Butler Antiqua

johnbutler's picture

image/gifButler Antiqua lowercase
butlerantiqua.gif (31 k)


The working title is Butler Antiqua. The roman is a transitional ostensibly in the tradition of Ruzicka and Dwiggins. The italic, which I'm happier with, is based on one of my own ideas from a few years back, for better or worse one of my best ideas. There are several problematic glyphs in the roman, particularly the s. Some of the alternates are silly. The half-r might not make it in the final cut. I want to iron out the problems in the lowercase before I embark on the caps.

The italic round letters (c e o & s) might be too superelliptical and end up being trashed. S's, as you can see, are a pain for me.

I'd love to hear some comments. This started out as an exercise in drawing in FontLab. I'm now comfortable drawing in it, so I achieved that goal. I want to move on now and eventually build it into something commercially viable. The italics are IMHO unique, but outside of the quirky alternates (which serious printers would likely find more irritating than useful) the Roman just seems to lack any compelling originality. But I'm a pessimist and hoping to hear a second opinion. :-)

Miss Tiffany's picture

If indeed the italic is your own idea and it is the roman that is only 'ostensibly of Dwiggins and Ruzicka', then you must have Dwiggins' spirit floating around feeding you ideas. :| The italic looks much better at smaller sizes, although it would be interesting to be able to use at display sizes. perhaps you create two versions? I have to agree that some of the characters are odd, but again these odd characteristics hide themselves at text sizes. But that makes sense because Dwiggins' designed for text. So I assume you are following along with the same idea of using the roman capitals with the lowercase italic? Or are you still working on the uppercase? I'd be very interested to see these when completed. (I did read what you just wrote, so I guess we will wait.) If it is a transitional, you still have too much of the rigid scotch showing, I'd try to apply a little more pen to it.

the lc 'g' looks to be falling backward, and the upper-story is perhaps too small for how large the x-height appears in the other characters. the alternate lc 'r' calls too much attention to itself. the lc 'u' is too open. the lc 'a' is a bit too wide. i prefer the open lc 'k'. there is something fun and clever about the second (from the left) of the three lc 'x'.

How about a paragraph setting? And perhaps you need to refer back to your McGrew under the Arcadia and Charter.

glutton's picture

That's pretty awesome, John.

I LOVE the half-"r" that kind of works like a ligature, and it seems to me that you could have that as a glyph unto itself and people could make their own ligatures.

glutton's picture

That's pretty awesome, John.

I LOVE the half-"r" ... a do it yourself ligature!

fonthausen's picture

Nice Italic!! Indeed the roman does not have the same impact, yet.

Maybe this can help: You are using a structure for your Italic, which we

johnbutler's picture

Tiffany: Thanks for the encouragement. To answer some of your questions: Yes, it's only a text design. I might make a display version some day, but I expect this one to be used at around 13pt or less.

Understand I'm not explicitly shooting for a Dwiggins look. That was just a starting-off point. I sat down in front of the screen and drew these from the top of my head with no reference material. I wanted (among other things) to see what my conception of a transitional font would end up looking like. It grew out of some exercises I was forcing myself to do at the time, like staring at an arbitrary font specimen, say Palatino, and then sitting down and trying to draw it from memory. Inevitably you will introduce new elements or variations that are products of your own mind. In the end, I don't know how useful these kinds of exercises are, but I guess I'll find out once I finish this! :-) I've accepted the possibility that this might not end with anything anyone would want to buy, but since I have no formal instruction in type design, exercises like this are all I can think of to get proficient at it. (Apart from calligraphy exercises, which unfortunately are not an option until the nerve damage from my recent hand injury heals further.)

John: I'm glad you like the half-r. It was actually once a somewhat common character, used contextually like a long s, but more common in blackletter than Roman. There were, however, a few Roman types that included it, even if it was seldom used. I'd encourage anyone to include a half-r in any fonts where they include the long s and its associated ligatures. The font will be OpenType-only, and the half-r only gets substituted when there's an r next to a round-right-side letter (b,o,p) when Contextual Alternates is turned on.

And yes, Tiffany is right, the thing is not in common use and calls attention to itself, so I've put it into the Contextual Alternates feature. I'd put it in HIST as well, but InDesign doesn't currently support HIST. (Grrr.) Lots of the unconventional ligatures and alternates you see in the showing will definitely not be the defaults, if they even make it through at all.

The italic will have at least two sets of capitals: an upright set and a slanted set. There will probably also be swashes further down the road, but I want a good base design that can stand on its own before I froof it up with swashes. But when the froofing does begin, it will arrive with a vengeance.

I'll post some more specimens when I iron out the most pressing problems in the lowercase. Those s's are fired. My one big worry is that the Roman and the italic won't look good together. I've taken care to keep the minimum and maximum stroke weights consistent, as well as x-height, ascenders, descenders, cap height, and serifs, but I worry that the italic is too superelliptical compared to the Roman, and I really don't want to embark on a superelliptical Roman just now. So the round italic letters will likely get rounder.

fonthausen's picture

Oops

Jacques

application/x-shockwave-flashaaa.swf
aaa.swf (3 k)

Miss Tiffany's picture

John -- As long as you do give Dwiggins credit and it
does become your own design, I don't think there
should be any problems. Especially since you have
mentioned this is simply an exercise in learning and
not something to be released. Understand I am not
trying to come across as some historical curmudgeon --
although some who know might disagree. I've taken
the liberty of putting together some bits that you might
find interesting. These are images used in my dissertation.
The two line setting are from Mac McGrew's book
(<http://www.oakknoll.com/>) and the bottom bit is a
scan from one of the smoke proofs (that is what I think,
can't find my notes on it).

image/gifarccha.gif
arccha.gif (67 k)

Miss Tiffany's picture

John -- As long as you do give Dwiggins credit and it
does become your own design, I don't think there
should be any problems. Especially since you have
mentioned this is simply an exercise in learning and
not something to be released. Understand I am not
trying to come across as some historical curmudgeon --
although some who know might disagree. I've taken
the liberty of putting together some bits that you might
find interesting. These are images used in my dissertation.
The two line setting are from Mac McGrew's book
(<http://www.oakknoll.com/>) and the bottom bit is a
scan from one of the smoke proofs (that is what I think,
can't find my notes on it).

arccha.gif

Miss Tiffany's picture

weird. Sorry about that.

Also. The images are, obviously, the work of William Addison Dwiggins.

Miss Tiffany's picture

Can't resist. One more post.

The great thing about this italic design, both John's and WAD's is the seemingly unconventional italic actually looks very elegant at small sizes. The line setting I posted suffers from a novice scan, but still shows the effect of metal type onto paper and how leaving it open allows for a lighter letter. I hope that makes sense.

johnbutler's picture

OK, I've definitely never seen that italic that you post. Up until now, all I've known from Dwiggins is Electra, Caledonia and Metro, plus that famous title page he did in his letter to Ruzicka. The italic I drew was totally mine. This is a weird coincidence. It was the roman that I thought would be closer to Dwiggins. The lowercase roman n and derived letters reminded me of Electra, so that's where I thought the Dwiggins influence came in.

But now I'm worried. I said that this *started off* as an exercise in learning, but I'm really hoping to release it in the end, because only when I start selling type will I be able to finally call myself a type designer. And I do want to release something that's historically informed, as opposed to Yet Another Abstract Design For Techno Album Covers. Dwiggins and Ruzicka were also not the only designers whose faces I stared at. There was also Baskerville, Walbaum, Fournier, Bodoni, Didot... all the definitive classics, and even Bernhard Modern and Lucian. Then, like I said, I sat down and drew the roman, and paired it with the italic that I already had sitting around in my brain. So the idea that this design would be too derivative did not cross my mind, and I'm still nowhere near convinced that that will be a problem. Every designer today that releases text faces with any degree of classic feel will agree that there are some historical nods in there, but that doesn't make it excessively derivative. So think of it as something I intend to sell eventually.

So being dangerously derivative is not what I'm worried about. I'm worried about it looking like crap, which in its present state, it does.

kentlew's picture

John, I think your last statement is an accurate assessment. Some of the similarities between your italic and Dwiggins's Charter experiment are uncanny, but I don't think that your design is dangerously derivative. However, you will want to keep working on both the italic and the roman to get them up to a serious, saleable quality, as you recognize.

When I first looked at your sample, I found the italic eerily familiar, but it wasn't Charter that I thought of. I immediately thought of a few letters in Bernhard's Tango. I could also swear that I've seen something similar in some of Ruzicka's experiments, but I couldn't find what I was thinking of in my collection. The roman, for some reason, reminds me a little of Bob Aufuldish's New Clear Era. I point these out not as accusations of derivation but in the hopes of finding examples that might help you find your own voice.

BTW, Tiffany, I'm pretty sure the second Charter example you show (the one from the smoke proofs) is a "pre-release" version. When I look closely at the final cut (as shown in the [original] Typophiles' Postscripts) the low branching is not quite that open. I think Dwiggins must have modified his approach for the "final" cut. I've always admired this experiment and think it's a shame that he didn't finish out the capitals.

-- K.

Miss Tiffany's picture

Kent -- The proof is obviously pre-release as it isn't the
line setting. In the listing I have (just found) the 'fhlm'
proof is from '37 and it was completed (last worked upon)
in '43. I hope you don't think I meant to say the proofs
were dated later, because they are not. --- And it wasn't
completed because Linotype, at that time, was not in a
position, financially due to the war, to create what
Griffiths called "advertisement" types.

Miss Tiffany's picture

John -- One thought on the contrast. I think that it would be nice if the contrast was the same in the roman as it is in the italic. Maybe?

kentlew's picture

Tiffany, sorry, I wasn't really questioning you. I just didn't know if others would realize that the two Charter showings were actually different (not just one an enlargement of the other). And I would be surprised if very many people (outside a small, select circle) had ever seen that second Charter sample (which seems to bear the most resemblance to John's efforts). That's all.

I think the Charter smoke proof is fascinating. Thanks for digging it up.

-- K.

Miss Tiffany's picture

Kent -- I'm embarassed. And you were right to point that out. Just goes to show how important it is to date things and put them into correct context.

Christian Robertson's picture

I don't have much to say as to the historical nature of this face, but I can look at it freshly with eyes accustomed to purusing 'techno album covers'.

I don't think you should round out the italic. It is the squarish roughness that gives it its charm, in my oppinion. Perhaps, as you say the c, o etc. are extreme, but the h,n,m are also pretty square. I wouldn't sacrifice the blocky energy for the sake of the roman. As for the roman, I would take some cues from the italic. While the g is a little wobbly, it seems to correlate most closely, because it's wholely organic. I think loosening up some of the rigid, compass like circles would tie the roman to the italic without having to 'eliptify' it. While the roman isn't as dazzling as the italic, it certainly has promise (the lc k is great, among other things).

Question for John (Butler)... you mentioned the extended abilities of OpenType for ligutures. Where can I find information on how to create open-type fonts? What kind of software do you use, etc.?

johnbutler's picture

Thanks for the support, Christian. I agree with you on the italic. I won't mess with the non-round letters, just the c, e, o, and s. Which lc k are you referring to in the Roman: the loopy one or the angled one? I thought at the beginning that the loopy k and w and the small-cappish q would add more uniqueness to the lowercase, but I don't want to end making it jarring to read, or for a few quirky characters to look like a crude attempt to counteract an otherwise unremarkable general letter structure. I'm not sure I understand what you mean by "loosen[ing] up" the circles.

As for OpenType, if you're doing Latin scripts, the cheapest way is to download Adobe's OpenType FDK. The newest version 1.5 can now be downloaded via a click-through agreement.

I personally use FontLab 4.0.5, which currently requires Windows. I'm curious to hear if Mac support will be part of the new version 4.5 announcement at the upcoming TypeCon. Both FontLab and DTL's new app, FontMaster, use the Adobe FDK to compile OpenType fonts. The fact that FL4 lets you test the feature code visually without having to export the font saves tremendous time, and makes the price tag easily worth it. But you have to be willing to learn and use the FDK's feature description language, which looks vaguely like Perl. And for now, you have to settle for working on a Windows machine.

(PLUG) If you want to build OpenType fonts but find the learning curve or Windows requirement prohibitive, you can certainly hire me to do it for you. :-) If interested, contact me off-list.

Christian Robertson's picture

I was referring to the loopy k. I'm all about fonts with one or two quirky characters, as long as they fit with the rest of the alphabet. I think the k does that. I'm not so sure about the small cappy q, but I'm glad that you are willing to experiment. Thanks for the info on openType.

cr

note: i find the lazy requirement a lot more prohibative than the learning curve or the windows requirement. I've got at least 10 nearly complete faces that I haven't even taken into fontographer yet :(

Maybe I'm just waiting for a decent font editor. I tried fontlab 3.x for mac and wasn't impressed. As soon as there is software with a decent auto kern feature, i'll release a whole pile of faces.

Someday...

hrant's picture

John, I think your self-doubt concerning the letterform integrity of this design well-placed: I have to frankly state my opinion that many of the glyphs need more than a little polish... :-/

However, it has the right kind of originality at its core (unlike 90% of contemporary fonts, which either lick the boots of precedent, or overdose on their own ego), and seems to exhibit a wonderful, non-cloying nostalgia, while remaining a viable text face.

Also, there is greatness in the italic, and not just for stand-alone use: I think it [will] integrate superbly with the roman. It's modest slant and potentially too-close color, proportions, etc. are handily overcome by that wonderful texture. If the similarity to the work of Dwiggins is coincidental (and I don't doubt it), then I think you've chosen the right field to work in, dude! That's a textbook omen, right there.

As for the issue of display-versus-text, I think in both the roman and the italic you've struck it just right: details that give interest at the "contemplative reading" level, but fade into the functional whole at immersive reading sizes.

So I'd say look forward to a lot of arduous refinement, concluding with a wonderful, usable design in the end!

hhp

johnbutler's picture

Yeah, I know, three months and still nothing to show...

I'm still going to finish this eventually. I will definitely keep the italic. I recently got Doyald Young's excellent Fonts & Logos and will start back up on this after I read and digest Young's advice. And after I complete more for-profit work.

Syndicate content Syndicate content