The very popular ITC Century® typeface was originally commissioned as the re-working of a font designed to overcome problems with the readability of existing typefaces in a popular magazine. The typeface combines a larger text size with ascenders and descenders that are shorter than in most other typeface styles to make a clean, very readable typeface that’s well-suited for all purposes.
ITC Century History
The Century was a popular American magazine around the end of the 19th century. Its publisher, Theodore De Vinne, commissioned a new typeface for the magazine from his friend Linn Boyd Benton. The problem with the popular typefaces of the time, which were heavily influenced by Bodoni’s work, was that when the larger fonts were reduced in size for the magazine, their already thin lines became faint, rendering the text hard to read.
Benton’s creation, simply named Century, included heavier hairlines and an increased x–height, resulting in a typeface that was much more readable at smaller font sizes. In addition, to accommodate the magazine’s 2–column format, Century was compressed slightly to permit more characters per line.
The Century typeface was successfully introduced in the magazine’s pages in late 1895. Benton’s son, Morris Fuller Benton, continued work on the typeface to bring it into line with the standards of the International Typographers Union. The new typeface, named Century Expanded, addressed the concern that original Century design was too condensed, and immediately became so popular that the original Century design was soon retired. The younger Benton then developed additional designs within the Century Expanded typeface, pioneering the concept of typeface families and making Century Expanded the first “superfamily”.
Among the many subfamilies in the Century Expanded superfamily, special attention should be paid to the Century Schoolbook® design. It’s design relied on scientific studies into the way children learn to read, and employs an increased x–height and stroke width, as well as increased space between letters in order to achieve improved readability.
The ITC Century design was commissioned in 1975 by the International Typeface Corporation; Tony Stan’s design builds on the substantial foundation of the existing Century Expanded superfamily. Bowing to contemporary sensibilities, Stan increased the x–height but narrowed the letter spacing.
Identifont: ITC Century
ITC Century Usage
The first Century typeface was designed to enhance the readability of magazine text, and a subsequent subfamily was designed for increased readability in school textbooks. This is a typeface made for use in continuous text and is in literally constant use for that purpose, whether in books, magazines or newspapers. It’s also ideal for corporate communication and printed matter such as policy manuals and white papers. It’s considered so readable that the US Supreme Court mandates that all documents submitted be set in the Century family. Hand–tooled variants are very appropriate for use in posters and headlines where an antique feel is desired, as well as book chapter and subheading titles.