Oblique type

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Oblique type (or slanted, sloped) is a form of type that slants slightly to the right, used in the same manner as italic type. Unlike italic type, however, it does not use different glyph shapes; it uses the same glyphs as roman type, except distorted. Oblique and italic type are technical terms to distinguish between the two ways of creating slanted font styles; oblique designs may be labelled italic by companies selling fonts or by computer programs.

An example of normal (roman) and true italics text:

An example set in both roman and italic type.

The same example, as oblique text:

The same example as set in oblique type.

As can be seen in the diagrams, italic designs are not simply the regular (roman) style slanted: they are influenced by handwriting, with a single-story a and an f that descends below the line of text. Some may even link up, like cursive (joined-up) handwriting. In addition, italic styles are normally narrower than roman type, which oblique styles are not.

Few typefaces have both oblique and italic designs, as this is generally a fundamental design choice about how the font should look. A font designer will normally decide to design their font with one or the other. Almost all modern serif fonts have true italic designs, Bookman Old Style being a notable exception.[1] In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a number of French and German type foundries such as Genzsch & Heyse offered serif typefaces with oblique rather than italic designs, but these designs (such as Genzsch Antiqua) have mostly disappeared.[2][3] Stanley Morison of Monotype made a late attempt to promote this style in 1925 by commissioning the typeface Perpetua from Eric Gill with a sloped roman rather than an italic, but Monotype management vetoed the original design in favour of a true italic.[4][5]

Many sans-serif typefaces use oblique designs instead of italic ones. This is especially true with grotesque designs like Helvetica and geometric ones like Futura.[6] Humanist sans-serif typefaces, however, often use true italic styles: this is because their designs are based on serif fonts. Notable humanist sans-serif typefaces include Gill Sans, Goudy Sans, FF Meta and FF Scala; all have true italic designs.[7] However, Adrian Frutiger named the slanted versions of his typefaces Univers and Frutiger (a humanist design) as italic, a decision that has proved influential. Following this viewpoint, the appropriate 'italic' style for a sans-serif typeface is an oblique one.

Oblique fonts, as supplied by a font designer, may be simply slanted, but this is very often not the case: many have slight corrections made to them to give curves more consistent widths, so they retain the proportions of counters and the thick-and-thin quality of strokes from the regular design.[8] Some primitive computer programs handling text may simply create their own 'italic' by slanting the normal font, either because they cannot find the italic/oblique style matching the font being used or because there is none. It may not be clear to the user whether the italic seen is a correctly installed oblique font or an automatically-slanted design as many programs do not say where the 'italic' style being used came from. In this case, viewing the list of fonts on the computer with a file browser or font management utility such as Font Book can show whether one is installed.[9]


  1. ^ Simonson, Mark. "Bookmania". Retrieved 23 September 2014. 
  2. ^ "Typophile discussion". Typophile. Retrieved 8 November 2014. 
  3. ^ Devroye, Luc. "Friedrich Bauer". Type Design Information. Retrieved 8 November 2014. 
  4. ^ http://www.fonts.com/FindFonts/HiddenGems/Perpetua.htm Monotype Imaging: Perpetua
  5. ^ Lo Celso, Alejandro. "Serial Type Families" (PDF). 
  6. ^ Majoor, Martin. "My Type-Design Philosophy". Retrieved 23 September 2014. 
  7. ^ "Goudy Sans". Linotype.com. Retrieved 12 November 2011. 
  8. ^ Simonson, Mark. "Fake vs. True Italics". Retrieved 23 September 2014. 
  9. ^ "Fonts". W3.org. Retrieved 12 November 2011. 

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