Legibility Group

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Excelsior, a member of the Legibility Group in digitisation

The Legibility Group is a series of serif typefaces created by the American Mergenthaler Linotype Company and intended for use in newspapers on Linotype's hot metal typesetting system. They were developed in-house by Linotype's design team, led by Chauncey H. Griffith, and released from 1922 onwards.[1][2][3][4]

The "legibility group" typefaces were based on slab serif typefaces of the nineteenth century, called 'Clarendon' or 'Ionic', featuring a high x-height, low contrast in stroke weight, wide open counters and ball terminals, intended to make the letters clearly distinguishable even when printed on poor-quality newsprint paper.[a] Linotype carried out a survey of opometrists as part of their research process.[7] The family became a large group due to the creation of slightly different designs for different printing conditions, such as levels of inking used in different newspaper production processes.[8][b] An intention was to create a design with more body than the rather spindly Didone typefaces previously often used in newspaper printing.[10]

The Legibility Group typefaces were extremely popular and remained used by many newspapers worldwide throughout the metal type period and beyond; many other newspaper typefaces such as Intertype Imperial were created based on their design. (Monotype's Times New Roman is an exception, as it was created for the unusually high standard of printing of the Times in the 1930s, although its bold is more similar to the Legibility Group style.[10]) In 1972, British printing manager Allen Hutt commented that "the majority of the world's newspapers are typeset in one or another of the traditional Linotype 'Legibility Group', and most of the rest in their derivatives."[1]


  • Ionic No. 5
  • Textype - similar but with a lower x-height, giving a more delicate structure with more contrast between letters with and without ascenders.[10]
  • Excelsior - a relatively wide design, intended for rubber-roller presses. Linotype has described its use as most common "in Europe, where newspaper columns are wide."[11][12] Bitstream Inc.’s News 701 typeface is an unofficial digitisation.
  • Opticon - heavier, to compensate for printing that deliberately underinks to favour halftones.[13]
  • Paragon - lighter, to compensate for newspapers that deliberately overink to favour text and headlines.[13]
  • Corona[c] - condensed and large on the body.[14] Walter Tracy praised it for carrying "the design of newspaper types to a new level."[10]

Although not part of the family, Linotype marketed its sans-serif Metro and slab serif Memphis as effective complements for headings.[13]


  1. ^ a b Hutt, Allen (1973). The Changing Newspaper: typographic trends in Britain and America 1622-1972 (1. publ. ed.). London: Fraser. pp. 100–2 etc. ISBN 9780900406225. 
  2. ^ Victor Margolin (2015). World History of Design. Bloomsbury Academic. pp. 445–6. ISBN 978-1-4725-6651-5. 
  3. ^ Alexander S. Lawson (January 1990). Anatomy of a Typeface. David R. Godine Publisher. pp. 277–294. ISBN 978-0-87923-333-4. 
  4. ^ Rotary International (January 1940). The Rotarian. Rotary International. pp. 35–8. ISSN 0035-838X. 
  5. ^ Hutt, Allen (1971). Newspaper Design (2. ed., reprinted. ed.). London [u.a.]: Oxford University Press. pp. 54–8. ISBN 0192129368. 
  6. ^ Unger, Gerard (1 January 1981). "Experimental No. 223, a newspaper typeface, designed by W.A. Dwiggins". Quaerendo. 11 (4): 302–324. doi:10.1163/157006981X00274. 
  7. ^ The Linotype Bulletin, Volume 19, Issues 1-2. 1929. pp. 10, 29. 
  8. ^ Arnold, Edmund C. Functional Newspaper Design. pp. 23–9. 
  9. ^ Butterick, Matthew. "Equity: specimen & manual" (PDF). MBType. Retrieved 7 August 2015. 
  10. ^ a b c d Tracy, Walter. Letters of Credit. pp. 82, 194–195. 
  11. ^ Linotype. "Excelsior". MyFonts. Retrieved 23 May 2015. 
  12. ^ Schwemer-Scheddin, Yvonne. "Reputations: Adrian Frutiger". Eye. Retrieved 12 September 2015. 
  13. ^ a b c The Legibility of Type. Brooklyn: Mergenthaler Linotype Company. 1935. Retrieved 29 April 2016. 
  14. ^ Linotype Corona. Mergenthaler Linotype Company. c. 1951. Retrieved 1 August 2017. 
  1. ^ Hutt suggests that the design was based on the popular family of the name Ionic from Miller and Richard and other foundries, slightly bolder than the norm for body text during the late nineteenth century.[5] Ovink, however, has argued that a more direct influence (although not on the italic) was American Type Founders' Century Expanded, but that Linotype were unwilling to admit any inspiration from a competitor's work and so chose a name suggesting a more distant inspiration.[6]
  2. ^ A modern method similar to this is font grades, different designs of digital font intended to compensate for different amounts of ink spread.[9]
  3. ^ Not to be confused with the script typeface Coronet.

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