"Based on"

Typefaces are often described as "based on" other typefaces. E.g.:

I understand "based on" to mean that the designer(s) of the later typeface were aware of the preceding one and were trying to emulate some of its visual characteristics so that, to a human, the later one would be reminiscent of the earlier one, in one or more ways.

Therefore: given two typefaces and no other information, it is in principle impossible to mechanically determine whether one was "based on" the other.

"Metrically compatible"

Sometimes, a typeface is described as "metrically compatible" with another typeface. E.g.:

I understand "metrically compatible" to mean that substituting a typeface with a metrically compatible one will not alter the text flow of the document, i.e. line breaks and pagination, etc, will remain the same.

Therefore: given two typefaces and no other information, it is in principle possible to mechanically determine whether they are metrically compatible.


Is my understanding, as presented above, correct? If not, what have I misunderstood?

Please can you quote any authorities you know of that corroborate your answer?

  • 1
    Nitpick alert: Sabon is not "based on" Garamond. Sabon is one of a number of modern revivals of Claude Garamont's original typeface. Others include Adobe Garamond, and so forth. Collectively these are known as "Garamond" typefaces. – thomasrutter Jun 29 '17 at 3:10
  • 1
    Also, "Cousine" is another name for the Liberation font called "Liberation Mono" (just as Liberation Sans is also available under the name "Arimo"). These typefaces are the same except the later versions in the Liberation Fonts 2.0 should cover a greater range of characters. – thomasrutter Jun 29 '17 at 3:19
  • @thomasrutter, thanks :) I've replaced the Sabon/Garamond example with what I hope is a better one: Arial/Monotype Grotesque. – user10832 Jul 4 '17 at 17:07

Is my understanding, as presented above, correct?


If not, what have I misunderstood?

Nothing. Spot on.

What I will say is that a font "based on" another may also be "metrically compatible" or it may be vastly different from the original, there's not a whole lot you can assume based solely on the knowledge that a typeface was based on another.

It may also be that "metrically compatible" typefaces don't align as completely as you assume. Although it should if advertised as such, there are a lot of metrics involved in type design and a lot of other things that affect text flow. The font may have different kerning values for example. They may also just be very similar so you'd see little change in most circumstances (but aren't guaranteed not to).

  • Thank you for your very helpful reply, which exactly answers the question I asked. I have since appended one line to the question; an icing on the cake request, if you will. If you do happen to know of any authoritative sources that corroborate it, do please add them to your answer. Thanks again :) – user10832 Jun 23 '17 at 17:59
  • 1
    Hmm, well the basis of my answer really is that these aren't (afaik) recognised terminology so I'm not sure there are any authoritative sources. I'll certainly have a look when I have a bit more time later on though. – Cai Jun 23 '17 at 18:53
  • "align completely align" — typo? – Wildcard Jun 24 '17 at 2:00

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy