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.
- 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Design easy to read and enjoyable information by using OpenType features that improve comprehension with style.
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
Enabled by default in Safari and iOS Safari.
Turn them on in other browsers with OpenType settings in CSS.
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
Open & Approachable
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.
No credit card required.