I Love Typography

Sunday type: shush, I’m kerning!

Well, it’s Sunday again, and how quickly this week has passed. I received numerous positive emails about the Type Terminology: Humanist article, and they all indicate that readers want to see more like them. The next in the series will cover Old Style. I’m in the process of researching and writing the other five parts to this series, so keep your eyes peeled and readers at the ready.

Today we have a number of interesting news items; the first of which is:

lemondejournalptf_sample3.gif

The Le Monde Journal PTF special offer is available through 30 November 2007 (only 20 days remaining). To celebrate the launch of Le Monde Journal PTF, clients can pay a special price of only € 168 (standard price at € 210). For six fonts of this quality, the special price is very special indeed. This is a very versatile face, looking great for titling through body text; and one that you will use for many years to come. It’s a modern-day classic, and a bargain — though most certainly not of the bargain basement type. If you can’t afford it, then raid your children’s piggy banks, look down the back of the sofa, go without food for a week; this one’s worth every Euro.

Karen Cheng

And talking of type design, here’s an audio plus slides of Karen Cheng’s lecture at ATypI (Association Typographique Internationale) in Brighton. Karen is perhaps best known for her book, Designing Type; and if you are or you have the slightest notion about designing type, then this book must find its way into your hands. If you are new to type design, then you will love this book. In fact, Alec Julien (of the So You Want to Create a Font series fame — viewed almost 60,000 times) has written a review that I’ll publish towards the end of this month. I’ve listened to the following three times (checking sound quality, of course).

http://www.spike.com/video/2911205

[If the video does not appear, then visit this link.]

Many thanks to the wonderful River Valley Technologies for their permission to use the video here. They have numerous great type- and design-related video and audio files hosted there. Another great series that’s worth checking out is Non–Latin Typeface Design.

web typography

wdn-logo1.gifFive Essential Composition Tools for Web Typography. Have you ever seen a web site so clear, logical, and exquisitely composed it made you stop in your tracks? Have you wondered how the designer achieved such a stunning and cohesive design? In this presentation, Kimberly Elam reveals the relationships between proportion, visual systems, composition and aesthetics. For more information on this event (to be held in Vancouver, from January 28), visit the Web Directions North Web Site. Japan is a little far from Vancouver, so if you get the opportunity to go, then please report back on Kimberly’s lecture.

teaching type

The Type Workshop has agreat set of images that demonstrates some of the fundamentals behind designing type. Well worth printing for reference:

typebasics-05.jpg

Boulton on type

Mark Boulton has just posted the slides and notes to his Better Typography lecture for the Web 2.0 Expo’ in Berlin. As usual, sound stuff; a great presentation covering the basic elements of good typography from structure and form to micro and macro typography. Bookmark this one for future reference.

Don’t letterspce the lowercase without reason

Kuka the robot calligrapher

If you’re a calligrapher, you might be a little nervous about this one: a robot programmed to pen the entire Martin Luther Bible. Why? Not sure really, but an interesting feat nonetheless. Wish I’d had one of these in High School. Thanks to the Ministry of Type for this story.

robot-type.jpg

And almost finally, if you’re a fan of free and of the handwritten grunge font, then you may well be partial to Ohelo De Boi. You can download it from Dafont. Thanks to Jo of Josweb for bringing this one to my attention. I’ve already used this (sparingly, of course) for a design project. Note: you may need to get your hands dirty, and do some manual kerning — but what better way to spend your Sunday afternoon. When your husband or wife asks, “What’s for dinner?”, you can shut them up with a, “shush, can’t you see I’m kerning!”

ohelo-de-boi.jpg

And finally, finally, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing — kerning, gardening, playing with the kids—have a great Sunday.


  1. Great links as always.

    Those diagrams on the Type workshop page are especially fantastic. Wow!

    I’m going running but I’ve got to check those out in more detail later.

  2. Chris
    Good to see you here again. Yes, those sketches are lovely, and the information they convey is priceless. See you later.

  3. Kari Pätilä

    I had forgotten all about the Boulton presentation, so thanks for the reminder.

  4. I think Mark almost forgot about it too. You’re welcome, Kari.

  5. Can you make a text link for the Olho de Boi? I was slow to figure out I had to click the picture… hehe. I really like that typeface. It would be great for background textures in an antique design.

    That typeworkshop link is great!! It really breaks down the details of designing a face. I bet Stephen (Tiano) will appreciate that!

    Ugh, Sunday already over there? I’m still enjoying my Saturday morning, thankyouverymuch.

  6. Thanks John — another weekend of type goodness!

    I wish I was closer to Vancouver as well, it’s still all the way across Canada for me. And that plus the price of attendance… sheesh. Give us another twenty years and teleporters will be commonplace, and we won’t have to worry about all this traveling nonsense…

    Also loving the wonderfully educational sketches form Type Workshop. Helps me with my ever evolving ideas for a Typography cheat sheet.

  7. Rafael

    Olho de Boi is a funny name for a font. Its portuguese for “bulls eye”.
    edit: The reason why the name is Olho de Boi is because the stamp the author used as inspiration resembles a bulls eye. You can see some pictures of the stamp here

  8. Lauren, you are correct. I do appreciate that link to the Type Workshop. Printed out they make a nice accompaniment to Leslie Cabarga’s Logo Font & Lettering Bible: A Comprehensive Guide to the Design, Construction and Usage of Alphabets and Symbols, which has some really fine sections on the anatomy of letterforms, using Adobe Illustrator, Bezier curves, and drawing letters.

    But I’m still left with the issue of whether pretty much everything has already been imagined for text faces.

  9. Hope you are having a good weekend! I am getting up in a few hours to teach Sunday school to 3 year olds, yeah! I enjoyed your blog, hope you can come and visit mine!

    Have a good one!

    DEB

  10. Lauren
    Thanks. I’ve added the link. Yes, my Sunday Type was a little premature; I got a little excited.

    Hamish
    That cheat sounds like a wonderful idea.

    Rafael
    Thanks for the link!

    Stephen
    About text faces: I’m sure there’s still plenty of room for improvement; add to the mix stuff like OpenType features, and I think the possibilities are endless. I wonder what others think on this topic.

    Deb
    Thanks for staying up to read iLT. I’m off to visit your blog now.

  11. Well, I guess in the technical sense—such as Open Type features, like you mentioned, John—there are opportunities to make improved types. But I’m talking strictly about the way types look, the way characters are drawn to appear to a reader’s eye.

    Which brings me to running something by everyone here …

    I’ve decided that I really like Goudy Old Style. I mentioned it on my blog and got a response from someone really skewering Goudy Old Style. I have to ask: Is it really such an awful typeface?

  12. The type workshop link is awesome, the serious mention of balances white and black space is priceless. They couldn’t have explained it any better.

    If I was into web design I wouldn’t miss the show in Vancouver, but considering I’m not back home and I’m not into web design… nothing really for me there. Haha.

  13. I agree that there’s certainly room to improve typefaces in a technical way—Open Type features, as you point out, being a great example. But I’m speaking about how letterforms actually look. I’m speaking of serifed faces for book production, of course, not display types where, I imagine, there will never be a shortage of possibilities. I mean, have designers maybe exhausted the variety of ways to draw a serifed lowercase i?

  14. By the way, John, thanks for the Karen Cheng audio/slide show. It was interesting to hear her take. It’s getting near time for me to pick up her book again to look at letterforms. Kind of fun, too, to “put a voice” on an author whose words I’ve only read.

  15. Last try … I’ve wasted a day—really the whole weekend so far—racking my brain over this …

    In Letters of Credit, Walter Tracy poses what I believe is the essential question for any designer of types: “How, then, do designers contrive to create new types that preserve the natural features of letters and yet are visibly different from others of their kind?”

    Sans serifs, used as display types, lend themselves to the idea that there are ways to draw letterforms that just haven’t been thought of yet—even in crazy, new ways. But serif types to be used in book production cannot be wild, too unique, or too idiosyncratic. They have to be easily recognizable in forming the words they are parts of, and must not stand out so much that they draw readers’ attention from reading.

    I look at a book like Karen Cheng’s Designing Type, and I see her examples of individual letterforms in the manner of different periods. They seem to cover all the bases. What hasn’t been done yet?

    So how do you know you’re not drawing typefaces that already exist? You can’t possibly look at every serif face ever created. How do you do something you know is new?

    Second question’s easier: For those of you who start by drawing your letters in Illustrator, what size do you draw at? And then do you simply scale them down for other sizes?

  16. Stephen

    So how do you know you’re not drawing typefaces that already exist? You can’t possibly look at every serif face ever created. How do you do something you know is new?

    I think you should sit back for a while and print out some of the old style faces and new style faces (serif of course). I’m sure you will find a huge difference in how they were constructed. The have naturally evolved (so to speak) over the years with the different designers who decided to tackle them.

    Who’s to say that something has to be new? Take a look at the massive, still be edited, never going to stop adding new glyphs, Garamond. Why not take the best features from all the greatest faces and create something new?

    Second question’s easier: For those of you who start by drawing your letters in Illustrator, what size do you draw at? And then do you simply scale them down for other sizes?

    The best thing to do is print our a sample alphabet at 72points or a font that you want yours to resemble (x-height, ascender, ect. ect.) From that, lay a paper over top, draw out the x-height and all the guides you need. When you trace in illustrator it doesn’t matter what size you trace at (the bigger the better), because you will always know what size the x-height has to be in the end. Just remember that working really big in illustrator allows you to get into the details of the glyph a lot more.
    I believe there are some readings on the x-height and how it relates to actual printing size. For example, 72pt should have an x-height of ___. I have no idea where they are, but google around and take a look.

    Hope this helped!

  17. Thanks, Cody. This does help some. It gives me something to play off. But I have to admit that the new thing still throws me. Maybe no one told me I had to do anything new, but I can’t imagine wanting to do anything that wasn’t. I mean, if it’s already been done … It’s one thing when the digital age is just beginning as far as typesetting goes, and you just want to make a face that’s in metal available for computer. But once a face is digital, I can’t see redoing it. And too much with the combining the best characteristics from different types will prob’ly look just like that’s hat one did.

    Quibbles aside, however, all you’ve said is a way to begin to think about the problem. For that I thank you big-time.

    I said the second question was easier. That’s beautiful, concrete advice. So simple I should have thought of it, as I know I’ve already read similar instrux. This is one I can get cracking on.

    Very helpful stuff, Cody. Thanx.

  18. Stephen
    Also, on the second part of your questions. I forgot to add that after you trace the x-height and other guides… times everything by two and draw at that size. This gives your hand a lot of space to work with. And one last thing, light tables are a huge help when doing a font. I can’t do even a logo without one.

    Cheers!

  19. Ko

    “How, then, do designers contrive to create new types that preserve the natural features of letters and yet are visibly different from others of their kind?”

    It is interesting to note that letterforms are among the oldest shapes that are virtually unchanged and still in use after, what, 2000 years, 2500 years… And yet the very subtle changes that type designers can make to the basic shape can be recognized as a new font. Put a range of a’s from different fonts beside each other and we can easily see a difference. At the same time, we’re still able recognize each shape as an a.

  20. I’ve wanted, for a long time now, to create the next great book-production quality serif font. Sadly, as of yet, I have neither the skill, knowledge, nor patience to succeed. But I hold out hope. Personally, I don’t imagine that my font will be radically different enough to matter; nor do I suppose it will really be an improvement over any of the great serif fonts out there. But what keeps me motivated in this is simply the idea that maybe I can accomplish this, and create something lovely.

  21. Thanks, I appreciate you taking the time to respond.

    Cody, thanks for that new bit of info for proportioning. It goes with a list I got from Tracy’s Letters of Credit, that I listed on my blog here. Of particular interest are these two points:

    According to Mr. Tracy, the ratio of a letterform’s x-height to its ascender—the top of, say, the letter “b”—should, ideally, equal 6:10, or .6.

    He cites Edward Johnston, “regarded as the greatest calligrapher of the twentieth century,” as having established a type stroke weight by the way that is natural to calligraphers, “from the breadth of the pen.” The ratio of the thickness of the stroke to capital height is strictly set at 1:7.

    And Ko, you about sum up what I’ve couched in my questioning, the notion that it’s impossible to know whether you’ve struck the balance between recognizable and unique that a text face lives by until you’re finished.

    Finally, Alec, you’ve arrived at my purpose. I’d like to—perhaps just once before I’m done—design a complete typeface family that has both a serif and a sans serif branch under the one family name, and then use it and its various members in a book.

  22. Ko, you about sum up what I’ve couched in my questioning, the notion that it’s impossible to know whether you’ve struck the balance between recognizable and unique that a text face lives by until you’re finished.

    And, Alec, you’ve arrived at my purpose. I’d like to—perhaps just once before I’m done—design a complete typeface family that has both a serif and a sans serif branch under the one family name, and then use it and its various members in a book.

    My thanks to you both.

  23. Johno
    I just realized there is a random “typography” written at the very top of the page. Someone playing in the background?! Haha

  24. @Cody
    I just realized this as well.

    John, do you think it’s a bug with your meta code? It’s just below the meta tag, so I’m wondering if it somehow broke out…

  25. Fascinating discussion. Goodness! I leave you guys alone for a few hours, and you write a novella between you. Wonderful. Some real gems in there. Will respond in more detail presently.

    Cody and Hamish
    Oops. Thanks for pointing that out. It wasn’t supposed to be there. A case of the type Gremlins, I believe. Fixed now.

    Stephen
    Looks as though some of your comments are being caught in the spam trap. You can set a Black list in WP; why not a White list? And who was it that said you can’t use Goudy Old Style for running text? They’re insane!

  26. I wondered about the comments that didn’t go thru. I kind of thought it might have been due to the bits and pieces of HTML I was trying to use to accent stuff I was saying, or the way I was trying to embed a link. For the latter, however, I thought I was using the format of your a href above, which is exactly what I have in my own notes. So I couldn’t really be sure the cause.

    As for Goudy Old Style, I just wondered whether I was off the mark. I was surprised by the initial comment—if you haven’t read it, it’s commenting on my Frederic Goudy entry. I don’t mind being wrong and learning something, but I honest-to-God don’t think I am (as you, and at least some others, confirm). Plus I think old Frederic was a nice man who did a lot of good, useful type design and got a bum rap because he promoted himself.

  27. Wow so much to talk about on this article. It’s a really great one. First off really informative video on Karen Cheng. The type workshop site is really cool. I love to see the thought process and all the random sketches. And I so need to get one of those calligraphy robots attached to my arm. ;) Really good stuff!

  28. Okay, since I started the topic drift to Goudy Old Style, I thought I ought to put the exclamation point on the subject.

    Like minutes ago, I just finished reading the section on Goudy Old Style in the old type designer’s own book, Goudy’s Type Designs. I picked up three points:

    1. He didn’t name it after himself and preferred it wasn’t referred to that way.
    2. He saw it as an advertising, not a book, face.
    3. He himself “never … cared for” it.

    So go figure.

    Stephen Tiano, Book Designer, Page Compositor & Layout Artist
    blog: http://www.tianodesign.com/blog

  29. Cody
    Some great ideas in your comments.

    Robert
    I’ll go halves with you on that robot.

    Stephen
    I think that despite what Goudy says about his own face, it is still good for running text. OK, so I don’t like the ear of the lowercase “g” and some other oddities, but I’m happy to read it. I’m sure I remember reading of Goudy in a list of classic book faces (just don’t recall where; perhaps I dreamt it). In fact, this Old Style face is one of many in that group that make for great text faces.

    However, if you’ve given up on it, I’d be interested to know what you choose to use as your model for your own typeface—if any. Why not still use it, iron out those “oddities”, use its metrics….

  30. No, I haven’t given up on using Goudy Old Style as a book face. I think I’m just going to be a little more serious about which one I use it in. I mean, I do want to consider the aim Goudy had for it.

    Or maybe not. Reminds me of my college days as an English major. We spoke of something called “the intentional fallacy.” And that was the notion that when an author wrote, say, a novel, what he intended as the point of it all was not necessarily the only legitimate way to interpret the novel. It all depended on whether you could show how you came to your reading by showing it just from the novel itself and the historical context it was written in.

    On the other hand, his Goudy Italian Old Style is one his own book is set in, and I must say that looks very good, too. And more conventional. Still, I think the plain Goudy Old Style has a cleaner look.

  31. Stephen
    Interesting that you should mention literary criticism’s “intentional fallacy”. That’s the first thing that came to mind when I read your previous comment. Following on, perhaps we could say

    A typeface does not belong to its creator, but rather to those who employ it.

  32. Okay with me.

    No, seriously, that’s prob’ly the only reasonable way to view it, if its usage supports itself by how appropriate it is for the material, the audience, etc.

  33. Stephen
    There’s got to be a book in all this material. Like a travel book, only for type: “Tiano’s Type Trip”. Couldn’t resist the alliteration ;)

  34. That would be a fun book. At least two different ways to go. Types with countries or cities in their names? Or types created by designers from different countries? I wonder what other angles there might be for this. if only I could get foundries to donate the typefaces for review.

  35. I’m amazed by the robot calligrapher…
    This is a very nice blog I’ve just discovered.
    I will visit you more often…

  36. Stephen
    I wasn’t think of that, though it’s a good idea. I was thinking of your own personal type journey, and documenting that; I know you’re doing that on your blog, but at the conclusion, if you were to gather everything together, it would make an interesting read.

  37. Actually, I’m putting the blogging about my type design journey on the back burner. For one thing, I worry about the pace I would go at. But even before that, I can’t picture anything new. Everything I think of doing has been done in some other typeface. Not to say that I won’t try to design something, but it’s not at the top of my to-do list. I also need to get serious about getting some work in. I finished correx on something about 10 days ago and haven’t worked on a book since. Anybody hanging out here publish? Can you use a book designer? ;)

  38. I just realized there is a random “typography” written at the very top of the page. Someone playing in the background?! thanks dude

  39. Interesting that you should mention literary criticism’s “intentional fallacy”.

    thanks dude

  40. Garchoune
    That’s odd. There have been problems with the hosting. You still see it?
    Thanks for visiting.

    Graphic Designer
    Yes, an interesting one, that. You’re welcome. Good to see you here.

  41. Graphic Designer, what is it about the mention of lit’s “intentional fallacy” is it that you find interesting? Simply that it should be mentioned in any discussion about typography and the design of types? Or what?

  42. Obrigado John por divulgar minha fonte Olho de Boi . Tehha um otimo ano. Valeu!

    Billy Argel

  43. Billy
    You’re welcome! Have a great 2008.

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