Graphic Design Blog Post

Font Study: PMN Caecilia

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PMN Caecilia is an elegant slab serif designed by Dutch Designer Peter Matthias Noordzij.

The first drafts of Caecilia were created in 1983, and the completed font was released by Linotype in 1991. The name is a combination of the designer’s initials—PMN—and a version of his wife’s first name, Cécile. The font builds on a long history of slab serifs, beginning in the early 19th century, when designers began to play with the proportions of letters and the shapes of serifs to create interesting fonts for advertising. The traditional, angular serif was broadened to create the blocky serif that defines a slab typeface.

Slab serifs, also known as “Egyptians”, first existed only in the upper case, with the lower case coming later. Some of the major precursors to Caecilia that inspired its design include Rockwell, Egyptienne, Courier, and Clarendon. Slabs are usually divided into two categories—clarendon and neo-grotesque—the latter of which Caecilia falls into. A clarendon is defined as a typeface with minor bracketing (curved connections between the stem and serif) and a serif thickness that is different from the stem thickness. These characteristics contrast with the sharp angles and geometric regularity of a Neo-grotesque.

Caecilia takes the smoothness of a clarendon one step further by introducing humanist variety to the thickness of its strokes. Because of this, it has been called the first-ever “neo-humanist slab”. Fonts such as Archer and Museo Slab have since built on the humanist legacy of Caecilia.

Caecilia has been one of the most widely used slab typefaces since its release, and ushered in the public acceptance of slabs as text fonts. It has a friendly, open quality, with a large x-height and open counters. Caecilia is available in four different weights, each with an accompanying true italic.

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One of its most prominent uses is as the default font on Kindle e-readers. It is used in this context because its thick slab serifs make it easily legible on the pixelated screen. Typefaces with thin serifs tend to become distorted when displayed in small sizes on screens.

Other uses of the font include:

Apps such as Yesterday:

In Use App 1

Magazines such as Golf Digest:

In Use Golf Digest 2

Food and drink labels such as Publican Beer:
In Use Publican 2

And TV channels such as SVT2:

In Use TV 1

Caecilia is available for purchase from its original distributor, Linotype and has more recently been made available from Adobe, FontShop, and MyFonts.

Cheers,
Ben

References:
The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst
The Revival of Slab-Serif Typefaces in the Twentieth Century by Keith Tam
http://www.100besttypefaces.com/81_Caecilia.html
http://www.linotype.com/1313/pmncaecilia-family.html

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3 thoughts on “Font Study: PMN Caecilia

  1. Pingback: Assignment #1 – Part A | shaypapke

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