pairth's picture

leonor.swf (5 k)

I have been following the critiques for sometime and I have learned a lot from them. This is a design that I did for an independent study in school. I have really tried to finesse the forms to make them as ledgeable as possible given the quirkiness of the crooked stem. I'm not sure if it fits within this category of type or the sans serif. I decided its more of a serif face than a sans. Anyways, I just wanted see what the typophiles thought. Weather good or bad I can handle it.

pairth's picture

Has anybody seen that Behind the Typeface quicktime movie. The one I saw was about Oswald Cooper's Cooper Black. It was well done even with the cheesey talking letters. I'll try to get a link.

hrant's picture

The Cooper thing is very cool.

Your design:
It's hard to make a usable font out of your initial concept, but I think you've actually managed to get a good foundation. The uppercase looks a bit oriental, and some of the glyphs need work, but I'd like to see some text settings.

One thing real quick: I don't think the tilted horizontal bars will work; try a bent but non-tilted structure.


pairth's picture

fakingtext.swf (48 k)

Here is a quick text setting I did. I'm still trying to perfect kearning pairs and letter spacing in fontographer so some spaces might real bad. In some cases it's unavoidable because of the nature of this design. This is still with the tilted crossbar on the E,F and f. Great advice though, keep it coming.

sevenfingers's picture

Hmmm. It's interesting, I wasn't all that fond of the alphabet in itself, but the text setting is actually quite cool. It looks like it's "wavy", something submersed in water, but photographed above. Cool.

Miss Tiffany's picture

This just proves that a text setting can alter the entire look of a face -- for good or bad. I think this has a fun semi-vernacular feel to it and the text setting gave it more reason for being. IMHO

pairth's picture

Tiffany what is IMHO? I want to go back to what Hrant said about tilted crossbars. I first saw it in Merz (the E in MERZ) which I believe was started by Curt Schwitters(sp?). And I've been fascinated with that small break from the norm ever since. I want to rework and reavaluate any glyph to make it stronger. I'll do that and post it. The text by the way is just from an old book on the basics of an "exciting new sport called Basketball."

hrant's picture

Pablo, your text setting confirms a suspicion I originally had: your curved stems do work, but occasionally they come together to form distracting patterns. You wouldn't want to abandon them for that reason (especially since this is no book face), but if you have the energy consider doing what Excoffon did (in his Mistral, and elsewhere): account for the realities of linguistics, like what letter patterns (pairs and triplets, at least) are common, and hence need special attention, in terms of causing you to tilt a given stem one way or the other.

I can see that you have two lc "els", and you're choosing different ones in your text - that's great! But since a normal font can only have one, which one you choose should depend most on linguistics. And you should ideally do this for all the letters.

BTW, if you have even more energy, make an OpenType font that automatically chooses the version of the letter that looks best in the context of what's close to it... :->


In fact, I think I just had a revelation:
The more a font uses irregularity (whether it's an imbalance in color, or elements that don't align - like the stems in Leonor), the more it has to consider real language in managing the proper placement of its irregularities. The more regular a font is, the easier it is to avoid linguistics without affecting the results - but I would argue that regularity (at least in the sense of formal aesthetics) is essentially counter to readability (and legibility too).


pairth's picture

It's very cool to see that you're interested in linguistics. I too have studied a little linguistics in school. Mostly just reading on my own. I didn't know about Excoffon and his use of linguistics in his typedesigns. How much time, would I need to do that? And energy?
I think your on to something with your theory. In fact I wrote a note the other day in which I dubbed your theory the Theory of Regularity (my computer froze when I submitted it). I think it has a nice ring to it like an important theory that's sweeping the design and scientific community. First the Ivy Leagues then the art schools. Then when you're old Hollywood will make a movie about you.

Of course, legibility depends on other factors (context, repeated usage, etc) but I think the regularity theory might contribute to a certain degree in the legibility of a font. The thing I find interesting about your theory is that it seems counterintuitive to all that I've been taught about good typedesign. That's a good thing because maybe it creates a basis for challenging the standard notions of readable fonts. Maybe designers should consider language as a way to create interesting letter combinations that read well but when seen on their own are a little desparate. Then when set in text it uses your theory (which you will publish on Typophile.com) to create a highly legible font.
I know it's late.

hrant's picture

> How much time, would I need to do that? And energy?

Energy: I don't know - it depends on what kind of person you are.

Time: Basic linguistic awareness doesn't drain much time, it's mostly just an "attitude". You might spend maybe 20% more time than you would without it, but your results will be much better. It includes small things like using certain test texts for setting your font, but also subtle changes to a letterform based on what other letters it might be next to, etc. But if you want to go to high level (like write special software to show you what's *really* going on in language), then that's a lifetime.

> Then when you're old Hollywood will make a movie about you.

Can I get Uma Thurman as the love-interest? ;-)

I don't think the "Theory of Regularity" :-) is very important - I think it might serve mostly to make designers aware that letterforms are not paintings.

> it seems counterintuitive to all that I've been taught about good typedesign.

Yes, for some reason a lot of what I do seems disruptive to the status quo. :-/ You know, so many people declare that it's good to "think outside the box", but usually it's just to serve their ends - they dislike change just like most other people. There's so many wrong things in typography, but I don't mind that - what I mind is people denying it - it kills the soul - it results in people wasting too much time trying to satisfy The Customer, at the expense of culture.

> Maybe designers should consider language as a way to create interesting letter combinations that read well but when seen on their own are a little desparate.

Good thought! It's pretty simple, really: people read words, so we need to design not letters, but words! Duh.


kentlew's picture

Hrant, come on! If you want to design words, then turn your attention to logos or lettering . . . or Chinese! The marvel of an alphabetic system like ours lies in the fact that it is a discrete combinatorial system: a relative few elements are combined in innumerable ways to create near infinite variety.

The price we pay for that flexibility is a certain compromise -- each element should combine equally with every other. That's the theoretical goal, anyway. Naturally, it breaks down in reality. That's why we're all still out here dreaming up new typefaces.

But the more specific you make the design to a particular set of combinations, the more limited the design becomes. And when taken too far, you completely defeat the purpose of moveable type.

hrant's picture

> The marvel of an alphabetic system like ours lies in the fact that it is a discrete combinatorial system.

Of course you're right - and that's the best thing about an alphabet. Its versatility is why the Phoenicians (international merchants) needed it badly enough to invent and use it.

So you still need the individual letters, sure.

> completely defeat the purpose of moveable type.

I think that purpose is reading. And we read words.


pairth's picture

I was thinking

hrant's picture

Yes, Excoffon was French (and how!), and because he focused on the French language Mistral has some problems with certain common English letter combinations.


> all his linguistical adjustments for French (or whatever language) didn't help when people started using Mistral in other languages.

Well, considering that French and English as well as the other "big" languages that use the Latin alphabet are all Indo-European, I think there's enough overlap that any linguistic awareness particular to one language will generally have some positive effect overall in another language. But I totally agree that it's best to optimize. Maybe have the basic font with its spacing constant, but have kerning files (which can be external, at least in the PostScript format) for different languages, and let the user choose.

Also note that OpenType can do this sort of thing very elegantly.

> Are we supposed to begin designing typefaces with words in mind before anything else?

I don't know - it really depends a lot on what personally turns you on. But it remains true that -during immersive reading- we decipher words most of the time, and resort to recognizing/compiling individual letters mainly when we encounter an unfamiliar word (which is rare).


kentlew's picture

>> completely defeat the purpose of moveable type.
>I think that purpose is reading. And we read words.

No, the purpose of the alphabet is words and the purpose of words is reading. But the purpose of moveable type is so that we don't have to keep writing letters afresh each time -- i.e., printing.

Again: you want to design words? Switch to lettering or calligraphy. (For those who don't know, these are buzzwords carefully chosen just to needle Hrant.) ;->

-- K.

hrant's picture

Needle? At least it's not chisel... ;-)


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