Font Development Best Practices

Technical guidance regarding font development and production

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3.1 Font Naming

Fonts typically have two names by which they’re identified: the internal font name that appears in application menus and the font filename. These two names should be synchronized in a particular way.

Internal font names

The most effective font names (those seen in application menus, etc.) have a few characteristics:

  • They are unique to the particular font family.
  • They do not include “Unicode”, as most fonts are Unicode-encoded. If the font is not Unicode-encoded, then an indication of that may be added to the name, as in “Anaconda L” (for legacy).
  • They do not include specific script or language names. If a font family has multiple language-specific versions, then some indication of the language (such as an Ethnologue code), may be added, as in “Anaconda GDX”.
  • They are not strongly geographic, such as the name of a province or city. In some situations a font named after a particular place can cause people in other areas to not use it.
  • They are not references to particular people, such as political leaders or recent cultural heroes. Legendary or historic names are much better, as long as they are not strongly exclusive to a certain subculture.
  • They may include spaces, but not numerals or any punctuation. There are some rare situations in which numbers can cause technical problems.

New fontnames should be checked for conflicts with existing fonts. The easiest way to do that is to search on namecheck.fontdata.com.

Font filenames

An individual font file is typically no different from other files in an operating system, and is (for the most part) only bound by the limitations on legal names in that operating system. However there is a pattern of font file naming that has become reasonably common, and that we recommend:

FontFamilyName-StyleName.otf

Here the spaces are removed in the family name and between any weight or style names, then a single hyphen is placed between the two. For example, the Bold Italic weight of “Source Sans Pro” would be named:

SourceSansPro-BoldItalic.otf

Note that even if there is only one style in the family, that style should be included in the font filename, for example:

Lateef-Regular.ttf

Font families

Some applications and operating systems can handle complex font families with many weights, however many still do not, and trying to coordinate a well-functioning family across multiple platforms is a technical nightmare. Best practice is that font families should normally be grouped in sets of four that correspond to Regular, Italic, Bold, and Bold Italic weights. If a design has more than four weights/styles, it is best to split them into separate groups of two or four and change the main font name for each group.

For example, say the “Anaconda Pro” font family has four upright weights (Light, Regular, Semibold, Bold) and four corresponding italic faces. The most trouble-free way to deliver these would be as two separate font families, Anaconda Pro Light:

  • Anaconda Pro Light - Regular (designed as Anaconda Pro - Light)
  • Anaconda Pro Light - Italic (designed as Anaconda Pro - Light Italic)
  • Anaconda Pro Light - Bold (designed as Anaconda Pro - Semibold)
  • Anaconda Pro Light - Bold Italic (designed as Anaconda Pro - Semibold Italic)

and Anaconda Pro:

  • Anaconda Pro - Regular (designed as Anaconda Pro - Regular)
  • Anaconda Pro - Italic (designed as Anaconda Pro - Italic)
  • Anaconda Pro - Bold (designed as Anaconda Pro - Bold)
  • Anaconda Pro - Bold Italic (designed as Anaconda Pro - Bold Italic)

References

ScriptSource blog post regarding font naming recommendations