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 since they 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. As many sans-serif fonts were intended for use on headings and posters, especially early ones, some were not designed with italics at all, as these were considered unnecessary.

A simply slanted (L) and corrected (R) example of oblique type.

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 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 (which may look worse) as many programs such as Microsoft Office 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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