I once read, that one should use optimized/specialized fonts for headings and titles. The claimed reason was, that a kerning which is good for reading is not good (or optimal) for titles.

I tried to google this issue, but only found collections of 'free fonts for Big and Powerful Headings[tm]' and one Q/A on ux.stackexchange regarding using different font families for headings and body

Do the fonts for titles differ from their 'normal' brothers and sisters in features like kerning and x-height?

  • 1
    The provided link gives some very good answers. What exactly is your question? Or are you simply sharing this info?
    – KMSTR
    Commented Aug 27, 2012 at 10:30
  • Hi KMSTR, thanks for your enquiry. I wanted to know if the fonts for titles differ from their 'normal' brothers and sisters in features like kerning and x-height. See my answer.
    – Framester
    Commented Aug 27, 2012 at 11:53
  • Yes, they differ. 'Display Faces' are often for used for headlines, 'text faces' for text. But there are always exceptions to the rule.
    – DA01
    Commented Aug 27, 2012 at 16:13

2 Answers 2


I once read, that one should use optimized/specialized fonts for headings and titles.

This can be a good idea, though you don't have to.

In early days of type, type cutters had to make different cuts of a typeface for different sizes. Because computer fonts didn't exist, they couldn't just rescale at whatever size they wanted to print, they had to have a different cut of the font with the metal pieces at the right size.

So this is where the concept originates. Naturally, type cutters began to make subtle differences in the type designed for each size to account for optical effects. Smallest sizes called for proportionally fatter strokes, a little more loose spacing, and sometimes even a few details simplified, so it could be read easier at that size. But very large type, for "titling", could have lovely ornate thin strokes and tighter spacing. The net effect however was that the ordinary reader probably would not notice the subtle differences, it'd just look nice at large sizes and yet still be highly readable at small sizes.

Check out this image showing how William Caslon had to make lots of different "cuts" of his typeface for different sizes.

Modern font foundries like to sell groups of fonts in "families" now, but usually not for different sizes (since computer fonts are infinitely scalable anyway) but for different weights and styles. Occasionally, however, they'll often throw in a "titling" variant which is subtly different to the "book" variant. Usually this just means it eases off on some of the optimisations made to the book variant in order to make it readable at small sizes. So it may have thinner strokes in some places, and tighter spacing, and include detail that may have been lost had it been included at small sizes. Plus you can usually depend on it having paid a lot of attention to kerning (though from a decent foundry, this should be true of all styles).

As for whether you need this - it's up to you. If a typeface looks as good small as it does big (on your target medium, so if it's printed, previewing it on-screen won't help), then there's nothing stopping you from just using the same thing. But if you have a titling variant and it didn't cost you anything extra, you may as well use it.

For display, like on posters, logos, etc, you'll want to be tightening up the kerning and stuff by hand anyway, usually. But when you want a mechanism to display headings and you want something already pre-kerned nicely for that purpose it can be handy to have a titling font.

It's far more common to use a font with a completely different typeface for body text and titles these days, rather than use the same typeface for both. So a lot of the time this is moot.

  • An excellent summary. "Optical" families are becoming more common, now that type design tools and font software are most sophisticated. Several of Adobe's faces, such as Garamond Premier Pro and Arno Pro, come in caption, text, subhead and display versions. Titling faces are drawn to be printed at 18-24 points, as opposed to the more common 8 or 12 point target used for most fonts. Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 3:31
  • Along similar lines, these fonts are an attempt to authentically (warts and all) revive a set of old Fell types (Dutch, just before William Caslon's time). A "pica" is around 12 points, so "double pica" is ~24 point and for titles. See how the type changes as it's cut for different sizes. Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 3:58

I think I found on Wiki - Typeface#Display_type what I was searching for:

When digital fonts feature a display variation, it is to accommodate other stylistic differences that may benefit type used at larger point sizes. Such differences [...] can include: a lower x-height, higher contrast between thick and thin strokes, less space between letters, and slightly more condensed letter shapes.[15]

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