Welcome to this month’s roundup of type-related info and entertainment. Today, we dip our toes into some controversial typographic decision making over at Apple; we talk about typography as a societal problem solver (or not); we discuss the evolution of emoji and the invention of the octothorpe; we show you type made out of hands, arms, buildings, lakes, and rivers; we check out Norway’s new passports; we look at Medieval ASCII art; and much more.
St. Catherine, bad feet, & the first italic
Whenever we think about the invention of the italic typeface we invariably think of the year 1501, when the italic type, commissioned by Aldus Manutius and cut by Griffo, was employed to set a new series of small pocket books, first published in 1501.
Although I’m always dealing with letters in my work, embarking on a type design project is rather the exception. My main occupation, ‘Lettering’, varies from commission to commission and projects tend to last for short periods of time with widely different outcomes. Type projects normally extend for a longer period of time and, from my perspective, are very enjoyable until the moment I get into the rough path of type production: months spent looking at boxes of black letter shapes, dealing with letter spacing and kerning pairs. It demands considerable motivation that, in my case, only arises from the personal belief that I have a very good idea.
It’s been a good couple of months for font releases. And there are many more than I could list here (and many more that I am, unfortunately, blissfully unaware of). I can hardly keep up. Anyway, here are eight typefaces (comprising a total 126 fonts) that caught my eye. I no longer do comments on ILT, so if you have something to say, then ping me on Twitter. And, if you so desire, append the hashtag #ILTFonts, so that I can find them. Enjoy:
Welcome to this month’s roundup of type-related info and entertainment. Today, we learn some important typographic pronunciations, figure out how to work with layered web fonts, watch Mark Simonson talk about offset lithography, revisit the 1970 New York City Transit Authority graphics standards manual, see what medieval scribes were doodling in the margins of their texts, read up on the printing trade in India, check out some fonts based on the handwriting of the homeless, see a typewriter modded to use Comic Sans, learn how to make graffiti using moss, and much, much more.
Friday evening, September 19th. We are in Barcelona at the annual ATypI conference. The last session of the day is winding down – Building the perfect what?, an excellent panel discussion moderated by industry veteran and award-winning typeface developer David Berlow. For the past 45 minutes a cross section of type specialists have expounded on the amazing capabilities current font technologies offer: letterer and type designer Martina Flor; type designer, Arabic specialist and legibility researcher Nadine Chahine; Principal Product Manager at Adobe Caleb Belohlavek; Senior Fontography Product Manager at Microsoft Simon Daniels, and Google Fonts’ David Kuettel. I noticed that over the course of the presentation my left knee started shaking, just like it did during Thomas Phinney’s panel Free Fonts: Threat or Menace? in Amsterdam last year. Indeed, the one where I shouted “Bullshit!” at the panelists and took a stand for the type designers. As David Berlow invites questions from the audience, I bite the bullet and ask the question that has been building in my mind during the panel discussion:
Designers ask Adobe for a better user interface for type
The introduction of OpenType fonts in 2000 offered designers a rich and sophisticated typographic repertoire. The number of fonts that support these typographic features has grown exponentially over the years. And yet, we – the designers, producers, and users of digital type – have observed with growing despair how software applications offering typesetting capabilities have failed to provide an adequate typographic interface.
In the fifteenth century women had few career opportunities. Few, bar those in the higher social classes were even sent to school, and women were not admitted to universities (Oxford university didn’t permit women to matriculate or graduate until 1920). Their options were very limited and pessimistically and perhaps a little exaggeratedly summed up by Sherrill Cohen, who wrote that medieval women faced just three options: ‘marriage, monasticism, and prostitution.’ (Cohen, p. 170). For those who did not join a convent, marriage came early: ‘an unmarried girl of sixteen or seventeen was a catastrophe.’ (Plumb, p. 132).
The Questa Project is a type design adventure by Dutch type designers Jos Buivenga and Martin Majoor. Their collaboration began in 2010 using Buivenga’s initial sketches for a squarish Didot-like display typeface as a starting point. It was a perfect base on which to apply Majoor’s type design philosophy that a serif typeface is a logical starting point for creating a sans serif version and not the other way around. The extensive Questa family includes serif, sans, and display typefaces.
By the 1990s, CD-ROMs and the Internet turned computer screens into the final display substrate. Those were the dark ages of on-screen typography. Designers traded in low-res compromise, bending to the will of fours, the tyranny of the pixel. Endless hours were spent on what my colleagues and I affectionately called “fat-bitting.” It was an activity hardly worth the effort. We were masons, chipping and shifting single pixels — fixing what the screen did to otherwise well intentioned letterforms. “I could be at the bar, but no… I have to fat-bit this shitty logo.”