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Iowan Old Style is a digital serif typeface designed by John Downer and released by Bitstream in 1991.[1]

Iowan Old Style
Iowan Old Style sample image.png
Designer(s)John Downer

Iowan Old Style is inspired by serif typefaces from Renaissance Italy, now called the “old-style” or Venetian model of typeface design, with influence from Downer’s work as hand-painter of signs.[2][3][4]

Compared to the historical models it is based on, Iowan has a higher x-height, meaning that the lower-case letters are taller and appear larger and wider, producing a design that is suitable for display and on-screen use.[5] It is used as a default font on Apple’s iBooks application and is included as a system font on iOS and macOS.[6][7]



Downer has described the design "more Venetian than Aldine" and influenced by lettering.[4] It has diamond-dots (tittles) on the “i” and “j” similar to the Arts and Crafts-influenced Goudy Old Style.[1]

Iowan began as a design for ITC, but after the company dropped plans to release it, the font was bought up by Matthew Carter of Bitstream, who digitized and released it.[4] Bitstream later revisited the design, adding ornaments and titling capitals.[1] The character set includes small capitals and ligatures, as well as Cyrillic characters. Stephen Coles, an expert on digital fonts, describes its design as “hardworking.”[8]



  1. ^ a b c Berry, John. "An American Typeface Comes of Age". dot creative. Retrieved 2 August 2015.
  2. ^ Butterick, Matthew. "Iowan Old Style". Typography for Lawyers. Archived from the original on January 16, 2015. Retrieved 2 August 2015.
  3. ^ Hoefler, Jonathan. "John Downer at The Propagandist". Hoefler & Frere-Jones. Retrieved 21 January 2016.
  4. ^ a b c Johnston, Alastair. "Alastair Johnston interviews John Downer" (PDF). Alastair Johnston. Retrieved 21 February 2016.
  5. ^ "Iowan Old Style". Identifont. Retrieved 2 August 2015.
  6. ^ Coles, Stephen. "Apple iBooks 1.5". Fonts In Use. Retrieved 21 January 2016.
  7. ^ Berry, John. "Text on the pages of iBooks". Easily Amused. Retrieved 21 January 2016.
  8. ^ "Recommended book text fonts". Fontshop. Retrieved 21 January 2016.

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