The Reading Edge(RE) fonts

Ten font families, each with four basic styles,
designed to function reliably at 9px–18px

Render type as

Antenna RE

Antenna RE, a square-styled sans serif, joins its name­sake’s extensive list of weights and widths for both print and web. Broad pro­por­tions and open spacing as well as the large and con­sis­tent­ly-shaped counters add to Antenna RE’s calm de­lib­er­ation and good read­abil­i­ty. Antenna RE is con­tem­pla­tive and suave. Its repetitive forms make it a steady choice – no matter how small.

Apres RE

Apres RE is a geometric sans serif based on the Apres type series that David Berlow and Font Bureau staff originally drew for the Palm Pre smartphone. The letterforms are round and balanced, the spacing crisp. Apres RE cites geo­me­try without feeling overly simplified or mechanical. Its light structure with a dis­tinct bold deliver an ap­proach­able, intelligent voice well-suited for text and navigation.

Benton Modern RE

Benton Modern RE is a small-size web adaptation of a modern serif. Its print and web relatives have roots in Morris Fuller Benton’s great news faces like Century Expanded. Close up, Benton Modern RE bears wider letterforms, larger counters, and thicker strokes so that it reduces clearly on the web. Still, its ver­ti­cal con­trast and elegance exude a sophistication especially suitable for editorial texts.

Benton Sans RE

Benton Sans RE echoes the a­dapt­a­bility of its print com­pan­ion from Font Bureau, a redesign and ex­pan­sion on Morris Fuller Benton’s American grotesque News Gothic. To ac­com­mo­date the re­quire­ments of small text on screen – similar to those of agate type used in news­paper listings – Benton Sans RE has broader pro­por­tions and adapted spacing. Benton Sans RE is frank but con­sid­er­ate, a straightforward sans serif of exceptional versatility.

Giza RE

A light interpretation of Font Bureau’s beefy 16-style slab serif family, Giza RE translates the display-focused Egyptian into four styles for legible body copy. Its wide letterforms, linear strokes, and large interior spaces make Giza RE resolute and lively but not flippant. With hints of durable type­writ­er faces, Giza RE lends itself to less formal applications or anything that requires a bit of fortitude.

Ibis RE

Ibis RE is a continuation of Cyrus Highsmith’s square serif explorations, Ibis Text and Ibis Display, inspired by Walbaum’s rational letterforms and Melior’s su­per­el­lip­ti­cal shapes and sturdy serifs. Ibis RE’s regularity and generous spacing contribute to its calm and harmonious ap­pear­ance, making it a pleasure to read at small sizes. Ibis RE is confident and reliable without being buttoned-up.

Poynter Serif RE

Poynter Serif RE, an oldstyle serif, draws on the seventeenth-century romans of Hendrik van den Keere and follows research spon­sored by the Poynter Institute to create an optimally readable text face. In con­trast to news­papers’ common demand for economic pro­por­tions, Poynter Serif RE has gen­er­ous­ly wide letterforms while retaining its bookish feel. This together with its large x-height make it also well-suited for agate text in print. Experienced and com­pe­tent, Poynter Serif RE brings tradition to small text on screen.

Turnip RE

With Turnip RE, David Jonathan Ross created a typeface with an energetic tension between squarish inner and round outer shapes to give it vigor and strength. Turnip RE is rustic but not unrefined – an easy­going face with texture and charm. Part of the larger Turnip series, Turnip RE is slightly wider with less stroke con­trast than the regular styles. Even set very small, its large ap­pear­ance offers reading matter by the mouthful.

Scout RE

Scout RE grew out of the Scout family Cyrus Highsmith originally designed for En­ter­tain­ment Weekly. Compared to other sans serifs in the Reading Edge series, Scout RE is narrower and more gen­er­ous­ly spaced, making it ideal for user interface design or small labels, and a perfect match to Ibis RE. Large, oval counters – inspired by typefaces such as DIN, Venus, and Cairoli – contribute to excellent read­abil­i­ty on screen. Scout RE is economic and adaptable, the apposite choice for everyday use.

Custer RE

Custer RE, designed by David Berlow, was inspired by a turn-of-the-20th-century oldstyle text face from the Western Type Foundry. Broad and ap­proach­able, it is drawn large on the body with a tall x-height to maximize its apparent size when set small. The minimal stroke con­trast and hefty serifs let it stay clear down to the smallest sizes. Custer RE is of balanced tone and modest manners, made for sustained read­abil­i­ty in long paragraphs of text.

A New Approach to Small Type

Type made specifically for onscreen reading solves many of the issues that arise with web typography.

The limitations of today’s screen-based media impose many restrictions on web typography. Even if a designer understands these limitations, the large majority of typefaces available for web use were not designed for that purpose. Crafted with the same level of care as the rest of Font Bureau’s library, the Reading Edge™ (RE) series is a collection of web fonts that helps alleviate this tension between refined typography and the screen.

Every pixel counts

The Reading Edge typefaces were designed from scratch specifically for small sizes on screen. Small type on the web faces problems that hinder onscreen read­abil­i­ty. Details that are critical for legibility can be easily lost when reduced to sub-pixel sizes. Clarity is also sacrificed with low resolutions. Additional “hinting” data can be embedded in fonts, instructing how to bend each glyph to fit the pixel grid at different sizes, but hinting alone can’t guarantee legibility. The underlying design of each letterform is essential, especially in rendering environments like Mac OS X that ignore hinting data. Font Bureau’s RE typefaces do more than take these limitations into account. The RE fonts are carefully produced with the restrictions of web typography guiding each step of the process.

The effects of rasterization at 9px in Mac OS X with Benton Modern (left) and its Reading Edge counterpart, Benton Modern RE (right), illustrating the value of screen-specific design variations.

Thinking big and small

Reading Edge typefaces may start small and stay small, but they also address the need for cohesive palettes of typefaces on the web. The RE typefaces are named and styled to correspond to existing typefaces in Font Bureau’s print and web libraries to help facilitate brand consistency across various media. The fonts also pair well with other typefaces of the same genre, filling the need for legible choices in every size range.

Styles with very delicate, narrow, or bold forms should be reserved for larger sizes.

Mid-Atlantic Xylophone Milky
Condensed and regular widths hold up best when set at medium sizes.

Lazy movers quit hard packing of these papier-mâché jewelry boxes. Back at my quaint garden: jaunt zinnias vie with flaunting phlox. Hark! 4,872 toxic jungle water vipers quietly drop on zebra for meals! New farm hand (picking just six quinces) proves strong but lazy.
Reading Edge typefaces function optimally where other web fonts may falter: on the small end of the size spectrum.

Precursors of the Reading Edge

In developing the Reading Edge series, Font Bureau designers drew inspiration from several key precursors for readable type.

Ionic No. 5 from the Linotype Legibility Group
Ionic No. 5 (1926) was one of several typefaces from the Linotype Legibility Group.

The Linotype Legibility Group type families were developed under the direction of Chauncey H. Griffith in the 1920s and ’30s for high-speed news­paper presses and absorbent newsprint. Features like generous x-heights, sturdy serifs, and low con­trast between thick and thin strokes aided read­abil­i­ty and held up to heavy ink and letter distortion. Shorter ascenders and descenders increased the page economy by allowing more lines to be set in a tighter ver­ti­cal space. Like the Reading Edge series, the Legibility Group was intended to work under harsh technical constraints and pair well with other headline typefaces.

Times, 16px
Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs.
Arial, 16px
Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs.
Georgia, 16px
Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs.
Verdana, 16px
Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs.
Georgia and Verdana's letters are wider compared to most fonts, taking up more space but also providing better read­abil­i­ty.

Georgia and Verdana are two of the most prevalent typefaces used on the web because they were developed specifically for the screen. Without the need to save paper on a physical page, Matthew Carter drew his letters wider than most body typefaces for print and provided generous spacing between them. Large x-heights again increase read­abil­i­ty at small sizes, and short ascenders and descenders prevent lines from intersecting even when set close together. Based on similar principles, the Reading Edge series joins Georgia and Verdana’s world of web fonts for small sizes.

Font Bureau's Readability Series
In use: Old Modern, Bureau Roman, and Poynter Gothic Text of Font Bureau’s Readability Series

The Readability Series is a group of print typefaces from Font Bureau that provides news­papers with diverse alternatives for page composition. Its graded text faces offer lighter and heavier versions of a typeface to compensate for specific printing process or paper stock. The Readability Series includes fonts suited for headlines, as well. Like the RE fonts, the Readability Series was designed for crude output conditions and shows special consideration for small text as an integral part of larger typographic palettes.

Dissecting the Small Print

The anatomy of an Reading Edge typeface relates intimately to its onscreen read­abil­i­ty. With careful hinting to optimize rendering in a multitude of environments, RE typefaces can survive down to 9px, if not smaller. Even though the typefaces in the Reading Edge series span a variety of classifications, several features are common to their construction.

Diagram howing the formal characteristics of a Reading Edge typeface

1 Exaggerated features

Reading Edge typefaces exaggerate the glyph features (serif, tail, etc.) of their respective classifications so the genres are convincing and recognizable at small sizes and low resolutions.

2 Enlarged apertures

Compared to other related styles that weren’t optimized for small sizes, the Reading Edge typefaces have larger clearances between letter features, reducing cases where forms close in on themselves.

3 Low con­trast

Since every pixel matters for legibility, RE typefaces maintain moderate stroke weights for small sizes. By keeping the most important letter features above a minimum size, the danger of losing personality at low resolutions is reduced. Even with a Reading Edge modern serif, thin strokes will not disappear when type is scaled down.

4 Wider forms

Page size limitations from the print world are less relevant with type on screen. For small type sizes, wider and more open letterforms with ample letter spacing are easier to read.

5 Generous x-heights

Taking a lesson from its precursors, the RE typefaces sport larger x-heights than their com­pan­ions. This shift in pro­por­tions means that type appears larger and is easier to read even when set at the same pixel size. As a result, designers can choose from a greater number of type sizes for the job.

6 Short ascenders and descenders

As is often the case in typefaces with large x-heights, the ascenders and descenders of the Reading Edge typefaces are kept short, allowing the most important parts of the letters to occupy as much of the body size as possible without causing crashes from neighboring lines of type.

Pairing with Reading Edge fonts

Recommendations for cohesive type palettes
with Webtype’s normal-sized fonts

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