Subscripts: Type News and Links 1

super size my type
Recently I promised some short ‘newsy’ pieces. Meet Subscripts a new and ‘irregular’ feature, where I’ll list some typography resources, web sites and events. First to pop Subscripts’ cherry is:

Smashing Magazine’s

super-size me feature, The Showcase of Big Typography, which lists a number of sites, that…you guessed it…use big type. I like some of the examples; however, what most of them demonstrate is the power of type. Good type standing alone can make quite an impression. You certainly won’t need to use your screen reader with most of these sites, so even your grandmother will be happy.

However, something that really baffles me with a number of these sites, is their use of Flash and text as image (TAI). Text at large sizes on the web works pretty well, so why not use browser text? For example the yellow Designer Shock web site, could easily be turned into plain old XHMTL and CSS site (or even use sIFR) — and, if they wish to keep the clock, then that too can be achieved with real browser text and a little JavaScript. What do you think?

Type Radio

Hundreds of podcasts of interviews with people in type. Sometimes it crosses the twilight zone into the surreal, but overall it’s pretty entertaining and informative. There are interviews with the incredibly talented type designer and former Type Director of Linotype Akira Kobayashi, (designer of FF Clifford, Conrad and the ITC Woodland typeface, among many others; he also worked with Hermann Zapf, and with Adrian Frutiger on the redesign of Avenir); and also interviews with Gerard Unger and even one with Helvetica (yes, an interview with Helvetica the typeface).

If you’d like to learn more about Letterpress, then take a look at British LetterPress, a new site about getting started with Letterpress — with everything from where to buy equipment to assembling type. Even if you don’t plan on buying a a 2-ton letterpress and 100kg of lead type, then it’s a wonderful educational resource. Many thanks to Manuel Martensen for the link.

There’s also a wonderful Flickr set of photos on Letterpress Composition, Make Up and Proofing that’s an absolute must-see. I’m hoping to interview Michael of Interrobang Letterpress next month, so stay tuned.

I’ll announce the winner of the Kinescope Font Giveaway in the next article. More than 300 of you have already entered. I really need to get some more prizes for you all!

I was recently interviewed for SheUnlimited in what is becoming known as The 10,000 Toilet Rolls Interview (why did I have to go and say that? Well, you live and learn). I hope that’s enough to sate your typographic thirst. Let me know what you think of these links, and feel free to send me your own via the contact page.

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.

Thinking With Type Prizes

and the winners are…
Thanks to everyone who contributed to the discussion on Ellen Lupton’s Thinking With Type. I wish I could send everyone a copy, but I don’t have a spare (160x$30). The winners were chosen using the Random Integer Generator from random.org. The first time I ran it, I forgot to take my own comments out of the “hat”, and guess who won a copy? Yes, me. However, after a re-run, the lucky winners are:

Jeff Mueller (comment no. 718)
Ian Stewart (comment no. 705)

Their books are in the post. In future I hope to be giving away many more prizes. If any wealthy readers are reading this and would like to contribute type-related prizes, then by all means send me a mail. If you’re a font designer and you’d like to offer one of your faces as a prize, that would be great too.

Thinking With Type Book Review.

Thinking With Type

Book Review

If you own not a single typography-related book, then reserve a place on your bookshelf for Thinking With Type. Ellen Lupton’s Thinking With Type is to typography what Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time is to physics.

Even those who already know something about typography will benefit from this title. It’s a great “propaganda” piece that you can loan to unbelieving friends and relatives, in an effort to convert them.

Thinking With Type

Thinking With Type is a well structured book that does not bombard the reader with type-speak. When new terms are introduced, they are defined and illustrated in a no-nonsense way.

The book comprises three main sections, namely Letter, Grid and Text. The first section of the book, Letter, briefly introduces type with a very short history, looks at type classification (Humanist, Modern, Transitional et. al.), designing typefaces and screen fonts.

Selecting type with wit and wisdom requires knowledge of how and why letterforms evolved. — from Thinking With Type

The second section, Text, deals with some of the finer details like kerning, spacing and alignment and includes some simple type exercises.
The third and final section, Grid, is concerned with the Golden Section and the importance of grids in controlling and presenting type.

There’s also a brief but excellent Appendix that deals with punctuation, editing and proofreading. Moreover, there’s a complimentary Thinking With Type web site that hosts some Tools For Teachers, Exercises and even a Dumb Quotes arcade-style game.

In conclusion, this title is an excellent compromise between the “design” books — that are really nothing more than coffee table adornments — and the weightier typography books like Bringhurst’s The Elements of Typographic Style.

If you don’t already own Thinking With Type, I suggest you buy it.

I have one copy two copies of this book to give away as a prize. I’ll put all the commentators in a hat (your names, not literally “you”), and pick one out. I’ll then ship it off to you.
Winners will be announced in the next published article, on or around October 14.

Do you own it? Have you read it? What do you think?

Coming up next is a gorgeous new font (I love it) and some more Type Terminology. We have some great articles planned for this month, including one about how to get started designing type, and…well, you’ll see. If you’re not already subscribed then you can subscribe to I Love Typography now. A huge thank you to everyone who has thus far subscribed, read and commented. You are all stars, and you are all part of the Type Revolution. Forward Comrades!

See also iLT’s Interview with Ellen Lupton, and
Ellen Lupton, the movie.

Arial versus Helvetica

Every typeface, like every one of us, has its distinguishing features. You might be forgiven for thinking that some fonts are clones, or identical twins. However, closer inspection reveals subtle differences and nuances that simply escape casual perusal. Something that can really help to heighten our sensitivity to those differences is getting out our magnifying glasses and really taking a closer look. If you’ve forgotten to bring your magnifying glass, then don’t fear for the Fontometer is here (we’ll get to that in a moment).

Today we’re going to de-robe two popular typefaces, namely Arial and Helvetica — faces that are often confused, and often the subjects of mistaken identity. But first let me re-introduce you to these two popular faces:

Helvetica

Designed in 1957 by Max Miedinger, Helvetica’s design is based on that of Akzidenz Grotesk (1896), and classified as a Grotesque or Transitional san serif face. Originally it was called Neue Haas Grotesque; in 1960 it was revised and renamed Helvetica (Latin for Switzerland “Swiss”).

Arial

Designed in 1982 by Robin Nicholas and Patricia Saunders for Monotype (not Microsoft), it’s classified as Neo Grotesque, was originally called Sonoran San Serif, and was designed for IBM’s bitmap font laser printers. It was first supplied with Windows 3.1 (1992) and was one of the core fonts in all subsequent versions of Windows until Vista, when to all intents and purposes, it was replaced with Calibri.

I’ve read in several places that Arial is closer in appearance to Univers than Helvetica. I don’t think so. In How to Spot Arial, the type designer Mark Simonson looks at the similarities between Arial and Grotesque 215 (one of Arial’s true ancestors); and when you consider the details — for example, the flat versus angled finials (e.g. “t”) — then Arial does appear to be more closely related to Grotesque 215; however, the one thing that does stand out is the greater variation in stroke width of Grotesque 215. Arial and Helvetica share a more consistent, even stroke width. I guess it depends on whether one is looking at the form or the appearance. What do you think?

I can hear angels singing a heavenly chorus (I was tempted to include a sound track here) as I introduce to you the all new, shining, hopefully very useful Fontometer (sorry, but I couldn’t think of a better name) to compare the glyphs from Arial and Helvetica. In the grey corner (left), we have Arial; in the red corner, Helvetica. Simply drag the Arial glyph over the Helvetica version to compare (if the excitement of this is too much for you or your suffer from a heart condition, then take a short break between glyphs). The Fontometer only seems to work properly in FireFox (future versions will work for everyone):

A number of the glyphs are almost identical, and even an expert would have difficulty telling them apart. However, there are a few that stand out as being quite different; namely “a”, “G”, “Q”, “R”, and “1”. Did you spot any other differences?

Distinguishing Arial and Helvetica

In fact if you wish to quickly differentiate any font from from another, it’s usually best to start off looking at letters like “J”, “Q” and “g”.

What it’s wrong to do is criticize Arial as a clone or rip-off of Helvetica. If Arial is a rip-off of Helvetica, then Helvetica is a rip-off of Akzidenz Grotesk; or we could simply say that they are both rip-offs of earlier Grotesque faces. The whole rip-off debate is a rather pointless one, I feel. Every face should be considered on its own merit. (We don’t criticize a daughter for looking like her mother). And, if you want to criticize Arial (it certainly has its faults), then do so, not because everyone else does, but do so with your own critical eye.

Monotype Grotesque

Akzidenz Grotesk BQ

Further reading:
The Face of Uniformity. Against Helvetica.Nick Shinn;
Akzidenz Grotesk (re release dates) on Typophile. (not for the feint-hearted).
How to Spot Arial — Mark Simonson;
Monotype’s Other “Arials” — Mark Simonson;
The Scourge of Arial — Mark Simonson (excellent article);
Alternatives to Helvetica — FontShop FontFeed.

If you don’t have some of the fonts mentioned in this article, then I will create some PDF sample sheets at large point sizes, so that you can have hours of fun comparing them. By the way, if the Fontometer crashes your browser, breaks up your marriage or has your kids asking, “daddy, daddy, why don’t you play with me more?”, I cannot be held responsible.

So, what do you think of Arial and Helvetica now?

Veer fonts

Typography Videos

Here are some typography-related videos.

This video is a beautiful brief introduction to typography. Typography is what language looks like - Ellen Lupton. A good typographer is someone who communicates a point of view with skill and imagination and makes the type taste good—Jeffrey Keedy

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Veteran graphic design, typography and letterpress teacher from the London College of Printing, David Dabner talks about typography, giving an insight into the principles of design, creative letterpress and why computers—in his opinion—make students sloppy.

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An interesting use of type. The typewriter font mimics those used in old police reports. Individual letter forms are animated to illustrate characteristics of, in this instance, a serial killer.

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Helvetica The Documentary (clip) Wim Crouwel:

One minute and 53 seconds with Wim Crouwel. “Neutralism was a word that we loved”.

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Helvetica The Documentary (clip) Erik Spiekermann.

“I just like looking at type…they are my friends.”

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Pulp Fiction

What ain’t no country I ever heard of….”

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Devil’s Advocate

“Inside information”

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Typography in Motion

“Conscious”

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Typography Brazil

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Designing Multi Lingual OpenType Fonts

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TV Interview: Typeface Design

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Typoholism. An Addict’s Tale

typoholism
noun.
A disorder characterized by the excessive consumption of and dependence on type, leading to physical and psychological harm and impaired social and vocational functioning. Also called typographical abuse, font dependence.

You awake in a cold sweat, your hands trembling, your body stiff, eyes bloodshot; you need your fix. In every town, in every city there’s one; you may pass her in the street and not even notice; it may be your neighbour, your son, your husband, your wife, your dog (don’t be silly [ed.]).

Yesterday, I interviewed a recovering addict. Robert from California wishes to remain anonymous, so we’ll call him Brian from Birmingham.

iLT:

So, tell us how your addiction started?

Brian:

As a kid, my mother gave me those plastic letters, you know the ones with magnets that you put on the refrigerator. It all started innocently enough, just making up words like cat and dog, then one day I rearranged the letters, and there it was, staring at me, goading me really, “font”; it was my typographic epiphany, you could say.

iLT:

How did your habit grow?

Brian:

I used to meet the FontShop guy in the alley on fourth and Main, behind Benny’s Burgers; I gave him the dough and he handed over a floppy disc. Of course, things are different now. I can feed my addiction online.

Of course, Brian is not alone, and it appears that Typoholism is on the increase. If you’re concerned about family or friends or, for that matter, yourself, then here are some of the symptoms to look out for:

01 While your neighbour’s kids are playing Fatman 3 — Return of the Cybertronic Mutant Warrior from Hades, your children play this:

Wii Love Typography

02 Early-stage symptom: you stop actually reading type, and ask yourself, “What typeface is that?”;

03 You think The Hounds of the Baskerville is a book about fonts;

04 You seriously consider naming your children after typefaces (Georgia, Lucida, etc); that’s bad enough. However, if you actually do name your children after typefaces, then your condition is most likely terminal;

05 You email me asking if the I Love Typography T-shirt is available set in another typeface;

06 You have type-themed dreams. I once dreamt that I had a “g” tattooed on my arm (it was Optima, I think);

07 You buy things because the type on the packaging is nice. I’m guilty of this one: I recently bought a ham and egg sandwich (I hate this filling), simply because the packaging was set in Clarendon, and in a rather nice green, to boot;

08 Your neighbour’s child’s homework looks like the sample on the left. Your child’s homework is on the right:

Homework

09 You play typography-themed I Spy with your children. I Spy with my little eye, a typeface beginning with…

10 You use your typographic knowledge in chat-up lines (more on that in a future article).

Of course, the best way to get to grips with your addiction is to share your experiences (in the comments below). And, subscribing to iLT will ensure that you don’t miss out on future therapy.

Coming up next is the bout you’ve all been waiting for: In the blue corner, Helvetica; in the red corner, Arial. Let the carnage begin. Oh, and there will be a fun little tool for comparing fonts, and discovering what makes them unique.

15 Excellent examples of Web typography

In part one, 15 Excellent Examples of Web Typography, I showcased 15 web sites that make excellent use of type. To avoid this article being inordinately long, I’m going to focus on the first site in the list, namely A List Apart. To take all 15 examples to pieces would be rather pointless, because most of what’s good about them is shared.

A List Apart

The job of web typography is not to simply mimic that of print. First, the web is a different medium with different strengths and weaknesses. Attempting to faithfully reproduce print typography is a rather pointless exercise. The printed page is rigid; we have no control over the size of the type and of the page; on-line the user has more power, more influence; she can resize the page (browser window), and even alter the default font size; add to the mix, different browsers with different rendering capabilities, differing resolutions and screen sizes, and we soon realise that the web page and the printed page make different demands.

However, despite these differences, the elements of good typography are shared across these two mediums. In a future article we’ll look at this topic in more detail; today however, we have something different on our hands, so, without further ado let’s take this list apart. Don your overalls, put on those latex gloves, and with that rather awful (List Apart) pun behind us, let me reintroduce you to A List Apart.

sd-alistapart.jpg

Continue reading this article

I Love Typography is Moving

to a new server
Today, I had planned to post the second part of 15 Excellent Examples of Web Typography. The first part, was such a success that it crashed my dedicated server. A combination of the Digg and Zeldman effect, took down the site within a few hours of posting the article. Apologies to those who had difficulty accessing the site.

iLT on Digg

This is how my server was made to look during the Digg-Zeldman effect.

The Digg-Zeldman Effect

To prevent this kind of thing happening again, I Love Typography is moving to a new server — one that will withstand just about anything you can throw at it, and the kitchen sink. The move is well-planned, but you never know what might go wrong (with me involved). In theory, the downtime should be around five minutes. I will also take the opportunity to upgrade to WordPress 2.3. However, I’m taking no chances, so I will post the second part on Thursday. If everything goes smoothly, you can congratulate me; if everything goes terribly wrong, you can blame Brian.

So, I thought I’d take this opportunity to seek your feedback. I’d like to know what you like or dislike about the site; should the articles be longer or shorter? Is the text a comfortable reading size? Do you have suggestions for articles? How about posting frequency? Is two posts a week enough, or perhaps a single post each week, that’s more in-depth, with the odd newsy or fontsy (new word!) article in between.

Here are some of the things I have planned for future iLT articles:

01 A closer look at an individual typeface or font; it’s distinguishing features, a little about its history and its designer, where it can be used well; other typeface it goes well with.

02 A series of articles on how to make fonts. How to get started, free software for font creation, with a guest post from a type designer;

03 Book reviews;

04 More type terminology articles like Who Shot the Serif?, The Return of the Serif, and Decline and Fall of the Ligature.

05 More typographic humour and cartoons;

06 Video Podcasts. I would love to do this, but what do you think? I’d really appreciate feedback on this one — especially if you have any ideas for specific podcast topics.

07 And lots of other incredibly interesting stuff, that I’ve yet to think of.

ilt readers are great
Thanks to everyone who shared and Dugg 15 Excellent Examples of Web Typography, and a big thank you to all you subscribers and commentators. You are all stars.

See you Thursday for 15 Excellent Examples of Web Typography — Under the Bonnet. Wish me luck and keep everything crossed for the server move!

And, if you want to ensure you don’t miss out on future articles, you can with a mere click, subscribe completely free of charge to I Love Typography.

johno
iLT

Baskerville, John

Type Founder & Printer (1706-1775)

Type founder, printer, stone cutter and lacquer ware professional. In 1750 he set up a printing business, but it took him until 1757 to produce his first book. However, during those seven years he was an impressive innovator, not only in the construction of the printing press but even in the inks and papers he prepared.

John BaskervilleAmong Baskerville’s most noted works are Milton’s Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained, Book of Common Prayer, and his Bible of 1763 — generally considered to be his finest achievement. As Cambridge University owned the patent to that Bible version and the Prayer Books, they stipulated that Baskerville should actually take his printing presses to Cambridge to print them.

It wasn’t until the 1920s that Baskerville finally won the attention he had always merited. The American classical typographer Bruce Rogers (designer of the Centaur typeface, among others) was in large part behind the modern revival of Baskerville’s typefaces. Now, dozens of type foundries have their own versions and derivatives.

Benjamen Franklin (who already had a successful printing business) was an admirer of Baskerville (they met in Birmingham in 1758), and returned to the US with Baskervilles’s work, popularising it through its adoption as one of the standard typefaces employed in federal government publishing.

Baskerville Typeface:

It is classified as transitional. As a matter of fact, with its generous proportions, the Baskerville appears not very different from its predecessors. But the difference between fine and bold strokes is more marked, the lower-case serifs are almost horizontal and the emphasis on the stroke widths is almost vertical. — Source

baskerville-sample1.gif

Sample: Baskerville Old Face

g glyph baskerville old face

g glyph from Baskerville Old Face

 

baskerville-print-sample.jpgbaskerville-bible.jpg

Samples of Baskerville’s early work (click for larger image).

Links

Baskerville font family on MyFonts.

Bibliography

Offline:

Pardoe, F E, John Baskerville of Birmingham: Letter-Founder and Printer (London, 1975)

Online:

Birmingham’s tribute to John Baskerville

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