Utopia (typeface)

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Adobe Utopia
Utopia Specimen.png
Category Serif
Classification Transitional
Designer(s) Robert Slimbach
Commissioned by Adobe Systems
Date released 1989
Shown here Utopia Regular

Utopia is the name of a transitional serif typeface designed by Robert Slimbach and released by his employer Adobe Systems in 1989.[1]


Utopia qualifies as a transitional serif typeface: one based on 18th and early-19th century ideals of classical design. Adobe's release notes cite Baskerville and Walbaum as influences.[2] It was one of the first typefaces to be part of Adobe's Originals programme, designed to feature a large range of styles for professional use. Current versions of the typeface are released in the OpenType format and include features such as ligatures and small capitals. It is released in four optical variants, for display, headline, regular and caption text sizes, each in regular, semibold and bold weights. A black (extra-bold) weight is available in the headline size.

Free software release[edit]

Uniquely for Adobe's professional typefaces, a basic set of Utopia's styles has been open-sourced by Adobe, allowing it to be used for free. This comprises regular, italic, bold and bold italic styles of the regular size, with 229 glyphs for each, including ligatures but not small capitals. Adobe donated the Utopia typeface (in the form of PostScript Type 1 files) to the X Consortium, for use in the X Window System, a popular graphical environment for Unix workstations.[3] Conversions of the Type 1 files to ttf and otf files have also been made. This release is designed for use at small text sizes, with a large x-height and quite thick stroke widths. Adobe retains rights to the Utopia name, and prohibits modified fonts from being redistributed without the name being changed.[4]

The OpenType version that Adobe now distributes commercially was modified from the open-sourced PostScript fonts, and Adobe does not guarantee that the font metrics are the same. This potential change of font metrics which can lead typesetting programs (like Adobe InDesign or TeX) to break lines of texts in different places. For high-end typesetting, such differences can be important, especially regarding variations in different printings (if fonts with the same metrics are not used) and also problems with generation of indices.

Initial donation to the X Consortium[edit]

There was controversy around the license regarding the status of the font files as free software. Many distributors (with one of the prominent being the Debian project), to prevent being sued, opted to state clearly that the fonts had a non-clear license which prevented it from being freely redistributable with modifications.[5] After considerable debate, Adobe formally donated the Type 1 version of the font, on October 11, 2006, to the TeX Users Group (TUG), with clarified concerns regarding its use licensing, so that it could be used with, for instance, Donald Knuth's program TeX, a digital typesetting system for computers. The version donated consisted of the Roman (Regular), Italic, Bold, and Bold Italic versions of the typeface, differently from the commercial version offered as part of the Adobe Originals Pack.[6] On November 17, 2006, Karl Berry, the TeX Users Group President, gave irrevocable permissions of the font to any third party and it constitutes free software.

Derived typefaces[edit]

The original Utopia typeface has, since being released as free software, been modified to support glyphs in scripts other than the basic Latin script: at least two projects have emerged from the sources that Adobe has donated, one being an adaptation to Vietnamese, called Vntopia, by Hàn Thế Thành.[7]

Another further development of the original was made by Andrey V. Panov, in a derivative called Heuristica (also: "Эвристика"), with the primary intent of adding Cyrillic symbols. Andrey has also incorporated Hàn Thế Thành's Vietnamese glyphs in Heuristica and the development of the project is open.[8]


From 1995 to 1997, Adobe filed several complaints against Southern Software, Inc. regarding the latter company's use of the Utopia font, under the name "Veracity", in its products. In 1998, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California ruled in favor of Adobe, finding that Southern Software, Inc.'s font software infringed Adobe's copyright. Although typefaces are held to be unprotectable by copyright under United States copyright law, the court found that the control points used by the font software to generate the typeface were protectable.


  1. ^ "Read Me". Adobe.com. Retrieved 2011-08-04. 
  2. ^ Shaw, Paul. "Overlooked Typefaces". Print magazine. Retrieved 2 July 2015. 
  3. ^ Paul Asente, from Adobe, stating the availability of Utopia for use with the X Window System [1]
  4. ^ Karl Berry, Announcement of sublicensing of Utopia, without restrictions [2]
  5. ^ "[texhax] Re: question re. the license of Adobe Utopia". tug.org. 2005-09-21. Retrieved 2011-08-04. 
  6. ^ As a side effect of the fact that Adobe distributed the fonts as free software, improvements and extra features can be incorporated to the font—and have already been done so with software like FontForge.
  7. ^ "Các tin đáng chú ý". vntex.sourceforge.net. Retrieved 2011-08-04. 
  8. ^ "evristika - Heuristica is extended version of Adobe Utopia font". code.google.com. Retrieved 2011-08-04. 

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