Phoenix 45s: Font (for the key labels)


Unless we have a upsurge in interest for another name, consensus seems to be for "Phoenix".

Walter and I have been corresponding regarding the legibility and consistency of labels, and I think it would be fruitful to get community input into the issues on the table.

We, of course, want a consistent labeling scheme. In my article I talked about the unwieldy nature of the 35s' use of multiple typefaces in both roman and italic forms. In my article I use Computer Modern for text and AMS Symbol for symbols such as arrow keys, and then used LaTeX to do the typesetting for me. This was convenient since LaTeX typesets mathematics beautifully, but was far from optimal for the application at hand.

Walter rightly pointed out some deficiencies in these fonts: many are too light weight for calculator labels, the mathematical symbols don't integrate well with the rest, etc.

One thing I do want to pursue is standardizing on a sans serif font across the board. The serif/sans serif with roman/italic transitions reduces legibility. (It also really messes with my brain ;)).

Earlier I offered some different layouts for the uWatch overly using ITC Stone Humanist, Gill Sans, Eras, etc.

uWatch Keyboard Layout Using different fonts

I am partial to ITC Stone Humanist because I have loved Sumner Stone's work, but it too may not be the best choice for this application. Another typeface that I have found is from the highly regard Czech designer Frantisek Storm. It is Anselm and seems have the weight to be easily legible even at small sizes, i.e., it is bold enough to offer enough contrast at low resolution printing for labels. It also has the advantage of having both upper and lower case Greek letters plus fractions for facilitating the setting of mathematical entities. It gives a few alternatives for the numbers as well. And it has superscripted and subscripted forms of the lowercase letters.

Those who are interested could you please go to the following link. Just below the graphic sample is a PDF that discusses its development and gives more detailed samples in usage.

Storm Type's Anselm Sans Pro

What are your thoughts? Walter and I have talked about trying to resolve issues such differentiating between the 'i' for interest rate and the 'i' for complex numbers; standardizing on the <<delta>> symbol rather than CHG, etc. What other issues should we all be watchful of as we develop a labeling scheme?

Now, about typesetting the labels themselves. I have used OpenOffice Equation Writer to typeset some of the mathematics such as 'x root of y', etc. but end up going back to LaTeX because of my familiarity and my belief that it is easier. I have even considered installing the chosen font into LaTeX and then letting it do the typesetting.

What other alternatives do people suggest in coming up with the labels? Any graphic designers in the crowd?


Edited: 7 Nov 2007, 8:26 a.m.


Unless we have a upsurge in interest for another name, consensus seems to be for "Phoenix".

I don't really care what it will be named, as long as the final product is a great calculator ;-)

But where has this consensus been reached other than in mails or PMs that were exchanged behind the scenes of this forum? Are there any secret user groups the public doesn't know about? ;-)


Nothing in secret. I will insist on this. I am simply looking at the Name thread. If others want alternative names then they should step up and offer them so that they can be considered by all.

And in any case if "opinion" swings another way, I, for one, am not beholden to the current name.



I like the Phoenix name, too.

As to fonts, my favorite for signage is "VAGRounded BT" as it is named on my PC. If you can't find it, but have been around science and engineering for a while, it is quite similar to what the old Leroy lettering set produced. In the 60s and 70s, at least, that was the standard labelling on ALL graphs published in scientific journals.


Dave, this is a nice font for sure. It is focussed on alphanumerics. Like in many other fonts, however, it is not designed completely, but some characters are oviously borrowed from other fonts. See "sqrt", "integral", Greek letters, arithmetic and logic operators etc. Arrows are not featured at all.

Additionally, like in many other fonts again, it is impossible to type e.g. "xbar" and "xhat".

The most consistent font I know so far for our purposes is called "Tahoma" on my PC. Nevertheless, it completely lacks arrows, lower case "alpha" is ambiguous, lower case "pi" and "theta" are not optimum, logic "and" and "or" are not featured, and I did not find a way to type "xbar" etc.

The most complete font I know is "Arial Unicode MS". It contains and allows almost everything we need. Just "sqrt" and "integral" look borrowed, for lower case "theta" only the closed version is supplied looking next to "8", lower case "l" and capital "I" may be confused. Even here, wee need an additional font like "Wingdings 3" for the filled triangles of the cursors, and for the block arrows of delete and (maybe) stack movements.

So, from a typographic or aesthetic point of view, there is quite some space for improvement left. The devil is in the details again :) From a practical point of view, I'd live with a careful merger of the latter 3 fonts.

Best regards,


Especially for the more exotic characters, we can always brew our own from either font design software or a graphics/drawing program. i.e. print a very large version of the character you want (say a square root symbol) from the font that most closely has what you want, scan it at high DPI, and then edit the image pixel by pixel to make exactly the shape you want. For a few symbols this shouldn't really take too much time. I'd have fun doing this and will volunteer!

Another way to get an editable pixel file for a character would be to "print" it to an Acrobat document, and then convert the resulting pdf to a graphics file, which full-up Acrobat can do (i.e. not just acrobat reader).


Thanks, Dave, for your generous offer. On a smaller scale, I did some pixel-editing for my design drafts already. I agree with you, it is fun: I can sit hours at the "fine tuning" :)

Anyway, Pavneet likes to have a font. And with Anselm and Wingdings 3 there's a good chance we can catch every char we need with just minimum pixel editing.


I wrote to Frantisek Storm about augmenting Anselm with the characters that we need. Here is his response:

Dear Pavneet,

yes, that's easy, just send a list of requested new glyphs - names and unicode indexes so I could place them properly. Also a sample text (.doc) with usage of scientific symbols would help me with testing the font.

Kind regards,

František Štorm


That's customer orientation! Thanks, Pavneet, for asking. And thanks to Frantisek for his offer. I vote for using Anselm on this basis.


What will be the charge for the custom font and for using it on a product?


I told him that this is a volunteer run project so other than the cost of the font (45 Euros) I don't think that there will be any other charges.


Given the fact, that the font is only used in a very small size, thus details (and flaws) are hardly discernable, do we judge it worthwhile to pay 45 EUR instead of using characters from free fonts? There are even font editors out there, making it possible to create our own special characters that can't be found elsewhere.


I'll pay for the font. Do you have the time to design the font and all the special characters?

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