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As I admit in the book, I’m in an awkward position. Officially speaking, I can’t recommend that you use monospaced fonts because they’re ugly and they waste space. But the truth is — I really like them. Why? A good monospaced font is very difficult to pull off. Making every letter the same width is the mother of all design constraints. So when I see a well-made monospaced font, it’s like watching a magician do a really cool card trick.
The golden age of monospaced fonts was probably the 1950s, when IBM led the typewriter industry and released a series of great monospaced designs. As typewriters have faded from the scene, so have monospaced fonts, so there isn’t a lot of incentive to make new ones.
That said, most of the monospaced fonts we have (e.g. Courier New) are just horrible, especially for extended reading. For FB Alix, my primary goal was to make a monospaced font family that was suitable for body text. To do that, the design needed to take monospacing seriously. I didn’t want to adapt an existing font design to monospaced format (surgery that usually goes very badly). So I went back to the source: I got a vintage IBM Selectric typewriter and a bunch of type balls (one of them is pictured above) and I studied samples.
The roman style of FB Alix is based on a type ball called Prestige; the italic is based on a type ball called Light Italic. They weren’t intended to go together, so I had to substantially redraw the italic to match. I made many adjustments to the roman to make it better suited to laser printing. For instance, the punctuation characters on typewriters were made oversize so they would be better able to sustain impacts against the paper. On laser printers, they can be sized normally.
The rest of the family is new. The bold and bold italic styles were drawn from scratch. The fonts have a few special features that are accessible in high-end page-layout programs, like alternate forms of certain characters, and even swash caps.
My official advice won’t change: if you have the choice, you’re always better off with a proportional font. But if you must use or want to use a monospaced font, by all means — use FB Alix.