I Love Typography

Kinescope

You may, or may not, have noticed the featured fonts over on the right and down a little — in that black box. These fonts are sometimes new releases, or sometimes older ones that I’ve rediscovered. The wonderful thing about discovering and rediscovering all these great faces, is that I have more good typefaces to choose from; the only drawback is the dent it’s making on my credit card. Anyway, on with the show.

This weeks new face has a sweet taste, a full body, and leaves a lingering glow in one’s throat. It’s the 80% dark chocolate of fonts. In fact, if I ever go into the chocolate making business (and that’s unlikely), I will name my chocolate after Mark Simonson’s latest face, Kinescope, “a dashing 1940s-style brush script, inspired by hand-lettered titles in the Fleischer Brothers’ Superman cartoon series.” I can just picture customers entering my little Chocolatier and asking, “I’ll take two bars of Kinescope, please.”

When I first saw even a small sample of Kinescope, I just had to lick my lips. Some typefaces make me go “ah”, while others elicit an “oh”. Kinescope is definitely in the “oh” camp. But that’s quite enough drooling from me; let’s take a look:

Kinescope sample

I was intrigued by Mark’s choice of name, and when I quizzed him about it:

“Kinescope” is another word for motion picture, but one that’s not used any more. The fact that it’s an obsolete word suggests the historical period that inspired it. I also had a nice sampling of the characters of the font. — Mark Simonson

Although Kinescope’s bodywork looks pretty sleek, it’s not until you lift the bonnet, that you really begin to appreciate the hard work that has gone into fine-tuning it. One of the problems with many brush script faces is that certain letter combinations just look odd, and the connecting strokes when unconnected (for example when the character ends a word), just don’t look right. Well, smart designers, include contextual alternates. These are accessible in most image/text editing software; for example, in Photoshop CS3, the contextual alternates are available here:

Contextual Alternates Open Type Feature

Not all fonts include these contextual alternates — and not all need them; perhaps some of yours have them, but you’ve never realised they were available. They are called Contextual Alternates because they offer alternative glyphs for different contexts or situations.

Kinescope with Contextual Alternatives

Note in the example above: No.1 does not have Contextual Alternates applied, and so the “e” looks as though it’s reaching out to connect with the next letter, which just isn’t there — it looks like one of those stray puppy dogs holding out its paw.

In the second example, the “e” flows smoothly into the following “l”, so no problems there, and therefore no need for any Contextual Alternates.

The 3rd example is the same as the first, only we have applied Contextual Alternates to the letter “e”; the font has a quick think .. .and muses, “ah, the ‘e’ is all alone, so we can replace the ‘e’ with the long ‘tail’ with something more appropriate.” Clever isn’t it.

To download a sample pdf, or to learn more about Kinescope, simply visit Mark Simonson Studios.

So what do you think of Kinescope? Where and how might you use it?

I bought two copies of Kinescope. Not because I like it so much — that would be silly; the second is a prize. All you need to do to have a chance of winning this beauty is answer this question:

Mark Simonson Studios has one typeface in its portfolio named after something you might find in the kitchen. Name that typeface. All correct entries will go into my new bigger hat, and a single winner will receive Kinescope, the font. Send your answers through the contact form, please. [competition now closed. See Kinescope Font Winner].

To discover who won the two copies of Ellen Lupton’s Thinking With Type, just follow this PrizeWinners link.

Coming up soon:

Back to school with more type terminology, and a new series on The History of Type in four parts. Next week we also have the first in a two-part series on “Getting Started Designing Type”, from one of iLT’s US correspondents. If you’d like to read an interview with me over at SheUnlimited, you can discover what I think of PMS, Prada, and the latest JayLo gossip :)

To ensure you don’t miss out, join the type revolution and subscribe to I Love Typography today.


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  1. I can’t believe it! Within 20 minutes, 46 people have correctly answered the Kinescope Prize question. Brilliant.

  2. That font is wonderfully retro. And beautiful. Me want.

  3. It is a lovely font. OpenType features are cool — I have to sit down one day and learn more about them.

  4. DHarry

    I love it!! I think it would look great on an ILT t-shirt. Do I get a free one for mentioning that??

  5. Sallyyi

    I really really like the new header image. Looks great. How did you make it different just for this post?

  6. dk

    1.) That smiley in the “Coming up soon” paragraph dastardly sabotages the line-height—that screams for an adjustment!

    2.) PMS (=Pantone Matching System?)
    Nice interview (your early relation to fonts made me go “oh”)! However, the way that links to ilovetypography.com were scattered within the text seems pretty random to me.

  7. dk
    It’s funny you should mention that smiley; I was probably fixing it as you were typing your comment. Should be fixed now.

    No.2: you were very nearly responsible for ruining my keyboard. I was drinking coffee as I read your comment. Yes, those links do seem rather arbitrary. Thanks for dropping by, and for making me smile(y).

  8. We really need a “I love typography” t-shirt (and it need to be available to someone in Brazil too…)

  9. Kazuo
    When the T-shirts are ready, we’ll be able to ship to Brazil. So far there are three designs to choose from. More on that coming soon. Good to see you here again.
    Perhaps we should also have a “Eu amo o typography” T-shirt. Please feel free to correct my Portuguese.

  10. Nice font, I didn’t know about the contextual alternates yet, that might come in handy. I wouldn’t use this font too much on websites, I guess that’s true for any brush type fonts since you need to use images or SiFR to use it.

    On the other hand, if you have quite a static site like a portfolio or something you won’t change often like a logo I would use it, I haven’t seen it online before and having a unique looking portfolio site is great in my opinion.

  11. Johno
    The correct translation of “I love typography” is “Eu amo tipografia”.

    I can’t wait to buy this t-shirt ^_^

  12. dk

    @Kazuo: Ah, the Portuguese market aims for the additional fi-ligature—very clever, indeed.

  13. Jelmer
    One doesn’t hear too much about sIFR these days. I think one of the problems with it is that it’s not particularly easy to implement. I was thinking of running an article on sIFR, demonstrating an easy way to use it.

    Several people have mailed me to say that they prefer the header image (in this article) set in Kinescope. I wonder what other readers think.

    Kazuo
    Many thanks for that. Your name sounds Japanese…

    dk
    Very good! You’ve discovered Kazuo’s ulterior motive :)

  14. John
    Yep, my name is Japanese, my mother side of family is Japanese :)

    About the header I prefer the old, the Kinescope is more casual but the old have more typography look…

  15. If it matters, I like both the previous and current header, but this one seems more fitting of the personality of the blog (fun prose, not unapproachable technical writing).

  16. The Kinescope header is really beautiful, but I like the more traditional serif header personally. Maybe you could just change headers occasionally, like Google does for special occasions.

  17. Jeff Fitzgerald

    Thanks for the review and information about contextual alternates. I’ve not liked many brush script fonts but Kinescope does look beautiful. I also like the Kinescope masthead.

  18. Kinescope is easily the best brush script I’ve seen in, well, probably forever. The legibility and readability is fantastic; I love it. Now I need to find a client with an appropriate project so I can justify buying yet another font…

  19. Ah, if fonts were chocolate, then it’s safe to say that I would be morbidly obese! But seriously, great article. Those OpenType features always amaze me, perhaps you can write more about them.

    Oh, and you’ll be happy to know that I’ve got a neat little version of the Fontometer going. I’ll shoot you a preview soon.

  20. I really really like the new header image. Looks great Johno!

    How did you make it different just for this post?

  21. Hamish
    I’m looking forward to seeing it. I’ll try to write more about OT features; there are many little features almost hidden away.

    Alexander
    I use WordPress’ custom fields, then rewrite the CSS style for the header with the post’s custom fields. I’m sure someone could do it better. If you want the code, just let me know (it’s not a plugin though); just my efforts held together with sticky-tape and a Band-Aid.

    Everyone
    Thanks for all you comments on the header. I think I’ll save the different headers for the ‘font’ articles; I’ll set the header in the font which I’m discussing.

  22. As always, John an entertaining read. And the business about “Contextual Alternates” was informative, something I was not aware of.

    For my part, I guess I need to find areas of book design that I can treat similarly. I’m not sure, tho’, whether it’s viable or of any interest to anyone to compare pages from actual books and do a “what might have been” with the same page the way I might have done it.

    I think maybe I’ll blog about that—or at least about the idea, sort of test the waters—later (or tomorrow) on Tiano Design, the blog.

    Oh, by the way, a suggestion/request: Could we see a little more on text faces, as opposed to display faces? Or would that not be as interesting for you to do?

  23. I use WordPress’ custom fields … If you want the code

    Nice lil technique and a very good idea to tweak the WP functions! (-;
    have used custom fields for thumbnails and stuff in one of my recent projects. and yes - if you want to share the code, let us see it. always good to know how other people play!

  24. Ko

    But there ARE chocolate letters, and have been for years. You can get them in abundance around this time of the year, especially here in Holland and Belgium.

    They are part of the Sinterklaas proceedings (equivalent to Santa Claus) and are given to children as a little present.

    I ususally get a K, plenty of chocolate on it, altough I used to envy my sister Marianne.

    Check this out: http://www.chocoladeletter.net

  25. Robert

    Really nice typeface. I really love how you can use the open type to change different glyphs to suit what kind of look your going for. All this talk about open type I think an article on the subject is in order. :)

  26. Noo! How did I miss the Thinking With Type prize drawing?!! Boooo. What about that Font Font book? Did you give that away already? Did I miss that one too? Oh well, Christmas is coming up. You can send me over one then, Johno :P

    Haha, Ko, that website was made for Johno. Good one!

    John, I’m with Stephen, thank you for enlightening us on the contextual alternatives. I had no idea! Hehe, I like how you change up your header. Maybe every time we refresh the page it can be a new featured font as the header. Though I do really like the old one with the lines. It’s just classic.

  27. I just sent you a message via your contact form and got a confirmation page as your home page but with the big Thank You in the header - very impressive. You never cease to amaze me how good you are with all those little details on your site.

  28. Molly Mullins-Burney

    I hope it wasn’t an oops to put my comment on the “Contact” page! Mark Simonson has several fonts that are promising, but I am very excited about Coquette. Ok… I got involved…I commented. I love typography too!
    Ya’ll have a great day,
    Molly Burney

  29. Competition now closed. The winner will be announced within the next hour. Thank you to everyone who participated.

  30. Vivien
    I’m pleased you noticed that. You’re the first to mention it.

  31. dk

    @johno: After all I mentioned that lovely switching header in my e-mail – you know, that one of approx. a hundred you should have received at the 14th of October; That one featuring 10,000 free toilet rolls in its subject… check your spam folder, it should reveal my early sense for that little…er… pretty large detail on your site.

  32. dk
    Actually I remember reading that mail, but I thought you were referring to the change of header for this article. OK, so correction:

    “Vivien, you are the second person to have commented on that header.”

    Thanks, dk ;) (and sorry, Vivien).

  33. dk

    @johno: I see, you read it – great! What do you think about that “Eu Amo Tipografia” font? Identified it?

  34. sahil simon

    lol. did you know that chocolate was banned in switzerland for many years. read this

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