Historically, a “titling font” was a font of metal type designed specifically for use at larger point sizes and display settings, including headlines and titles. Titling fonts, a specialized subset of display typefaces, differ from their text counterparts in that their scale, proportion and design details have been modified to look their best at larger sizes.
They often have a more pronounced weight contrast (resulting in thinner thins), tighter spacing, and more condensed proportions than their text-sized cousins. Titling fonts may also have distinctive refinements that enhance their elegance and impact. Titling fonts are most often all-cap, single-weight variants created to complement text families, such as the titling fonts designed as part of the Dante, Plantin, Bembo, Adobe Garamond Pro, and ITC Golden Cockerel typeface families.
They can also be standalone designs, such as Felix Titling, Festival Titling, and Victoria Titling Condensed. Occasional exceptions exist to the all-cap, single-weight norm. Village Bold Titling has a lowercase; Perpetua Titling has three weights; and Forum Titling, based on a Frederick Goudy design, has small caps in three weights that were added later.
The overall design of most (but not all) titling fonts is traditional or even historic in nature. In the days of metal type, titling capital letters took up the full point size body height. For example, 48 point Perpetua titling caps were basically 48 points tall, whereas regular 48 point Perpetua was sized such that the tallest ascender and longest descender took up most of the 48 points. (This is not a given in the digital world, where character heights are no longer determined by the height of a metal slug.)
Titling fonts tend to have a refined, even dramatic look – qualities that make them indispensable for books, magazines, movie titles and sequences, signage, or any other usage that calls for emphasis as well as a touch of elegance.
- Editor’s Note:Ilene Strizver, founder of The Type Studio, is a typographic consultant, designer and writer specializing in all aspects of typographic communication. She conducts Gourmet Typography workshops internationally. Read more about typography in her latest literary effort, Type Rules! The designer's guide to professional typography, 4th edition, published by Wiley & Sons, Inc. This article was commissioned and approved by Monotype Imaging Inc.