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The Italic Design Process

Italic typefaces are an integral part of the Latin script typographic culture. Since the first italic type appeared in 1501, the style has been adopted to indicate both linguistic and typographic differentiation that the italic phrase or passage is different from other text. Within 100 years, the association between roman and italic was firmly established. The expectation that text typeface families can contain both roman and italic styles continues to present-day. However, the process of designing italics remains a mystery. There are hundreds of resources available that address roman and upright type design, yet very few mention italics and how designers created the style. This talk will explore the Latin script italic design process based on the results of a five-year study into historical and contemporary design practice—including interviews with over 20 designers. It will examine the context for italic design, how designers make style decisions, and what techniques they use to carefully balance the tension between differentiation and connection with the roman type. This model for italic design provides a fresh approach that embraces the diversity of italic design, encourages further exploration, and hints at how the concept of ‘italic’ might be appropriately explored for other scripts.


Victor Gaultney

Senior Type Designer SIL International

Victor Gaultney is a type designer and calligrapher with interests in legibility, diacritics, non-Latin scripts, and italics. As Senior Type Designer at SIL International, Gaultney develops fonts for minority language groups around the world. Gaultney teaches typeface design at the University of Reading, is a co-author of the SIL Open Font License, and led the team that developed ScriptSource (http://scriptsource.org). His most well-known typeface, Gentium, has been a winner in two international typeface design competitions and supports thousands of languages. Gaultney is also a musician, actor, and director.