Posted by Paul D. Hunt

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May 27, 2010

When Thomas Phinney announced via this blog three years ago that his typeface family was “available,” he left us with a bit of a cliffhanger by telling us that the italics would be forthcoming. Today I can tell you that the wait for the complete family is over. The roman and italic fonts can now be purchased online from our type showroom. We will be offering all of the faces as individual font sales, or available in two packages – one which includes the full family and another which offers only the italics. The package offering only the italics is offered at a special discount of $55 for all the italic fonts (versus $35 per font) and is intended for customers who received Hypatia as a registration incentive and only want the italic faces.


A partial showing of Hypatia Sans Pro Italic

In honor of this occasion, I approached Thomas to describe his process in developing an italic design for this typeface family. These are his words:

With the Hypatia Sans italics, my goal was to do a heavily modified oblique. First, I took advantage of the underlying multiple master outlines in my development version of Hypatia Sans to select for each weight a version that was slightly more condensed, and slightly lighter. Getting the right degree of contrast here was tricky, and I went through many rounds of tweaking just how much more condensed and how much lighter the italics would be compared to the upright faces.
Simply automatically slanting the upright forms to create an oblique, as is sometimes done with italics has two problems that need to be compensated for, hence a “modified oblique”:


Above: Slanted upright forms without modification. Below: Designed obliques.

First, certain shapes get slightly distorted in slanting. Verticals and horizontals are okay, but diagonals either get thinner or thicker depending on what angle they are at. For example, with an “A” the right-hand stroke gets thicker and the left-hand stroke gets thinner. In the case of Hypatia Sans, that would exaggerate the contrast that is already present. A less obvious but similar effect occurs with round shapes such as the “O”, and those letters need to be slightly redesigned to have a more pleasing shape. I spent quite a while doing these sorts of modifications.

Second, there are certain letters that call for different shapes in an italic. Although the difference is usually more pronounced in a serifed typeface, it is common for italics to hew closer to their calligraphic roots than an upright typeface. I wanted to go this route with Hypatia Sans, so I went for the simplified forms of the “a” and “g” (which were already present as alternates in the upright face) and made the “f” descend below the baseline.


Illustrating the differences between the upright and italic forms for “a”, “f”, and “g”.

I worked on the italics on and off, part time, for about a year and a half until my departure from Adobe in December 2008. Unfortunately, with 3000 glyphs per font, there was still a lot to be done beyond these initial decisions and the work I did. The changes made to the basic English characters needed to be paralleled in changes to the rest of the typeface, the extended Latin and the Cyrillic, and with even more thought and sensitivity to the Greek (which is already a bit more cursive in the structure of its lowercase). All the glyphs would need to be re-spaced and re-kerned. There were doubtless errors and inconsistencies in my initial work that had not yet been noticed.

As Thomas describes above, the general design direction was set when I began my work on the Hypatia Sans italics, but the inherited letter forms required some polish to get them to really harmonize as a pleasing typeface. I was guided and assisted by Robert Slimbach through this work. Sometimes he would sit and consult with me on how best to approach a particular problem and sometimes he would take a more hands-on approach and show me by his doing.

As previously noted, the scope of this project was absolutely immense and I was more than a little overwhelmed by dealing with such a gargantuan glyph set. In addition to completing the work on the italics, I was tasked with closing any open bug reports that had been filed against the upright fonts in the years since they were released. I took this opportunity to look at the character set supported by this type family. While Thomas had been developing the Hypatia fonts for the last several years, he was also working to codify Adobe’s extended Latin and Cyrillic character sets. In comparing Hypatia’s character set to these standards, I found that we could offer parity with our Adobe Latin 4 character set by adding 90 additional characters. The Latin glyphs added to Hypatia add support for Pinyin, the International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration scheme, and other Romanization systems. The additions also include the German majuscule Eszett (u+1E9E), the Nigerian naira symbol (u+20A6), the Paraguayan guaraní sign (u+20B2), combining diacritical marks, &c. And in order to support our Adobe Cyrillic 2 character set, only two additional characters were needed to add support for the Ossetian language. In my character set research, I found that two additional currency characters, the Mongolian tögrög (u+20AE) and Kazakhstani tenge (u+20B8), were missing from our character set definitions. This oversight was remedied and brought the total number of characters added to 93. If you have need of any of these characters, please order the new, complete package of Hypatia fonts referenced in the first paragraph.

Because many of these characters required alternates for various OpenType features, this increased the number of glyphs added to each font to ~235 (approximate because the number varies between upright and italic fonts). Multiply this number by two axes and two weights and that’s right around 940 additional glyphs that needed to be created. Luckily for me, the vast majority of these glyphs were easily added by combining preexisting glyphs. However, each of these had to be added to OpenType feature definitions including kerning classes. In the end the final glyph counts end up being 3,286 for the upright fonts and 3,241 for the italic fonts. The addition of such a large number of glyphs warranted a bump in the major version number from one to two. Although there was never a version one of the italic fonts, they were given the same version number as the upright fonts in order to keep the revision numbers in synch.

After much adjustment of fitting, kerning, and weeding out bugs and inconsistencies, the fonts were completed, with the last adjustments being made only a month ago. I would personally like to thank Thomas Phinney and Robert Slimbach for all of their help and guidance through this process; I could not have accomplished this feat without their assistance. In the end I am quite pleased with the result and hope that you will appreciate that it was all worth the wait.


  • By Florian - 1:11 AM on May 28, 2010  

    Will the Italics package be available in the German Adobe Store aswell (and if so, when)? Or am I supposed to lie in my account info? Can’t checkout from the Northern American store with a German Adobe ID.Thanks[The Hypatia Sans release is not officially on the other Stores yet. That is in process, but we are not sure how long it will take. Edit: The fonts were released worldwide on May 28, however there seem to have been some issues with finding them via search. The simplest way to track down the fonts in your localized storefront is to click the letter 'H' under the search form. — PDH]

  • By Matthew Carroll - 3:37 PM on May 28, 2010  

    Thanks for detailing some of the work that went into updating and extending Hypatia Sans Pro. It’s great to be taken on a quick behind-the-scenes tour.[You are very welcome. We hope you also enjoy the fonts. — PDH]

  • By Thomas Kunz - 3:17 PM on May 30, 2010  

    The italics have the uppercase ß (unicode 1E9E) wich is not included in the romans delivered as a registration incentive with CS3. Is there any possibility to get an upgrade for the romans?[Unfortunately, we are not able to offer any upgrades at this time. If you have need of the additional characters added in the new font versions, you must purchase the updated fonts. — PDH]

  • By Daniel Garcia - 2:48 AM on June 14, 2010  

    Does this font include the Bulgarian characters 040D and 045D (i with an accent)?I am testing the MyriadPro font and it does not include them. I was wondering if this new font will support them.[The versions of Hypatia Sans Pro, including the italics, that are being sold in our Type Showroom include glyphs for U+040D and U+045D. If you download the "Glyph Complement" PDF from either of the links provided in this article, you can search for "\u040D" or "\u045D" to confirm for yourself. — KL]

  • By hjn - 3:36 AM on June 14, 2010  

    Testing the Hypatia family for a dictionary layout job we missed phonetic characters (Unicode IPA Extensions, etc.).[This is correct. As stated in the blog posting, these fonts follow our own Adobe Latin 4 character set standard; this standard does not include IPA extensions. Our Adobe Latin 5 character set includes these characters. — PDH]

  • By Phil - 2:17 AM on September 6, 2010  

    Oh this is great news! I’ve been waiting for so long — these look fantastic.

  • By Jim Swift - 9:54 AM on December 16, 2010  

    I am having a lot of difficulty with the Hypatia Sans Pro Regular font when I export my InDesign document to Adobe PDF. It looks VERY different from the look in InDesign, looking as though I had used bold.
    Was there a bug in the original set that I got when I registered InDesign CS5?


    • By Christopher Slye - 4:31 PM on December 16, 2010  

      Jim, thanks for forwarding the screen shots. For the benefit of other readers: We found the problem was the “Enable Anti-aliasing” setting in InDesign (found in Preferences > Display Performance). With this preference un-checked, the un-smoothed appearance of text in InDesign does indeed look different (and in this case, lighter) than smoothed text in a PDF.