The neutral font – myth or reality?

Antiqua, Fraktur, Grotesk, Italic, Slanted, Handschrift, Traditional, Modern – the list of font classes is long and the applications for them numerous. With such a wide range of categories, it should be possible to design an expressionless and inconspicuous font.

In order to approach neutral type, we must first address the definition of neutrality. According to the omniscient and inexhaustible platform Wikipedia, neutral is equated with impartial, uninvited, value-free and balanced. Or, to put it another way: a wholly nonspeaking stance. If one hears this declaration, one can also ask oneself where one would like to include such a writing. For this we recommend the blog post The three Layers of Text, which deals with the font as a carrier of information.

If we would like to design a balanced font, it would have to contain a piece of many different fonts, but only to such a large extent that the font does not gain any distinctive characteristic from it.

Let's take this idea a step further. We take different fonts and multiply them together. Or perhaps sometimes multiply, sometimes divide. The main thing is to dilute the characteristics by combining the different components. However, the different font classes cannot really be combined. Fraktur typeface multiplied by a grotesque typeface and then divided again by a handwritten typeface? No thanks! We are happy to do without this result. We would much rather use different, established and rather restrained elements from the realm of grotesque fonts.

  • Frutiger
  • DIN Next
  • Arial
  • Avenir
  • Helvetica
  • Univers


Combining by superposition. All right, but somehow an additional reduction should take place. Digitally, this could be achieved by slightly transparent intermediate surfaces. And analog just as well. For this we print the same character in each of the six fonts on milky transparent paper and let it be irradiated from below by a luminous body. In this way, the addition or subtraction of material (black portion) decreases more and more towards the bottom and is swallowed up by the paper. In order not to give too much weight to any writing, we change the order. After each new shape, the top font moves to the bottom and the one in second place moves to the throne.

Alignment line

In addition to the overlays of the differently shaped character, the result also affects the position at which it is struck or aligned.

To ascribe something like neutrality to one of these 62 characters would probably be going too far out on a limb. It is true that each of the generated characters is a combination of six common grotesque fonts. But the great variety and diversity of the results alone suggests that there cannot be one neutral font. Each character is shaped by the intention and aesthetic sensibility of the designer. Thus, it always has a share of personal interpretation and zeitgeist.

Well, since this approach did not lead to an acceptable result, at least we know how not to generate neutral characters. Do you have another approach or a suitable solution at hand? Write us, we would be glad!

Matthieu Dillier
October 30, 2023