Sunday Type: Freudian Type

The Psychopathology of Fonts

Yet another week whizzes by. I’m in the UK now. I must say, that living in Japan, I don’t miss the British weather. First, apologies to everyone who tried to access iLT yesterday, and got a blank page. My host Media Temple has been dreadful of late. iLT was off-line for over seven hours. Their Grid-Service hosting is turning out to be a waste of time, so I’ll be looking for a decent host.

Anyway, back to Sunday Type. I’ve added some typefaces to the December Fonts in the sidebar. Be sure to check them out. I’m quite a fan of National and Rongel in particular. Tired of Helvetica? Then buy National.

I recently came across the blog davidthedesigner.com and am enjoying it. I really like the idea of his recent first post in an ambitious series of 52—52 fonts you could use instead of Helvetica; the idea is to choose two fonts for each of the letters of the alphabet, posting them weekly. Strictly speaking the types he chooses will not be drop-in replacements for Helvetica, but I like the idea, and it was enough to make me a subscriber. Richard from the wonderful Ace Jet 170 also wrote a guest post for David’s blog (never Dave), titled Psycho-fontology (only Richard could come up with a title like that). Anyway, the post is well worth a read, as he analyses what our font libraries reveal about our personalities.

If Freud was checking out your Font Book or Suitcase what would he think? We all know horizontal scaling suggests criminal tendencies but what would he make of the habitual setting of Bembo or Bliss?

Another David sent me this ad. I think I need to have another toilet tissue category for these.
http://www.spike.com/video/2918765

And, no, I did not model for this video.

Feeling Hungry?

Well, get on down to the Font Diner and ‘fill your boots’. In looking for a typeface to describe my mood when iLT went off-line yesterday, I found the free font Xerker (which rhymes with berserker[well, kind of]), which I’ve used to set the header for this post.

Font Diner

Alec Julien, who is fast becoming a regular iLT contributor with his So You Want to Create a Font Series, and his recent Case Study, has just launched another sans serif called Loge.

Type For Kids

I’m still working on the Type For Kids article. The idea is to propose ways of introducing type and type design to young children. If you have ideas, or have any experience in this field, then do send me a mail. You might be surprised to know how often I receive emails asking for my opinion on this topic.

I’m not sure what to make of this next item brought to my attention by Dan Reynolds from TypeOff: The Ascender Hanukkah Card Kit Font.

This package contains five Certified TrueType fonts and five Hanukkah Card templates ready for customizing in Microsoft Word.

I wonder if anyone has ideas for a similar set of fonts for Christmas.

700 Penguins

I’ve just bought a copy of Seven Hundred Penguins—this is the sort of book you’d expect to find on Richard’s (of Ace Jet 170 fame) bedside table. It’s a book that will be of interest to book designers, graphic designers, those with an interest in type…well, just about anyone really. Would make a great Christmas present too. 700 hundred covers from Penguin-published books, spanning some 70-odd years. If you’re ever lacking inspiration, then a quick flick through this tome, will recharge your creative batteries.

seven hundred penguins book

Oddly enough, I couldn’t find this title on Amazon.com. However, it is available on Amazon.co.uk.

Meta + Meta Sans Candidate?

I bought a copy of New Scientist magazine the other day, and had a thought: presently it uses Fago (I think) for titles and Luc de Groot’s TheAntiqua for the body. I just thought that this magazine would be a good candidate for FF Meta and FF Meta Serif for titling and running text respectively. Just thinking aloud really. Any thoughts?

100 Best Fonts

I’m always being pressed to publish a list of good fonts, or a list of my favourite types. Perhaps I will at some stage. In the meantime there’s a wonderful list called Die 100 Besten Schriften (100 Best Fonts); this list has been around for a while, but it’s pretty good, and there’s also a good-looking PDF to download—containing samples of most of the faces in the list (does anyone know if this list is available in English translation?).

scala-regular1.png

One of my favourite typefaces (I adore it), Martin Majoor’s Scala, is in 34th position; would have liked to see it higher up the list. How about you? Are there glaring omissions, or would your own list of 100 look similar?

Typografie

Today Julian Schrader posted about a free, rather handsome-looking catalogue available from Typografie.com. I’ve requested a copy, though I’m not sure whether they will post for free outside of Germany. Anyway, if you take a look at Julian’s Very Nice Typography Inspiration post, you’ll find details on how to order your copy.

If you read German, then they have a wonderful selection of Typography titles.

Where Questions Mean Prizes

Coming soon is an interview with Kris Sowersby. I’d like to include a question from readers, so if you’d like to ask Kris a question (preferably type related), then leave it in the comments below, or mail me. If your question is chosen, then you’ll win a copy of 700 Penguins (the book, not 700 penguins. Only one copy available, so if several people have the same question, then I’ll choose a winner at random).

Have a great Sunday.

Font Creation Case Study: Joules

By Alec Julien

Always looking for typographic inspiration, I bought a cheap calligraphic pen set over the summer, convinced that my doodles with it would make some magical letterforms. A week and dozens of pages later, I was left without anything interesting or vaguely artistic. Then, one night, tired and despairing, and having run out of black ink, I plugged in a red cartridge, and sketched out the alphabet that would soon become the Joules family. I thought it might be interesting for some of you if I documented some of the font-creation process with this case-study.

Here’s one of the many pages I sketched that night:

Joules initial drawing

And a closeup:

Joules initial drawing, closeup

Here’s a super closeup of the capital A I wound up using.

Joules A closeup

From Sketch to Font

The process I used to create Joules from my sketches is the very same process I outlined in my previous articles on font creation. I scanned in the page, and here’s what it looks like in Photoshop after changing the scan into a black-and-white bitmap.

Joules A black-and-white

Notice how the rough spots in the original drawing come through in the bitmap image:

Joules A rough spots

Joules A black-and-white rough spots

I usually clean up the bitmap image before importing it into FontLab, but didn’t in this case. Here’s the first pass importing the bitmap into ScanFont:

Initial pass in ScanFont

And the ScanFont closeup:

A in ScanFont

I copied the new glyph and pasted it into the appropriate slot in FontLab. To give you a taste of what sort of tweaking goes on in FontLab, I’ve zoomed in here on the rough “A”. I selected a trouble spot:

Closeup in FontLab

And started the tweaking by deleting some offensive nodes:

Closeup in FontLab

One of the big things to balance when tweaking glyphs in FontLab is the temptation to smooth out all of the outlines versus the temptation to leave lots of rough spots to keep the font interesting. I’ve discovered the hard way that with handwriting fonts you don’t want to smooth out all the rough spots, as that begins to rob some of the handwritten feeling of the letters.

Composite Glyphs to the Rescue

One of the neat time-saving features of FontLab is automated character composition. In this case, I’ve created an “A”, and I’ve created a “grave”:

A plus Grave

And now I double-click on the cell for “A-Grave”…

A plus Grave double click

…and FontLab creates a composite glyph:

A plus Grave composite

At this point, if you edit the “A” or the “Grave”, the changes will be immediately reflected in the “A-Grave” composite.

Sidebearings

As mentioned in my previous article on font creation, setting good sidebearings is an important step. (For one thing, good sidebearings make for easier kerning!) For initially tweaking my glyphs, I generally set rough, small, positive sidebearings. My “y” sidebearings looked like this during my initial editing:

y sidebearings

The problem with these sidebearings can be illustrated by looking at the initial kerning setup for an “ay” pair:

a-y sidebearings with kerning

I could’ve just left the sidebearings as they were and kerned the “y” closer to the “a” (and, after that, kerned the “y” closer to every other character), but it’s much easier (and saner) to set a negative sidebearing for the left side of the “y”:

y negative sidebearings

Here’s what the initial kerning looks like with these better sidebearings:

a-y negative sidebearings with kerning

Kerning

Oh, the hours of fun I had kerning this font! I’ll spare you the boring details. But here’s one example of kerning at work. Before kerning:

A V pre kerning

And after kerning:

A V post kerning

Ligatures

I created a bunch of ligatures in Joules that one could manually select and apply in a typesetting project:

Joules ligatures

And here’s how I went about creating one of them. First of all, here’s how the “z” and “a” would normally sit next to each other:

z and a

I could have kerned the pair so that they overlapped in an aesthetically pleasing fashion, but the responsible thing to do was to create a “z-a” ligature. Step 1, create a blank glyph, and copy the “z” and the “a” into it:

z and a, pre-ligature

Step 2, cut the outlines so that they can be joined in the appropriate place:

z and a, pre-ligature...

Step 3, remove the excess:

z and a, pre-ligature...

Step 4, move the glyphs closer together:

z and a, pre-ligature...

Step 5, connect the dots:

z and a ligature

Intelligent Ligatures

One thing that didn’t make it into my first release of Joules is intelligent ligatures: a technology that I just recently learned how to create. (It means the end of TrueType fonts as we know them, as making intelligent ligatures requires you to use OpenType font technology.) I’ll spare you the details here, but it involves opening up a special OpenType panel in FontLab, and basically doing some scripting to make the ligature glyphs you’ve created come alive in ligature-aware software. It looks a little something like this:

Ligature definitions

Etcetera

Here’s the result, after all the tweaking and kerning:

Joules

I went on to make an italic version (really more of an oblique version, for you purists out there), and then bold, bold italic, and black. If anyone’s interested, I could detail some of what went into that process.

[Alec Julien is a web developer and amateur typographer living in Vermont, US. He dreams of someday living somewhere warm, and typesetting a novel.]

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Sunday Type: Crap Type

La Twist et le Prix

Ever since my dreadful toilet paper analogy, that innocuous little roll has been haunting me. Here it is again, from SwissMiss:

crap-type.jpg

And on the same theme here is some more type. This one is called Twist:

twist_spec.gif

It’s one of those typefaces that should come with a health warning rather than a license. And you’ll probably never guess who created this typeface. Well, if I tell you this is one of Christian Schwartz’s early efforts, would you believe me? It’s hard to believe that the same guy who was on the team that created FF Meta Serif created the above…what can say? What adjective is worthy of the above typeface? Well, let me quote Christian himself:

this is the worst of my worst. This typeface is god-awful. It was an experiment in building characters in a modular way that didn’t really work out, and I apologize to anyone who actually bought a copy.

I think it’s thoroughly refreshing—even inspiring—that such a distinguished type designer can show the world some of his own type disasters. So if your early efforts at type design look anything like the above, then don’t despair; you could go on to create something truly brilliant like FF Bau, FF Unit, or Neutraface. I wonder if there are any other type designers out there who’d like to share some of their duds?

bau_spec.gif

Interestingly, Christian was something of a child type prodigy, releasing his first typeface, aged…wait for it…14! Also, I’m sure you’ll join with me in congratulating Christian on being awarded the eighth Prix Charles Peignot. A wonderful achievement. Jean François Porchez (former winner of the prize himself, and outgoing president of ATypI), had this to say,

His accomplished work displays incredible diversity and high quality. ATypI is honored to have him amongst its members.

The news item on the ATypI site says, “A booklet commemorating this year’s award has been published by the Association.” Does anyone know how to get hold of this? Can it be purchased?

Search and You Shall Find

Now that iLT is growing (in terms of the number of articles), it’s time to have a search option. That feature should be live next week.

Wallpapers

Thousands of you have already downloaded the iLT wallpapers. Lots more new ones have recently been submitted; I’ll post them to the site upon my return home to Japan.

two_slate_thumb.jpg

One reader (he shall remain anonymous—for his own safety) submitted an I Love Erik Spiekermann wallpaper set in Arial; the most ironic submission thus far. Anyway, although his wallpaper made me smile, it won’t be available for download.

Sizing Text in CSS

Richard Rutter has written an excellent article on How to Size text in CSS for A List Apart. And if you haven’t read Richard’s The Elements of Typographic Style Applied to the Web, then do.

If you got excited about the release of Meta Serif, you will love The Making of FF Meta Serif on Unzipped. A fascinating insight into the work that goes into making a good typeface.

meta-serif-grey.jpg

Alec Julien brought my attention to this book design review blog. Some great covers, and some nice type.

books.jpg

A Tale of Tortured Type

Lauren Marie kindly sent me this link. A wonderful example of what not to do with type. It will take you about 0.2 seconds to spot this little gem. This one is so bad it hurts. Perhaps we need a rogues gallery; perhaps it could be named in honour of this logo—something like Beyond Bad Type. And if you don’t know your points from your picas, then head on over to Lauren’s Using Points and Picas post.

And finally…

I won’t be posting as frequently during the next two weeks; I hope you can be patient. Upon my return home to Japan, we’ll have a type feast. I’m really excited about what’s to come on iLT. We have some big names lined up, and some real quality content to come, from typeface reviews, a series of articles on the language of type, some new faces, biographies, interviews, and lots, lots more. You’re going to be so filled with type goodness, that you’ll need to take a vacation between posts.

I’ve been thoroughly impressed by all your contributions, and even the attitude of the professional typographers and type designers who kindly educate and inspire through their words in the comments. I get as much pleasure from reading the comments as I do from writing for iLT. Thanks, everyone, and have a great week.

History of typography: Old Style

In the first part of this series, we looked at Humanist typefaces; we considered them in their historical context, and took a closer look at some of their distinguishing features and modern-day revivals. Today we’re moving along the time line and will spend a little time familiarising ourselves with some wonderful Old Style typefaces.

Humanist types, we discovered, have strong roots in calligraphy. Old style types, although they owe much to the same roots, show a marked departure from simply mimicking the handwriting of earlier Italian scholars and scribes. It’s from this period, that we can really see type getting into gear. It’s certainly one of the most exciting periods in type history.

old style characteristics

Old Style traits

The Old Style (or Garalde) types start to demonstrate a greater refinement—to a large extent augmented by the steadily improving skills of punchcutters. As a consequence the Old Style types are characterised by greater contrast between thick and thin strokes, and are generally speaking, sharper in appearance, more refined. You can see this, perhaps most notably in the serifs: in Old Style types the serifs on the ascenders are more wedge shaped (figure1.1).

Another major change can be seen in the stress of the letterforms (figure 1.2) to a more perpendicular (upright) position. You may remember our old friend, the lowercase e of the Humanist (Venetian) types, with its distinctive oblique (sloping) crossbar; with Old Style types we witness the quite sudden adoption of a horizontal crossbar (figure 1.3). I spent quite a time trying to discover why the lowercase e should change so dramatically. After searching high and low, and opening just about every type book I own, I decided to post the question on Typophile. Space doesn’t permit to recount the entire tale here, but for those interested in such details, then head on over to the Typophile e crossbar thread. (Thanks to Nick Shinn, David et. al. for their valuable input).

The First Italic Type

And, as we’re on the topic of dramatic changes, during this period we see the very first italic type in 1501. They were first created, not as an accompaniment to the roman, but as a standalone typeface designed for small format or pocket books, where space demanded a more condensed type. The first italic type, then, was conceived as a text face.

Griffo’s contribution to roman type include an improved balance between capitals and lowercase, achieved by cutting the capitals slightly shorter than ascending letters such as b and d, and by slightly reducing the stroke weight of the capitals.
A Short History of the Printed Word, Chappell and Bringhurst, page 92

The Old Style types can be further divided into four categories as in the figure below, and span the roman types from Francesco Griffo to William Caslon I. Unlike the relatively short-lived Humanist faces, the Old Style faces held sway for more than two centuries; a number of them are still popular text faces today.

old style chart

Typeface names in red; notable figures below.

Old Style faces

And here are some more Old Style faces: Berling, Calisto, Goudy Old Style, Granjon, Janson, Palatino, Perpetua, Plantin, Sabon and Weiss, to name but a few.

humanist-vs-old-style.png

So have you enjoyed our brief introduction to the Old Style types? For those of you who would like to test your knowledge, which of these is generally classified as Old Style:

Times New Roman, Baskerville, Concorde, ITC Cheltenham

And, for the type-masochists among you (I fear you are in the majority), here is some Old Style homework:

1. Where does the term Garalde originate?
2. Who commissioned Claude Garamond to cut the grecs du roi?
3. Most modern-day italics are not based on the first Aldine italic (1501) cut by Griffo. What are they modelled on?
4. What is the meaning of the term “Humanist axis”?
5. Owing to a bit of a mix-up, the Janson typeface is named after Nicholas Janson. Who should it be named after?

If you know the answers, then comment away; if you don’t have a clue, then no need to worry. I thought that by posing these questions, everyone could get involved, and that way we can all learn something.

In part three, we’ll take a look at Transitional typefaces. I hope that you’re enjoying the series, thus far. If you have any comments or suggestions, then get typing in the comments section below.

I’ll be in the UK for the next couple of weeks, so won’t be posting so often. However, upon my return we’ll be back to normal. There’s a whole lot more type lovin’ to come, so stay tuned.
footnote divider
Read Part Three: Transitional Style

Sunday Type

National Feijoa

Is it really Sunday again? Well, for some of you it will be Saturday, so here’s your Saturday/Sunday—or better still— Weekend Type. Oh, but first a quick announcement: the great response to the announcement of FF Meta Serif took us beyond the half a million page views. Thanks to everyone for being a part of that; more importantly, thanks for your contributions, your enthusiasm and support.

OK, so on with the show. Those of you who read the FF Meta Serif piece will know the name Kris Sowersby; he’s one-third of the trinity that worked on the serif version of Spiekermann’s ubiquitous FF Meta. I’m not sure which one he is, but I guess that Erik Spiekermann is the Father, so he’s either the Son or the Holy Ghost.

For those of you who don’t know Kris, he’s a professional type designer from New Zealand, and the man behind the typographic design studio KLIM (not to be confused with KLM, the Dutch airline). He’s also the designer of the sans serif National,

national-klim.gif

National is a deceptively simple sans serif with subtle quirks in the details that give it a distinctive—but not distracting—personality.

and the gorgeous serif typeface, Feijoa:

feijoa-klim.gif

For those who like to drool over type designers’ sketches, then head on over to Kris’ sketches page (go fetch a napkin first).

kris-sowesby-moleskine.jpg

Kris has kindly agreed to review some typefaces here on iLT, so stay tuned. I’ll try to arrange an interview too.

Other news:

Upon reading the So You Want to Create a Font series, Dan Reynolds a student on Reading University’s MA in Typeface Design (also designed Morris Sans and is Linotype’s Editor of Font Content), sent me some great links to additional resources:

Student blogs:

Paul Hunt | Sébastien Sanfilipp | Alice Savoie

and a site showcasing the work from the MA Typeface Design class of 2007.

gina.png

You can read Dan’s own TypeOff blog here.

Well, time for me to get back to writing Type Terminology: Old Style, the follow-up to the Humanist article.

Oh, just one more thing (almost forgot): I’ve created a few desktop wallpapers and a RSS Feed Desktop Widget. If you’d like to share the love, then why not make your own desktop wallpaper and upload it.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

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At last! FF Meta Serif

Wedding Bells

I would usually never post two articles in a single day (I won’t be making a habit of it). However, the excitement was just too much, and the news too hot. Many of you will be familiar with Spiekermann’s wonderful FF Meta. But for years FF Meta lived a lonely existence with no Serif companion to keep it company. Well, now FF Meta has a wife; meet Mrs FF Meta, officially called FF Meta Serif.

ff-meta-serif.png

I must admit that I prefer the name FF Meta Serif to the working title, MetaAntiqua. For more information about this beauty, visit the original FontShop news item, where you can also download lots of gorgeous specimens.

All through the ’90s, Erik Spiekermann made several attempts at designing a counterpart for his groundbreaking FF Meta….True to his principle of collaboration, Spiekermann enlisted the help of accomplished type designers Christian Schwartz and Kris Sowersby.
FontShop News

So, what do you think?

Being Kind to Widows and Orphans

Typogrify Plugin

No, this is not one of those charity posts. It’s all about my favourite plugin. Imagine a plugin that could improve the typography of your page with no complicated setup. Controlling type online can at times be difficult. However, things have just gotten a whole lot easier with the release of the Typogrify plugin. Originally released by Christian Metts for Django, it uses among other things John Gruber’s Smartypants engine (that converts straight quotes to curly quotes, double hyphens to em dashes [—], etc.).

Shaun Inman developed the widont plugin for WordPress. Hamish of hamstu.com, decided to go the whole hog and port Typogrify to PHP, making a WordPress plugin out of it. I would have reviewed it sooner, but I wanted to be sure that it did what it says on the “box”. I’m pleased to say that it works like a charm, and I would recommend it anyone and everyone.

Typogrify WordPress Plugin by Hamish

I won’t go into the details of how it works, but basically this is what it does:

  • Fixes widow: basically puts a non-breaking space [ ] between the last two words of a paragraph, thus in effect gluing them together and forcing them onto the next line;
  • Sorts out quotes, so that you’re never left with curly quotes that point the wrong way;
  • Turns ellipses into entities. So those three dots (…) become a real ellipsis […];
  • Wraps ampersands (&) in class = ‘amp’. Why? So that you can easily style them;
  • Wrap multiple adjacent capital letters (all cap’s) in class = ‘caps’;
  • Make those who use it more attractive to the opposite sex; Hamish is still working on this beta feature request.

orphan example

And if you don’t think typographic orphans are serious enough to worry about, then think about the kids! The child on the left is looking at a paragraph with no orphans; the child on the right has just seen a widow.

effects-of-widows.jpg

Something I’d really like to see for the future of this plugin, is more multilingual support. Every language has some of its own unique typographic conventions; and what’s considered “correct” in German or French, isn’t so in English.

I like the features panel and, in particular, the ability to surround em dashes with a thin space. It’s a great idea to have as an option, as this is a subjective stylistic choice.

And finally, you don’t even need WordPress to use it. Download the plugin and check the readme file for instructions on how to use outside of WordPress.

Let me know how you get on with it. A big thank you to Hamish for all the work he’s put into this. Porting a plugin is about more than simply re-writing code in another language. He’s done a great job.

If you can think of additional features you’d like to see, why not leave a comment here or on the original post.

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.

Subscripts: Smashing Free Fonts

Smashing Magazine has just posted 40+ Excellent Free Fonts For Professional Design. I don’t like them all, but it’s certainly worth heading over there. Some of my favourite freebies are in there, including the gorgeous Fertigo from Jos Buivenga of exljbris.

fertigo.png

moderna1.png

Fertigo is my favourite in the list. How about you?

History of typography: Humanist

Every subject, from dentistry to dog handling has its own vocabulary — terms that are peculiar (unique) to it. Typography is no exception. Learning the lingua franca (lingo) of type will make typography that much more accessible; and that will, in turn, lead to greater understanding, and hopefully a greater appreciation for all things “type”.

Today we’re going to take a look at just one of those terms, namely “Humanist”. You may have come across this term before (or you may even be thinking, what the hell’s that?). The term Humanist is part of the nomenclature that describes type classification. During the 1800s a system of classifying type was derived, and although numerous other systems and subsets of this system exist, this basically is it:

Humanist | Old Style | Transitional | Modern
Slab Serif (Egyptian) | Sans Serif

By the end of this six-part series, you will be quite au fait with all of these terms; and just imagine the joy you will experience when you proudly exclaim to the delight of your spouse, girlfriend, boyfriend, neighbor, guy at the corner shop,

Look at that Humanist inspired type! Note how the bar of the lowercasee”….

So, without further ado, let’s begin our journey — a journey that will take us from the incunabula to the present day.

[Incunabula] can refer to the earliest stages in the development of anything, but it has come to stand particularly for those books printed in Europe before 1500. — A Short History of the Printed Word

The model for the first movable types was Blackletter (also know as Block, Gothic, Fraktur or Old English), a heavy, dark, at times almost illegible — to modern eyes — script that was common during the Middle Ages. Thankfully, types based on blackletter were soon superseded by something a little easier to read, (drum roll…)—enter Humanist.

gutenberg-bible-detail-page1.jpg

The Humanist types (sometimes referred to as Venetian) appeared during the 1460s and 1470s, and were modelled not on the dark gothic scripts like textura, but on the lighter, more open forms of the Italian humanist writers. The Humanist types were at the same time the first roman types.

jenson.jpg

Characteristics

So what makes Humanist, Humanist? What distinguishes it from other styles? What are its main characteristics?

1 Sloping cross-bar on the lowercase “e”;
2 Relatively small x-height;

Humanist characteristics

3 Low contrast between “thick” and “thin” strokes (basically that means that there is little variation in the stroke width);
4 Dark colour (not a reference to colour in the traditional sense, but the overall lightness or darkness of the page). To get a better impression of a page’s colour look at it through half-closed eyes.

Examples

And here are some examples of Humanist faces:

Jenson, Kennerley, Centaur, Stempel Schneidler, Verona, Lutetia, Jersey, Lynton.

centaur1.gif

Although the influence of Humanist types is far reaching, they aren’t often seen these days. Despite a brief revival during the early twentieth century, their relatively dark color and small x-heights have fallen out of favor. However, they do deserve our attention — our admiration even — because they are, in a sense, the great grand parents of today’s types.

Grab your passports and pack your toothbrushes because in part two we’re off to Venice to take a closer look at “Old Style” type. For those of you interested in testing your knowledge, can you tell which of the following are not generally considered to be Humanist types:

Erasmus, Times New Roman, Caslon, Cloister, Guardi, ITC Garamond

Further reading:

Wikipedia entry for Blackletter
A Short History of the Printed Word, chapter 4 — Chappell and Bringhurst
Type — The Secret History of Letters
, chapters 1 and 11 — Simon Loxley

Read part 2: Type Terminology: Old Style

Related post: The origins of abc.


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