Panose Classification

PANOSE Classification in FontLab

PANOSE is a system for classifying fonts based on their structural characteristics. It was originally developed by Benjamin Bauermeister. The premise of PANOSE is that, by quantifying the characteristics of a font according to the system, one can identify the closest matching font in a group.

PANOSE 1.0, the original system that was created in 1985 and updated several times in the early 1990s, considered ten major characteristics, represented by digits. The first digit indicates the family of the font, and the nine other digits indicate the sub-type of font within that family. The revised system, discussed later in this article, is based on this original system, but includes expanded and more generalizable attributes.

Font families are described by two major characteristics: the script kind and the genre kind. There are four major categories of script kind: Latin, Kanji, Hebrew, and “Etc.” which includes all fonts that do not fall into the first three categories. Genres further classify the fonts within a script. Latin fonts are sub-classified as “text”, “decorative”, “handwritten”, or “symbols”.

The Latin category represents most western fonts. Within this family, a font is described using ten digits. The first represents the sub-category (text, decorative, handwritten, or symbols), and the final nine digits indicate a series of additional attributes. Within the text group, the nine characteristics considered are the following:

– Serif Style Classification: Serifs are the small “flags” used on the ends of letters in some fonts, like Times New Roman. The style of serif is categorized with this attribute.
– Weight: This indicates the boldness of the font.
– Proportions: Old typewriter fonts were monospaced, indicated by the fact that every character took up the same amount of space. Newer fonts have variable spacing, so narrow letters, like “I” take up less space than wide letters, like “s”. These relative proportions are described with this attribute.
– Contrast: In some fonts, part of a letter is thicker than another. The letter “O” may be wider on the sides and narrower on the top. In other fonts, the width of parts of the “O” may be consistent The proportion of the narrowest to thickest part of the letter “O” letter is considered when determining the contrast.
– Stroke Variation:  Is similar to contrast, but is used to compare thickness of the stems on letters in the font.
– Arm style: This attribute considers the way diagonal letters (like “A”) are formed, and how the ends of curved letters (like “C”) are terminated.
– Letterform: The curve of letters, like the letter “e” or “o” will vary among fonts. Some may have a wider letter while others may adjust it to be narrow. This attribute considers the shape of curved letters.
– Midline: The midline describes both the diagonal points on the top of letters (the apexes) and where the midline is placed in capital letters.
– X-height: This considers two features – the height of capital letters with diacritical marks (these are accents, cedillas, and other features added on to existing letters), and the relative height of lower case letters.

For each of these attributes, a digit is used to describe the trait. These are pre-defined in the PANOSE system. For example, in the serif attribute, fifteen options are available. A few of these, with their corresponding number include 0-Any, 1-No Fit, 2-Cove, 3-Obtuse Cove, 4-Square Cove, and 5-Obtuse Square Cove. These sorts of options are available for all nine of the traits. The same goes for attributes used for other sub-families. The Latin handwriting, decorative, and symbols each have their own set of attributes. Some of these are shared. For example, weight is considered among all the Latin fonts. In other cases, some attributes are unique to a specific sub-family. For example, the handwritten group has a “tool kind “attribute that considers the type of brush or object being used to draw the cont, but no other sub-groups use this attribute.

PANOSE 2.0 was released in 1993. In it, these original ten attributes were used as a base from which an expanded set of attributes was created. The new system can handle more sophisticated computer-generated fonts.

PANOSE attributes are standardized in TrueType, the World Wide Web Consortium’s CSS3 (the latest version of cascading style sheets) , in the Word Processing Markup Language, and in RTF. You can read more about Panose Classification on Monotype Imaging website.

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