The Utopia font family is a Didone serif typeface that was created by Robert Slimbach and released in 1989. Slimbach was an employee of Adobe Systems, and in addition to working as a typographer, is an accomplished photographer and calligrapher. A Didone serif typeface is a particular classification that is recognized by the Association Typographique Internationale that is characterized by slab-like serif, strong contrast between thick and thin lines, thick vertices on characters, and a contemporary, austere appearance.
The Utopia font family bears the distinction of being one of the first typefaces that are part of a collection that is now known as Adobe Originals. Adobe Originals was incepted at the height of the desktop publishing movement in 1989. Contemporary versions of the Utopia font family have been released in the Open Type ™ format. This new release typically has more than the basic two ligatures, weights, small capitals and optical variants, for what has come to be known as an ‘expert set’.
When designing Utopia, Slimbach had the intention of solving several typographical issues in regards to office correspondence. To do this, he wanted to create a font that was versatile, and that featured cuts for titles and text, and an extra bold for headlining. Utopia also has all caps with numerals, small caps, fractions, old face numerals, scientific markings, and ligatures. These forms, and Utopia’s aesthetic appeal, make it an elegant and balanced typeface that is well-suited for a number of applications.
The Utopia typeface has a bit of a controversial past. In 1992, Utopia was donated by Adobe Systems to the X Consortium, to be used in the X Window System ™. The X Window System is a popular environment for UNIX ™ work stations. At the time, controversy arose about Utopia’s license in regards to the status of Utopia font files as free software. Some distributors, looking to avoid being sued, opted to clearly state that the license for Utopia was not clear. This prevented Utopia from being re-distributed with modifications.
In 2006, Adobe donated a version of the Utopia font to the Tex Users Group with regular, italic, bold italic, and bold options that were different than the Adobe Originals pack offering. Later that year, Tex Users Group granted irrevocable permission to use Utopia to any third party, making it free software, with the condition that any font that is derived from Utopia does not carry the name that is trademarked to Adobe Systems. Several improvements have since been made on derivatives of Utopia. The typeface offshoots can support glyphs in more than just basic Latin script, and one adaption known as Heuristica ™ features the addition of Cyrillic symbols.