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Back to the blogPeter Rosenfeld and Dr. Jürgen Willrodt speak at Intuity office

Portrait of Bernhard Staiber
Bernhard Staiber


Lab Talk: URW speaking about the challenge of global fonts

Intuity’s Lab Talks recently featured Hamburg based URW, our longtime partner for font development. Peter Rosenfeld and Dr. Jürgen Willrodt gave us insight in the adventure of designing a global font. The foundry’s classic Nimbus Sans now holds around 45.000 characters in 7 different weights. What a tremendous challenge to create a coherent style that meets the requirements of such different cultural areas like Europe, Asia and the Arab World. It’s been particularly interesting to get a glimpse at the foundry’s competence for dealing with complex scripts found for example in India, China or Japan.

But isn’t this asking to much of a single font family? It’s obvious that a global font cannot cover every typographic subtlety in detail like its fully developed „single culture“ cousins do. I guess expecting this wouldn’t be fair, considering that global fonts are growing along the unicode standard. Nevertheless it’s already possible to define different lookups of a character (yet unfortunately not coherently for different systems and software). Besides URW is collaborating with native speakers in developing their global font. Thus it’s plausible that the result matches the particular aesthetic tradition of its cultural context.

In the end it’s all about building bridges. Using one single, integrated font familiy instead of multiple isolated equivalents is a real benefit for companies that are going global.