Typographic styles

Created by: Natalia Fernández, Paula Ibarra

Artículo en proceso de traducción

Typographic variables are options offered by one family in response to the different needs of visual communication. We use them, among other things, to establish different levels of hierarchy within a text, to alter color, to change rhythm, etc.

Typographic variables are elements which, as they belong to a system, must maintain a formal relationship with the family to which they belong. Usually they act on the tilting, weight and width of the letter.


in rhythm. Sometimes the color may also be affected.

Some programs have the «italic» function which tilts all the signs at a specific angle, but italics are not only that, and besides not all letters should have the same tilting: in the italic version of a font, the design of the signs is adjusted so as to achieve another color, it usually takes less space than the normal version and in certain cases (for instance in roman typefaces and in some sans-serif ones) the design of the signs adopts some cursive characteristics. To verify this, let’s take a look at the example below to see how the design of the sign varies.

Rosario: variables

Rosario: variables (secuencia)

El segundo texto está compuesto en Rosario Gris inclinada digitalmente.


Weight variables affect the stroke of the signs, which may result in small structural modifications. What is mainly altered is the typeface color, as there is a change in the relation between the width of the stroke and the counterform of each typographic sign.

To use a bold typeface the corresponding variable has to be available, it is not convenient to transform a normal font in a bold one by electronic means.

The difference is that the bold variable is specifically designed to function as such, while when electronic means are used to alter the font, the machine adds a black border around each sign, modifying the counterforms, the adjustments, and – in the case of roman typefaces – the contrast between the thick and the thin of gradual strokes.

Variables de peso


In width variables, there is a change in the structure of the letter where only the proportions are modified, though the stroke does not vary. The performance is altered (in the first place) and also the color of the text.

Condensed and expanded fonts are also specially designed, thus we should not modify the width using electronic means, as the signs would become deformed.

This is more obvious in uniform stroke typefaces: when electronically condensed or expanded they lose the uniformity of the stroke.

Small Caps

Finally, within this description of variables, we can also mention small caps. Small caps are alphabets with capitals’ structure, but which maintain the height of lower case signs. We use this option, for instance, when we need to use capitals but do not want to create irregularities in the color of the text.

In the graph, from top to bottom: the word composed in lower case, then in small caps, and finally, in «machine» small caps, which are signs with a 75% reduction in their size. Among the conflicts that result from this we find: first, artificial small caps do not have the same height as lower case, and second, they do not maintain the color of the lower case. Bembo 24 pt was used.

The criteria mentioned in this text are not the only ones to be followed in order to decide how to create typeface variables, but are the most widely used ones.

Calluna: versalitas

This entry is also available in: Spanish

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