Typographic Horrors: Fake Small Decapitation

Part three in our series of blood-curdling common mistakes:

He shuddered, realizing something didn’t add up. An impostor had snuck into the midst and only those with  a trained eye such as his could spot the difference.“Good God!” he panicked, “The others don’t even know the horror right in front of their eyes! And they won’t until it’s too late.” He silently sobbed knowing that the real thing looked so much better than this typographic incubus. He vowed revenge on the designer who denied life to OpenType features, opting instead for fake small caps.

Certain desktop publishing programs allow you to too easily create ad hoc small caps. Fake small caps are simply scaled-down regular caps, their weight is too light and their proportions too narrow, which makes them look wispy (a tell-tale sign of an impostor). Instead, use them through the OpenType features or a separate small caps font. Your design will look the way the typographer intended, with the symphony of letterforms playing correctly together.

“FAKE” in graphic set in Poltergeist by GarageFonts


  1. Mick
    Posted October 26, 2012 at 2:25 PM | Permalink

    Once upon a time, when Steve Jobs was still alive, Pages from iWorks was able to use the opentype features, allowing the use of real small caps. Sadly, since his death and since Pages 4.2. under Mountain Lion, this feature doesn’t function anymore. Apple knows about this bug. A fix has not been seen so far.

  2. Andrew
    Posted October 31, 2012 at 5:13 AM | Permalink

    What I do when Open Type is not supported or small caps are not otherwise available is to resort the application’s small-cap feature *but* increase the width of the letters until the stroke weight matches the regular letters. Generally 115% seems to work. It gives a pleasing rigidity to the impostor and is a worthwhile second-best.

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