I am just starting out in type design and I am trying to learn as much as I can. I am trying to learn best practices so I do not develop bad habits. I have seen the PANOSE system mentioned in a few places and have looked through the reference documents that I could readily find here and here. But given the age of the documents I do not know if the system is still in use, or if it even was ever "best practices".

Should I classify my typeface using the PANOSE system or ignore it?

What are the benefits of using the system?

Is PANOSE 2.0 the most current version?

  • i would like an answer from someone that designs type for a living or did and has at least heard of the PANOSE system before reading this question. assuming i have a working knowledge of the fundamentals and background of type design already, when i apply those going forward to design a typeface, should i classify it according to PANOSE? – brnnnrsmssn Jul 2 '18 at 18:52

One of the main uses of Panose classifications (and possibly one of the only practical day-to-day uses) is to allow the font subsystem on, say, Windows to choose a substitute font when an application/document requests a font that isn't installed on the system.

The OS is going to substitute SOME font for the missing one no matter what; providing a meaningful Panose value for your fonts would at least give it a fighting chance of choosing a not-totally-awful substitute, assuming one is available.


Since in one of the texts of the links it states that –PANOSE is a classification system for visual attributes of type only; there is no information contained within a PANOSE Classification Number that pertains to the character widths, spacing metrics, or advance widths–, for generic typography measurements it is not very useful. In typography and typesetting white spaces are as important as the letter itself, such as Kerning, Tracking and Leading.

One of the most important problems when designing a font is, once made, the kerning adjustment. If you have studied the Panose System by memory and then it does not help you to define the kerning of your font, what a waste of time!

After reading this tutorial at high-logic.com, I feel well knowing that some programs and font creators use the Panose measurement system and they do that automatically.

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    i do not see how this addresses any of my questions. kerning is indeed extremely important in the design of a typeface and in the typesetting for each application. how does that make it a waste of time to classify the typeface of the panose system. a designer has control over the kerning at the time of application, but much less control over the look of the characters of a typeface. – brnnnrsmssn Jul 2 '18 at 0:33
  • My answer is not a dogma, it's an opinion. If somebody come to me and say I learn the whole Panose System by memory, I will say great!, information is always welcome. Where do you apply it? If somebody come to me and say I studied all the measurements typographic systems since the 18th century until now I will say Great! You will apply this nearly every time you work with typography. – Danielillo Jul 2 '18 at 5:01
  • Your question is about best practices because you are starting with type design. My answer is very practical. To me it is better to focus in knowing every formal part of a character, how to relation them, the formal history since the humanity works with typography, the history and actual use of typographic measurements, the white space relations. I think there are many things more important than putting a number to a type of serif. – Danielillo Jul 2 '18 at 5:04

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