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Small Text

Nick Sherman
Last edited October 06, 2016

Since the earliest days of typography, there have been efforts to render text at small sizes, usually to fit within limited spacial constraints. Small type is subject to so many constraints which make it challenging to design. Whatever form it may ultimately take – be it stock numbers on newsprint, website photo credits on computer screens, or mouseprint legalese in television commercials – there are bound to be a handful of technical and cognitive issues which require much more consideration than with larger type.
Though my personal fondness of large-scale type is no secret, my interest in the other end of the size spectrum came to me first, while preparing a college research project on Bell Centennial, Matthew Carter’s typeface for phonebooks.
The list Ive put together here consists of fonts which are somehow relevant to the topic of small type. Some have been designed specifically to compensate for issues that arise at small sizes, others relate to traditions of how small type has been approached historically, and others just happen work well at small sizes due to their clear and open forms. It is by no means an exhaustive list, but presents some related items of note.

— Nick Sherman is an independent Brooklyn-based typographer. He contributes to sites such as Typographica and We Love Typography, and has taught undergraduate typography at MassArt.

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Matthew Carter
Linotype 1978
Steve Matteson, Frank Hinman Pierpont, Monotype.Design Studio and Frank
Monotype 1926
Walter Tracy
Chauncey H. Griffith
Linotype 1931
Holly Goldsmith, Janice Fishman, Jim Parkinson, Giambattista Bodoni and Sumner Stone
ITC 1790
Akira Kobayashi
FontFont 1999

Robert Slimbach
Adobe 1992

Arno Drescher and Nicolai Gogoll
Bitstream 1930
Jan Fromm
Jan Fromm
Ermin Mededovic
TypeTogether 2014