Few short notes originally published in Le Monde specimen about legibity basics.

Small capitals

Small capitals are especially designed to optically align with the x-height. Certain programs have the option of false and æsthetically incorrect small capitals, which are produced mathematically. This is one of many reasons small capitals are offered in all basic weights & italics, on the whole, for the Le Monde family.

Example of small capitals (in outline) superimposed & enlarged to the height of large capitals in pale orange.

Italics

For better contrast, the design of the italics must be different. This is the case in both the serifed and sans serif versions.

Below, a comparison between the roman, an electronically obliqued version of the roman, & a true italic, the later is also designed more condensed and lighter.

Le Monde Sans and Le Monde Livre: Roman, Wrong Italic, Real Italic.

Upright axis, oblique axis

Upright axis, oblique axis. Why do faces with an upright axis appear less substantial than those with an oblique axis? The forms of the typefaces with an upright axis are static & vertical, while typefaces with an oblique axis are, in contrast, dynamic and horizontal. This can be seen with the letter “e” here: in identical areas, the face with an oblique axis seems to have a larger interior. It can, in this way, appear more open during the reading process.

Vertical axis/Oblique axis.

Openings

When in the process of reading, the retina is fixed on the top third of the lowercase letter. This is why open typefaces are easier to read. The forms differentiate each letter more explicitly. Below is a comparison between Univers, designed in 1957 by Adrian Frutiger, & Le Monde Sans.

Univers compared to Le Monde Sans

Credits

By Jean François Porchez. Initially published in the Le Monde Specimen (1997).