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.

quadibloc's picture

Given that letters have different shapes - b c d e o p q on the one hand, k w x z on the other, h m n u for still another - and some have ascenders and others don't, it is possible that different languages using the Latin alphabet could actually look different in the mass, if letter frequencies differ in such a way as to affect the extent to which certain features of the shapes of letters are encountered.

Tatiana Marza's picture

John (Hudson),
I was asked from my adviser to explain through images some terminology we discussed earlier on this thread. I would be grateful for a confirmation or any comments. Thank you!


dezcom's picture

Tatiana,
I would not say that your second example is "serif". To me, it is also exit and entrance strokes. There is no serif in Greek lower case.
Also, cursive is connected writing. What you show is italic.

eliason's picture

cursive is connected writing

Do you mean letters connected to each other? "Cursive" says to me "few lifts of the pen" in letter construction but not necessarily connected letters.

dezcom's picture

I do not mean that each glyph must be connected to its neighbor. Cursive is writing in a stream. The example Tatiana shows above is just italic.

John Hudson's picture

Chris is right about the first image: in both the low contrast 'sans serif' and the higher contrast design, these are entry and exit strokes. Traditionally, there are no serifs -- i.e. constructed stem terminals -- in the Greek lowercase, only entry and exit strokes.

Chris, there was some discussion earlier in the conversation about the distinction between cursive in the sense of running hand and what I called 'internal cursive construction', i.e. where individual letters are constructed in a running way without lifting the pen from the page. Obviously this is applied indirectly to the description of type. I think Tatiana's second image is correctly labelled -- except that the last line should be 'italic Greek letters' --, and makes the point that while the Latin italic differs from the roman in having an internal cursive construction, in Greece this is true of both upright and italic.

Nick Shinn's picture

I wouldn’t call it an entry/exit stroke unless it is a separate stroke, not just a bend in a main stem.

**

No doubt I am guilty of Latinization, but it seems to me that the two-part system of roman and italic is fundamentally Latin, and foreign to Greek. Therefore, if one is going to implement it in Greek, one should be true to its nature and employ something of the traditional method of ending terminals in Latin—which is to put serifs on the roman, and have the italics more “cursive”, with entry and exit strokes.


The alternative is to treat Greek italic as a sloped roman, which is a method that, with its reduced differentiation between styles, has never caught on in serifed types.

John Hudson's picture

Nick: I wouldn’t call it an entry/exit stroke unless it is a separate stroke, not just a bend in a main stem.

I've had the same thought, although the terminology is pretty common.

I consider the pronounced bend in e.g. the left downstroke of the Didot style eta to be derived from writing speed. So structurally I still think of it as a horizontal entry stroke, a turn, and a vertical main stroke. When written quickly, over time this evolves into a curved stoke in some styles, but that doesn't seem to me to negate the usefulness of the entry stroke as an analytical concept. Indeed, this concept allows us to understand the shared structure of styles with curved stems and styles with straight stems that share the initial horizontal trajectory.

By the way, Tatiana, it might be helpful if you were to use an example of low contrast eta with a more obvious entry stroke to illustrate the concept.

dezcom's picture

John, I now see what you mean by "internal". Thanks for the clarification.

Nick, Since Greek does not have along history of italic in the same way that Latin does. I see no reason to simply use Latin rules to apply serifs to the upright Greek (is that what you intended or am I misreading you?)
If we are just after differentiation between upright and italic, then we can find other means than adding serifs to a language that does not use them. There was a period when Greek text that was meant to be used in the way we use italics, was letterspaced (yes, stealing sheep). http://www.flickr.com/photos/dezcom/3428338386/in/set-72157616479131055
I am not saying that this should be how we do it now, I am just saying that we should let the Greeks determine a way that works for them instead of just offering the Latin answer.

John Hudson's picture

It is certainly true that a) the typograhical distinction between roman and italic is something imported into Greek from Latin typography, and b) the cursive construction of Greek minuscule makes it more difficult to strongly differentiate upright and italic styles. I'm not at all convinced that the solution to this is to make the upright less cursive, though, since the result tends to look very stiff and awkward not only in contrast to traditional styles but also when compared to Latin romans. I believe this is because the Latin script maintained a formal bookhand tradition based on interrupted letter construction for much longer than Greek, so evolved letter shapes that were pleasing in both upright, formal and slanted, cursive styles that were in widespread use in the script at the time of reduction to type. There are upright, formal styles of Greek writing, but they are archaic.

The problem I have with your approach, Nick, is that it seems to suggest that the way to resolve a design problem arising from what you acknowledge is an importation from Latin is to import more stuff from Latin. Where does that end? To how many of the world's writing systems does it apply?

Latin-script typographers, authors, editors and publishers did something really brilliant when they gradually systematised the use of roman and italic to articulate text, i.e. systematised the use of two different existing writing styles -- upright and formal, slanted and cursive -- in a contrastive way. The usefulness of the system is obvious, and one can see the attraction to adapting it for other writing systems. But not all writing systems have existing parallels, so one ends up with artificial creations to fit criteria of contrast established by the Latin model instead of contrast naturally occurring within the script. It's as if Latin typographers without access to a roman and italic manuscript style distinction had observed the constrastive use of, say, Arabic naskh and ruqah styles in Ottoman manuscripts, and tried to come up Latin letters that exhibited the characteristics of those Arabic styles in order to create a system of textual articulation.

dezcom's picture

Here is a slightly off-topic example of Latinization.
Notice the slab type in the middle of the picture--it must be from Western Greece ;-)

Andreas Stötzner's picture

John,

> the cursive construction of Greek minuscule makes it more difficult to strongly differentiate upright and italic styles.

– I’d say: *more demanding*, not more difficult.

> one ends up with artificial creations to fit criteria of contrast established by the Latin model instead of contrast naturally occurring within the script.

For the modern Latin typographic system the upright/italic duality is canonical, and it proved to be very useful. No wonder that this model shed its light on neighbour systems like Greek or Cyrillic. That momentum of influence of one culture onto the other is quite a normal phenomenon.
But I am with you when you are questioning the issue of other possibilities of system-inherent duality in other writing systems. This is, i.m.h.o., a most worthwhile question. Impose our Latin Reg./Ital. scheme upon, e.g., Armenian, Hebrew or Arabic, and you’re in for serious headaches – or brake-through inventions ;-)
I once encountered a similar issue with my set of Andron Runes. In the Regular I shaped them with a modest mould of serife-like terminals, as to suit them to the rest of the font. Then I faced reservations about that by single users, I ended up doing a second and alternate rendering of the entire character set, in a more ‘incised’ style without serifs; and I put this set – into the Italics font.

Is there any kind of research about script-inherent duality modes similar (but not equal) to ‘Latin Reg./It.’ ?

@ Yulia:
I’m not yet entirely convinced about each of your ligature solutions, but I find your overall classic approach to the L-G-C set courageous and very interesting!
(and cheers for your kind tasting of my silly paprika exercise … :)

John Hudson's picture

I’d say: *more demanding*, not more difficult.

I'm not sure what demanding implies in this context. It seems to me objectively more difficult to differentiate two things that have more in common with each other than two things that have less in common with each other.

Is there any kind of research about script-inherent duality modes similar (but not equal) to ‘Latin Reg./It.’ ?

I don't know about research, per se, in the sense of systematic investigation, but I have observed that most mature scribal systems evolve both formal and informal modes, and these may produce differentiated styles that would adapt to a roman/italic-like system. And very often the differences between the formal and informal styles parallel those between roman and italic: interrupted vs cursive construction, upright vs slanted, broad vs compressed. But even when such differentiated styles exist within a script they do not always end up being used in the way that roman and italic are used in Latin script typography. For instance, the Hebrew square letter is a formal bookhand directly equivalent to the Latin roman, but the Hebrew cursive, which persists as a daily handwriting style, never evolved into either a secondary manuscript hand or a differentiated typographic companion style. Which is a pity, because it has a lot of potential in that rôle.

It massively helped the development of Latin typography that roman and italic letters were already being used side-by-side in manuscript. The typographic innovation was not to pair these styles, but to systematise the pairing that already existed, e.g. using italics for titles, for foreign words, for emphasis. The fact that the system employs italic for several different purposes, rather than multiplying styles, itself tells us something about the inherent conservatism that in other scripts hampers the development of contrast-based text articulation.

There are a number of scripts in the world in which the formal scribal bookhands involve cursive construction and features, with or without cursive connectivity and/or graphotactic shape modification. Perso-Arabic is the most obvious example of a mature scribal culture completely abandoning non-cursive writing, but all the evidence is that this is also true of the Byzantine scribal culture: formal, interrupted Greek uncial letters continued in use in ikon writing, mosaics etc., but text manufacture moved to a cursive style around AD 400, stayed there for well over a thousand years, and was still there when type came along.

quadibloc's picture

@dezcom:
Of course, that particular style of type was known in old specimen books as French Clarendon, so some other place than wherever the Greek cowboys lived may have been the inspiration...

Nick Shinn's picture

The problem I have with your approach, Nick, is that it seems to suggest that the way to resolve a design problem arising from what you acknowledge is an importation from Latin is to import more stuff from Latin. Where does that end? To how many of the world's writing systems does it apply?

To any that want it.

True italics, multiple weights, condensed and expanded, text and display styles, small caps — all these “Latin” inventions can be theirs.

John, how do square being an advocate of cultural autonomy with working on Latiner-designed typefaces that are bundled with the devices of transnational corporations? Now matter how sensitive you are, you are still telling the locals you know what’s best for them.

John Hudson's picture

No, I'm providing tools that I believe will solve the daily text needs of the users of that software or device, in response to particular briefs from the client. This means that I'm usually considering the kinds of texts they are likely to be dealing with and what norms exist in their native text cultures that I can draw on to produce something that fits the expectations of a significant portion of users (or at the very least can be presented to them and explained with reference to their own textual history, rather than as something imported). These days, I'm often working with scripts for which no fonts exist in widely supported or standard formats -- e.g. the Burmese font for Windows 8 --, working alongside the programmers who are developing the layout engines, keyboard drivers etc., and I see my work very much in terms of producing something that provides a well executed baseline of script and language support according to the norms of the script, so that anyone who comes after me can consider that solved and produce more original and creative designs. This relates to the thread that Hrant tried to start regarding minority script support: a lot of scripts get hung up on amateur font makers trying hard to produce something that captures the norms of the script, such that no one ever gets around to expanding the typographic palette.

I don't think I've ever claimed to be an 'advocate of cultural autonomy', at least not in any way that presents it as a problem for people to design typefaces for writing systems other than their own. This has been going on for as long as there has been type; sometimes it is done well, sometimes not. Generally, when it has been done well, the people involved have paid attention to script expertise embodied in the scribal traditions. Generally, when it has been done poorly, foreign technologies have imposed limitations and the people involved have imported inappropriate concepts from their own scripts.

True italics, multiple weights, condensed and expanded, text and display styles, small caps — all these “Latin” inventions can be theirs.

No, I don't think all these inventions can be theirs, because some of these are dependent on particular characteristics that the Latin script does not share with all other scripts. Sometimes, in such cases, there are alternative options within the script, ironically overlooked in favour of Latinisation.

quadibloc's picture

@Nick Shinn:
To any that want it.

True italics, multiple weights, condensed and expanded, text and display styles, small caps — all these “Latin” inventions can be theirs.

Nothing wrong with that. Some time back, I illustrated how Hebrew could have upper and lower case, if it wanted - without having to redesign their alphabet, or import from foreign models. The old Phoenician script had ascenders and descenders, and thus could serve as the "lower case", while square script would be the "upper case".

I admit, though, to having some difficulty in imagining what would work for "true italics" for the Chinese script. But there are more and less cursive styles of the script, so I guess one could pick a more cursive style and slant it. So much else from Latin has been imported in the area of sans-serif display faces in China, Japan, and Korea that this limiting case shows you to be right.

Of course, there's Arabic. It has plenty of bold versions, but because it is written exclusively as connected script, some options seem to be foreclosed.

hrant's picture

So I found my English-and-Greek visualization:

But I'll have to explain the general benefits of such visualizations, and the specific insights afforded by the two that I posted, later on.

hhp

Yulia's picture

Andreas, thank you!
I agree with dezcom that adding serifs to differ roman from italic will be problematically for it's not in greek tradition. Maybe for italic in serif fonts models like Gazis or Goschen or Monotype Greek 91 could be used (not the straight way but as a possible approach). Those sans serif which in Latin are slanted (not true italic) could be treated in Greek the same way. But the situation becomes harder for sans serifs that have true italics in Latin, it would be logical for greek letter forms to differ in roman and italic too, but I can't remember any example of this approach.

quadibloc's picture

This is calligraphy rather than typography, but it shows that another category of typeface seen in the Latin alphabet is possible for Greek:

http://www.comicbookbrain.com/large-mickey-mouse-greek-language-1977.php

In many languages other than English, word balloons for comics are typically typeset rather than hand-lettered (of course, this is also possible in English; witness Dave Berg).

Tatiana Marza's picture

Now I got totally confused.

What is the distinction between entry/exit strokes and serifs?

@Chris,
earlier you wrote There is no serif in Greek lower case.
What do you mean? I was left with the impression that there are no sans-serif letters in Greek, only serif or semi-serif, 'side effects' of internal cursive construction.

In the first part of this thread I attached an image of sans serif cross script font (Whitney), where it seems to me that even in designing a sans serif Greek font, it can not be a 'clean' sans serif. You would characterize these typographic elements having exit stokes or/and curved stems?

@John

Thank you for the tips and the corrections.

Traditionally, there are no serifs -- i.e. constructed stem terminals -- in the Greek lowercase, only entry and exit strokes.
And, when you mention curved stems and styles with straight stems, you mean that there are stems with exit stoke???

__________

In Greece we are used to this kind of style writing for comics:

"Ungrateful! I gave you the best years of my life!..."
"So what, you want a receipt now?"

[note the latinized 's' of vertical ' Αρκάς' :)]

dezcom's picture

The serif came out of Latin inscription and lettering (see Catich http://www.amazon.com/The-Origin-Serif-Writing-Letters/dp/0962974013 )
Greek lowercase writing came from the writing hand and the tools of the scribes of the time. When writing with pen or brush, our first mark point is the entry stroke. As getting the pen started was not always totally predictable, a scribe might begin his first stroke with what began as a test stroke to get ink flowing. This later became visible as a tiny blob or stroke upon entering the glyph. Seeing these strokes as normal, later scribes continued and emulated what had come before them. People of my age (who have begun their writing learning with a pen dipped in ink) will find this natural and expected. At your young age, I doubt if you have experienced this unless you have studied calligraphy. The exit stroke is the final mark at the lift of the pen and often tails towards the next glyph to be written. This too is quite normal. The serif, on the other hand, was a more purposive shape that was done in addition. True, uppercase Greek often contains serifs due to influence of the Romans who were the rulers of the era. When the Ottomans invaded Greece and many other territories around the Byzantine time period, the amount of control and influence that the Romans had diminished. The Romans were busy with their own fall. In the years that followed, the european countries not under the Ottomans proceeded to develop the Latin lowerecase of several styles and then the great era of printing began to flourish. During this time, Greece was somewhat isolated from this experience. The Greek lowercase grew out of the Byzantine writing and was later influenced buy the Turks. Not so much as the Turks forced any form on the Greeks as just that the Turks prevented much interaction between the Greeks and other Europeans. Four hundred years went by with limited European influence and the Greek script continued to be on its own. The Entrance and exit strokes became more prominent with faster writing and soon took their place as the expected construction of each glyphs that we have today. After 1821, the Greeks began their reunification with the rest of Europe. At this point, printing was quite sophisticated but the Greeks were 400 years behind and caught up with the great help of their brother european countries. This help also brought Latin script back as an influence.

Tatiana Marza's picture

At your young age, I doubt if you have experienced this unless you have studied calligraphy.
It seems that I got lucky again. In early 90's we still were using ink pens for writing at school and only close to 2000, bic pen had its prominent influence. You see, not only Greece was behind...:) These situations created favorable circumstances, for me ;)
I understand perfectly your long historic explanation of evolution of greek letter. But, today, while designing a greek alphabet, how can I make a difference of an entry/exit stroke and serif line?

Nick Shinn's picture

What is this assumption that readers have expectations for old-fashioned type? That they will be shocked by anything deviating from what was good enough for their great-grandfather and find it hard to read? Is there research to support this wishful thinking? Why are Greeks more susceptible to this condition than those who use the Latin script?

Certainly, a multi-national corporation bundling millions of fonts into cultures around the world will today be politically correct and play it safe and conservative in whatever script, including Latin.

But there is no reason why independent type designers shouldn’t be progressive. If Greek art directors and designers want to buy licences for Latinized typefaces and confound their readers’s expectations, why shouldn’t they? If the types are as dysfunctional as the naysayers would have it, the market will make the appropriate correction.

For at least 80 years, designers and readers in Latin, Greek and Cyrillic cultures have been familiar with sans serif types — that is, without serifs, and also without exit and entry strokes.

Tatiana, ask Panos Vassiliou about Parchute’s Centro. It is an award-winning and successful typeface, designed and published in Greece, with a heavily Latinized construction in both serif and sans versions. It has been described as “almost invisible”.

dezcom's picture

Tatiana,
Whatever you call those bits at the beginning and end of a stroke does not matter as much as what they look like. Do you know Catich's book I sited above? If not, it would be a valuable read for you.
http://www.amazon.com/The-Origin-Serif-Writing-Letters/dp/0962974013
Look at the forms of the roman serif and see how they differ from Greek. There is a visual difference which you can study and see.
Look at your sans serif example of Greek above at the tails of the final strokes above in your example. This is a sans serif form but it includes the hooked tail because that is part of what makes it read as Greek. I would be the last person on earth to suggest that you must follow literally the scribal works of past Byzantine writers. You can picture what now remains as a feature of the letterform abstracted from the 14th century manuscripts that still is part of what is needed to read as Greek. The true test is in the eyes of a Greek reader. Do they read it as Greek without hesitation or discomfort? If yes, then it is fine. This leaves a huge degree of variation. As always in type design, the eye is the final arbiter.

John Hudson's picture

Nick: What is this assumption that readers have expectations for old-fashioned type?

I never said anything about old-fashioned type.

But there is no reason why independent type designers shouldn’t be progressive.

And likewise no reason why they shouldn't be as conservative as they are inclined? I'm fully of the opinion that people should do what interests them most or, in the words of my hero David Jones, 'We should work within the limits of our love'. What I have objected to in the culture of Latinisation, particularly as it played out in the history of Greek type, is the association of such trends with 'progress', 'westernisation', 'modernisation' etc., as if these things were only approachable through aping characteristics of another writing system. As for my own approach, when I started introducing traditional letter construction into Greek companions to sans serif Latin types, this was very much against the norm that had been established in the 1970s and '80s and which was prevalent in Greek typography. Of course, we're both Canadians, so the concept of progressive conservative isn't contradictory to us.

John Hudson's picture

Tatiana, I think Chris has done an admirable job explaining the distinction between serifs and entry/exit strokes. There is a relationship between the two, confused by a tendency in English to call certain kinds of entry and exit strokes in Latin script, especially italics, 'serifs', but I find the distinction useful. Nick has made the reasonable objection that the entry and exit strokes can be interpreted as part of the stem, not as a separate stroke. So perhaps instead of talking about entry and exit strokes we should talk about 'stroke entries' and 'stroke exits', i.e. as something that happens at the beginning or end of a stroke other than a hard start or hard stop.

5star's picture

This thread is epic! I've learnt tons about Greek typography.

Tatiana Marza's picture

John,
Reading over and over the thread's comments I assume that by stating that there are no serifs in Greek lower case (compared to the Latin alphabet), typophiles mean that there are only 'stroke entries' and 'stroke exits' !?

______

Chris,
I do not have Catich's book, but definetely will buy it. Thank you for the advice! :)

quadibloc's picture

@Nick Shinn:
What is this assumption that readers have expectations for old-fashioned type? .... Why are Greeks more susceptible to this condition than those who use the Latin script?

I would have thought this does apply to Latin script users, and, thus, I tend to think that a good text typeface for them should look a lot like Century Expanded, or Baskerville, or Garamond.

Or Caslon or Times Roman.

John Hudson's picture

Reading over and over the thread's comments I assume that by stating that there are no serifs in Greek lower case (compared to the Latin alphabet), typophiles mean that there are only 'stroke entries' and 'stroke exits' !?

Yes, that, at least, would be my description of the construction (ductus) of Greek minuscules. Part of the confusion of this topic, I think, comes from the binary categorisation of Latin types as either 'serif' or 'sans serif', which fails to provide for other kinds of stem termination (flares, tapers, entries, exits) and ignores other characteristics that would suggest different categorisation (for example, I consider a low contrast slab serif to have more in common with a low contrast sans serif than with traditional serif text types). I don't think this binary categorisation serves Latin typography very well -- certainly not as well as its universality would suggest --, but then it gets applied to all other writing systems to try to label what are, in fact, entirely different kinds of letter construction, more often, in fact, distinguished by stroke modulation (so one sees low contrast Arabic types being non-sensically described as 'sans serif').

I think it makes most sense to limit the use of the term serif to a particular kind of formal stem termination. This typically involves an interrupted construction of some kind, i.e. the lifting and repositioning of the pen or brush, or a reversal whose intention is to create this visual detail rather than to carry forward the shaping of the letter. From this it follows, contra much common usage, that many 'serif' italic types do not in fact have serifs in the lowercase; they have stroke entries and exits instead:

Now, this leads to an interesting question. In the example below, following my argument, it is clear that 'A' is a stroke exit, not a serif. But what is 'B'?

If we say it is a serif, on what basis? I think it has to come down to the sharpness of the transition to the stem, the fact that there is a definite corner there, and this is what marks the difference between the serif (formal, interrupted construction (in this case with a pause and direction change rather than a lift) and the stroke entry (cursive, flowing into the stem).

Nick Shinn's picture

John (Quadibloc), Readers expectations apparently diverge considerably between Latin and Greek for sans serif. Latin sans serifs are not expected to follow the old humanist or classicist letter forms, but may be geometric and minimalist -- most obviously in the single storey "g". The convention among corporate Western-designed Greek sans faces however follows the old serif model, retaining entry strokes or whatever one calls them as if they are fundamental parts of the letter shapes.

John Hudson's picture

Nick: Latin sans serifs are not expected to follow the old humanist or classicist letter forms, but may be geometric and minimalist...

Yes, they may. And that constitutes a particular style or category of sans serif design. There are also, of course, sans serif styles and categories that do follow humanist or other traditional letter construction. And these have been particularly popular in the past couple of decades, roughly contemporary with the new tendency in Greek type design to favour a parallel approach. With regard to the 'corporate Western-designed Greek sans faces' to which you refer, these have tended to be produced alongside or as companions to Latin designs that are also not geometric or minimalist. In fact, geometric sans serifs constitute a minority category vs the much larger 'humanist' and 'grotesk' categories: they're not very common in Latin typography, and even if they were it doesn't follow that a particular stylistic approach that works in the context of one script is applicable to all scripts. It happens that a design like Futura works for the Latin minuscule (although I consider the classically proportioned caps by far the most successful part of the design), but although the same principles can be applied to other scripts, the results may simply be awkward and disjointed.

Part of our disagreement may result from a different analytical approach. You cite the 'the single storey "g"' as an obvious example of the way in which Latin sans serif types 'may be geometric and minimalist'. I see it simply as the adoption of a variant letter construction from a different historical style. To me, the parallel is this:

i.e. a shape derived from the formal style and a shape derived from the cursive style. The fact that, in the Greek, it is the formal shape that is more geometric and minimalist, and the cursive more visually complex, illustrates where I think your analysis relies too much on superficialities.

Nick Shinn's picture

I was addressing the issue of meeting readers’ expectations.
In Latin script, readers were accustomed to the /g on the left, but adapted to a simpler form, taken from the italic. This occurred first with Futura et al in the 1930s, and was solidified with Univers and Helvetica in the 1960s. (Although the form was first used in a German sans, mid 19th century.)

In fact, geometric sans serifs constitute a minority category vs the much larger 'humanist' and 'grotesk' categories: they're not very common in Latin typography…

Except for Gotham and Proxima Nova!

Here is another example of the way in which the complex Antiqua letter form has been stripped down in the Latin sans serif, with the “exit stroke” removed (Caslon/Univers):

Tatiana Marza's picture

@Nick
Readers expectations apparently diverge considerably between Latin and Greek for sans serif.

What about the expectations of type designers? :)

Latin sans serifs are not expected to follow the old humanist or classicist letter forms...
Maybe this is the true 'virtue' of Latin letterforms? They can take different forms and still remain very Latin. But if the Greek 'stroke entries/exits' are completely cut, as if they are fundamental parts of letter shapes, then the letters will cease to be Greek... ending up to be 'converted' to Latinization ....

Nick, why do you feel guilty about Latinization?

John Hudson's picture

Although the form was first used in a German sans, mid 19th century.

In which context it is presumably borrowed from the textura blackletter construction, which seems a more direct path than from the italic.

Nick Shinn's picture

What about the expectations of type designers? :)

…and art directors and other typographers.

…why do you feel guilty about Latinization?

It’s a figure of speech, indicating that others may consider what I’ve done to be Latinization.
It’s like saying, “What I am about to say will differ from your views (and shame on you for being so judgemental!), but…”

But if the Greek 'stroke entries/exits' are completely cut, as if they are fundamental parts of letter shapes, then the letters will cease to be Greek... ending up to be 'converted' to Latinization ....

That is the crux of the matter. But if the issue is framed in such academic, analytical terms, rather than saying it is up to Greeks to decide what their types should look like, then I hold that the entry strokes are superficial to the basic letter shapes. If that were not so, Greeks would not be able to read, or at the very least would shy away from, typefaces such as Olympia, DIN, and Centro. But that is not the case.

quadibloc's picture

@Nick Shinn:
The convention among corporate Western-designed Greek sans faces however follows the old serif model, retaining entry strokes or whatever one calls them as if they are fundamental parts of the letter shapes.

I blame that on the type designers not being native speakers of Greek. As Hrant Papazian has noted, to do well when being innovative instead of conservative, one has to have a comprehensive sense of the expectations of the users of a given script, which sense usually comes along with it being one's script of daily use for one's mother tongue.

John Hudson's picture

At this stage in the conversation, I don't even know what the terms 'innovative' and 'conservative' even mean any more.

Tatiana Marza's picture

[edited]
Nick,
I suppose different opinions are intrinsic to the liveliness and usefulness of a forum:) And you've come up with an interesting point.
On one hand* we have the question of readability, legibility : are latinized greek letters INDEED impeding the functionality of type? (having in mind display typefaces for magazines, or packages and typefaces for newspapers, books).
On the other hand (I will quote John Hudson), we have the question of "what constitutes the letter shape and what constitutes an optional feature? - [...] one of the things that enables the development of new styles." **

*of course, we should include the aesthetic factor
** John(H), this could answer your question about innovation

@John(Q)
one has to have a comprehensive sense of the expectations of the users of a given script
Do you have any ideas how we could learn about Greek readers expectations ?
What crosses my mind is that they could tell their opinion only through comparison, showing them different fonts and letting them choose

@John(H)
innovative - I guess being able to introduce new ideas in type, with a balance between what Greek society is used to and with a touch of the inner world of type designers. Maybe like Sholderer...His font was innovative at that time (at least for me).
And conservative... I would list all punch cutters who couldn't get away from ligatures for so many centuries. So, relying on the same script model and introducing minor changes, but with 'almost' same final aesthetic result, would be conservative to me.

BTW, John, your 'microscopic' investigation of letter's anatomy is remarkably interesting. I hope someone can follow your thoughts and add some comments.
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Since we clarified that there are no serifs in Greek typography, it means that Greek alphabet has only one style, with cursive internal construction, and his own rules. That would suggest that the 'battle' to implement same latin rules to Greek script is simply not good enough, let's say? And here comes innovation: finding new rules for the functionality and the 'behaviour' of Greek script. That would give you, type designers, quite a good amount of work and experimentation:)
I think someone suggested (on this thread) to redesign Greek uppercase letters, according to the lowercase shapes. It's a radical suggestion and Greek society wouldn't accept it, but through experimentation one could come up with new ideas.

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We might get lucky to have Panos Vassiliou in our discussion:) He said he might jump in...

dezcom's picture

> finding new rules for the functionality and the 'behaviour' of Greek script.<

I get a bit nervous about setting up rules. I would feel better if we would just say that if it walks like a duck. I mean, let whomsoever design type as they see fit without a firm set of rules. Then let the users determine if it suits them. That is not to say we would always ignore any past example, it would just mean that we would be free to try whatever before we assume it is not a good choice.

John Hudson's picture

Tatiana: I guess being able to introduce new ideas in type, with a balance between what Greek society is used to and with a touch of the inner world of type designers. Maybe like Sholderer...His font was innovative at that time

It was, and this is an important point: there is a distinction between a kind of absolute innovation -- truly novel shapes, of a kind that occur only rarely in typography -- and what is innovative for a particular time. Scholderer, it should be remembered, was not a professional type designer: he was an incunabulist (scholar of early European printing) and bibliographer. His New Hellenic type design was a deliberate attempt to revive a neglected branch of early Greek 15th Century typography: based on the rounder, more upright Byzantine hand, and without ligatures. [Robert Proctor's Otter Greek had been an earlier, less successful effort in the same direction.]

So while, in the context of Greek type at that time (1920s), Scholderer's design is clearly innovative, it is also an historical revival, undertaken by a man whose professional life was entirely focused on the distant past, not on contemporary graphic design or typography. This is why I find the contrast of innovative and conservative artificial and unhelpful. While not in the same class as New Hellenic, I would argue that my Helvetica World Greek was innovative, at its time, in the context of fashions in Greek type design; indeed, it caused something of a scandal by breaking the accepted mould of numerous other Greek 'Helveticas', precisely by introducing those features of letters that Nick now describes as conservative.
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There is a 2006 discussion regarding Scholderer's New Hellenic (with some discussion of Latinisation, which I hope I refuted) here:
http://typophile.com/node/19265
In that thread I posted images of a number of incunabula types on which Scholderer drew for his revival. Seven years on, I don't even remember writing all that stuff, but am pleased to see that I don't disagree with it now.

PS. That 2006 thread is also a classic example of why Nick and Hrant should be discouraged from being in the same room. Don't bother reading to the end of the thread.

John Hudson's picture

Chris: I mean, let whomsoever design type as they see fit without a firm set of rules. Then let the users determine if it suits them.

Yes, but also acknowledging that type is a cultural product, which means that it is something about which it is good and right to have opinions and to engage in argument. There is sometimes a tendency to suggest that users -- or 'the market' -- will decide, as if the community of users were not made up of culturally aligned groupings, asserting influence or struggling in their ways with opinion and argument (not to mention subject to advertising and a host of other pressures). I think this is not, perhaps, what you meant, Chris, but I think it is important to say this: rejecting a fixed set of rules, a 'correct' way to design Greek types, does not mean that the arguments about approaches and results are pointless.

dezcom's picture

> rejecting a fixed set of rules, a 'correct' way to design Greek types, does not mean that the arguments about approaches and results are pointless.<

Yes, the wind will driveth away much of the chaff but some may linger long enough for someone else to see a leap from that point to a better one. I would just say let them be part of the conversation and not excluded out of hand by a given tablet of rules.
"The Market" is a very narrow beam that is only visible through the eyes of commerce. There are other forces at work including the complexities of scholarly debate and simple happenstance things like convenience. I am just saying let them each play their role. Whatever one choses to think of Latinized Greek typography, it certainly had a purpose even if we don't care for it.
People have always debated and argued, god knows the Greeks certainly have. There will be a debate whatever we say, so be it.

Nick Shinn's picture

I would argue that my Helvetica World Greek was innovative, at its time, in the context of fashions in Greek type design; indeed, it caused something of a scandal by breaking the accepted mould of numerous other Greek 'Helveticas', precisely by introducing those features of letters that Nick now describes as conservative.

Yes, anything which contradicts the status quo may be seen as an innovation.
But Helvetica is a recent event in the time scale of your argument for historical forms, which must surely be seen as conservative and traditional.

…why Nick and Hrant should be discouraged from being in the same room.

That too is history.

hrant's picture

John: Even if it weren't history that wasn't a nice thing to say (and actually not like you). But nobody's perfect, so it's no biggie. I do wish though that you weren't so embarrassed of agreeing with me (in public) on anything. The people who would hold that against you aren't worth honoring.

As you were.

hhp

John Hudson's picture

Hrant: Even if it weren't history that wasn't a nice thing to say

I'm not entirely sure to what you refer, but the latter stages of that thread about Neo Hellenic are a bizarre, off-topic and extremely nasty exchange between you, Nick, and someone else. I didn't blame you, or either of the others, but simply advised anyone interested in following the discussion about Neo Hellenic not to bother reading all the way to the end of the thread. If it no longer pertains that you and Nick should be kept separate, I apologise for not keeping up with where the hatchets are buried. :)

hrant's picture

1) I was referring to the bit about not being in the same room. In fact in this very thread Nick has said a number of things I strongly agree with.
2) There's useful info in that thread all the way to the end (which is typical of any thread no matter how nasty things get). Having the spine to read through unpleasantness (not even bypassing it) is often rewarding (in fact it can even be its own reward).

That said my own hatchet remains firmly on hand. As does my shield.

hhp

John Hudson's picture

Perhaps we can take a couple of more practical runs at the topic of Greek type design?

1. Notwithstanding the variety of letterforms in the Latin script tradition, the binary categorisation of serif and sans serif is predicated on the identification of certain design features as optional and superfluous to the essential letter shape. This enables us to produce skeletal representations of those essential shapes, which while not necessarily interesting or particularly useful as designs serve as a kind of diagram of the letter.

Can this be done for Greek? And what would the results look like? What parts of the letters are to be considered optional and superfluous, and which are to be considered essential.

My suspicion is that, when this is attempted, there will remain considerably more variation in the notion of essential letter shape than there is in Latin script. But I would be interested to see, for instance, where Nick makes the cuts.

2. One of the few things on which we seem to all agree is that the internal cursive construction of the Greek minuscule makes it challenging to distinguish italic styles from upright except through slant. This is a practical design problem, and seems to me something that we might usefully focus on, with illustrations of a variety of approaches. Interest?

John Hudson's picture

Hrant, fair enough. I was depressed by the bitterness of much of that dip into the past.

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