eXtreme Type Terminology

Part 2: Anatomy of a Letterform—by Paul Dean

I was killing time and pain at a nearby bar called The Ear, so named because the two ribs of the ‘B’ in the neon sign that read ‘Bar’ had burned out years ago. So had most of the patrons.”—Kinky Friedman, Blast From the Past, 1998.

Just as Kinky Friedman anthropomorphizes this B, giving it human characteristics, namely ribs, type designers have come up with some very human terms to describe the details of the letterforms that they create. They speak the arm (of, say, an E), the crotch (of an M), which could further be described as an acute crotch or an obtuse crotch, the ear (of some g’s), which might be a flat ear or a floppy ear, the eye (of an e), the leg (of a k), the shoulder (of an n), the tail (of a j or a Q), and the spine (of an S). There is a sketch by the great type designer Ed Benguiat that labels the curl, the lobe and the ball of a single question mark.

typeface anatomy

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Sunday Type: bright type

The Eagle Has Landed

Welcome to another Sunday Type. I’ve now moved, have unpacked most boxes and even have a connection to the Internet. Time to celebrate with a Shandy. Thanks to everyone who has mailed me this past couple of weeks. I’m a little behind in answering mails, so please bear with me.

I was recently looking for some top-quality type photos to illustrate an article, and came across some very nice ones from the type junkie on Flickr:

metal type

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eXtreme Type Terminology

Part 1: The Detection of Types—by Paul Dean

The detection of types is one of the most elementary branches of knowledge to the special expert in crime.—The Hound of the Baskervilles, 1902.

Our modern English alphabet is a child of the Latin alphabet or Roman alphabet, which evolved from a western version of the Greek alphabet approximately 2,700 years ago. The profession of typography was essentially born in Germany with Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of a movable metal type printing press in the early 1450s. The individual pieces of metal type that Gutenberg worked with were not letters, but letterforms.

Photo courtesy of typographyphotography.com

Let me explain. There is a subtle but important difference in meaning between a grapheme, character or letter and a glyph, letterform or sort. A letter, character or grapheme refers to a fundamental conceptual mark that represents a spoken sound. (A phoneme refers directly to the sound.) A sort, letterform or glyph refers to a particular manifestation of a letter or character, one created by a type designer.
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Sunday Type: monday type

100 Words

First, I must apologies that today’s Sunday Type is closer to a Monday Type. I have now moved and am surrounded by numerous half-open boxes, and I have to wait until March 21 until I get connected. What an odd feeling it is not be connected to the Internet. Anyway, I’ve found an Internet Café close by, so I’ll survive until I get connected at home. Oddly enough, I appear to have lost several boxes during the move, and my heart missed a beat when I thought that I’d forgotten my FontBook. Anyway, that’s quite enough of moving mishaps. Here’s Sunday Type:

First up, we have a simple and yet very effective type treatment. A word comprised of words. This one would make an interesting classroom lesson; how about the word typography constructed from typographic terms.

99/100 words

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Newzald: From Moleskine to Market

By Kris Sowersby

In this article I will attempt to illustrate my design process—from typeface concept to a marketable font. Not many folks are willing to write about this. Perhaps they find it boring, irrelevant or just a little bit personal. I suspect it is a mix of all the above.

I’ll try to remain as concise as possible. Some of the individual steps can be a lot more complex and involved than they seem. I’ll try not to gloss over too many things. One thing is certain, typeface design is a long, involved process with many hours of seemingly endless tedium.

1) Purpose. What is this for?

newzald, fleischmann, rosart, plantin
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Sunday Type: illegible type

cn u rd mi?

Welcome to another Sunday Type. It’s time to forget about work, kick off your shoes, sit back and feel some type lovin’. What’s all this about illegible type? Isn’t type meant to be read? On the whole, yes; but sometimes it’s interesting to see how far we can stretch type before it breaks. At what stage does type become unreadable or illegible. For that reason, I like this experiment from James Elsey:

illegible font

The font is called Illegibility. The brief, set by Neville Brody, for the 2008 D&D Student Awards, was to create a new and original font for a relaunched FUSE magazine.
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The Best Type of 2007

And the Nominations are…

I had planned on publishing Typographic Detail for the Web, but Typographica has just released its annual Our Favorite Typefaces. It’s always an inspiring list, and a precursor of some of the fine things to come. Interestingly they’ve renamed it. Formerly it had been Best Fonts which is not wholly inaccurate (as the typefaces in the list are comprised of fonts); however, as Typographica’s editor writes,

Keeping these two terms distinct may be a losing battle at a time when some have already declared the words interchangeable, but we’re going to go down fighting.

This year’s list sees an improvement in the format, with larger specimens and who to look out for in 2008.

Most of the typefaces listed, you’d expect to see there, but there are also a number of nice surprises. Here are some of my favourites from the list:

Blaktur—the latest addition to my own type library—looks like Blackletter after a spring clean:

blaktur

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Sunday Type: the sound of type

Nine O Type

Yet another week flies by. My birthday passed without any disastrous incidents; I’ve just about finished packing, and now it’s time for type. Today we have quite a feast, so loosen your belts, sit back and enjoy.

Let’s start with a new type. Many of you will know Kris Sowersby, the man behind Meta Serif, Feijoa and National. Last week I announced that National was one of the winners of TDC2 2008. Well, he just released a new serif typeface called Newzald, and something tells me it’s going to be a big hit.

Newzald

Newzald is beautifully crafted, with exquisite attention to the finer details. It’s not easy to create a new serif face that looks fresh; and it’s only too easy to resort to little eccentricities and irrelevant details introduced simply for the sake of distinguishing it from the competition. Newzald hasn’t—and doesn’t need to. Kris describes Newzald as a decent, hardworking serif designed for the international editorial environment. If you’re looking for a fresh face that’s eminently readable, then I suggest you try Newzald. But don’t take my word for it; download the PDF specimen, print, and see for yourselves.
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A guide to Web typography

Typography for the Web has come a long way since Tim Berners-Lee flipped the switch in 1991. Back in the days of IE 1.0, good web typography was something of an oxymoron. Today things are different. Not only do we have browsers that support images (gasp!), but we have the opportunity to make our web pages come to life through great typography.

First, it’s worth noting that Typography is not just about choosing a font, or even distinguishing one typeface from another. In recent experiments, trained monkeys were able to correctly identify Helvetica 90% of the time.

helvetica monkey

Today we’re going to talk about web typography in terms of a recipe of four fundamental ingredients. If you’ve ever tried to cook a soufflé, you’ll know how important the recipe is. Follow this recipe and your typography will rise up like … that’s enough of the culinary metaphors, let’s cook:
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National News

TDC2 Winners Announced

I wouldn’t usually post today, but the Type Directors Club (TDC) has just announced this year’s winners of TDC2 2008. Among them is Kris Sowersby’s sans serif, National. I’m sure you’d all like to join in congratulating Kris, and the other winners.Winning entries are divided into five categories, and here is a taster from three of them:

Type System / Superfamily

NationalKris Sowersby:

national-winner.gif

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