Questionnaire about the needs of Greek typography end-users

BACKGROUND:
During the last few decades Greek typography has been strongly influenced by Latin elements. Often, there is substitution of Greek letters by Latin ones. A few designers try to preserve characteristic Greek typographic elements into their work, but overall Greek typography appears to trend towards Latin assimilation.

AIMS:
a) To define what constitutes Greek characteristics in a font,
b) To delineate the needs and problems faced by contemporary Greek typography end-users (graphic designers, book publishers of Greek texts, etc.)

EXPLORATORY QUESTIONS:
a) How do you define or how do you approach the issue of a Greek characteristic in a font?
b) What questions would you have for end-users of your fonts?
c) Why do you design Greek fonts?

P.S. The results of this study, including all information from font-designers and end-users, will be posted in this blog in the end of June.

John Hudson's picture

Here's a good image from Gerrit Noordzij's The Stroke that shows the difference between interrupted and cursive construction.

John Hudson's picture

serif and semi serif is another Greek element. Even in designing a sans serif Greek font, as Helvetica World or Whitney, it can not be a 'clean' sans serif

While I understand the point you are making, I disagree with your terminology. A serif is a kind of stroke termination, whereas I consider things like these


to be entry and exit strokes. It is perhaps an overly subtle distinction, especially in designs with this kind of contrast pattern in which the visual appearance of an entry/exit stroke and a unilateral serif is very similar. But the distinction is more obvious in a typeface with a traditional contrast pattern. No one would call these heavy entries and exits serifs.

While you are right that these entry and exit strokes may be retained in sans serif types -- and arguably should be -- there are some models of Greek sans serif that do away with these. In an earlier discussion, Nick Shinn showed some examples of a sans serif π reduced to a open-bottomed rectangle. Personally, I think it looks terrible, but within a particular style of type it would be considered conventional.

dezcom's picture

Tatiana,
I am a native born American of Greek decent. Since I was born during WWII, we lived with my Greek only speaking grandparents while my father was away at war. For this reason, I first learned Greek and then English. I must admit that I soon forgot most of the Greek that I had learned so I have a strange recollection of the mixing of Greek and English forms. I have made some attempts at designing Greek types but have neither tried to be historically correct with Byzantine forms nor have I purposely Latinized them. I see no purpose in imposing any specific model to present day design of type be it Greek or Latin or Cyrillic. There are plenty of capable revivalists out there that I need not add myself to the mix. I just design the Greek glyphs as forms unto themselves. Does this mean I am any more or less authentic or accepted than others? No. I just design what I design and allow users to choose. Rather than spend what few years I have left testing what the audience may prefer, I simply use that time designing from my perspective. This is quite time consuming in itself ;-)
The following links show samples of some of my Greek type:
Froggy Italic: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dezcom/6872160581/in/set-72157611971349634
Froggy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dezcom/4642614036/sizes/o/in/set-7215761197...
Boulder: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dezcom/3138565933/sizes/o/in/set-7215761197...

This last link is scans from my mothers and grandmother's school book: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dezcom/sets/72157616479131055/

Re:
a) How do you define or how do you approach the issue of a Greek characteristic in a font?
b) What questions would you have for end-users of your fonts?
c) Why do you design Greek fonts?

a) My approach is visual execution from what my own memory decides is in the arena of the form. I do not use models or source material of any kind. Thereafter, it is a question of fitting with the other glyphs in the script as I have drawn them.
b) I would only ask users if the font is in any way problematic for them;
c) I have no grand reasoning, I just do it because I feel the need to. This is no different than Latin script fonts I design. At my age, I am happy to finally be able to do the things that I want to instead of what others may want of me.

J Weltin's picture

I like this approach from you very much, Chris!

quadibloc's picture

Being conscious of the distinction between entry and exit strokes and serifs will help designers aiming at some level of authenticity in a Greek typeface, so I'm happy to learn this.

My take on this hasn't been explicitly stated yet in this thread, although it's probably clear by now. Due to an enforced interruption in Greek script and printing tradition, Greeks have felt compelled to borrow from the ready-made models in the Latin script community - and Greek typefaces designed by non-native speakers - to have typefaces with which to print books and newspapers and the like to meet practical needs.

I don't condemn or deplore this; it may be regrettable, but it's a natural reaction to circumstance.

To emerge from this, to create typefaces that better meet the cultural and aesthetic criteria of Greek readers, is a good thing. But while a study of historical models is useful in the attempt to do this, one should probably also study folk models, (i.e. a street vendor's handwritten sign with the price of oranges) because success in this quest will likely take a long time to achieve, as different attempts at a more Greek style of printing succeed or fail in the community. (It isn't due to some racist or mythical belief in the value of blood ancestry that I think that this must largely be carried out by native Greeks; it's that people who read and write Greek, and live in Greece, that will have been exposed to innumerable instances of Greek handwriting and sign-painting and typeface choice, thus having the base of information on which to form judgments on what would "look Greek" to other Greeks!)

After all, in this respect, Greek typographers face a doubly difficult task. It is not simply that they need to make up for the lost time when the Greek community was without the resources to design its own types, and produce a developed indigenous Greek typeface tradition. They must also take the foreign invention of a bicameral writing system and fully assimilate it so that it ceases to be alien.

John Hudson's picture

On the subject of vernacular handwritten models, under Gerry Leonidas' guidance Monotype did a good job with Segoe Script for Microsoft. In fact, I think the Greek is more successful in looking like natural handwriting than the Latin. The decision to make the Greek mostly unconnecting was sensible, and conforms with almost all the handwriting I saw when I was in Greece.

dezcom's picture

Thanks, Juergen.

Tatiana Marza's picture

John,
I was wondering if you are teaching typography, because not only you give a great, detailed explanation of terminology, but also have a lot of patience with me:) Thank you!

What I meant by 'hidden system of implemented ligatures' (and I agree with you that my terminology is not good enough) is that the entry/exit stroke of Greek lowercase letters (even in a sans serif version) is a residue of Byzantine ligatures. That's why I called it 'hidden system'. And if we exclude them, the Greekness is gone ... I presume. And why arguably [ these strokes ] should be retained?

Chris,
This is an interesting approach. But then I'll ask you: do you design for yourself or for font end-users? If you design for yourself and the final product meets the needs of end-users, that's great. If you aim to satisfy the end-users, more or less, but not interested in their opinion, maybe, I say maybe, there is a gap of information between the designer and the user.
On the other hand, I presume the word design implies the creation of something new. And maybe is good to step aside and to create a distance between past and present.

dezcom's picture

Tatiana,
I begin the design for myself but expect it to be usable by end users. Design does imply for me the making of something new, but... I do not seek to make something new by excluding everything not new. In other words, to me, being new is a byproduct of not intentionally copying old or intentionally excluding old. I see myself as an entity that has absorbed a large set of stimuli throughout my life. The sum of all my particular experiences may have colored the outcome of my work in some individual way. My judgement of all of these stimuli is wholly mine and may certainly differ from anyone else's.
Regarding distance to past and present. I purposely work totally in the present and assume whatever I do will be a product of my own view of the present. This is not a right or wrong thing. I simply allow myself to act as filter of my experience and forger of my extrapolation of the stream entering my consciousness at the moment I design something. In some ways, this is a closed system but everything that has entered my closed system has come from reaction to things outside of me.

John Hudson's picture

What I meant by 'hidden system of implemented ligatures' (and I agree with you that my terminology is not good enough) is that the entry/exit stroke of Greek lowercase letters (even in a sans serif version) is a residue of Byzantine ligatures.

Okay, now I understand. I've gone back to my Greek palaeography books, and I think the entry and exit strokes result from a number of different factors in the evolution of Greek minuscule. I think the particular shapes of the cursive Byzantine style are related to the ligation that occurs between some letters, as you suggest, such that the writing pattern of the connected and unconnected forms are similar, but I see the introduction of some entry and exit strokes earlier, in the late, square uncial style (8th C.). It is interesting to note in that style that the μ has no descender, and the left stroke instead begins with a baseline entry stroke; there is a consistent right-side baseline exit stroke, too, which connects to following letters but is present even when there is no connection. This is around the time that the nib rotation begins, leading to styles with heavier horizontal strokes. Interestingly, the example I am looking at is from a Paschal letter of the Patriarch of Alexandria probably from the beginning of the 8th Century, and the bilingual text puts the date definitely between the Arabic conquest of 641–6 and the decree in 749 that only Arabic should be used in Egypt. Now this is especially interesting to me, because I noted some years ago that the steep pen angle of the Byzantine cursive is very similar to that of Arabic, Hebrew and other Middle Eastern scripts, reminding us that the Byzantium was the capital of a mostly Eastern empire.

dezcom's picture

"And if we exclude them, the Greekness is gone ... I presume. "

Greek writing began long before the Byzantine era and has continued long since. Why would we take a snapshot of one point in time and anoint it as the sole example of Greekness? If the Ancient Greeks had never ventured beyond the earliest examples of their script, and no one else did after that time, there never would have been a Byzantine form to consider.
Yes, there was this awkwardly timed break during the Ottoman occupation. Yes, it came exactly at a time when every other culture was devising their own movable type. Yes, this diverted the train from what might have been its destination otherwise. Never-the-less, this IS what happened and we must accept both the Turkinazation and the Dutchification, and the Anglification and even the new worldification of Greek script as part of history. We do not get to go back and purify the past of Greece to our liking. We only get to contribute to the present as best we see fit. In every tomorrow, someone will write about us in the past tense and judge us with their contemporary eyes. They too will not get it "right" just as we have erred in our assumptions of the past. This is not a criticism, it is just human nature.

John Hudson's picture

Greek writing began long before the Byzantine era and has continued long since.

Latin writing began long before the Italian renaissance and has continued long since. And yet the basic letter shapes of our text types have been frozen in their renaissance roman and italic forms ever since. We include or exclude their serif stroke terminals, we play with their weights and their slant angles, but we work with what are, in terms of the history of scribal text manufacture, an incredibly narrow, short-lived and regional set of letterforms.

Maxim Zhukov's picture

Personally, I think it looks terrible, but within a particular style of type it would be considered conventional.

It’s all about conventions, and is often style-related. For example, a Greek pi with overhanging bar (π) would be readable to a Cyrillic user in a sans-serif typeface (although look rather unusual), but not in a serif style (that could be pretty confusing).


Conversely, a Cyrillic-style pi (п) would be a sensitive choice for a Greek geometric sans; it would be still readable in a Greek serif typeface, but look very odd indeed. On the other hand, a ‘lunate-epsilon’ form of the E/e is not a design option in Cyrillic typefaces (as it is in many Latin designs). Cyrillic fonts feature both the е (Cyrillic letter ye, U+0435) and the є (Cyrillic letter Ukrainian ye, U+0454).


More examples of Cyrillic ambiguous and confusing shapes—to a Latin and/or to a Greek user—posted here.

dezcom's picture

"basic letter shapes of our text types have been frozen in their renaissance roman and italic forms ever since."

Your description of "Frozen" may differ from mine or others, John. Serifs are not simply removable modules, they are either designed as part of the glyph or not. Clearly Garamond is not Helvetica with adornments added or the reverse.. You may choose not to see variations in form beyond the most basics of slant and weight if you like. If that is the case, why do you design type at all? Why not just stop and only use the Italian Renaissance originals and close your doors? Humans keep going and making whatever changes they wish, good or bad and always will. You cannot stop them by devine academic definition. You may certainly belittle them or point out how they fail to meet your own expectations as may anyone else. This is fair. You do not get the choice to drag a line in the sands of time for everyone in the future to adhere to. They simply won't do it any more than Garamond stopped after seeing Gutenberg's work. It just isn't your call or mine to make. We are only pawns of our brief moments of life. I am happy to just make my small scratches that will wither from view quickly. I see no need to define for others what should follow my passing.

quadibloc's picture

@John Hudson:
but we work with what are, in terms of the history of scribal text manufacture, an incredibly narrow, short-lived and regional set of letterforms.

Yes, but what else would you expect?

Whether for body copy in books, newspapers, and magazines - or on highway signage - or display type in advertising - printed matter is, first and foremost, intended to communicate what it says, whether that's "Low Prices!" or "Albuquerque 100 miles".

So to obtain immediate recognition and maximally effective communication, type tends to stick with the letterforms people are used to and comfortable with - with the only change being ones that don't complicate immediate recognition.

This is why Gothic stayed around for so long - and why, when Roman pushed it out, it stayed pushed out, since the Roman letterform is objectively far more legible - different letters are more clearly distinguishable.

Because this is the biggest consideration, de-Latinization will be a very slow process, but I believe it will still naturally happen as a slow drift in the absence of overwhelming outside pressure.

@dezcom:
Yes, this diverted the train from what might have been its destination otherwise. Never-the-less, this IS what happened and we must accept both the Turkinazation and the Dutchification, and the Anglification and even the new worldification of Greek script as part of history. We do not get to go back and purify the past of Greece to our liking. We only get to contribute to the present as best we see fit.

I think you're half right.

A type designer, whether he's a native speaker of Greek or not, can attempt to invent a typeface with the glyphs of the Greek alphabet in the style that the Greeks might now be using had history happened differently.

No physical laws are violated by so doing. But because history still happened as it did, the result in the present might not turn out to be useful to present-day Greeks, particularly if it's too strange or unfamiliar.

It's precisely because there were difficulties in Greek history that the Greeks have borrowed from the well-developed Latin typographical tradition to have a wide selection of typographical materials sufficient to the needs of an industrial society. If they can respond to a shortage of Greek typefaces in this manner, then they can also respond to typefaces based on foreign models not suiting their aesthetic sensibilities by designing new ones that, in whatever way, are more "Greek".

The quest for materials with which to work involves looking to the past, to folk models, and within oneself. Although I'm used to Porson Greek as the way Greek is represented, I know I find it jarring, but I don't know how a native speaker of Greek finds it. But if it is found deficient, alternatives exist, and more can be prepared.

The past can be the reason why we need to work harder on contributing in certain ways to the present. And, on the other hand, as it's affected what Greeks are used to, it will have changed the present in ways we do have to accept. So instead of the Greeks going to the typefaces they would have if all of this never happened, I see much smaller changes, aimed at resolving the degree to which existing typefaces, although people have gotten used to them, are still not entirely a good fit to their aesthetic sensibilities. These changes, I suspect, will tend to be somewhat in the direction of more historical authenticity, but not exclusively in that direction - but they won't go very far, and outside influences will remain very visible.

John Hudson's picture

Chris, I said that the basic shapes of our letters have been relatively stable since the introduction of typography, and reflect the standard book hands of that time. I don't think that is a controversial statement, and the fact that within the confines of those models there is lots of variety of design doesn't alter the observation. The structure of a Jenson lowercase roman a is the same as that of the latest sans serif roman. The point with regard to Greek is that there is an open question about what constitutes the letter shape and what constitutes an optional feature. To one degree or another, this question is open for all scripts, and it is one of the things that enables the development of new styles. Not all experiments are successful.

I'm not suggesting that a line be drawn in the sand or that you or anyone else should follow a particular path. I do think that, historically, the reduction of a script to typography tends to slow the rate of evolution and favours establishment of standard models. Witness how the typographic roman remained the standard text face of print publishing even when all around it scribal culture continued to innovate and produce new text styles right up until the introduction of the typewriter. That's an observation, not a prescription. As I wrote above with regard to my Helvetica World Greek, some people chose to see it relative to Matthew Carter's Helvetica Greek as some kind of ideological statement. I just tried to design something that seemed to me to capture what I found interesting about Helvetica while achieving a texture on the page that I associate with Greek.

BTW, I like your Froggy Greek italic very much. You've done a fine job balancing the extremely variable stroke contrast pattern, and the overall texture is remarkably even.

John Hudson's picture

John (Q): Although I'm used to Porson Greek as the way Greek is represented, I know I find it jarring, but I don't know how a native speaker of Greek finds it.

A reader in Greece is unlikely ever to encounter Porson. It is a peculiarity of Anglo-American classical studies and not really used anywhere else. Only the importance of the Loeb Library for the study of Greek classical literature in the English-speaking world has given it the prominence that it has.
_____

You seem to suggest that Latinisation was a kind of 'make-do' solution, something that the Greeks fell back on because they didn't have any other option. In fact, they had pretty much unlimited options when new types were made for phototypesetting in the early 1970s (the period of most intense Latinisation). Linotype had committed to providing types for the Greek market in whatever style requested, in return for a near monopoly on providing typesetting equipment to publishers, newspapers, etc.. Their customers requested Latinised Greek versions of Helvetica, Baskerville, Clarendon and others, and the more Latinised the better. Matthew Carter recalls that they kept asking for more serifs to make the types look more Latin, so that he wondered eventually if they would demand serifs on the Helvetica. This wasn't an historical contingency, it was an naïve ideological stance that equated Latinisation with modernisation, anti-communism, alignment with NATO, and other obsessions of the military junta and the political right.

quadibloc's picture

@John Hudson:
A reader in Greece is unlikely ever to encounter Porson.

I'm not so sure about that. I recall looking at a few Greek-language books in the local public library some years ago, and while several were in various sans-serif faces, quite a few were in what I think of as Porson: italic lowercase, upright capital letters with serifs - and looking like Bodoni, not like, say, Times.

Still, that may well be true for books published after X - where X could be some year in the 1980s.

EDIT: Although books for the period in question are hard to find on the web, I managed to find enough that I'm starting to feel that I'm mistaken.

@John Hudson:
You seem to suggest that Latinisation was a kind of 'make-do' solution, something that the Greeks fell back on because they didn't have any other option.

I agree that by the time phototypesetting came along, they already had options - they didn't have to wait for the PC and the laser printer.

I was thinking of it as a 'make-do' solution... in the early days of the independence of Greece. (Admittedly, I also was thinking in terms of it being the case that even in the present day, it is easier to copy than to originate, especially when a model is so conveniently to hand.) After that, at least in the metal type era, the effect of the natural conservatism of readers, combined with the costs of changes, would likely have kept the typefaces that were initially common in use with minor changes.

That the junta would do the sort of things that such a regime would be expected to do... is unsurprising. I'm not familiar enough with Greek history to be aware of this, but I'd expect it to have led to a counter-reaction, the way the katharevousa versus demotika issue got settled.

Nick Shinn's picture

This wasn't an historical contingency, it was an naïve ideological stance that equated Latinisation with modernisation, anti-communism, alignment with NATO, and other obsessions of the military junta and the political right.

Or perhaps they just thought that Helvetica etc. were really cool looking typefaces, and wanted the lower case text in their layouts to have a similar color, without all the bendy scripty bits.

In other words, it’s not about latinization or modernization or globalization, but about the text color of specific typeface designs.

At any rate, there is plenty of choice now for Greek typographers, so there is no need to ask them what they want, they are perfectly capable of choosing something conservative and scripty, or a severe Greek version of DIN, or an original new design from Parachute.

But what they really need is a Greek-language version of MyFonts, which would expose them to a lot of Greek-supporting faces they would not otherwise come across, such as mine.

Andreas Stötzner's picture

> But what they really need is a Greek-language version of MyFonts

A worthwhile suggestion, Nick. The keyword ›Greek‹ reveals over 200 hits. I have four faces with Greek in stock, tricky to be found by a Greek user, I suppose. If MyFonts goes for it, I’ll be sponsoring that effort.

John Hudson's picture

I was thinking of it as a 'make-do' solution... in the early days of the independence of Greece.

Ah. I think a phrase other than Latinisation applies in that case. What happens in the 19th Century in Greece is the importation of French (Didot) and German (Lypsias, i.e. from Leipzig) types which become the norms for Greek upright and italic style text types. In the 20th Century, Monotype 90, which is based on the Didot upright, becomes the standard publishing type. But while these designs originate outside of Greece, they are not Latinised in the sense that applies to the Linotype Greeks of the 1970s. They do not import into the script shapes structures from Latin type design; rather, they reinterpret the construction of letters inherited from the Byzantine minuscule using a contemporary split nib stroke model and the strong dynamics of Romantic types. Yes, they are designed to harmonise with what is happening in Latin type design at the same time, but they do so without aping Latin shapes.

John Hudson's picture

[Edited]

Nick: In other words, it’s not about latinization or modernization or globalization, but about the text color of specific typeface designs.

Okay, I'll admit that the comment about the junta was a provocation -- and it is interesting to note that the Latinisation trend continued past the end of the dictarorship and into the 1980s --, but I don't think the trend can be reduced to typographic design criteria independent of cultural and political factors of the time.

As I mentioned a few times already in this thread, the texture on the page -- what you call text colour -- is central to my design approach. And one of the reasons why my Helvetica World Greek is so different from the 1971 Greek is that I found the latter did not, in fact, have the texture of Helvetica on the page. Part of the reason for this I have only just realised, which is that although it was packaged as 'Helvetica Greek' it was paired with Helvetica Neue, not the original Helvetica design. For this reason it was more loosely spaced and most of the round forms were wider.

In this revised comparison image I have tracked the Helvetica Latin (middle) and Helvetica World Greek (bottom) to approximate the looser spacing of Helvetica Neue. This does make for a better harmonisation of texture between the 1971 Greek (top) and the Helvetica Latin, but I still think the former is too geometric and rigid.

Nick Shinn's picture

I would say those 19th century Greek types were Latinized in some sense, as they were designed to work in contrast* to Latin for readers whose natural script was Latin, which is why they were given such an “italic” construction.

It may also be said that their designers were taking the same “first step” to rendering the predominant written form into type: with Latin that had been blackletter, followed soon after by the Italian umanistica. They didn’t stray very far from the written model.

*Not just for short quotes in longer Latin texts, but with a marked sense of otherness and antiquity, which was probably not how 19th century Greeks thought of themselves, but an image comfortable for westerners, colored by their association of Greece with temple ruins and the texts of classical antiquity.

John Hudson's picture

...with a marked sense of otherness and antiquity, which was probably not how 19th century Greeks thought of themselves...

I don't think there is anything particularly antique about the Didot and Lypsias Greeks in terms of their design; indeed, they represent the first significant innovation in Greek typography for almost 300 years and bring the script into line with what was then the latest fashions in writing. But yes, there is an association with antiquity from their use in the printing of classical literature.

I don't know how the average 19th Century Greek thought of himself, but it is a fact that the elite stressed the classical heritage -- at the expense of the longer and chronologically closer Byzantine heritage -- in order to attract support for the cause and realisation of independence.

Nick Shinn's picture

Here’s my take on the grotesque, Figgins Sans:

The Greek would certainly have looked more like the Latin had I given a vertical right stem to alpha, but, influenced by the many conservative voices in Western type media, I opted for the more “correct” single-stroke loop form.

I also provided an old style/scripty version, as a Stylistic Set:


There is also an even more archaic version, with pi-like omega, omicron-upsilon digraphs etc.

Nick Shinn's picture

I don't think there is anything particularly antique about the Didot and Lypsias Greeks in terms of their design; indeed, they represent the first significant innovation in Greek typography for almost 300 years and bring the script into line with what was then the latest fashions in writing.

Innovation perhaps, but, other than high contrast, not in line with fashion: the upper case may be very like the latest Latin capitals, but the lower case is positively baroque (in the Bringhurstian sense of the word) in the way that the angle of stress is all over the place, way out of line with the clinical perpendicularity of the Didot Latins, and the parallelism of the Latin roundhand writing script.

John Hudson's picture

The fashion in writing to which I referred was use of the split nib metal pen as opposed to the broad reed pen that was the tool of the Byzantine scribes and the stroke model for the renaissance Greek types. As I said, Didot's innovation was to take the structures of the Greek minuscule as inherited from Byzantine and renaissance heritage and to apply to them the dynamic stroke expansion of the split nib. He retained the variable stress angle, though. [In the Brill Greek, I used a similar stroke model but regularised the stress angle.]

PS. Bringhurst notes irregular stress angle as one of the characteristics observed in Latin types of the baroque period. That's not the same thing as labelling irregular stress as baroque, especially not when applied to a non-Latin script with a much longer written tradition of variable stroke contrast.

Nick Shinn's picture

The evolution of technology that the split nib metal pen represented wasn’t a fashion, it was progress.
And, as you note, that technology could be used to write both regularly or irregularly stressed letter forms.
The fashion was the style, which, in the West, was, at the time of the Didot Greek’s design (1805), for Latin script (italic) writing to have a consistent angle of stress.

Was there no Greek Bickham for Firmin Didot to model his letters upon?

John Hudson's picture

Was there no Greek Bickham for Firmin Didot to model his letters upon?

Bickham's Greek sample, The Universal Penman (1741). [Click image for larger version]

Porson (1835), perhaps putting the lie to the account that the Porson type is based on his Greek handwriting.

John Hudson's picture

To round out the 18th Century, here is Baskerville's eccentric Greek text type:

Tatiana Marza's picture

I will go a little bit backward...

@Chris,
"I see no purpose in imposing any specific model to present day design of type be it Greek or Latin or Cyrillic".

From the moment a type designer posts his font(s) for download or purchase on web, he automatically imposes a specific trend or model for the present day type design. And he has an instant impact on the everyday letters which will be read by millions of Greeks.
A graphic design studio or book publisher can afford to buy a good and expensive font (a not Latinized one), but a freelancer graphic designer will stick to what is available for his small pocket. Of course, they are all free to chose among the available Greek fonts, and here arouses the question of the aesthetic education of Greeks. Yes, in many fields they are 20 years back in time, but who is entitled to deprive them of their own cultural identity? From this point of view I'm against Latinization.

Along the current economic crisis in Greece, there is a tendency of finding and establishing the Greek identity again, to impose the Greekness on a global level. A company was established: Made in Greece, which "emerged as a new idea-solution from the Greek crisis and the need of a modern promotion of Greek companies and their products abroad, aiming to further develop the Greek production and services of our country".

I just love the font used on this package and the illustrated elements. For Greek market is quite a good designed package (exclude the red logo).
But do not be carried away by it. Greek people are looking mostly for sans serif fonts than for serif (the results of my questionnaire will show more precise data).

There is a tendency (in the field of graphic design, at least) for more clean and uncluttered fonts. And for better or worse, Latin typefaces do impose the modern fashion styles. But some models of Latin fonts just don't suit the Greek environment. You cannot apply same rules for different situations...It just doesn't work!

Another interesting question is how could progress be achieved in typography of Greek fonts? How could the historical, folk elements be combined as to create a new, harmonized font alongside a Latin one?

__________

Nick, I like very much your Stylistic Set of Figgins Sans.
Although the "κ" gives me hard time to read the text, the "ρ, ξ, θ" have interesting, beutiful shapes.

BTW: does anyone know of a reliable definition for Latinization, but correlated to typography? I need to explain in my project what I mean by "latinization".

quadibloc's picture

@John Hudson:
Ah. I think a phrase other than Latinisation applies in that case.

I'm happy to accept that. I am less troubled by Latinization than Hrant is.

My concern is that the initial models of typefaces for use by Greeks were flawed for the purpose of everyday use by native speakers, because that wasn't what they were developed for. Since Latin alphabet typefaces were very well developed for that purpose, though, I would expect that the natural response by native Greek speakers to this unsatisfactory situation would be Latinization - for practical reasons, they would seek to make the typefaces available for the Greek language suitable to all purposes in a hurry, and what better way to do that than to adapt and borrow what already exists instead of making the extra effort required for originating?

The result of that phase is an improvement on the original, but still not ideally satisfactory. Having an authentically and organically Greek typeface isn't just a matter of feeding chauvinism; it really does have practical consequences for further improving readability and legibility as well as the cultural sensitivity improving people's reactions to the printed matter.

So I see reversing Latinization - in a partial and incomplete fashion - as a task for the present time, now that Latinization served its purpose as a tool for overcoming the initial emergency.

John Hudson's picture

Tatiana, I think Latinisation is a little difficult to define. I'm reminded of the attempt to produce a legal definition of pornography, which led one judge to the observation that 'You know it when you see it'. It's the same with Latinisation: it isn't easy to define a set of criteria that constitutes Latinisation, but one knows it when one sees it.

That said, I'd broadly characterise Latinisation as the importation or favouring of shapes and features from Latin typography into non-Latin script design. A crude substitution of 'look-alike' letters is probably the most explicit form of Latinisation. Use of Latin serif shapes and patterns is another.

Tatiana Marza's picture

Thank you, John:)

Nick Shinn's picture

Nick, I like very much your Stylistic Set of Figgins Sans.
Although the "κ" gives me hard time to read the text,

Thanks! I agree about the old-style kappa, it does look strange in this genre of type—or perhaps I could have drawn it better (although I did spend an inordinant amount of time working on it).
I wasn’t able to find any precedents to compare my design with, do you know of any?

John Hudson's picture

With regard to the historical kappa form, Nick, I recommend trying to make it less symmetrical, so that the left side is straighter and the right side more curved. Ideally, you should be able to see how the shape derives from a quickly written, cursively constructed K shape: the pen comes down from the instroke, reverses, goes up diagonally, and then reverses again before heading to the lower right:

Tatiana Marza's picture

Nick ,

Your kappa is great and not often this version can be seen in Greece nowadays. Just my eye/brain is trained to read another forms of letters. It's not about the aesthetic part of "k", but about its frequency in Greek texts.

When you are referring to precedents, you mean someone from 21st century or older designers? I have in front of me dozens of similar "k" from previous century...

dezcom's picture

"...You've done a fine job balancing the extremely variable stroke contrast pattern, and the overall texture is remarkably even."

John, Thanks for the kind words!

dezcom's picture

"From the moment a type designer posts his font(s) for download or purchase on web, he automatically imposes a specific trend or model for the present day type design. And he has an instant impact on the everyday letters which will be read by millions of Greeks."

Tatiana,
I think you have very greatly overstated the impact of the release of one typeface. There are many, many, thousands of fonts in our current market. I imagine it more this way: If while sailing on a ship, and a tear were to fall from my eyes and land in the waves, it would become part of the great ocean of salty water and have no more possibility of setting a trend or style than any other drop in the ocean of fonts available. If I were Adobe, Microsoft, or Apple, I would have a much, much greater chance oven being discovered. In their case, their fonts come freely available with no effort or cost to anyone on earth who has access to a computer. Think of Papyrus. It gets used and overused and misused every day by people who want something "different" than the every-day but who are not aware of or care to search for or even pay for a more appropriate font.
Any independent type designer has no where near the reach to "create a trend" just by producing the type. If a very large corporation were to choose that same face for a globally marketed product, there would be much more of a chance of affecting the whole market of graphic designers who may wish to be seen as trendy in their type choices. The market itself creates the trends. The type designers only make possible choices, a drop in the ocean of choices.

dezcom's picture

"I just love the font used on this package and the illustrated elements. For Greek market is quite a good designed package (exclude the red logo)."

What you have shown is the perfect case of a display face matching content and communicating message. Very brief wording (as in package design) allows details in type to create a particular atmosphere. In this case, you can evoke that feel of handmade old Greek village store products even though it is modern plastic wrap packaging. The ligated forms echo that but the ranges of use for that face would not extend too far beyond that type of market. What typeface would a Greek producer of electronic products use for his packaging? What about a Greek Pharmaceutical company? Would they want a homeopathic image or a medical science image? There is no one style fits all solution for Greeks any more than there is for any other nation on earth. Look at the Latin script countries of Europe, they use a great variety of types to suit their communication needs. Denoting, primarily, the nostalgic relevance of the country of origin is not typically first on their list of things to be communicated. If they are selling Kalamata olives, perhaps yes; if they are selling smart phones, not so much.

Nick Shinn's picture

When you are referring to precedents, you mean someone from 21st century or older designers? I have in front of me dozens of similar "k" from previous century...

I meant low-contrast sans serifs.

Thanks John, I am familiar with the principle of the letter’s construction.
Have you drawn any historical kappas in a low contrast sans?

John Hudson's picture

Nick, my explication of the construction was intended to suggest why it is a good idea to make this form asymmetrical, so as to better suggest the relationship to the K shape. Your Figgins form is very symmetrical, which is what to my eye makes it not read easily. [And yes, I'm sure you can find me plenty of examples of symmetric old style kappa; I never think they work as well as the asymmetric ones that model how the letter was generally written by scribes.]

With regard to a low contrast sans approach, I would still favour an asymmetric form, allowing the left side to be straighter and the right side with a deeper curve. To coordinate with the absence of instroke on your Figgins eta and upsilon, I would even experiment with a perfectly straight left side.

quadibloc's picture

Well, one good thing about И is that it isn't suicidal in its shape!

Nick Shinn's picture

John, there is nothing wrong with a symmetrical old style kappa.
Monotype Greek 90 is damn near symmetric in that respect.

Certainly, Greek letter forms with overt chirographic provenance may appear most readable to your eye and mind, but I for one subscribe to a quite different philosophy and method.

I gave the old-style kappa in Figgins Sans a strong quality of “x-ness”, because it is a stylistic alternate to the default “k” shape.
I’m satisfied that this x-ness works well in text settings, although I must admit it doesn’t come across well in the specimen posted above, which is rather an awkward size, neither body or headline, and also suffers from rasterization.
This smaller size specimen gives a truer representation of the effect:

John Hudson's picture

Nick, I don't think the Monotype 90 kappa is 'damn near symmetrical'; in fact, it is very cleverly asymmetrical (I'm talking about the hot metal type). It is closer to symmetrical than the examples I showed, yes, but follows the same basic principles of asymmetry: the left side connects to the diagonal closer to the corner, the right side departs from the diagonal closer to the middle, and the lower right termination is more heavy and dominant than the upper left. The Didot original on which it is modelled is even more asymmetric, with the lower right stroke extending well to the right of the diagonal. [Unfortunately, this is one of the ways in which GFS Didot fails to reflect the original design.]

I do agree with you that the Figgins form looks better at that smaller size, but I still find the deep dip in the left side distracting, not because it isn't 'overtly chirographic' but because I'm used to seeing the left side of this letter better coordinated with that of eta and upsilon.

Nick Shinn's picture

Monotype 90, 12 point:

Re coordination: I didn’t feel it was necessary to provide chirographic alternates of eta and upsilon in the quaint Stylistic Set. I was daunted by the number of extra glyphs that would require in a polytonic font!

But more to the point, I rather like the x-ness of the quaint form, and see no reason why every in-stroke should be identical, or why every letter should have an instroke. In fact, if one is attempting a quaint chirographic effect, then vagary, rather than “coordination”, would seem to be the order of the day—which is apparent in Monotype 90.

John Hudson's picture

In the case of Monotype 90, what seems salient to me is that the down stroke on the left, after the initial instroke, is essentially vertical and quite straight. I think what I find odd in your quaint variant is the sense of a deep, curved shape here.

By the way, that's a very nice image. From where did you get it?

Nick Shinn's picture

…what I find odd in your quaint variant is the sense of a deep, curved shape…

I wouldn’t exactly call it deep, that would be a semicircle.
The instroke is curved to create x-ness; had it been straight, that would not have occurred, due to the stroke’s necessary thickness as part of a low contrast sans.

Bear in mind that his quaint alternate is a steampunk experiment—perhaps someone else will retrofit a grotesque sans in a manner more to your taste!

Keeping Greek Typography Alive, by Yannis Haralambous, 2002 (pdf)

J Weltin's picture

Here are samples of Greek typefaces from the Carmina Quinque Illustrium Poetarum for those of you who are interested.
And from Aristotelis De Moribvs, Qu[a]e Ethica nominantur, ad Nicomach[um] filium, Libri decem.

DTY's picture

John H.: Here are some samples of that Greek (and Latin) typeface for seal and coin scholars.

Off-topic, but this really looks great; as one of the few typesetters of academic numismatics in the US, I'm very grateful to Dumbarton Oaks for sponsoring this project. Because of the need to cover the post-1204 coinage, it looks like it will be useful for much more than just Byzantine studies.

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