Nick Shinn's picture
David Vereschagin's picture


eliason's picture

Congrats and good luck!
I enjoy reading your comprehensive specimens.
I'm not sure I'm sold on the spacing philosophy of the roman, but some beautiful letters in there, and the italic and inline fonts are very nice.
The superelliptical smiley is awesome!

William Berkson's picture

The design of the letters is fresh and and delightful, a real achievement. But I agree with Craig that the spacing is problematic. You are going against expert craft knowledge to follow a scientific hypothesis of non-designers that is likely to be refuted, in my view.

I do like somewhat looser spacing than is the norm now, and you have done that. But to me the eyes say that the more even color of the traditional method makes for more comfortable reading, though we are talking about very small differences.

In display, the traditional spacing is aesthetically better, I think. To me, your bolds here look great in display, but the regular weight not so much. I suspect this is partly because in the bolds the rounds look squarer, so that the idiosyncratic spacing method doesn't hurt as much.

k.l.'s picture

Bill, you missed something. Letterforms and spacing depend on each other. Increasing sidebearings of rounded letters is just a logical – or if you prefer: visual – consequence of flattening their sides. Nick made rounded letters’ sides less round, a bit flatter, more like straight lines with a slight rounding towards top and bottom. Therefore he needed to treat them more like straight lines in terms of spacing too and increase sidebearings. You can easily make the experiment with any typeface, regardless if serif or sanserif. Make a round Gill-Sans-like o and space it properly between ns. Then make a flat-sided DIN-like o and space it properly between ns. You will observe that the DIN-like o’s sidebearings end up being bigger than those of the Gill-Sans-like o. This is all. Because it is a rather trivial everyday type designer thing I guess I would not have mentioned it at all – or may have mentioned the letterforms but not the spacing.

Nick Shinn's picture

Although it wasn't something I considered when designing the face, the spacing method works well for small webfont size, which can be seen at Fontspring.

William Berkson's picture

Karsten, I didn't miss point the you make, but rather explicitly took it into account.

I am well aware that a flatter curve is going to mean that for even color its side bearing should be more similar to that of a straight sided glyph—so that eg the left side bearing of the e and n are ideally more similar with a squarish e than a circular one.

Taking this into account is exactly why I said that I guessed that the bold of Richler working better in my eyes for display than the regular. The rounds of the bold look more square than the rounds of the regular, as I said. So that Nick's idiosyncratic method doesn't hurt as much in the bold. Of course the counters in the bold are different as well, and they also affect ideal spacing. I haven't compared the regular and bold one over the other.

In any case, to my eyes in the regular the round characters are a little too loosely spaced compared to the other characters, for achieving even color. At text size, I don't know how much this will affect reading comfort. My suspicion is not much, but still some. I do think it is an aesthetic drawback in the regular, as for some reason visually even spacing does usually seem to look prettier.

Nick, on screen, I think looser spacing is particularly helpful—that was one of the things Carter did in Verdana. I'm skeptical that your change in the relationship of rounds and straights would help, but I'll have to check it out.

Matheus D.'s picture

Beautiful! It looks fresh, elegant and quirky at the same time. The italics are beautiful! Is it available on .otf format? I looked for it at MyFonts and Fontshop and only available formats were .ttf opentype. And the spacing makes it "feel" more "clearer" and "cleaner". Is it good for typesetting long text on books? (I wonder how it would look at very small sizes)

Nick Shinn's picture

Thanks! I released it in .ttf only (so far), because that looks best on screen, especially the italics.
In print, there is no difference between TrueType and PostScript.

It has been used for setting long books, in the prototype version before general release, and it works fine.
There are small-size specimens in the PDF.


@Bill: You are going against expert craft knowledge to follow a scientific hypothesis of non-designers that is likely to be refuted, in my view.

Well, your view is off.
In the first place, this type design is an implementation of expert craft knowledge, not a refutation of it.
Secondly, I designed it in 2001 (having only now published it after the exclusive licence expired), and came across the Larson theory of individual-letter reading, which supports my design premise, much later. See page 5 of the PDF.

I mention readability science because many in the market for “text” fonts like to have that kind of reassurance, and readability theory has been used by other font publishers in their advertising material.

k.l.'s picture

Hence no need to speak of an “idiosyncratic spacing method” because there is no such thing at work here. You may find that the spacing has flaws but that would be a different story.

William Berkson's picture

Karston, if my memory serves, Nick also said that he chose to do the same method, which he knew to be different than the traditional method of spacing, in the original version. So yes, he didn't do it because of Larson, and is just using Larson to bolster what he did.

But Nick's method here is a conscious departure from the tradition reflected in Tracy's Letters of Credit—and Tracy is reflecting long standing type lore, as reflected in the Linotype community. So contrary to what you say, Nick, it is deliberately going against expert craft knowledge. Now Nick, you *are* an expert craftsman, and so you may know better and may be innovating here in a positive way. Each person will judge that. Personally, I think your method detracts, at least in the regular weight, from a wonderful design.

Now as I said, I do like looser spacing; I also did looser spacing in my Williams Caslon Text. But that is not innovative, or idiosyncratic, it's just a return to older practice, before film type.

Nick Shinn's picture

So contrary to what you say, Nick, it is deliberately going against expert craft knowledge.

I think you misunderstand that craft knowledge, Bill, at least with regard to Richler.
I haven’t read Tracy’s book, and am not familiar with his type designs.
However, my understanding of the craft knowledge of type design is that its most basic principle is even color, without spotty clots appearing in text wherever heavy strokes are too close together.

At the extremes of avoiding this problem are two strategies:

1. The Incunabula method of moving the heavy part of round strokes away from adjacent letters, by angled stress. Goudy recognized this technique and revived it, assiduously (top specimen).

2. The Neoclassical method of emphasizing the vertical quality of the heavy round stems, and giving them plenty of space between letters (center specimen).

What I’ve done in Richler (bottom specimen) is in keeping with the craft knowledge expressed in types such as Bodoni. Now, you may not like Bodoni, but that is not the issue!

(Goudy & Bodoni specimens are Monotype, from Book Types From Clowes, 1950.)

Bert Vanderveen's picture

Interesting discussion ánd an interesting design.

What I would like bring to this is that Tracy's theory was formed by his experiences in the earlier technologies, eg lead. I am strongly in favour of Kindersley's way of thinking which has its roots in lettering – balancing inner space of glyphs with intra space.

To my eye Richler has excellent spacing, overall. And I guess that tightening with a general value when typesetting could compensate for personal taste without too much loss of quality of color.

William Berkson's picture

Bert, you imply that somehow Tracy is ignorant of lettering principles, and is proposing a method at odds to Kindersley's goals. But that is the opposite of the case. They are totally in agreement with balancing inner and intra space. Tracy *begins* his section on spacing by quoting Harry Carter: "The success or failure of a type is very much a question of getting a good balance of white inside and outside the letters." And of course G. Noordzij also emphasizes the need to balance counters and letter spaces. My point is that expert craft knowledge is unified on this point.

Nick, your appeal to looseness doesn't address my point. I explicitly said that I like the looser setting. The looseness of Bodoni is not appropriate for an old style for various reasons, but that is not the issue I have raised. The issue is *uneven* color. You write in your PDF, "In the traditional Antiqua, the sidebearings of rounded letters are narrower than those of the straight, producing a modulated rhythm. Richler, however, has squarish curved letters with wide sidebearings—
adopted from the sans serif genre—and a contemporary regularity." You seem to indicate here that you deliberately made the sidebearings of rounded letters close to the same as the straight, as well as doing a looser spacing.

That is what I think is also shown in your example, and which I think is less than optimal. Now, again I will repeat I know that a less round letter usually asks for a wider side bearing. However, here you go too far, and in a way that doesn't follow Bodoni—or Tracy, Kindersley, or Noordzij, in my view. That is because the amount of the side bearings should reflect the inner volume, here the between-letter volume is greater than that within the letters. In your examples of Goudy O.S., Bodoni and Richler, the first two are much more even, to my eye. In yours, it seems to me that compared to the first two, the space between the 'nd' is distinctly bigger than between the 'in,' and there is a distinct gap between the pe.

As I said, feel free to disagree, but at least disagree with what I am actually saying. I am not complaining about looseness, but unevenness. That is also not removed by tracking.

Nick Shinn's picture

Nick, your appeal to looseness doesn't address my point.

I made no appeal to looseness.

Your point was that I was flouting traditional “craft expertise”, and I demonstrated how I have done no such thing, but followed the principle of keeping heavy curved strokes apart, a principle which informs both old style and didone.

Now you may think I’ve gone too far, but please don’t accuse me of breaking the rules!

The purpose of Richler’s spacing is to avoid round stems of adjacent letters setting too close to one another.
The emphasis is on an even distancing of the vertical stems, both straight and round.
I didn’t look at Melior when I was designing Richler, but subsequently I did, and IMO the round sidebearings of Melior are too narrow, as can be seen in this comparison (Melior top two lines, Richler bottom two lines):

Removing the serifs gives a clear representation of the relationships between stem separation and internal/external proportions:

When one looks at Richler’s spacing closely, it does seem strange, because one is not accustomed to seeing the combination of close serifs with wide round-to-round sidebearings. But looking closely is not the same as reading body text, for which this face was primarily designed.

William Berkson's picture

As to breaking rules, the rule or, better, 'principle' I think you break here is keeping the internal and between-letter spacing visually similar. And by that standard your result is less than ideal.

In your exercise removing serifs changes the amount of white space between the oi, for example, so that a sans made by chopping off serifs is a misleading guide for spacing a serif font, if you want even color. It changes the variables in the principle at issue, the principle I have in mind anyway.

In fact, as Tracy mentions, straights generally are best closer together in sans precisely because of the way that the presence or absence of serifs affects spacing. This may make the side bearings of straights and rounds a bit more similar in sans, but it doesn't mean that spacing serif like a sans, which seems to be your concept here, is a good idea. On the contrary, if Tracy is right, and I think so, it seems sub-optimal, which is what I'm arguing.

To me Tracy's analysis also implies that the relative proportions of letters in a sans should be somewhat different, but that is another issue.

Nick Shinn's picture

…the… 'principle' I think you break here is keeping the internal and between-letter spacing visually similar. And by that standard your result is less than ideal.

No, Richler is consistent with that.
The round letters are filled out in the corners, becoming superellipsish, necessitating a filling out of between-letter spacing.

…a sans made by chopping off serifs is a misleading guide for spacing a serif font…

That example is not a guide, as it was made after the serif font had been spaced.
I just chopped the serifs off so you could see more clearly the relationship between internal and external space, without the distraction of the serifs.
Of course the serifs effect spacing.

I have explained Richler as “being spaced like a sans” because I was trying to get some of the feel of a contemporary technical sans (DIN, actually) into it, not because I started with a sans and added serifs, which is rather too simplistic a procedure! The spacing of DIN seemed an appropriate reference for a squarish antiqua, because DIN is kind of squarish. I wasn’t interested in benchmarking Richler against Melior or Eurostile, Pool’s DIN has the ethos, the zeitgeist I wanted to tap into.

…as Tracy mentions…

To my mind, “craft knowledge” is tacit and not theoretical—it can only be developed, demonstrated, and seen. That is why type design is a craft and not engineering. Craft knowledge is not the same as “type design theory”.

I prefer to figure things out for myself, by trying my hand at different genres of type, developing new ideas. I’ve designed faces, sans, sans serif, whatever, with many different spacing strategies. It’s a matter of taste and judgement, there isn’t a general theory which fits them all like a glove, that’s not the way type design works. And it doesn’t allow for change or progress. So all this talk about “sub-optimal” is nonsense. Either the type works or it doesn’t, it creates its own interpretation of the rules. And, because it’s a tool, much of its performance depends on how people work with it.

Bert Vanderveen's picture

I had a better look at an old thread here:
and what the Kindersley Workshop has on it it:
Now I have to find my copy of Letters of Credit and some time to digest.
In other words: more later on.

William Berkson's picture

Michael Polanyi's concept of 'tacit' knowledge is that it is passed on without being articulated. But that doesn't mean that it can't be made explicit and articulated, or that it becomes less valid if you do.

I don't know whether anybody articulated this principle of equal spacing between and within letters before WWII, but a number of people have since, and that doesn't make it less valid if you articulate it.

You write: "So all this talk about “sub-optimal” is nonsense. Either the type works or it doesn’t, it creates its own interpretation of the rules."

Well maybe this is where our thinking about these matters diverges. I think there is a strong influence of our mind-brain apparatus, which does put real constraints. For the principle I have referred to in this thread, I think even color removes 'noise' and so that the letters are more purely 'signal' to the brain, and so easier, more comfortable to read. This seems to affect aesthetics too—though there are a lot of competing goals for display type, which may sometimes override.

There are also competing demands on spacing, one of these being to keep letters, especially heavier parts of them, from being too close. Reconciling the different demands is something the design ideally does. I certainly don't think there is just one way to do it. There are *ranges* within which different compromises can work, but I don't think the ranges are infinitely elastic.

By the way, my bringing in vision and brain processing here may be my thing—I caught the virus from Peter Enneson—but the idea that there are optima in spacing is conventional. I am following Dwiggins, Tracy, Kindersley, Noordzij. Nick may be right about it being "nonsense", but he's the outlier here.

Nick Shinn's picture

I don't believe I'm the outlier, unless designing original work makes me so. Sure, I haven't read those theoretical works, but if they are any reasonable representation of tacit knowledge, I don't see how the could contradict Richler. What I suspect is that they don't explicitly address the issue which Richler does, which is the spacing of a square/superelipse antiqua text face.

No, I don't believe in optima, I believe there is a range of taste amongst type designers, typographers, and readers. What optimal really means is average, and that's something a new design can never be. Or else how could change occur? The future cannot be predicted.

I've gone to a lot of trouble in this thread to try and explain the principle behind this typeface, with diagrams, brcause type is a visual medium. If you are going to continue to criticize this face Bill, I would appreciate it if you could post a few balloons for me to take pot shots at, rather than just refer to academic sources, that's only fair!

J Weltin's picture

I like Richler because i can see some originality in it. It is crisp and makes a good body text face. And from what i have read so far from the specimens the spacing in text size works well.
I stumbled over the description as a 21st century antiqua though. I don’t know how a 21st century antiqua could or should look like (but it sounds as if it were very modern). Seeing Richler i am also reminded of Albert Kapr’s “Leipziger Antiqua” (the feel of it, not the design) and the latter is a product of the twentieth century (1973).

Nick Shinn's picture

Thanks Juergen. I called it an antiqua because it's a "book" face and the antiqua is considered to be the best book face style, and because of the detail, where I was aiming for a tactile effect similar to Palatino. The 21st century, well, that's when it was designed, and refers to the innovation of the spacing method.

William Berkson's picture

I like Richler too, which is why I feel the spacing of the regular is a pity, because it detracts from a wonderful design.

Nick, I don't think I have anything to add to your excellent graphics above, with 'independent' and 'point.' I think they make the case very well, except that to my eyes they support the point that I'm making, and not yours. In the 'point' case, I agree with you that the po may be a bit too tight in Melior, but to me it's definitely too loose in Richler. With the serifs removed, yes, Richler looks more even than Melior without serifs. But with serifs, Melior looks more even. To me that just makes the point: using a sans approach to spacing serifs is a mistake because you get uneven color in the serif, where you would get even in the sans.

Your 'independent' examples to me show Goudy O. S. and Bodoni have more even color than Richler regular, when you think of 'even color' in the sense of Harry Carter, Tracy, Kindersley and Noordzij—and others. Their concept is different from just "without spotty clots appearing in text wherever heavy strokes are too close together," to quote you. Theirs is a more general concept of evenness of grey, having to do with the balance of whites within and between letters. Kindersley, for example, was willing to tolerate overlap of strokes in adjacent letters to get the overall greater evenness of color in his way.

So maybe what we are disagreeing about is which concepts of 'evenness' are appropriate guidelines. I think that both the Tracy concept and avoidance of too-close strokes in adjacent letters are good goals. And the two goals can be in tension with one another, depending on the design. To me alphabets optimally are best designed so that they fulfill both goals.

At any rate, congratulations on an innovative and delightful design.

Catharsis's picture

I like the look of Richler in the body copy above, and can't see anything amiss with the spacing. As such, it certainly works admirably as a text face.

In display sizes, though, the spacing looks decidedly uneven to me. Whenever two neighboring glyphs bend away from each other, as in {oo} or {nd}, there's a white gap opening between them. It feels like their spacing was made based on theoretical rather than visual considerations.

I find the letter shapes pleasing and original (especially the {R} and the {k}), and they deserve to be shown at display sizes. Maybe it would be worthwhile to offer the font in a text version with the current spacing and a display version with more traditional spacing?

oldnick's picture

I have to agree with Christian about the text/display anomaly. To my eye, the text blocks render exceedingly well on-screen—so well, in fact, that I am seriously considering emulating the approach for web-specific fonts. However, at larger sizes, the spacing looks rather clumsy, IMHO, and the suggestion about producing a display version appears sound. Otherwise, a brilliant effort, Nick: a tip of the Hatlo hat to you...

William Berkson's picture

Yes Christian's observation is very astute—including the compliments to Nick Shinn!

Now I remember that Slimbach in his wonderful Designing Multiple Master Typefaces (1995) shows how opening rounds at small text sizes helps, but they need to be tighter for display. He has a good graphic of Minion MM, where did this.

This effect is because the eye responds in a non-linear way to changes in size. I think what is happening is that at these sizes you are hitting a threshold where the letters start to be confused if they are too close, so that they have to be pushed away to be perceived comfortably as separate.

But I would note that this degree of differential opening of rounds is only suitable for very small text sizes—and there other adjustments are also appropriate, as the illustration demonstrates. I suspect that Nick's current Richler Regular is a bit too light for small text as it is now.

Nick Shinn's picture

Thank you all for the kind words.

Re. headlines, as I noted in the PDF, page 5, Adobe’s “Optical Kerning” may be applied.
(This is one of the few occasions I have anything good to say about it!)
I don’t think I will be producing a version spaced for display, as the thing has already proliferated considerably with Greek and Cyrillic options, and Standard and Pro.

Bill, Richler works fine in small text, as may be seen in the index matter of The Life & Times of Mordecai Richler by Charles Foran.

Dtronic's picture

It’s exquisite. Nicely done.

oobimichael's picture

First... thank you Nick for pushing boundaries and designing Richler... a book on economic philosophy that I have been working on for nearly 15 years (which pushes the boundaries of economics, philosophy, and even quantum mechanics), is now to the point where I can focus on its overall design and typesetting... over the past several days, I have poured over samples from hundreds of typefaces (ranging from Greta to Stan Plus... from Fedra Serif to Meta Serif). I was looking for something that would stand alongside Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations (the title of my book is Wealth Beyond Nations) in its social-economic impact. For a while, I was trying to fall in love with Rabenau, but its width kept on getting in the way. Along comes Richler, a much more economics-friendly Rabenau... serious... but subtly quirky touches... we are still courting... but I must say Richler seems to have a unique voice that I have yet to find its equal... will post a sample here in the coming days...

Again, thank you.

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