THE NON-DESIGNER'S TYPE BOOK
The multiple master technology uses from two to four design axes. When
you buy a multiple master font, on the box you will see how many axes it
has. Most of them have only two, width and weight, although more and
more are being created with the third axis, optical size.
Let's say you have a font with only one axis, width. Picture a very light¬
weight, condensed letter in one corner. Horizontally across, in another
corner, is a very lightweight but extended letter. In the tiny squares
between are all the letters that make that transition from condensed to
expanded, each properly designed. But they're not really there yet—that's
your job. You move the slider bar and the new font is created.
¡3 В гЗ E3 This is a small sample of the width access possibilities.
You can create hundreds of variations in-between.
If the font has the weight axis as well, visualize a checkerboard with tiny
squares. In the top left and right corners are the matrices for the design
axis, weight, as described above. Imagine that in the vertical corner below
the light condensed letter there is a very bold condensed letter. And in the
fourth corner is a very bold expanded letter. Again, you can create any of
the characters between the two. This is another design axis, the weight axis.
Now imagine all the tiny little squares on the entire checkerboard filled in,
interpolated between both the weight and the width axes. You can choose
any variation of a character with any combination of weight and width.
Remember, the difference is that these letterforms retain their intrinsic
You can create hundreds of variations in
any direction between the four corners, as
bold and fat as the bottom right corner, as
light and narrow as the upper left corner,
and anything in-between. Amazing.
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Зо: MULTIPLE MASTERS
Optical size axis
Some multiple master fonts also include optimizing, or visual scaling,
capabilities. Remember Chapter 13 on display type, and how the design
characteristics are different for large-sized type than for small type? Well,
some multiple master fonts have a third design axis, size, with a small point
size at one end and a large point size at the other, each designed for maxi¬
mum readability and legibility. You can choose to interpolate any type size
between the two, which theoretically means that any size type will have
beautifully proportioned, properly spaced characters.
If you think of the first two design axes weight and width as being on a
checkerboard, then these three design axes are a three-dimensional check¬
erboard. The top and bottom layers of the board have the same weight and
width axes, but the top layer is a tiny point size and the bottom layer is a
large point size and in-between are all the different sizes along with all the
variations in weight and width. Oh my gosh.
So if a font has all three of these design axes (weight, width, and size), you
can adjust the weight and the width of your type and still keep the propor¬
tions beautiful and readable as you enlarge or reduce the text.
And there is a fourth design axis (the fourth dimension?) of style.
At one end is a sans serif font and at the other end is a serif font. The style
transitions from monoweight, unstressed letterforms to a typical serif, two-
weight form. Or perhaps the style ranges from inline to decorated, or from
a slab serif to a face with wedge serifs. Not every multiple master font
encompasses all four design axes. In fact, very few encompass this fourth