Global typography nonprofit withdraws endorsement of system it adopted in 1962, will convene exploratory working group surrounding classification.
PRESS: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 27, 2021
BUFFALO, NY, April 27, 2021—The Association Typographique Internationale (ATypI) announced that it has de-adopted the Vox-ATypI system of typeface classification and has withdrawn its endorsement of said system, effective immediately. Additionally, the nonprofit organization resolved to convene an exploratory working group surrounding typeface classification.
At a regular meeting held online on March 18, 2021, the ATypI board of directors passed two resolutions—one formalizing the de-adoption of the Vox-ATypI system and another directing the establishment of a working group to study the feasibility of developing and collaborating on contemporary typeface classification systems that embrace the wealth of writing systems from around the world.
Background on the Vox-ATypI typeface classification system
The Vox typeface classification system was devised in 1954 by Maximilien Vox, a French writer, illustrator, and typography historian who was later a founding member of ATypI. The Vox system was adopted by ATypI in 1962 and was thereafter more familiarly known as the Vox-ATypI classification. In 1967, the system was adopted in a modified form as a British Standard: British Standards Classification of Typefaces (BS 2961:1967).
The world has many different writing systems. Latin is not just the language, but also the writing system used for languages such as English, French, German, Spanish, Polish, and Hungarian. The first iteration of the Vox system divided typefaces based on the Latin writing system into nine general classes typically identified by physical characteristics, such as the presence or absence of serifs, x-height, stroke axis, etc. For example, the ‘Garaldes’ included finely proportioned serif faces like Garamond and Bembo, while the Linéales (Lineals) combined all sans-serif types, such as Futura and Gill Sans, into one class. This approach disregarded other writing systems such as Cyrillic, Arabic, Hebrew, and Asian languages entirely. While a later modification to Vox added a category for typefaces not based on Latin, it grouped all of these scripts under the single heterogenous heading of ‘Non-Latines,’ effectively dismissing the diversity of writing systems around the globe. Although the original Vox system and its variations may have corresponded to the needs of the Western-based typography and printing industries of the mid-twentieth century, the classification as it stands is severely limited in scope. It is not—despite previous revisions—inclusive of the breadth of writing systems in use and still emerging worldwide.
Since ATypI’s primary mission is to serve a global audience and the Vox-ATypI system is not representative of the creative output of the association’s membership nor that of the greater international type community, the nonprofit opted to withdraw its endorsement of the system and explore new models and methods of classifying typefaces.
In the near future, ATypI will assemble a working group consisting of experts from across relevant disciplines to study the matter.
“I am excited to start working towards more contemporary type classification systems,” said Carolina Laudon, president of the ATypI board of directors. “The Vox-ATypI system may have served its purpose in the past, but it is no longer representative of our community. I look forward to the possibilities of exploring a new system for navigating typefaces with our members, partners, collaborators, and other experts worldwide.”
The Association Typographique Internationale (ATypI) is the global forum and focal point for the type community and business. Founded in France in 1957, ATypI is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization incorporated in California, United States. ATypI draws members from all over the world in furtherance of its educational mission—to support and promote typeface design, typography, and the related arts and sciences, as well as those working, teaching, and studying in these fields.
ATypI presents conferences, workshops, seminars, and other events in cities worldwide and online, where members and stakeholders gather to discuss typography, font design, language, type technology, typographic education and research, lettering, calligraphy, printing history, letterpress, and related subjects. The nonprofit also produces books and other educational resources devoted to type design and typography.
The association’s next event, ATypI Tech Talks 2021, will be held online May 3–5. The conference program will feature several sessions centered around typeface classification.