Edit: The project website, GitHub repository, and Discord server for Darwin are now up!

Recently I've resumed work on a font I'm currently developing, meant to be released as a completely free, open-source, OFL-licensed font designed specifically for use in academic and formal writing.

Besides being free and open source, it aims to have exceptional symbol coverage among many different languages (in particular supporting Latin-based scripts, Greek, and Cyrillic-based scripts), as well as coming with optical sizes, which can be thought of as extra families of the font designed specifically for certain sizes, like for footnotes or book covers.

Currently the regular style of the font looks like this (please ignore the currently defective spacing at certain parts):

enter image description here

Since there are many typographical choices and specificities connected to physics and its practice, I wanted to ask for suggestions/wanted features from physicists, which might have slightly different typographical needs which I'm not aware of as a mathematician working in an area that is quite distant from physics.

I've recently outlined and asked such a question for mathematics, but I'm sure that ― although there's certainly an overlap in needs of mathematicians and physicists when it comes to fonts ― there are also countless such necessities arising from physics which I'm unaware of.

Besides the features already pointed out in the MathOverflow thread, there are, for example, the following instances of special features needed in physics writing:

I believe being able to ask the physics community in Stack Exchange about features and necessities of a font for physics would allow me to gather extremely useful suggestions and feedback on what such a font should include and how it would be best implemented, and in this way I would be able to produce a better font that would then be freely usable and beneficial to the community in turn.

However, when looking at it alone, a question like "Suggestions for the design a font optimised for physics writing should have" would arguably at best be a soft question, and at worst off-topic. Nevertheless, given the free, open-source, nature of the font and the fact that ultimately it will be available to the broad physics community, I believe it would be reasonable to make an exception in this case, asking for input from the broad physics community here at Physics Stack Exchange with the intention of developing the font with the physics community in mind, and I believe the physics SE would be a great place for receiving this kind of input.

Would such a question be suitable for the physics SE?

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    $\begingroup$ Your project is commendable, but — in my opinion — this would be off-topic here. Fonts aren’t about physics, and your post would solicit an open-ended laundry list of desirable features rather than being a question with an objective answer suitable for a Q&A site. I suppose the community could decide that an exception should be made for you, but I see such a post as definitely being an exception to our rules. $\endgroup$
    – Ghoster
    Commented Feb 24 at 3:48
  • $\begingroup$ I would tend to agree with @Ghoster that the question would be out of scope for this stack. Perhaps you could post the question at Graphic Design, and then link to that question from here to try to get more physicists' input on it. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 24 at 13:01
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Ghoster Thank you for your feedback, Ghoster. I think it would definitely be an exception to the rule if it were allowed, though I would argue it would be worth it, given that the font is ultimately going to be available to the community for free, and hence such feedback on the part of the physics community of SE would eventually be beneficial to the physics community itself. I've made an edit to the question to highlight this point. $\endgroup$
    – Emily
    Commented Feb 24 at 13:03
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I've also made this same argument in the MathOverflow Meta, and the main site there eventually ended up receiving the question very well. I believe there would be a similar reception with a plethora of excellent feedback if the question were to be made at physics SE as well, which would eventually in turn prove beneficial to the physics community again. What do you think, taking into account how the situation with the font ensued at MathOverflow? Do you believe the same would be true for Physics SE? $\endgroup$
    – Emily
    Commented Feb 24 at 13:04
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelSeifert Hi Michael, thank you for your feedback. My main issue with this approach is that I would likely receive very little suggestions, and might otherwise not reach physicists working in subareas which would benefit from it. An example in mathematics is category theory, which uses the symbol "よ" for a very important object in the area, and yet there's no direct font support for it without workarounds. I believe it's likely there are such situations in physics as well (e.g. with Feynman slash notation, the Dirac comb, or spin-weighted spherical harmonics, as pointed above) $\endgroup$
    – Emily
    Commented Feb 24 at 13:07
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Note johndcook.com/blog/math-symbols which you may find useful. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 24 at 23:54
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    $\begingroup$ That's a nice looking font, although I'd prefer a slightly heavier weight. But I guess that's easy if you're building a variable font with an optical size axis. $\endgroup$
    – PM 2Ring
    Commented Feb 25 at 1:01
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @PM2Ring I'm happy you liked it! The weight of the regular style is a point I'm currently experimenting with (and it seems to be a bit delicate, as I've received the exact opposite feedback before!) My current plan is to develop a bold weight and a light-ish weight for [A-Za-z], and then test many different variations using a variable weight axis to find a good base choice for the regular style. (I'll also design optical sizes after this) $\endgroup$
    – Emily
    Commented Feb 25 at 1:13
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You may enjoy Elstob, a lovely variable font for medievalists (and others). $\endgroup$
    – PM 2Ring
    Commented Mar 2 at 4:18
  • $\begingroup$ @PM2Ring I was aware of Junicode, but hadn't heard of Elstob―it looks wonderful! Thank you so much for letting me know about it :) $\endgroup$
    – Emily
    Commented Mar 6 at 16:33

1 Answer 1


Asking such a question on the physics site would surely get it downvoted and closed rather quickly as:

  1. it's not actually about physics (and probably not even a tool a physicist would use unless it is pushed into a TeX package; even then it'd only be for personal use documents as major publishers already have specific fonts).
  2. it's not asking a specific question looking for a specific answer, but instead a pool of "feature requests", making it "too broad" to be useful.

Since what you want is effectively an Issues page in Github, why not just start on Github (or Bitbucket or whatever online repo you please) since they cater to exactly what you're looking for?

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for your feedback, Kyle. Considering the response from you and Ghoster above, I'll refrain from posting on the main site. $\endgroup$
    – Emily
    Commented Feb 24 at 17:39
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    $\begingroup$ Regarding 1), I do plan to make an accompanying TeX package for it, in particular one that is going to be usable for papers going to the arXiv. $\endgroup$
    – Emily
    Commented Feb 24 at 17:40
  • $\begingroup$ Regarding the GitHub tracker, this is something I'm planning to do already (or rather am doing right now but the repo is currently private). Do you have some suggestions on how to get it to reach the physicists here on physics Stack Exchange? $\endgroup$
    – Emily
    Commented Feb 24 at 17:41
  • $\begingroup$ Not having made anything public for years, I'm not sure how I'd go about promoting it other than normal means (facebook, twitter/X, etc). You can put it in your bio on SE, but I don't know how frequently those are viewed. $\endgroup$
    – Kyle Kanos
    Commented Feb 24 at 18:25

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