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.

Nick Shinn's picture

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.

I disagree, it’s quite straightforward. The problem is that the historical Greek plain style is slanted and cursive, whereas the default for Latin and Cyrillic is upright and quite removed from its calligraphic origins. There are two options for creating a binary upright vs italic (slanted) system of sufficient contrast from this historical Greek lower case:

1) For the default, backslant it to upright, retaining its cursive, mixed-angle-of-stress construction, and make a sloped italic which has a uniform angle of stress.

2) Retain the historical Greek forms relatively intact as the italic, and make the roman upright and with a consistent angle of stress, more like Latin. This respects the evolutionary origins of the Roman vs. Italic system, and preserves the archetypal Greek lower case in the italic. It’s the method I’ve implemented in the three faces I’ve designed Greek for.

John Hudson's picture

Nick: I disagree, it’s quite straightforward. The problem...

You say it is straightforward, and then immediately acknowledge that there is a problem. This is what I say we agree on: that there is a problem -- or challenge, as I put it -- arising from the inherited nature of the Greek minuscule letters. You may think the solutions are straightforward, but that seems to me not the same thing as disagreeing that there is a challenge or problem to be solved.

Re. your option 2, earlier you showed two examples of this approach in your work. What is the third?

Re. your option 1, I think it is blasé to characterise this as straightforward. It is in the context of this approach that the underlying challenge/problem presents itself acutely, where the distinction between upright and italic styles might end up reduced to one of slant. What other distinctions might be introduced, within the confines of this basic approach (retaining traditional construction)? Systematic use of variant letterforms for beta, theta, etc., as in the ClearType fonts, is one option, although not favoured by some users. What about systematic variation of stroke modulation (consider, for example, the conventional pairing of the Didot style upright with the Leipzig italic, so common in Greek publishing)? Roundness vs. angularity, broadness vs compression (as in Brill)?

dezcom's picture

"Roundness vs. angularity," seems quite plausible.

Nick Shinn's picture

The answer to creating a Greek roman/italic duality was self evident, at least to me.
Of the two options I described, the second was clearly right and the other wrong.

That’s why I didn’t think the problem was a conceptual challenge, although the nuances of many of the glyphs were hard to draw.

Making the Roman upright stiff and formal, and the Italic cursive, calligraphic and slanted has worked well for the Latin script, so why not apply this principle to Greek?

It seems weird to merely backslant the historic Greek forms, retaining their traditional calligraphic ductus, if one wants to create a Roman/Italic system that will harmonize with Latin, which, let’s face it, is the dominant style internationally.

More significantly, when Manutio introduced italics, they were stand alone—but when they became used in conjunction with Roman, Roman prevailed as the main style. That was no accident, nor culture-specific; the formality of the roman style, and its symmetry, resonate with the geometry of the rectangle and the grid, which are the basic structure of the mechanical typographic page. Technology-specific, perhaps.

Are there other solutions to this problem? Of course, but I haven’t noticed, so please show and explain if you know of any!)

Centro Serif, by Panos Vassiliou, takes this idea further than I have, with for instance, many serifs on the roman, and a Roman nu with no descender, whereas the italic has fewer serifs and Italic nu does have a descender.

The three typefaces I’ve designed Greek for are Scotch Modern, Richler and Figgins (not shown), which, as a grotesque, has a similar italic to its roman, so doesn’t follow this principle.

ilyaz's picture

I'm afraid I intervene with trivialities: Italic is used for emphasis when the default is the roman. Roman is used for emphasis when the default is italic.

In many contexts, the keyword is “contrast”, not “informality”. So keeping the Greek default as it is, and using the contrasting latinized version as a replacement for italic would do. So I’m confused what are you discussing: the way to introduce a degree of informality into Greek?

Nick Shinn's picture

Roman is used for emphasis when the default is italic.

That is so rarely the case.
The italic is unsuited to be the default.

So keeping the Greek default as it is, and using the contrasting latinized version as a replacement for italic would do

That was the “wrong” half (1) of my solution.
The italic is unsuited to be the default, because pages and text boxes are rectangular, not parallelograms.
And houses and walls are posters and signs are usually rectilinear.
The uprightness and vertical axis of the roman harmonize with the construction of text documents.

Tatiana Marza's picture

Ilya,
I think your 'trivial' interference clarifies exactly what we are discussing now:)
The usage of roman and italic is to emphasize something specific in a context. And, yes, the key word should be "contrast". Personally, I find slant to have a diminutive impact on contrast and sometimes 'broadness vs compression (as in Brill)' is uncanny, but if used for a text which would suit these features (broadness + compression), this style may serve the purpose, with a rewarding result.

@Nick
Making the Roman upright stiff and formal, and the Italic cursive, calligraphic and slanted has worked well for the Latin script, so why not apply this principle to Greek?
Because there is no big difference in this case between upright and italic Greek.
As Andreas stated earlier, it is more demanding (vs to Latin script) to differentiate upright and italic Greek styles, because of the internal cursive construction.

Nick, why you consider your first approach wrong?

Centro Serif (Panos Vassiliou)

Regal Text Pro (Panos Vassiliou)

quadibloc's picture

@Tatiana:
Do you have any ideas how we could learn about Greek readers expectations ?

For the purpose of coming up with original and creative efforts in Greek typeface design, one would have to have such a comprehensive understanding that asking Greeks a limited number of questions would not suffice, even if the questions were subtle.

That's why I would leave that field largely to Greek type designers and to those who have made an extensive study of Greek typefaces and script hands.

But that doesn't mean I am hostile to efforts by outsiders, since a fresh perspective can be helpful too - merely that outsiders can be forgiven for "playing it safe".

I was the one who suggested that, since attempting thoroughly Latinized versions of Greek lowercase has in the past resulted in only ludicrous failures (I wonder why, since one could clearly use Cyrillic as a model, and produce something that wouldn't look stupid to a Latin alphabet user, even if no Greek had a use for it - so even if failure is certain, it doesn't have to be ludicrous) maybe the upper-case and lower-case could be harmonized to the level that Latin alphabet users think appropriate by modifying the upper-case instead.

Tatiana Marza's picture

P.S.
1. which is the smallest size required for a picture to be uploaded?
2. how can I make them smaller? They take too much space!

Tatiana Marza's picture

I found the first example odd. Its cluttered, although the distinction between roman and italic is not the slant factor. I have the impression that the person who wrote this passage compressed the italics too much. And maybe more vertical space between lines would improve the reading.

And here we have a great sample of mixed script. Also, seems cluttered to me.

ilyaz's picture

> > Roman is used for emphasis when the default is italic.
> That is so rarely the case.

I'm not absolutely sure what “that” signifies in this sentence. What I meant was: in many styles of (La)TeX, when emphasize(THIS) command is encountered inside the roman run of text, THIS is set in italic. But if it is encountered inside an italic run of text, THIS is set in roman.

> The italic is unsuited to be the default.

I thought that the whole point of this discussion is that in Greek, italic is the default…

Tatiana Marza's picture

Again, back to terminology.

I understand that there is no universal acceptance for describing the parts of a letter, but do you agree with the following descriptions?
If I understood correct, a stem is the upright element of a letter. Also can be described as the main vertical stroke of the character.
A stem termination would be a stroke, but again, only for upright letters. Because, as John (H) stated, italics do not have serifs, only stroke entries and exits.
Stroke, is characterised as a straight or curved line in a letter.
Could we assume that a stroke can't be a stem (only if its a straight line), since its width may vary along the line's length, like in the case of "ν" (right part of letter)?

For letter "η", what represents the yellow part? Is it a stroke?
And, I suppose, the point B of John's 'n' would be a stroke entry.

Albert Jan Pool's picture

To me, a stem is a straight stroke.

hrant's picture

How straight? :-)

hhp

----

Today, learn about the Armenian Genocide.

Albert Jan Pool's picture

Well, rather straight, I’d say :–)

Nick Shinn's picture

@Tatiana: Because there is no big difference in this case between upright and italic Greek.

@Ilya: I thought that the whole point of this discussion is that in Greek, italic is the default…

In the 19th century, Greek type had upright roman capitals matched with an italic (slanted, cursive) lower case. That’s all. It was an archaïc pairing, identical to that of the first Latin italics of Manutio.

Monotype’s Greek 90 & 91 implemented a pseudo-Latin two-style typeface by splitting the old Greek upper and lower cases, combining a backslanted version of the lower case with the capitals to become the “Roman” (Greek 90), and combining an ITALICIZED version of the capitals to the lower case to become the “Italic” (Greek 91). This design was so well liked it became known as the ἁπλά, or plain style.

So no, there is no big difference between upright and italic Greek, if one takes the ἁπλά to be the default or norm. However, I contend that the ἁπλά, despite its many virtues at the time and since, was a half-assed compromise, an expedient compromise that shirked the responsibility of designing an upright style that was truly functional, in terms of being one half of a Roman-Italic system, by merely straightening up the italic.

Ilya, certainly there is a mirrored symmetry to the use of Roman and Italic as the contrast face for each other, but the point I am making is that Roman, with a vertical axis, is better suited to the rectangular quality of typographic layout.

Tatiana, that is why I consider the first approach (cursive as default, upright as emphasis) wrong.

Nick Shinn's picture

…a stem is the upright element of a letter. Also can be described as the main vertical stroke of the character.

Bad news for “S”, which by such logic would have no stem.

panos vassiliou's picture

Hi there,
I apologize if I break the flow of discussion, but I promised Tatiana to make a comment.

From my part I disagree with the term 'Latinization', it sounds so colonial. I tend to agree more with the term 'harmonization' or formalization'.

Greek letters can be as much upright or italic as Latin.

If Latin was formalized over the years into an upright typographic model, why can't this be done with Greek. After all, they are related scripts. Let's not forget that Latin has Greek origins, so please view this an an inevitable 'progress' which was meant to begin happening.

Some may argue about the inherited nature of the Greek letters as an obstacle to this end. I disagree. You just have to be aware of the challenges facing Greek type design before you start feeling confident you are doing the right thing. In that respect greek letters can also be as serif as latin provided you know how to properly design the letter shapes so that they do not seem strange sitting next to each other. By making the right design corrections, you can make Greek text look less or more stiff depending on how stiff Latin is. I totally agree with Nick Shinn's comment "…I try to strike a balance between maintaining the conventional Greek letter forms, and respecting the thematic characteristics of the typeface".
If 2 scripts are to belong in the same family they have to share common characteristics, otherwise you might as well call them by different names and place them in different families. Eric Gill's reasoning was right when he attempted to design Perpetua Greek with common characteristics to its Latin counterpart, but unfortunately it was badly executed.

One of the Greek typefaces which became predominant until late 20th century was designed by Didot. This typeface was reminiscent of Latin italics. It appeared from time to time with different names and slight variations. In the 60s one of its variations became Times Greek. In the late 80s the market became more demanding. Designers started challenging old designs, they wanted to try fresh ideas, there was a need to mix languages. All of a sudden the existing Times Greek was not satisfactory. This typeface's Latin and Greek looked like they belonged to a different family. It completely undermined the term font family. (see blue vs red).

Ever since, the major concern for some of us, who for reasons of proximity, understand and live the language, has been to match the visual appearance of Greek with other scripts by respecting the tradition and the values it represents, without losing their own distinct characteristics.
For instance, Centro Serif http://www.parachute.gr/typefaces/allfonts/centro-serif-pro retains its upright form in Greek whilst it incorporates its cursive form in the italic version.


Same with Regal Text http://www.parachute.gr/typefaces/allfonts/regal-text-pro which is harmonized across scripts such as Latin, Greek and Cyrillic. Here is a rather interesting pdf on the whole Regal series design details and inspiration http://www.parachute.gr/sites/default/files/8000_RegalPro.pdf

My argument is this: If part of our world is 'harmonized' as this translates for instance into buildings of similar shape and form across different countries, or similar/same products we use around the world, doesn't this has an impact on typography? Doesn't this arise a need for 'harmonized' letterforms across latin, arabic, greek, or other scripts?

If the trend is towards square-like letterforms, why would anyone expect the shape of greek letters go the opposite direction i.e. having a mostly round shape with slightly handwritten nature?

This subject cannot be addressed strictly academically. You have to 'live' the language, you have to know how native Greeks use it and what they expect to see. You have to know what the market wants. Ad agencies, branding agencies, design studios, magazines, newspapers, TV stations, road signs. How and what Greek types they really use or expect to use.

Four main issues are of concern when designing Greek letters:
1. In total, Greek lowercase characters have more round parts than Latin ones, as well as there being a much higher frequency of round characters within a sentence. In this respect the greatest challenge is to design the Greek characters in a way that the difference in appearance is not disturbing. It’s a trade-off between the round and square parts of the characters
2. Large number of letters with descenders. There is a total of 10 Greek letters with descenders compared with a total of 5 for Latin. This automatically makes Latin easier to read.
3. Challenging Greek characters. Letters such as ζ, ς, λ, ξ, η, χ, δ can be designed in a few different ways which in turn can make your design, look modern, traditional, friendly, etc. Some shapes may also be used as alternate forms to emphasize the content.
4. The shape of α (alpha) is also very important as its frequent appearance may affect the greek text's tone of grey as compared to latin text.

Thank you

John Hudson's picture

Panos, thanks for jumping in. While I can understand that you would want to avoid the term Latinisation because it sounds colonialist, I wonder if this simply masks colonialism if harmonisation means, as your comments and illustrations indicate, harmonisation of Greek to Latin? There doesn't seem any evidence of the opposite, or of a kind of balanced polyphony: Latin typography is taken as the norm, and other scripts are adapted to it.

Harmony is a complex phenomenon, and very different from singing in unison (una voce). I think we probably agree to a large extent on the desirability of harmony, but differ in our appreciation of how harmony is achieved. All type design is about making things that are inherently and necessarily different in some ways the same, so that they work well together. My own approach to such harmonisation is quite flexible: I don't think there is a generally 'correct' way to do it, only a way that is correct in a particular context. In that regard, we deal with different sets of contexts, and you as a Greek designer in Greece probably have more freedom to introduce Latinised features than I do. If you get accused of Latinisation, you can make the case for it within the context of your market, as you have done here; if I get accused of Latinisation, that's colonialism. :)

_____

The Latin uppercase letters have their origin in the Greek alphabet, but the lowercase of the two scripts evolved independently of each other. So I don't think it is helpful to cite an historical relationship of the two scripts to suggest that what happens in one is inevitable in the other. Nor is it accurate to say that 'Latin was formalized over the years into an upright typographic model': that model was there at the beginning, in the formal humanist manuscript hand. It didn't need to be formalised over the years: it was just adopted from one medium into another, alongside of the informal, cursive secretary hand that is the Latin italic. So to apply these categories to other scripts is to apply a specific accident of 15th Century Italian text culture. Now, if one were seeking to make a distinction between upright, formal style and slanted, informal style in Greek type, one could look at the distinction that existed in the 15th Century, between the Complutensian and Aldine styles, and therein find a more obvious parallel and 'inevitable progress'. Except, it clearly wasn't inevitable, because unlike the Latin parallel these two kinds of Greek were not adopted as contrasting typographic articulators. This strikes me as unfortunate, both because it means that, until the 19th Century, Greek typography was limited in its ability to articulate texts, and because it means that an organic evolution of contrasting styles independent of Latinisation didn't happened.

_____

Thank you for the illustrations of the Centro regular and italic, which I think are very interesting. What strikes me most -- and this is true when I look at Nick's designs too -- is that the Latin and Greek italics are much more harmonious than the Latin and Greek uprights. The italics have a very similar textural impact, which the uprights don't manage so well, despite sharing a lot of details and common shapes.

_____

2. Large number of letters with descenders. There is a total of 10 Greek letters with descenders compared with a total of 5 for Latin. This automatically makes Latin easier to read.

It does? So you are saying that fewer descenders and more uniformity in height makes a script automatically easier to read? So a script with no descenders at all would be easier to read than one with, say, five? Do you have any evidence to support this assertion?

Nick Shinn's picture

The italics have a very similar textural impact, which the uprights don't manage so well…

I don’t see it that way, John.
This is better than the historicist method, where the stylistic contrast between Greek upright and Latin upright is so great.

Sorry if I repeat myself, but I don’t think certain ways of writing or designing are essentially “Latin”, just because the West got there first. They all originate in fundamental qualities of writing/printing technology, and the way that humans are likely to respond to them, irrespective of ethnicity.

Are semi-serif fonts in Latin-script faces examples of Hellenization?

eliason's picture

Bad news for “S”, which by such logic would have no stem.

Right, it has a spine instead.

John Hudson's picture

Nick: This is better than the historicist method, where the stylistic contrast between Greek upright and Latin upright is so great.

To clarify: I wasn't talking about approaches or methods, but commenting on the results in particular designs. I'm saying that where stylistic harmony between the two scripts is the design goal, as in Centro, this seems to be consistently achieved more in the italics than in the uprights. Looking at Panos' illustrations, I am reasonably sure that side-by-side pages of Centro Latin and Greek italic text will have a more similar texture and colour than side-by-side upright text.

Nor am I saying that this is necessarily a result of the method of formalising the upright Greek construction along the lines of the Latin. It seems to me that closer harmony could probably be achieved by varying the proportions and spacing of the upright designs to optically compensate for the greater frequency of round counters in the Greek. [Related to this observation: I think many Greek types with broad proportioned letters are too tightly spaced, such that a good balance of internal and interletter white space is not achieved.]

Panos made the comment that he thinks Gill's idea was right, but that Perpetua Greek was badly executed. I guess I'm saying that the idea may have legitimacy, but I've yet to see any example that really pulls it off. Not, of course, a reason to stop trying.

John Hudson's picture

Craig: Right, it has a spine instead.

Yup. Stems, bowls, bars, arches, spines: those are the basic strokes that make up most of the shapes in most writing systems. Add dots, wedges and flicks, and you've pretty much got all non-pictographic writing covered.

Nick Shinn's picture

But could /S be considered to have a stem if it has a straight but angled mid section?

…where stylistic harmony between the two scripts is the design goal, as in Centro, this seems to be consistently achieved more in the italics than in the uprights.

I don’t see that.
Mind you, just seeing alphabets rather then paragraphs is not the best way to judge, owing to letter frrequency.

quadibloc's picture

I see I am mistaken about there not being any fully Latinized Greek typefaces except for the odd attempts by people like Eric Gill. The sample "Gunaika", which looks like Bodoni, has a Greek which is about as Latinized as can be.

Harmonization of Greek to Latin, while it may be useful for certain purposes, isn't a good thing where we're talking about daily use of Greek typography without Greek and Latin texts being present on the same page.

But harmonization of Greek uppercase and Greek lowercase to each other is something that I think might be beneficial to native users of the Greek language - and having a distinct upright and italic form of the script, again, might also be beneficial - and these things seem to require Latinization; at least, making Greek look like Latin seems to be the simplest and most obvious way of achieving those goals.

This doesn't have to be a bad thing. It is likely to be a bad thing, but not certain. It is a bad thing if the typefaces that result are alien to Greeks - and not a bad thing if they are normal and natural - just exploring the design space in directions that Greek typography did not use due to historical accident. It could be that what we outsiders think of as "Greek" is conformance to the Porson model - which is a conscious archaism imposed by foreigners, and an apparently Latinized typeface would be more authentically Greek.

(But even as an outsider, I feel entitled to the opinion that if the Greeks went back to the pre-Porson style of Greek typeface that is closer to the Byzantine model, they would be making a mistake - because that is clearly less legible.)

Seeing the variety of sans-serif typefaces, such as New Hellenic, though, I think that if Latinized Greek isn't quite right, the Greeks are fully capable of coming up with a serif typeface that can do all the tricks the Latin script can, if that's what they want, that will be authentically Greek as well.

John Hudson's picture

It could be that what we outsiders think of as "Greek" is conformance to the Porson model

Porson? It's a singularity, not a model.

quadibloc's picture

@Panos Vasiliou:
Let's not forget that Latin has Greek origins, so please view this an an inevitable 'progress' which was meant to begin happening.

Well, that is a legitimate enough view. Cyrillic has more exclusively Greek origins, yet that hasn't stopped it from being just about like Latin.

However, the uncial letters from which Latin lower-case derives have had no place in Greek history. Or, for that matter, Russian history - and so a number of Cyrillic lower-case letters have 'small capital' style shapes. So I'm not sure how much convergence with Latin is truly inevitable, even if I accept that quite a bit of convergence may turn out to be in the interest of Greek readers.

Andreas Stötzner's picture

The Greek script had its own intermediate uncial period. And the Greek minuscules emerged from that, just like it happened with Latin. Accidental? Inevitable?

Albert Jan Pool's picture

The Greek script had its own intermediate uncial period. And the Greek minuscules emerged from that, just like it happened with Latin.

I have some doubts on the idea of the Latin minuscule evolving from the capitals through the uncial. A few weeks ago I got my hands André Gürtlers brochure ‘Die Entwicklung der lateinischen Schrift’ which he did for the ‘Bildungsverband Schweizerischer Buchdrucker’ in 1969. On some of the pages titled ‘Majuskelkursiv’, I found the ‘Römische Urkundenkursiv’*, namely on page 28, image 32 and on page 39, image 63. The sheets with this script show handwriting with a cursive-like construction as well as ascender- and descender-like forms. They are dated ‘1st century B.C. or 1st century A.C.’ So if no paleographer has come up with more accurate dating of these scripts, they could as well have been written before the Capitalis Rustica. And (therefore) also before the Capitalis Monumentalis reached its formal summit (with both serifs and stroke contrast) on the Trajan column and similar pieces of lettering. If this is true, the development of the latin lowercase alphabet can be seen as in conjunction with the capitals and not as an ‘evolutionary’ process starting with the latin capitals.

Anyone here that can update the information as provided by Gürtler’s brochure?

* The brochure is english / german / french, but I am quoting from my German notes as I do not have the brochure at hand right now.

Albert Jan Pool's picture

Anyway … I think that Panos Vassiliou is right. It is mainly the traditional view (which provides us the current state of readability …) that tells us that a Greek script cannot have a roman counterpart, i.e. letterforms with an interrupted construction. Or a geometric pattern for the lowercase. Or a thick-to-thin contrast related to the broad nib. We have to take in consideration that the readers of the Latin script survived Futura and Bodoni as well as many other minor and major deviations of – let’s say – the Venetian Old Style. I am not telling that these developments should (therefore) be copied to the Greek script, but all of this is likely to happen (if it not already did). At some point these developments will turn out to be successful, beautiful, acceptable and maybe even readable. After all, it took almost 60 years from the first Futura-like geometric sign painters alphabets to Paul Renner’s Futura. Also it took over 60 years before Frutiger took up Johnston’s idea of the humanist sans serif and freed it from its ideosyncrasies in such a way that the principle is now seen as the basis for designing an extremely legible sans serif. And when we look at recent developments, we see that this development will continue and that better results can be achieved. Didot made a crazy, and unusual because dogmatic ‘g’, it was as experimental as Paul Renner’s trials for Futura, but Bodoni got back to Baskerville and did a ‘g’ which is generally accepted.
Although I think that we can hardly beat Garamonds types when it comes to legibility and readability of Latin text, imagine how dull and unexciting Latin typography would be without Bodoni and Futura … and how poor legibility would be at night when our retro-reflective road sign lettering would be set with Garamond, Bodoni or Helvetica.

Also, neither the broad nib, nor geometry are exclusive to the Latin script …

panos vassiliou's picture

John, I'm not suggesting a 'correct' method to do this. We are definitely in a transition period. Albert pointed this out perfectly "…At some point these developments will turn out to be successful, beautiful, acceptable and maybe even readable." I may add that some may even get discarded, who knows.

If I were to look at it strictly from an academic point of view I would never disagree with John's approach, in fact this is how I would have explained things if other factors were not involved as well. You see, I look more into what the market wants, implementing solutions driven by societal forces and current trends. In that respect, the attachment and exposure of the Greek society to the western world (with its services and products) has generated a need for a certain kind of aesthetics which is reflected to typography as well.
People demand design implementations harmonized with those they are exposed to in other western countries.
Currently there are not many segments of the market where you can use typefaces with an old style influence other than those with traditional products.
Take for instance this illustration:


The font selection for this particular B&O product looks out of place (this is not an actual ad). In this case, a Greek would expect a typeface with a clean, well-constructed, modern cut with a more luxurious orientation.

On the other hand, for the following Greek traditional product (borrowed from a previous post), a typeface with an oldstyle look seems like a good choice.

@John: So you are saying that fewer descenders and more uniformity in height makes a script automatically easier to read? So a script with no descenders at all would be easier to read than one with, say, five?

When we read we concentrate mostly on the upper part of the letters. Descenders somehow distract fast reading, so in that sense having more descenders reading gets slower. I'm not suggesting eliminating descenders but rather minimizing to the same level as latin, if that is permitted by the design characteristics of the typeface.
For instance, η (eta) is not necessary to have a descending part, it may just stand above the baseline (see Centro Serif Regular compared to Centro Serif Italic in my previous post). This is quite acceptable. Greeks write η both with or without descender. You may justify a similar approach with some other letters as well.

dezcom's picture

Communication is always the issue. That does not only mean books and newspapers. I would even say that in today's world, those two media are no-longer the most used. A book face may not be the best choice for an advert just as a given display face may not be correct for a book of running text. If we first ignore the dynamics of nationalism and just have normal commerce of Greeks communicating to Greeks, we are back to "Walks Like a Duck"--if it works, it works. Greeks today do not live in the isolation from the rest of the world that they did in the middle ages. They have TV, movies, the Internet, digital devices--there is interaction with the rest of the World. We cannot revisit "The Glory that was Greece" other than as a time in history. We live in the "Eclectic Menagerie that is the World" with all of its bombardments of imagery.
Let us neither set a construct of rules to say "this you must always follow for sure" or by the same token "This you must never do again". Yes, there will be monumental failures, but do not throw the baby out with the bath water. If type designers who design Greek fonts contribute whatever they may, there is no harm done. Users will use whatever they see fit from the newer designs. Books are no-longer printed in Mainz blackletter type. There was no rule then that said blackletter was culturally sacred for Latin. There should be no rules which say Byzantine script is culturally sacred for Greek. We are chasing a moving target and always will be. The measure should be, "Does it read like Greek for the intended message and audience at the time" not does it belong in a museum with historic models.

Tatiana Marza's picture

@Albert
I have some doubts on the idea of the Latin minuscule evolving from the capitals through the uncial.

Albert,
since Latin alphabet evolved from Greek, maybe this information on evolution of Greek script may help you.

1*. In ancient Greece, 3 styles of writing could be distinguished (from around 4th BC and continued up till 15th century) :
dimotiki (everyday use), calligraphic (for literary books) and official writing (official state documents and later for royal purposes). All these styles had a parallel evolution, means that all of them existed simultaneously and were influencing each other.
For dimotiki, the most common writing surfaces were wax tablets and pieces of clay. For calligraphic - papyrus and later parchment replaced it, same for official documents. The used writing tools (stylus for clay and wax, reed and ink for papyrus) allowed the writing to 'flow' on this surfaces.

My point here is that especially the papyrus, which was used at least form 3rd BC, gave quite a round form to letters, different from those of inscriptions. Through images of Sigala's book one can see that during first centuries BC the writing cannot be described as uppercase, but neither as lowercase (see im. 126-p. 202/ im.127 - 203). And the lowercase 'was there' much earlier than we think. It was like an idea growing up.
Definitely the first written letters were uppercase for both alphabets, which can be seen form inscriptions, but for other 3 styles of writing, the 'clean' uppercase wasn't the dominant style for many centuries.
Beside this, at some point (5th AD), Greek writing resembled very much to Latin, and one could not distinguish them (see p. 217, im. 145 - horizontal one).

And I am not sure that the Latin people were the one who used for the first time serifs. Around 3rd BC Greeks began to introduce some decorative elements in inscriptions, but borrowed from calligraphically written books, as to say written on papyrus (p.192)

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-Zbq6h_hZ0qU/UAlZO5_-EGI/AAAAAAAAV3w/qkIDIqQo_zQ/s1600/Επιγραφή+Παράμονου.jpg
(you have to copy/paste the link)

2.** "In the mid-2nd century BC and probably under the influence of insular writings or writings on papyrus, [...] serifs are used for the first time, for letters of Attic inscriptions".

Note that for 'insular writings' is not specified which islands Tracy is referring to, maybe with Greek population, maybe with Latin.
So, from this point of view, Latin not only has Greek origins (referring to the adoption of alphabet) but also the later evolution of its writing system wasn't so different from Greek.
_______

*I found Sigala's book, although in Greek, it may help a lot with images.
http://www.kbe.auth.gr/istoria.pdf
** My Greek source (Greek letters: From tablets to pixels, "Αθηναίοι χαράκτες και επιγραφές σε πέτρα από τον πέμπτο μέχρι τον πρώτο αιώνα π.Χ. - Steven V. Tracy" ) gives a reference to "Athens and Macedon: Attic Letter-Cutters of 300 to 229 B.C, by Stephen V. Tracy, pp. 173-175, image 27.

_______

Chris, I found your comment a wise judgment of the case. You are right! People are changing, world is changing, why should Greek type be retained to Byzantine models?

John Hudson's picture

This is something of an aside to the main discussion, but important to state, I think:

Panos: When we read we concentrate mostly on the upper part of the letters.

This is often repeated, but seems to be a misinterpretation of the observation that in the Latin script it is easier to recognise words when their lower half is obscured than when their upper half is obscured. But we don't actually read in those conditions, and if we examine the results of bubble testing to see what parts of different letters we rely on most to recognise them during reading, we see that we make use of the full area of letters, with descenders being important to the recognition of letters that include descenders. There are many writing systems that have more descenders than either Latin or Greek, and most of the scripts of southern India and Southeast Asia make much more use of space below the baseline than they do ascender space. At typical text sizes, the full height of utilised space is easily within the vertical arc of foveal focus -- indeed, one of the things that makes reading easy is that individual lines of text are within this arc, while those above and below are parafoveal --, so I don't see any reason to presume that descenders are a 'distraction'; indeed, they provide for identifiable features in a distinctive area of the overall grid, reducing the potential for mis-identification (consider, in contrast, the relatively few descenders in Cyrillic text and the corresponding monotony of x-height letters).

John Hudson's picture

Panos, I entirely agree that the needs of various kinds of modern typographic settings, such as the mock B&O advertisement you show, demand a wide variety of styles including many that fall outside of traditional Greek text types. That is as it should be, and great news for type designers providing products for those segments of the Greek type market. I've never insisted that all Greek type should be in a narrow range of traditional styles, but I do question the degree to which innovations in style should be based on treatments imported from the Latin script. There's nothing inherently wrong with cross-fertilisation of ideas from different writing and design cultures, of course, but when one culture becomes so dominant it should be questioned and challenged. One way to do this is to look for new ways to innovate from within the non-dominant culture.

So when I look at that mock B&O ad, and think about what style of type might be appropriate to that image and to the message that the advertiser wants to convey, I'm thinking about what 'clean, well-constructed, modern cut with a more luxurious orientation' might mean independent of Latinisation.

Andreas Stötzner's picture

@Albert Jan Pool > I have some doubts on the idea of the Latin minuscule evolving from the capitals through the uncial.

However, it is quite obvious from the sources of medieval manuscripts. The link is the ‘Halbunziale’ (english?). It evolved not ‘from the capitals through the uncial’ but *from the Uncial through the half-uncial*. Although there have been cursive writing styles in Trajan times and later, of course, no path of adoption leads from those to the minuscule of Alkuin (8. c.).

Tatiana Marza's picture

@John (H)
I do question the degree to which innovations in style should be based on treatments imported from the Latin script. [...] One way to do this is to look for new ways to innovate from within the non-dominant culture.

John, these are the most interesting suggestions of the thread!
How we could approach these questions (about the degree of imported Latin elements and finding new ways of innovation)?

Panos underlined his main issues of concern when designing Greek fonts. And also John(Q) at some point suggested to take ideas from folk models.
In my questionnaire I included the question "In your opinion, what elements give Greek character to a font?"

quadibloc's picture

I keep feeling that my views are not being clearly expressed, but that's partly because I keep learning things from this thread.

The unfortunate periods of Greek history cannot be rewritten, as some have said.

My view is somewhat agnostic on Latinization, and that I think is what isn't clear. Since the development of Greek typefaces was interrupted by the period when the Greek language was suppressed, it makes sense that in today's world, where the Greeks see what their fellow Europeans can do, there is pressure to make up for lost time, and copy the capabilities of the Latin script.

I think it's preferable that Greek typographers make use of indigenous sources rather than directly copying the Latin model to the extent possible, but that is mainly so that the result will be more natural to the average Greek. I think some degree of borrowing can't be avoided under the circumstances; it's unfortunate, but it can't really be helped. What matters most to me is that Greek readers will be pleased with the result, though; my concern is not with satisfying an abstract goal of cultural purity.

Tatiana Marza's picture

@John,
I keep feeling that my views are not being clearly expressed, but that's partly because I keep learning things from this thread.
John (Q), you mean I misunderstood your suggestion about studying traditional and folk sources? (see your comment on 20th of March, page 1)

quadibloc's picture

No, I don't mean that at all. Perhaps I was just puzzled that my views don't seem to be shared; there are opponents of Latinization, and proponents as well - but it is also that each seems to take me as being on the opposite side, on the infrequent occasions my posts are noted.

I do think it is "the needs of Greek typography end-users" which must ultimately take priority, and I think that Latinization is primarily to be questioned to the extent it would conflict with them, even if some sentimental regret for what is lost is possible going beyond that.

My gut feeling is that Greek typography is feeling its way, and what will best accomplish the goal of Greek gaining things like a distinctive italic and so on in an organically Greek way is if it is given time; if there is a rush to achieve parity with Latin, then Latinization is the quick, easy, and obvious solution.

Nick Shinn's picture

Tatiana, when Greek art directors, graphic designers and typographers buy font licences today, what are the typefaces they choose? Where do they buy them?

How about commissioned work?
Do Greek newspapers and magazines commission their own typefaces?

This line of questioning is intended to exclude bundled fonts and multi-national branding that originates outside Greece.

It also equates the needs of end-users (readers) with the needs of font-users (typographers and their clients).

Because even in the West, “the needs of end-users” has little bearing on the shape of typography.

In fact, The Client is the major font arbiter, restraining the more outré instincts of graphic designers, and channeling the taste of consumers in its market segment.

However, one might also include free and bundled fonts as a category unto itself, where the question is: Which free and bundled fonts are the most popular in Greece? It would be interesting to see if such a list corresponds with that of the Latin world.

hrant's picture

Man, I'm gonna need a week-long vacation just to catch up with all this amazing discussion... But until such a minor miracle happens let me at least properly address the vertical proportions issue.

I think we can agree that different writing systems use the Cartesian Space differently, both in terms of frequency and richness (compare Latin and Arabic for a very pronounced case). If we also agree that -for example- in Latin extender size isn't purely of stylistic relevance, that it plays a positive role in reading (at least during immersive reading)* then it becomes clear that making different writing systems adhere to a fixed vertical-proportions scheme is damaging to functionality. {Added:}Basically, letterform features are the "data" used to read text, and the way the data is distributed -relative to the writing system- cannot be ignored without probable bad consequences.

* Which is why call-caps is harder to read, and furthermore why larger point size settings benefit from a smaller x-height versus smaller point size settings.

For example in Armenian the "x-height" region is much more monotonous than in Latin, while the extenders* are much richer than in Latin. If you make a Latin+Armenian family with consistent vertical proportions you will make one script or the other (possibly even both) less readable. And for what gain? Do readers really use a loupe and exclaim: "Hey, some stuff isn't lining up!" The case of Greek is no different. When you look at the visualization** I posted you immediately notice that in Greek:
- The descender space is more heavily used than in Latin.
- The "x-height" region has many more rounds than straights.
- Ascenders are actually rarer.
To me this inevitably leads to the conclusion that an optimal Greek "x-height" is larger than in Latin***, and at the expense of the ascenders. And as an aside, it's harder to make Greek narrow.

* BTW the belief that we read the tops of letters I find illusory; there is no way I can buy that Greek having more/richer descenders is a bad thing (for reading).

** To answer John: such visualizations I find supremely helpful in knowing which direction(s) to go in breaking the vertical-proportions "despotism", even providing a rough numeric ballpark. For example when I made Nour&Patria I saved myself mountains of guesswork at arriving at a harmonious whole. In comparison, looking at only the alphabets (even with duplication to reflect frequency) and some sample settings doesn't provide nearly as much insight, as efficiently. I believe data visualization is a key to good design.

*** BTW I was very pleased to see that Yulia has done this! It's like a scientist postulating the existence of a new particle and much later actually seeing it show up. :-)

This is the crux of it; I'll try to fill in some gaps later.

--

Something else: I can think of two cases of Hellenization, Carter's Skia (born from his much earlier Cadmus)* and a font by Michail Semoglou (for which I don't have a sample -or even a name- handy). Looking for previous discussions where I mentioned those two designs I found this thread
http://typophile.com/node/18390
which I think can be helpful.

* http://www.themicrofoundry.com/other/cadmuskia.gif
John H. has opined that the Greek isn't very authentic; irrespective of that, to me Skia remains a Hellenized design.

To me cultural importation -like anything else in life- is about Intent: people make non-Latin (and really even Latin) fonts a certain way because of what they want for their own life and/versus what they want for society. We each strike a very personal balance. But when choosing what fonts to use/promote it's important to take into account how much of a given designer's intent is helpful to the designer (closer to pure Art) versus other people (closer to pure Design).

hhp

Tatiana Marza's picture

Nick,
Another question I included in the questionnaire was about 3 most frequently used fonts. But I am not sure any of participants would be willing to give information where they purchase them, if they did. I had cases when they didn't want to tell me about used fonts, imagine...
Concerning the commissioned typefaces I do not have any information. Panos could provide you these kind of details, I suppose.

Hrant,
thank you for your detailed explanation :)

hrant's picture

BTW Tatiana, while I was digging I ran into an amazingly suitable quote by Heraclitus you might want to use:

Ἁρμονίη ἀφανὴς φανερῆς κρείττων.
(I'm not sure it's properly encoded.)
"The hidden harmony is superior to the obvious one."

For immersive reading, you want the functional harmony achieved by breaking the formal harmony of matching vertical proportions.

hhp

Tatiana Marza's picture

Hrant,
"The hidden harmony is superior to the obvious one" could be used for almost everything in life, not only for typography:)

hrant's picture

Indeed. In fact if I'm not mistaken Heraclitus said that a few years before the invention of printing. ;-P

hhp

Nick Shinn's picture

Did Heraclitus mean that the hidden harmony would contradict the obvious one?

ilyaz's picture

> Did Heraclitus mean that the hidden harmony would contradict the obvious one?

I think Heraclitus is not the last word in the science of today; the civilization discovered a few more interesting things in the years in between. Myself, I enjoy more “а harmonious interplay” between a scale of harmonies at different levels in between of “obvious” and “hidden”.

hrant's picture

Any two things contradict each other to some extent. And a designer has to balance things. So I would say the main thing is awareness, and the problem with most designers who make x-heights match is simply that they don't see deeper than formal harmony.

BTW, of course the words of Heraclitus are not scientific, they are philosophical. Which however makes them more valuable, at least to me.

hhp

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