The Complete Series

Comprising styles for small text, medium sizes, plus display variants in four widths — Webtype proudly presents the full line of Font Bureau’s popular serif series.

A type series by Tobias Frere‑Jones
with expansions by David Berlow, Richard Lipton, Christian Schwartz, and Dyana Weissman

  • 3 Optical Sizes
  • 48 Styles to Choose From
  • 4 Widths in Display Styles

About Benton Modern

The Benton Modern series started in 1997 with Tobias Frere-Jones’s design of text styles for The Boston Globe and the Detroit Free Press. Form and proportions are inspired by Century Expanded, Morris Fuller Benton’s great news text typeface for the American Type Founders Co. from around 1900. The italic is based on Century Schoolbook Italic. Over the years the initial family was expanded and augmented with new styles and size-specific designs by David Berlow, Richard Lipton, Christian Schwartz, and Dyana Weissman.

The series now consists of Benton Modern RE for small sizes onscreen, Benton Modern for general text in the medium size range, and Benton Modern Display for the grandest applications, all available for web, app, and desktop use.

On this page we demonstrate how you can utilize size-specific variants of a typeface for a richer experience compared to a “one-font-fits-all” approach. Using styles specifically designed for very small and very large sizes can contribute to better readability of body copy and more attractive headlines and call-outs. Read on to learn more about optical sizes and their use today, on screen and in print (and try resizing the browser window. We made use of different widths for different viewports in the two designs.)

Optical Sizes & Grades

A crash course in size-specific designs for screen and print

Each size of Century Expanded as it existed in analog metal form was slightly adapted to maintain stylistic traits at different sizes and improve readability.

Optical sizes, as they are now often called in digital type, are variants of a typeface drawn and optimized for a certain size range or application. Size-specific adjustments had been made to typefaces since the very beginning of typography, but subsequently got neglected given the possibility and convenience of infinite scaling — first with the pantograph and mechanical punch-cutting, and later in photographic and digital typesetting. With traditional letterpress type, each size of a typeface is tailored to the requirements of that specific size. After all, it is not possible to set a 10pt metal font in any other size. Letterforms for small sizes are usually wider and spaced more loosely, with a large x-height, short extenders, lower stroke contrast and sturdier details. Type for display sizes on the other hand is more detailed, with narrower proportions and tighter spacing (compare the ‘a’ of Century Expanded across sizes, the typeface Benton Modern was originally inspired by).

These adjustments are often lost with digital type. One font file can now be used to render text at any size. The inevitable compromises of this “one-size-fits-all” approach become apparent in complex editorial environments like newspaper and magazine design where typefaces are used in many different sizes and roles. Small body copy in a multi-purpose typeface might not be optimally readable while headlines in the same font look coarse and too loose. By using the appropriate design variants of the Benton Modern series at their intended size, headlines and large settings look more refined and elegant, small text stays legible, and the overall hierarchy of the content is made clearer and easier to skim.

Different to optical sizes in concept and use are grades: variants of one particular style of a family in slightly different weights. Grades are used to compensate for varying output conditions, for instance different printing presses, paper stock, climate, or screen resolution. Similar to the dot-gain effect on different paper, text on low-resolution screens appears slightly bolder than on high-resolution devices. Using the appropriate grade of a typeface — slightly lighter or bolder respectively — offsets this effect and ensures that all text looks consistent across devices and under all circumstances. Unlike optical sizes, different grades only differ in weight and contrast, the spacing and kerning is identical for all grades in a set, so that there is no reflow of the layout when the font gets changed.

Benton Modern SVG Benton Modern rasterized
Benton Modern RE SVG Benton Modern RE rasterized
Benton Modern and Benton Modern RE and the effects of rasterization at 9px in Mac OS X.
Benton Modern’s four grades feature subtly different weight and contrast but identical spacing. Available on request.

How to Use?

Benton Modern conveys the atmosphere of traditional text faces but with modern proportions and a classy twist. The series is geared to the needs of fine editorial design with styles for body copy, subheadings, and headlines alike.

Rag

Benton Modern RE

For the smallest sizes — paragraphs and captions at 9–14px

Benton Modern RE is the typeface you are reading right now. It is specifically designed for clear rendering on screen at the smallest sizes. Being part of Font Bureau’s Reading Edge series, Benton Modern RE has a very tall x-height and generous spacing and proportions. It features the typical design details of the Benton Modern series in a somewhat exaggerated form so they are still discernible — and above all, readable — even at a font-size of 9 pixels. David Berlow designed this interpretation of Benton Modern in 2010. It is available in four styles, regular and bold, each with italic.

Rag

Benton Modern

The adaptive talent — paragraphs and small heads at 16–48px

The Benton Modern text styles were originally undertaken by Tobias Frere-Jones in 1997 to improve text at The Boston Globe newspaper. The italic was designed by Richard Lipton and Christian Schwartz, who also added the Bold. Benton Modern is intended for text sizes in print, and a medium size range onscreen (16–48px). All four styles, Regular, Italic, Bold and Bold Italic, are available in four different grades from Font Bureau. The default weight on Webtype is Grade Two, the second lightest variant. If you require graded webfonts for Benton Modern, please contact us.

Rag

Benton Modern Display

Large-scale refinement — headlines and display typography at 48px and above

Benton Modern Display is made for compact headlines and generous display typography (48px+) where it can fully play out its charm. The family covers 36 styles in four widths, giving you many options for distinct and flexible typography on screen. The normal width comes in six weights, from delicate Light to punchy Ultra Black, each with italic. The condensed, extra condensed and compressed styles are available in four weights with italics, suitable for expressive headlines. Benton Modern Display was designed by Dyana Weissman and Richard Lipton in 2008.

Bonus Features

Design easy to read and enjoyable information by using OpenType features that improve comprehension with style.

Alternate R

Enable the alternate R with OpenType settings in CSS to tailor the design to your needs.
(Unfortunately, Safari & iOS Safari don’t support customizing OpenType features via CSS;
we added the alternate R as an image for you here.)

  • R Default
  • R
    Alternate

Ligatures

Enabled by default in Safari and iOS Safari.
Turn them on in other browsers with OpenType settings in CSS.

  • ff
  • fi
  • ffi
  • fl
  • ffl
  • fj

Small Caps

Benton Modern text styles include Small Caps that are accessible via OpenType features.
(Separate fonts available on request)

  • A a a
  • B b b
  • C c c
  • D d d
  • E e e
  • F f f
  • G g g
  • H h h
  • I i i
  • J j j
  • K k k
  • L l l
  • M m m
  • N n n
  • O o o
  • P p p
  • Q q q
  • R r r
  • S s s
  • T t t
  • U u u
  • V v v
  • W w w
  • X x x
  • Y y y
  • Z z z

Pairings for Different Effects

If you need a sans-serif companion to Benton Modern, the Benton Sans series would be the natural match. Or you can bring your design into different directions by pairing it with a more contrasting sans-serif.

Tone on Tone

Benton Sans

The Benton Sans series was started by Tobias Frere-Jones in 1995 as a redesign of News Gothic, the popular sans-serif by Morris Fuller Benton from 1905. Subsequently, Cyrus Highsmith reviewed the design and with the Font Bureau studio expanded it into Benton Sans, a far reaching new series with matched weights, widths and performance well beyond the limits of the original. 80 styles, from Thin to Black and Extra Compressed to Wide, make Benton Sans exceptionally flexible in corporate and complex editorial environments. It is also available as Benton Sans RE, a version specifically drawn for clear rendering on screen in sizes as small as 9–14px. Font Bureau, 1995–2013

More about Benton Sans

Open & Approachable

Solitaire

MVB Solitaire is a no-frills tempered humanist sans. Mark van Bronkhorst intended the design to blend into the background and let the content speak through the legible, unbiased letter forms; nevertheless, he managed to give them a lively, contemporary character, especially visible in the Light and Black styles as well as the Italics. MVB Solitaire is available in six well-attuned weights with the Regular and Book styles comparably close in stroke thickness for cases where consistent color across different font-sizes is desired. They are suited for general all-purpose use and body copy, the bold and light styles for headlines and larger display applications. MVB Fonts, 2013

More about Solitaire

Aften Screen

Aften Screen by Frode Bo Helland is a versatile, text family for body copy on screen. It is specifically drawn to perform well in small sizes and on low-resolution displays. Stylistically it sits between the dynamic humanist sans and more rigid grotesks. The clear letterforms have broad proportions and are generously spaced, but the x-height is moderate. This helps Aften Screen look less crude at larger sizes when compared to other screen fonts and accommodates lowercase accents without feeling cramped. Aften Screen is easy to combine with a wide range of text and display faces. Monokrom, 2012

More about Aften Screen

Retro

Bureau Grot

Bureau Grot has come to be accepted as the essence of tooth and character in an English nineteenth-century sans serif. The family was first developed by David Berlow in 1989 from original specimens of the grotesques released by Stephenson Blake in Sheffield. These were met with immediate success at the Tribune Company and Newsweek. The family grew as more publications commissioned new weights and widths. In 2006, Jill Pichotta, Christian Schwartz, and Richard Lipton expanded and systematized the family at which point the name was shortened to Bureau Grot. Font Bureau, 1989–2006

More about Bureau Grot

Trio Grotesk

Trio Grotesk is Florian Schick’s interpretation of Kaart Antieke, an early 20th century sans serif used by Piet Zwart in his influential essay on modern typography called Van oude tot nieuwe typografie. Discovering the two remaining copies of this essay at the Meermanno Museum in Den Haag and realizing the historical value of the booklet, Schick decided to revive the typeface it was set in. By enlarging and examining the original 7pt printed text in great detail, he tried to replicate it as faithfully as possible. Certain features unique to letterpress printing, such as the rounding of terminals caused by ink spread, have been preserved. Trio Grotesk is available in three weights with Latin extended characterset, small caps, seven sets of figures, as well as numerous arrows, ornaments and dingbats. Bold Monday, 2012

More about Trio Grotesk

Contemporary Clean

Scout Condensed

Cyrus Highsmith drew Scout and a related logotype for Geraldine Hessler’s redesign of Entertainment Weekly. The large family marked the magazine’s first significant typographic update in a decade. Captions and sidebars were set in Regular and Bold; Light, Black, and Condensed styles formed the backbone of the display applications. Scout’s form derives inspiration and structural elements like the straight sided roundsfrom both new and old sans-serifs such as DIN, Bauer’s Venus, or Nebiolo’s Cairoli. Font Bureau, 2008

More about Scout Condensed

Helsinki

Inspired by the Finnish road signs, Ludwig Übele designed the first style of Helsinki during a stay in the north of Finland in 1998. Like other classic wayfinding typefaces such as Highway Gothic or DIN, the Finnish signs featured rather crude, constructed letterforms. Übele decided to expand the font into a family of seven weights, balancing out its kinks but maintaining the vernacular nature of the design. In 2013 he expanded the character set, revised the weight range and added italics. Helsinki is a typeface of narrow proportions, with light styles suitable for text sizes down to 10px, and bold and black weights for high-octane headlines of a contemporary spirit. Ludwig Type, 2013

More about Helsinki

Licensing & Free Trial

As with every font on Webtype, all styles of the Benton Modern series can be tested free of charge for 30 days.

Licenses beyond that start at $20/year which is about €19/year, £14/year, or less than 6¢/day. (Yes, we are trying to impress you with the currency symbols.)

Learn more on the Benton Modern Webfont pages.

Try Benton Modern for 30 days

No credit card required.