As is the case with every typeface, the appearance of the Myriad
font family was shaped by the tools of its time. When Adobe launched its groundbreaking Multiple Master technology
(MM) in 1992, its capabilities were unprecedented in the history of typography. A Multiple Master typeface is created using visual axes: for character weight, character width or optical size, for example. By means of the two- or three-dimensional coordinate system, thousands of fonts within a family can be created without destroying the forms of the characters by compressing or distorting them.
The dual-axis (weight, width) Multiple Master font Myriad, with the original font marked in red
A variety of core fonts were provided with every Multiple Master font. In addition to these, users could then generate any number of custom fonts for themselves using very simple methods. The Multiple Master technology was a blessing in the editorial field because it enabled users to make very precise adjustments to microtypography
, creating headings and text with fine-tuned weights, headlines with user-defined widths, and table fonts that fit perfectly into rigid grids (for example in television listings magazines).
And yet it is possible that the technology developed by Adobe assumed a microtypographical sensitivity that overtaxed some users. This seems to be the only explanation for the fact that Multiple Master fonts have now all but disappeared from use. As Adobe has stopped developing the Adobe Type Manager
(ATM), which is necessary for MM generation, it is inevitable that the technology will die out.
When Carol Twombly
and Robert Slimbach
designed Myriad in 1992, it was intended from the start to be a dual-axis Multiple Master font.
It was the first sans-serif typeface among the Adobe Originals. Like its relations Frutiger
, it is classified as a Humanist sans-serif
, because its strokes have contrasting, rather than uniform widths (unlike Futura
, for example). The models for this are Roman typefaces: Myriad is not geometrically constructed, and the ascenders of the minuscules (l, h, f, ...) project above the upper case characters – as is the case with many book serif typefaces. Naturally, Myriad’s italic fonts have all the classical characteristics too: a single-storey a, a descending f, and forms which are manually adjusted rather than simply slanted.
Typical features of the humanist sans-serif Myriad: contrasting stroke-widths, ascenders taller than the capitals, true italics
For those who do not wish to use the Multiple Master version of Myriad, the subfamilies Myriad Condensed
(6 fonts), Myriad Normal
, Myriad Semi Extended
and Myriad Extended
are also available. The novelty fonts Myriad Tilt
and Myriad Sketch
have special effects applied.
Myriad’s versatility makes it the perfect typeface for corporate design
, where it can be used successfully on everything from a business card to a large-scale poster. Countless companies and institutions have made it their corporate font. Apple’s
switch to Myriad two years ago further increased the popularity of the typeface.
The family is also much in demand in publishing and the editorial field: on a small scale it is a match for any typographical challenge, and on covers and book jackets it conveys trustworthiness and character.
When the Berlin design company MetaDesign was working on a comprehensive design concept for the academic publisher Springer in the early 1990s, Myriad – together with its “sibling” Minion
– played the leading role. MetaDesign used Multiple Master technology to match the fonts precisely to one another. The publishing house continues to use these custom-made MM fonts even today.
A Myriad multiple-master created by MetaDesign in the early 1990s is still used by Springer in the design of its book covers
Myriad vs. Frutiger
Ever since Myriad was released there have been people who claim that it is a copy of Frutiger
. Very few experts – Adrian Frutiger
himself included – are willing to give any credence to this suggestion. Of course, designers view their typefaces through particular eyes, identifying differences that even the most enthusiastic layperson will not be able to perceive. This need not be any more cause for concern than the inability to identify an unfamiliar sonata as a piece by Beethoven or Mozart.
Certainly the two typefaces have the same origin, and they are aimed at similar areas of application. Yet despite their similarities, their designers make a point of having pursued their own personal style. In a sense, it was Adrian Frutiger’s font that first established the humanist sans-serif type classification: comparable fonts had existed previously, but it was he who gave the concept its big break. Myriad has since found its place within the same typographical classification, but the 20-year age difference is a visible one.
Myriad has been available as an OpenType Standard product since the OT format was introduced. It was also one of the first OpenType Pro fonts, a name used by Adobe (and, more recently, by other manufacturers too) to signify that its fonts include, for example, advanced typographical features and foreign language support. Adobe offers four Myriad subfamilies in OpenType format: Myriad Pro, Myriad Pro Condensed, Myriad Pro Semi Condensed and Myriad Pro Semi Extended. This makes a total of 40 OpenType fonts, which is equivalent to approximately 200–300 PostScript fonts, because the OpenType fonts not only include a large number of expert characters and sets of figures, but also the full range of Greek and Cyrillic characters.