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ITC Franklin™


David Berlow

The ITC Franklin™ typeface design marks the next phase in the evolution of one of the most important American gothic typefaces. Morris Fuller Benton drew the original design in 1902 for American Type Founders (ATF); it was the first significant modernization of a nineteenth-century grotesque. Named in honor of Benjamin Franklin, the design not only became a best seller, it also served as a model for several other sans serif typefaces that followed it.

Originally issued in just one weight, the ATF Franklin Gothic family was expanded over several years to include an italic, a condensed, a condensed shaded, an extra condensed and, finally, a wide. No light or intermediate weights were ever created for the metal type family.

In 1980, under license from American Type Founders, ITC commissioned Victor Caruso to create four new weights in roman and italic - book, medium, demi and heavy - while preserving the characteristics of the original ATF design. This series was followed in 1991 by a suite of twelve condensed and compressed designs drawn by David Berlow.

ITC Franklin Gothic was originally released as two designs: one for display type and one for text. However, in early digital interpretations, a combined text and display solution meant the same fonts were used to set type in any size, from tiny six-point text to billboard-size letters. The problem was that the typeface design was almost always compromised and this hampered its performance at any size.

David Berlow, president of Font Bureau, approached ITC with a proposal to solve this problem that would be mutually beneficial. Font Bureau would rework the ITC Franklin Gothic family, enlarge and separate it into distinct text and display designs, then offer it as part of its library as well. ITC saw the obvious value in the collaboration, and work began in early 2004.

The project was supposed to end with the release of new text and display designs the following year. But, like so many design projects, the ITC Franklin venture became more extensive, more complicated and more time consuming than originally intended.

The 22-font ITC Franklin Gothic family has now grown to 48 designs and is called simply ITC Franklin. The new designs range from the very willowy Thin to the robust Ultra – with LightMediumBold and Black weights in between. Each weight is also available in Narrow, Condensed and Compressed variants, and each design has a complementary Italic.

In addition to a suite of new biform characters (lowercase characters drawn with the height and weight of capitals), the new ITC Franklin Pro fonts also offer an extended character set that supports most Central European and many Eastern European languages.