To create typefaces of extraordinary technical and aesthetic quality: That was the original and enduring mandate of Adobe Originals. Now comprising over 100 families and thousands of individual fonts, Adobe Originals are a popular and integral part of the modern type landscape.
A brief history
The Adobe Originals programme began in 1989, when Sumner Stone hired Carol Twombly and Robert Slimbach to create a new series of type families for Adobe. At the time, the desktop publishing revolution was in full swing and designers had a growing need for high-quality digital fonts.
The first Adobe Originals arrived that year: Slimbach's Utopia and Adobe Garamond. A reinterpretation of the Roman types of Claude Garamond and the italics of Robert Granjon, Adobe Garamond captured the essence of its models while offering all the advantages of contemporary typography. Versatile and beautiful, it would provide a blueprint for the many updated classics Slimbach and Twombly would add to the collection over the coming decade.
Of course, Slimbach and Twombly are not the only designers who have created Adobe Originals. The company has also commissioned typefaces from other award-winning designers, including Richard Lipton, Jovica Veljovic, and Michael Harvey. A special Adobe Originals programme was even developed to provide Japanese-language fonts. Today, it includes the works of such designers as Masahiko Kozuka and Ryoko Nishizuka.
What are Adobe Originals?
Not all typefaces produced by Adobe automatically become Adobe Originals. Three categories determine whether a design qualifies for the programme.
First is aesthetic quality. Adobe Originals are designed to become timeless classics and feature a level of craftsmanship that only the world's best type designers can achieve. Typically, they are not intended for short-term fame but for use over a number of decades. As a result, many Adobe Originals have achieved enduring popularity — Myriad, Minion, Trajan, Lithos and Adobe Garamond are some notable examples.
Second is technical excellence. Adobe's highly trained staff creates each glyph and parameter so that the font rasterises as sharply and accurately as possible. They ensure that the layout information is what's best for the individual typeface design and that the font's tables are optimised for size and efficiency. Adobe engineers are also constantly striving to improve type technology, in conjunction with our designers. Over the years, Adobe defined the Type 1 font format, defined Expert supplemental sets, invented multiple master fonts and worked with Microsoft to define OpenType®. Adobe went on to convert the thousands of fonts in our library to OpenType, with new glyphs and features.
Third is richness in character sets and optical sizes. In addition to providing fonts for a wide variety of alphabets, Adobe Originals also take into account the fact that the human eye views type differently at different sizes. In the 1880s and earlier, designers created separate fonts — now called opticals — to deal with this problem. When font production became mechanised, however, many font manufacturers used a single master that was scaled to reach whatever size was needed.
Unfortunately, typefaces manipulated in this way have a limited range at which they look their best. One that performs well at text sizes usually appears cramped at smaller sizes and heavy at larger ones. By contrast, many Adobe Originals feature sets of optically optimised designs, thus covering all the sizes that may be needed.
To the future
Adobe Originals continues as a vibrant and evolving programme. Nowadays, its focus lies in creating the most versatile text composition families available.
Adobe plans to release many more Adobe Originals in the years to come. And while the programme will continue to adapt as new formats, opportunities and typographic needs emerge, its tradition of producing innovative and broadly useful typefaces will always remain the same.
To learn more about the programme and how it has evolved over the years, check out this series of articles written by Tamye Riggs on the Typekit blog.