Play­fair is a trans­itional design. From the time of enlight­en­ment in the late 18th cen­tury, the broad nib quills were replaced by poin­ted steel pens. This influ­enced typo­graph­ical let­ter­forms to become increas­ingly detached from the writ­ten ones. Devel­op­ments in print­ing tech­no­logy, ink and paper mak­ing, made it pos­sible to print let­ter­forms of high con­trast and del­ic­ate hairlines.

This design lends itself to this period, and while it is not a revival of any par­tic­u­lar design, it takes influ­ence from the designs of printer and typeface designer John Bask­erville, the punch­cut­ter Wil­liam Martin’s typeface for the ‘Boy­dell Shak­speare’ (sic) edi­tion, and from the ‘Scotch Roman’ designs that fol­lowed thereafter.

As the name indic­ates, Play­fair Dis­play is well suited for titling and head­lines. It has an extra large x-​height and short des­cend­ers. It can be set with no lead­ing if space is tight, for instance in news head­lines, or for styl­istic effect in titles. Cap­it­als are extra short, and only very slightly heav­ier than the lower­case char­ac­ters. This helps achieve a more even typo­graph­ical col­our when type­set­ting proper nouns and ini­tial­isms. Lan­guages, like Ger­man, where nouns are cap­it­al­ized, par­tic­u­larly bene­fit from this lower con­trast between lower and upper case glyphs. In Ger­man, with it’s many cap­it­al­ized words, and other European lan­guages that use many dia­crit­ical char­ac­ters, it is advised to use more leading.

Being a trans­itional design, styl­ist­ic­ally Play­fair can accom­pany Geor­gia, where Geor­gia is used for body text.

Play­fair includes a full set of small-​caps, com­mon lig­at­ures, and dis­cre­tion­ary lig­at­ures. For Pol­ish, a set of altern­ate dia­crit­ical char­ac­ters designed with ‘kreska’s are included. All European lan­guages using the latin script are sup­por­ted. →A set of eight arrow devices are also included←.

Play­fair Dis­play also cover the cyril­lic glyphs used in Bul­garian, Belarus­ian, Rus­sian, Bosnian/​Serbian (includ­ing Ser­bian mor­pho­logy for б), and Ukrainian.

Play­fair Dis­play comes in three weights and two styles, includ­ing small-​caps for all weights and styles – also for the cyrillic.

Go to Google Web­fonts to use Play­fair Dis­play as a web­font, or to down­load the fonts to your com­puter. Spe­cial fonts con­tain­ing small-​cap glyphs in the place of the lower­case glyphs have also been put on Google Web­fonts. Use these fonts for true small-​caps in browsers without Open­Type cap­ab­il­it­ies. You do not need to down­load these fonts as the small-​caps are already in Play­fair Dis­play proper.

Play­fair Dis­play is pub­lished under the Open Font License 1.1, grant­ing you license to use the fonts free of charge, and enables you to extend & modify the fam­ily should you wish to. The com­plete source-​files are avail­able here.