Slant – The Twelve Days of Ax‑mas

On the fourth day of ax-mas, we’re exploring: the Slant slnt axis.

And because it’s impractical to talk about angled letterforms without mentioning italics, I can’t avoid mentioning the Italic axis, too.

So, why is there both a Slant axis and an Italic axis?

The intent seems to me to be twofold:

First, the Italic axis provides a way to distinguish a regular from an italic while consolidating it into a single file. This helps deliver on the promise of a single, Variable Font that behaves like many fonts.

Second, to reflect one interpretation of the differences between an italic and its angle. Type designers might call this a true italic, which is distinct from a slanted roman.

In practice, it is only how type designers think about italics. It isn’t how people using typefaces think about italics. The italic type is related to, but distinct from, the regular, regardless of how the letters are drawn.

I think if you were even to ask type designers what the Italic axis controlled, it wouldn’t be surprising if they were to say the angle of the italic. The distinction between true italics versus slanted romans is a discussion of drawing, not a user-facing consideration of italics. So while it creates some interesting possibilities in VFs, it also can create confusion.

So instead, type designers interested in providing an italic angle controls will be more interested in the Slant axis.

If you are designing a typeface where the italic and regular are going to have compatible outlines—that is, similar enough drawings with an identical number of points—and you also want the end typographers to be able to manipulate the angle of the italic, then it’s the Slant axis you’re after.

The range of values for the Slant axis is refers to the angle of the type in degrees. The range would likely go from zero (ie. upright), to whatever the angle of the italics is, ex. 14deg.

In a typeface that supports a backslant, zero is the default and middle, and the axis would go from a negative number through to a positive number, ex. a −14deg backslant to upright to a positive 14deg italic.

I’ll aim to clarify when you would provide the Italic instead of a Slant axis, and when you might avoid both, in tomorrow’s message.

Until next time,