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181: Myriad: An Incomplete History of Type



From the middle ages to the Middle East, From Futura to Freight, join us on a journey across the type universe and go where no designer has gone before...Welcome to An Incomplete History of Type.


Name: Myriad

Release Date: 1992

Designers: Robert Slimbach and Carol Twombly

Classification: Humanist, Sans Serif

Owned by: Adobe Systems

Claim to Fame: This was Apple’s primary marketing typeface for over a decade, from 2002 to 2017 for its modern and simple appearance.



Today we’ll take a look into the story behind Myriad. Released in 1992 for Adobe Systems’ type foundry, Adobe Originals, this humanist sans serif typeface has become a cornerstone in both text and display applications for its simplicity and versatility (Adobe, n.d.-a).


Myriad’s journey begins with the rise of desktop publishing and advancements in digital typography. At the time, Adobe was only digitizing older, existing typefaces from other type foundries. Quickly, Adobe realized that desktop publishing would need a newer, more thoughtful approach to type, so they created an in-house type foundry, Adobe Originals, in 1989, which produced its own typefaces (Slye, 2022). It was around this time that Robert Slimbach and Carol Twombly, two prominent figures in type design, began to work together on creating a typeface that was functional and visually appealing that could be used for almost anything. The goal was to create something easy to read, inclusive, and in Slimbach’s own words, “a totally invisible type of letter” (Challand, 2011). Wanting to make the most generic kind of font, Myriad, during its creation, was often jokingly referred to as “Generica” (Challand, 2011).


Myriad has clean, open shapes, precise kerning, and displays warmth through its humanistic type treatment in design and letter proportions, making it highly legible (Adobe, n.d.-a). The letterforms aligned with the rules and standards Slimbach and Twombly assigned for it: “perfectly straight stems, flat endings, [...] flat character shapes” (Challand, 2011). While not exactly ground-breaking in design, Myriad’s strength lies in its versatility. Before OpenType became the new standard, Myriad was the flagship design for Adobe’s Multiple Master format, which allowed a dynamic array of weight to width variations, from light to black, condensed to semi-extended – essentially a myriad of Myriads (Myriad, n.d.). Later on, as the Multiple Master format was phased out, a new version of Myriad was adapted by Fred Brady and Christopher Slye in 2000 to suit the OpenType format called Myriad Pro, featuring an extended character set that included Greek and Cyrillic glyphs as well as old-style figures (Myriad, n.d.). This expanded the styles from 15 to 40.


For a long time, Myriad was Adobe’s own corporate typeface. It further rose to

prominence when it was adopted by Apple in 2002, replacing Apple Garamond; it appeared even on some of their products & branding, like the iPod, and much of their keynotes and marketing all the way until 2017 (Challand, 2011). Companies and institutions big and small have used Myriad in its branding and communications, from Wells Fargo, to Walmart, to University of Ottawa (Myriad, n.d.). Even now, Myriad remains the default font when you open Adobe Illustrator, which is perhaps why it remains popular even now. If you look around, you probably will still find it on digital and print signs, magazines, brochures, and more, whether it’s for body text, subheadings, or display text, which speaks to its versatility, clarity, and timeless appeal.


But the versatility doesn’t end with Myriad Pro. As designers’ needs and the availability of technology continues to evolve, variants like Myriad Web were also introduced, optimized for on-screen legibility, making it an easily embeddable web-font through Adobe Fonts, formerly Typekit (Challand, 2011). Slimbach and Twombly also collaborated to create the font family variant called Myriad Wild, which includes two variants: Myriad Std Sketch and Myriad Std Tilt, which as the name may suggest, introduced a more playful and irregular style into the Myriad family (Adobe, n.d.-b).


As we draw our exploration of Myriad to a close, it’s clear that Myriad has carved a space for itself in the typography history books. Conceived in the era of digital typography and desktop publishing, Myriad has stood the test of time. It exemplifies the power of type design in facilitating effective communication across all sorts of platforms. At its core, it represents the possibilities in digital type design, as it has continually evolved over the years to be more inclusive and expansive. From corporate branding, marketing, to everyday digital or print experiences, its presence can be felt in our current visual language. Ultimately, Myriad serves as a reminder of how simplicity and functionality intersect to create something timeless and universal. As we close this chapter, you can’t help but wonder – where will the typographic journey take it next? The next page of Myriad’s story is waiting to be written, and with a narrative as versatile as the typeface itself, it truly can unfold in a myriad of ways.





References:


Adobe. (n.d.-a). Myriad. Adobe Fonts. Retrieved January 28, 2024, from https://fonts.adobe.com/fonts/myriad


Adobe. (n.d.-b). Myriad Wild. Adobe Fonts. Retrieved January 29, 2024, from https://fonts.adobe.com/fonts/myriad-wild


Challand, S. (2011, February 25). Know your type: Myriad. Idsgn. http://idsgn.org/posts/know-your-type-myriad/


Myriad. (n.d.). Fonts.Com. Retrieved January 28, 2024, from https://www.fonts.com/font/adobe/myriad/story


Slye, C. (2022, August 4). The influence of Adobe Originals. TypeNetwork. https://typenetwork.com/articles/the-influence-of-adobe-originals




About Our Guest:


Mandy is a fourth-year student at Toronto Metropolitan University, where she is majoring in Graphic Communications Management, and minoring in Psychology and Marketing to round out her studies. She has always been fascinated by the power of visual storytelling and its ability to connect and resonate with people. As she's preparing to make the transition from academic studies to professional life, she's especially excited to dive into projects that push the envelope in graphic design and communication.






Music (public domain): TRG Banks - Above the Earth


Talk Paper Scissors Theme Music: Retro Quirky Upbeat Funk by Lewis Sound Production via Audio Jungle


Boat Origami Photo: Boat Origami Photo by Alex on Unsplash

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