Typographic Programs

Created by: Marcela Romero

«As a book designer, I have worked on several complex books in which more than one typeface were needed in order to clarify things in the text and generally, in those cases, it is often quite useful to mix a sans and a serif typeface. The problem was always which ones to choose, though… It became clear to me that the best solution for a complex text was to use a combination of a serif and a sans that share a common ground», Revista tipoGráfica 53.

This problem introduced by Majoor and the solution he proposes has several specific examples.
By the middle of this century photocomposition was already common use, the first computers and transferable letters appeared and in that context, the Univers typeface (1954/57) designed by Adrian Frutiger Deberny & Peignot, was the first of these examples. Frutiger proposed a method to rationally arrange the great number of variables that composed this typeface, with variations in weight, width and axis. This typography program is composed of 21 systems. Later on, the Univers program was commercialized by Monotype Corporation.

This typeface family had the aspiration of being universal, adaptable to all types of compositions (linotype, movable types, photocomposition) with different versions designed for each printing method.

Up to now, there has never been a typeface with such an extensive number of variables and its presentation reinforced the programmatic idea with which variables had been generated. Frutiger proposed that the terms “bold”, “narrow”, etc be left in disuse and replaced by a numeric system that established the relation between variables.

Programa: Univers

El centro del sistema está en la Univers 55, equivalente al tipo estándar. El eje vertical muestra diferentes pesos del trazo (toda variable que comience con la misma decena tiene el mismo grosor). El eje horizontal organiza los anchos de los signos, desde los más anchos hasta los más estrechos, con sus respectivas versiones itálicas. Las unidades impares identifican a las redondas, las pares a las itálicas. Si se mira una columna del esquema se verá signos de igual ancho y eje y su color se irá incrementando al ensanchase el trazo.

The Univers program allows the user to obtain a wide range of color contrasts, width, tilting, and weight, to meet the needs for a hierarchy in a complex text within a single typeface family.

Serial families

This name is proposed by Muriel Paris in the Brief Manual of Typographic composition (Paris, 1999) to refer to typeface families with more than one style, such as Rotis, Stone, Lucida, Thesis, Officina, Relato and Scala, among many others.

Familias seriales

Los contornos negros corresponden a variables con serif, los signos verdes a la sans serif.

Hay cla­ros an­te­ce­den­tes de fa­mi­lias se­ria­les en la his­to­ria. Ale­jan­dro Lo Cel­so ci­ta al­gu­nos en su no­ta «La fa­mi­lia se­rial. Nue­va es­pe­cie en la flo­ra y fau­na ti­po­grá­fi­cas», pu­bli­ca­da en re­vis­ta ti­po­Grá­fi­ca nú­me­ro 47, co­mo el ca­so de Ro­mu­lus, de Jan van Krim­pen, crea­da pa­ra Ens­che­dé y Mo­noty­pe a co­mien­zos de la dé­ca­da del 30.

There are clear records of serial families in history. Alejandro Lo Celso mentions some of them in his note “The serial family: New species in the typographic flora and fauna” published in the tipoGrafica Magazine, number 47, as in the case of Romulus, Jan van Krimpen, created for Enschedé and Monotype in the early 30s.

According to Lo Celso the first contemporary serials are Demos, by Gerard Unger, designed for the German firm Hell in 1976, a typeface with serif and in 3 weights and which took into consideration the low resolution of screens at that moment. The following year, Hell implemented the use of Praxis, a sans designed based on the same basic elements. Later on, Flora, an italic, was added to the program. Even when at the beginning they were not designed as a serial, they function as such.

Programa: Rotis

Programa: Rotis, manufacturado por Agfa Compugraphic.


The Lucida program (1984) brings together a sans and a serif, devised to be printed in a laser 300 dpi printer without suffering any deterioration. Mathematic, phonetic and monospaced alphabets have also been developed in this program.

Programa: Lucida

Lucida Sans (Kris Holmes y Charles Bigelow, 1984); 9, Lucida Regular, Itálica, Bold y Bold Itálica. Lucida presenta serifas robustas y formas sintéticas que resisten la erosión producida por la baja resolución de las impresoras de escritorio.


Otl Aicher in 1984 presented the Rotis program composed by 4 systems, one serif, one sans and two intermediate ones (Rotis Serif –Roman–, Rotis Sans Serif –grotesque–, Rotis Semi Serif –semi Roman– and Rotis Semi Sans –semi grotesque). The two hybrid variables present the transition between one system and the other, maintaining the basic features. This program broadened the possibilities for solving hierarchies within a family and was one of the first digital typographic designs.


Another typography program is Stone, designed by Summer Stone in 1984/87, with 18 variables that cover not only style but technical reproduction requirements, designed to resist different resolutions without loosing legibility.

Stone contains 3 subfamilies: serif, sans and informal, in Roman and italic and in 3 colors: medium, semibold and bold.

Sto­ne con­tie­ne tres sub­fa­mi­lias: se­rif, sans e in­for­mal, en ro­ma­na e itá­li­ca; y en tres co­lo­res: me­dium, se­mi­bold y bold.

Programa: Stone

Stone contiene tres subfamilias: serif, sans e informal, en romana e itálica; y en tres colores: medium, semibold y bold.


Was designed in 1994 by Luc(as) de Goot as graduation thesis of his university studies in Holland. It is a typography program that offers 3 alternatives: Thesis TheSans, TheSerif and TheMix. Each of these systems has 8 weight variables, as well as capitals and lower case numbers, mathematic symbols and miscellanea, adding to a total of 144 fonts. One of his objectives was to create a program that could be used as institutional typography which could solve with all communicative needs with a single family.

Programa: Thesis

Thesis Serif, Thesis Mix y Thesis Sans, diseñadas por Luc(as) de Groot en un proceso que tomó 5 años.


This program includes Scala Serif (1990), Scala Sans (1993) and Scala Jewels (1996) and was designed the Dutch designer Martin Majoor. It was designed as an institutional typography for the Vredenburg Music Centre in Utrech. Serif has clear Bembo influences and the sans is a derivation of the serif. The Scala Jewels contains 4 display variables based in the Scala Bold capitals.

Majoor has designed other serials. Telefont (list and text) for PT (Dutch telephone company) to use in its telephone directories; Seria (sans and serif) devised for literary texts, easy to read.

Programa: Scala

El dibujo de las estructuras de las versiones romanas e itálicas de Scala y Scala Sans permiten apreciar su parentesco estructural. Este sistema ha sido adopta¬do como tipografía de uso corriente en ediciones periódicas.

Currently there are many families designed as typography programs.


  • MC LEAN, Ruari. Manual tipográfico. Tellus, Madrid, 1988.
  • COPPOLA , N. y FONTANA , R., Apuntes de tipografía. 1985.
  • DE BUEN UNNA, Jorge.  Manual de diseño editorial. 3.ª edición, corregida y aumentada. Trea Ediciones, España, 2009.
  • LO CELSO, Alejandro, “La familia serial. Nueva especie en la flora y fauna tipográficas”, Revista tipoGráfica 47.
  • MAJOOR, Martin, “Mi filosofía del diseño tipográfico”, Revista tipoGráfica 53.

This entry is also available in: Spanish

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