The inspiration for Slimbach’s design came from late Renaissance period classic typefaces in the old serif style. The Renaissance period was noted for its elegant and attractive typefaces that were also highly readable. The name Minion is derived from the traditional classification and naming of typeface sizes, minion being a size in between brevier and nonpareil. It approximates to a modern 7 point lettering size.
The Minion design’s lowercase characters use old-style glyphs in keeping with its Baroque typeface roots. These are most noticeable on the lowercase “g” and “q”. Subtle, but important, details allow the upper and lower case to match well and sit comfortably next to each other. The letter “z” in both cases has the tell-tale heavy dropped serif and matching line thicknesses. The strokes of the upper and lower case “y”, with its italicized narrowing of the secondary stroke, reinforce the strength of the primary stroke. Interestingly, the “Z” character has a thick stroke in perpendicularity to the “Y”, and though it may look a little odd on close examination, within a body of text it enhances readability by providing good differentiation between adjacent letters.
The overall appearance of the Minion design is very much related to the appearance of mass-produced publications of late Renaissance but there is an added touch of classic typography design not possible with older, inaccurate print machinery. This new take on those old styles has produced a crisper outline. The Minion typeface family has been expertly crafted to retain great readability by producing a print clarity that even the best of the Renaissance typographers could not manage.
The popularity of this font is demonstrated by the sheer number of versions that exist. Adobe has created over one hundred and forty-three variations, ranging from basic styles to extended sweeping serif styles and even a set of ornamental characters that match the Minion design characteristics. In keeping with the spirit of healthy competition, many renowned type foundries have produced some version of the Minion family at some point in the last 30 years.
The original Minion designs by Slimbach were updated with Cyrillic editions in 1992 and OpenType® versions released in 2000.
The Minion design is an ideal typeface to use where high levels of legibility are required. This aspect makes it an ideal font for newspapers who are trying to get as much copy onto every square inch of paper they can. Its clarity helps readability for both young and old.
The Minion font family excels in instances where instructions have to be followed precisely – critical applications where words cannot be misinterpreted. An operator manual for air traffic control might be a good example. Packaging and newsletters are another potential application for the Minion typefaces. For anyone publishing mathematical formulaic content, adding the Minion math set can makes the Minion design immensely useful.
Several universities use Minion as their primary typeface in title and body text, including Wake Forest, Brown, Purdue and Trinity College Dublin. Wolfram Research’s Mathematica software logo uses this typeface and John Benjamin’s Publishing Company uses Minion in the body text of its books.