distinction.

David Vereschagin's picture

Some quick identifiers of Twentieth Century:

  • the round counters such as in the lowercase b and d are more nearly perfectly circular
  • the ascenders and descenders are shorter
  • the dots on the lowercase i and j are bolder and closer to the stems
  • the crossbar on the lowercase f extends farther to the left
  • the counter in the lowercase e is vertically narrower (the entire outer shape of the e is more nearly perfectly circular)
  • the 4 is wider and the angle on the diagonal closer to 45°
  • the asterisk is flower-shaped, with rounded terminals

David

pealwah's picture

Also what are your thoughts of people using Tw Cen instead of Futura? Some people seem to be really against it because they see it as a Arial-Helvetica relationship but personally I don't have a problem with it. Then again, I don't know much about the differences between the two

David Vereschagin's picture

If you’re a stickler for authenticity, then Futura is the only choice. The choice then becomes which cut.

That aside, to my eye, Futura, at least in the lighter weights, seems more elegant, probably due to the fact that it is slightly lighter and has longer ascenders and descenders. Use Twentieth Century for a truckers’ convention, Futura for a fashion show.

hrant's picture

Preferably don't use either.

hhp

Queneau's picture

Futura seems much better to me, and I have to disagree, Hrant, it can be really beautiful, if used correctly. I saw a book by Paul Renner completely set in a heavier cut of futura, and it is gorgeous. I also love the Isotype displays. But then again I also like Bodoni, if used right... :P

I have Lanstons Twentieth Century Pro, which has only one weight, but it does also have all the extra characters Renner designed for Futura, but were never issued (until the digital age, that is), so in a sense this is even more authentic than Futura....

hrant's picture

I do think Futura is pretty. But a dumb blonde is still dumb, even if she's had all the right plastic surgery.

hhp

Ryan Maelhorn's picture

Futura is one of the most important fonts of all time if you ask me, never seen the other. That said, Futura can be a little stale in some ways. I find myself using the caps in the extra bold often for display work however, while almost never using any other weight in the family for anything.

So many other fonts flowed from Futura like saplings from a father tree, it influenced quite a lot. Every Geometric font ever made owes something to Futura. For that at least, Futura is Great.

quadibloc's picture

And then there's Mid-Century... one of the typestyles made available for the IBM Executive typewriter. Of course, with a crude five-unit system, it can't be compared to a real printers' typeface, but it did show up in a number of computer manuals, from DEC and SDS.

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