While Minion is an effective type choice right out of the box, using only its defaults, the many refinements built into Minion 3 give designers the typographic tools for truly excellent composition. Optical sizes, multilingual support, and a host of advanced typographic refinements make it possible to fine-tune text and display designs to perfection.

Optical sizes

One of Minion’s great strengths is its optical sizes, which originated with the earlier multiple master release, and have been refined in Minion 3 and extended.

Minion 3’s Opticals, set at the same apparent size, to demonstrate the subtle size-specific variations in the design.

The optical sizes are directly tied to Minion’s initial creation as a multiple master typeface. In the original work for Minion, Slimbach drew a 72-point master, for very large display, and a 6-point master, for very small text, and then used multiple master software to interpolate all the sizes in between. When Minion Pro was released in 2000, as an OpenType font, specific instances along the optical axis continuum were assigned to point-size ranges: caption, regular, subhead, and display. These ranges correlate directly to the previous multiple master “primary fonts,” which allowed users to quickly access useful optical size instances without having to manually generate them. While not as ideal as a fluid range of sizes, this arrangement allowed the optical sizes to be used within a familiar set of usage guidelines. Each size range is carefully calibrated to the core Regular text design, which is optimized for reading at normal reading sizes. The more robust Caption fonts are designed to maximize the white space in and around the letters for maximum clarity through letterspacing and by enlarging letter counters. The Subhead and Display designs have more delicate and elegant features and a lighter appearance, so as not to overpower accompanying text.

Slimbach actually used six masters in creating Minion 3’s revised optical sizes — a technique that anticipates the flexibility of variable fonts, where appropriate master designs will be able to be used automatically for each size of type.

Using multiple scripts

Minion’s already-robust support for composition in multiple languages and scripts is extended and enhanced in Minion 3. The début of a full Armenian type family adds a whole new language and writing system. The addition of a reversed-stress Greek supports traditional and classical Greek typography, and revised glyphs and stylistic sets add new refinements to the Cyrillic. The IPA range rounds out Minion 3’s support for multilingual typesetting.


Slimbach’s humanist Armenian type design flows easily in text passages, and it is also designed to function smoothly as a companion to the Latin. Opticals give it a full range of expression at the largest and the smallest sizes. It features a number of contextual alternate forms for situations where descenders of adjoining characters tend to collide; these have much the same purpose as f-ligatures in Latin.

One of the characteristics of the Armenian alphabet is the occasional occurrence of awkward letter pairs where opposing elements overlap or nearly collide, requiring either a ligature or a contextual alternate to correct the situation. Minion 3 addresses the problem using both non-decorative ligatures and contextual alternates, keeping text free from distracting elements that might disrupt the reader.


While the capital letters haven’t changed, the default form of Minion Greek now features a lowercase with reversed stress, which is traditional in Greek handwriting and typography. The previous style, with a stress that matches the Latin, is available as a stylistic set, so either style can be used — or they can both be, for instance in a passage of modern Greek with quotations from medieval or classical sources. In Slimbach’s view, the Western-style Greek is a bit more progressive, lending itself to setting contemporary texts and display sizes, while the traditional-style Greek is well-suited for setting historical and academic texts. Both styles have full optical-size support, in both monotonic and polyphonic.

Ρήγας Βελεστινλής (Φεραίος)
– Τα Δίκαια του Ανθρώπου.

Άρθρον 1.

Ο σκοπός όπου απ’ αρχής κόσμου οι άνθρωποι συμμαζώχτηκαν από τα δάση την πρώτη φορά, δια να κατοικήσουν όλοι μαζί κτίζοντας χώρες και πόλεις, ήταν για να αλληλοβοηθιούνται και να ζούνε ευτυχισμένοι, και όχι να αλληλοτρώγονται ή να ρουφά το αίμα τους ένας. Τότε έκαμαν βασιλέα για να αγρυπνεί για τα συμφέροντά τους, για να είναι βέβαιοι στην απόλαυση των φυσικών δικαίων, τα όποια δεν έχει την άδεια να τους τα αφαιρέσει κανένας επί της γης.


The refinements in Minion’s humanist Cyrillic design are subtle, but they make it read even more naturally in text. Compound glyphs, which can appear awkwardly wide compared to simpler glyphs, have been redesigned to fit smoothly into the rest of the character set. Minion Cyrillic now includes small caps and optical sizes, giving designers a full range of tools for typography in any language that uses the Cyrillic script.

Minion 3 provides two forms of the Cyrillic letters De (д) and El (л): “isosceles triangle” and “trapezoid.” The default forms are triangular, which are in tune with Minion’s humanist roots. (Minion 3 also includes alternates for letters whose shapes are derived from El and De.) The trapezoidal forms are available in Stylistic Set 3, “Cyrillic: trapezoid variants”.
Minion 3’s Cyrillic complement includes several alternate forms that are preferred for typesetting Bulgarian. These alternates are available in Stylistic Set 4, “Cyrillic: Bulgarian alternates”.
Minion 3’s Cyrillic complement includes alternate forms that are preferred for typesetting Serbian, most of which occur in the italic or cursive forms. These are available in Stylistic Set , “Cyrillic: Serbian and Macedonian alternates”.


Minion 3 supports the standard character set of the International Phonetic Alphabet, in roman, italic, and small caps. Although IPA is most often used in running text or in dictionaries, Minion IPA comes with optical sizes for any use.

The IPA complement in Minion 3 can differentiate the nuances of pronunciation between two people speaking the same words with different accents.
Minion 3’s IPA support means that it can be used to typeset many African languages that use an extended form of the Latin alphabet with characters taken from IPA.

Typographic refinements

Careful book typography requires typographic refinements like ligatures, old-style figures, and true small caps, which have been a part of Minion since its inception. Minion 3 extends these features across all of the scripts and sizes in the Minion family.

Some of Minion 3’s multilingual capabilities and typographic refinements.

In running text, old-style (lowercase) figures blend in with the rest of a sentence or paragraph better than lining (uppercase) figures. But lining figures, which match the cap height, are still needed whenever a word or phrase is set in all caps. Old-style figures sit well with small caps, but Minion 3 also offers small-cap figures, small lining figures that match the height of the small caps. Minion 3’s lining and old-style figures can be either tabular (all the same width, for columns of numbers) or proportional (each numeral having its own appropriate width, just as each letter does).

Minion’s true small caps are separately drawn characters that match the lowercase in weight and are slightly taller than the x-height, so they appear optically appropriate when combined with upper- and lowercase. Small caps can be used to make acronyms less obtrusive, or for subheads within a text, or to give an even texture to small elements like photo credits or captions. Although Minion 3’s small caps are spacious enough not to look cramped, any setting of small caps or all caps will usually benefit from slightly looser letter spacing.

Minion 3’s ligatures include a full range of f-ligatures, the same range of ligatures for the historical long-s, and Armenian m-ligatures.

Minion 3 also contains case-sensitive forms, historical alternate forms, language-specific alternate forms, fractions, ornaments, two sets of arrows, proper superscript and subscript forms, terminal forms, and a lining slashed zero.

Minion made an immediate impression on its initial release thanks to the detail work that Slimbach put into the typographic niceties like these, and that quality continues with the Minion 3 release.

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