Mrs. Eaves woes

Palatine's picture

I wanted my own Mrs. Eaves thread. So here it is.

I don't get it. I just can't set this thing right. At sizes below twelve points Mrs. Eaves disappears on the page, thanks to it's horribly small x-height. At sizes twelve points and slightly above it looks better, but the spacing is still way off. It's like Licko squashed it and then pulled it apart. It breaks the cardinal rule of typography (praphrasing Eric Gill, or was it Tsichold?) that word/letter spacing must be tight. And a larger x-height makes for far better legibility and readability, too.

People are swooning over this typeface, and I really don't understand why. Maybe the ligatures are causing this mysterious suspension of reality. Maybe its distinctive design has overshadowed its shortcomings. Either way, It's a chore to read it. Licko's reasons for these oddities certainly dont justify them. I switch to a good Baskerville or Sabon and I relax, my eyes no longer straining to move over to the next unnecessarily distant letter and word. Did Licko forget to finish the kerning? Jenson seems very similar to Mrs. Eaves in its letterforms, but the spacing is far tighter, the way it should be.

Sorry for the rant, but I'm trying to find a reason to like this face as body copy. It just doesn't stand lengthy reading. Oh well. Perhaps someday I'll get my money's worth out of it.

pattyfab's picture

Mrs. Eaves does not work as body copy. Period. It's too squat, serifs too wide. Nice italic, tho.

K1RK's picture

I agree with pattyfab, it will never work as body copy, its kerning is tragic and needs to be adjusted manually. A nice display face I would never consider using it anywhere near twelve point or below.

Eric_West's picture

2nd and 3rd the motions. I saw someone working with it the other day and i was like...

"...did you track that out?...:"

and they were like, "...huh?"

After explaining tracking to a fellow student, she hadn't. It was awful, I thought she had tracked the letterspacing out by 250. I even had a teacher who uses it (Eaves), but she stretches the italics to 120%.

Seriously, if it is THAT poorly produced… USE SOMETHING ELSE! There are a few really awesome Baskerville's out there. Just don't hound me about Mrs. Eaves.

Palatine's picture

I know this topic has been beaten to death around here, but I find it disturbing that designers, typographers (if there is such a distinct group), and the interested laity like myself are more or less the only ones who perceive this problem.

When it comes to a serif face that is being passed off as an all-purpose font - or at least one that is not being marketed as something other than that, spacing and kerning is everything. You can have a serif font with gorgeous letterforms, but if it fails as body text its value diminishes considerably, at least in my book.

All obvious stuff, but it's worth mentioning, I think.

Eric_West's picture

...its value diminishes considerably If not completely.

Yeah. It seems to me, Mrs. Eaves could get a passing grade if they invested some time in spacing . It is a shame really, even with it's problems, you can tell alot of time went into the forms.

It seems to me that Emigré simply existed as a catalyst, if you will, in propelling future designers into the silicon age of typography/type design. For that, we have them to thank. I was initially drawn into type/design by Emigré and the David Carson school of thought. At least with Carson, it didn't take me too horribly long to realize how anticlimatic/cheap his work was.

ebensorkin's picture

I think David Carson's stuff ( sorry to be off topic here ) was incredibly strong - but not for any deep type reasons. Instead it works because of his graphic design/artistic skills. I think his compostion in particular was great. So great that they type could be really dubious and the pieces still worked. We are of course not all required to like his art but slagging him off because his work is associated with Emigre & you have a type related beef with Mrs. Eaves seems gratuitous or misplaced to me. Sort of like compaining that a rhino makes a poor racehorse or something. Maybe I need to look at what David has said about type more - maybe I am missing something. Am I?

pattyfab's picture

Emigre fonts try too hard. They are almost all flawed, unfortunately, even though some of them have really nice uses. I find they fall short of my purposes most of the time. A shame.

Yes, this topic has been beaten to death on this forum.

Re David Carson - I can respect his place in type/design history without really liking his work very much. As a book designer who uses type for readability purposes and not as a "design element" I end up pissed off at most of what he does.

Miss Tiffany's picture

I agree too. Mrs. Eaves isn't a textface. But, I think it is great when used in head or even subhead situations. When the text/paragraph is short there is not reason you can't make it work. As designer's I think we agree that in general Mrs. Eaves has great curves. (hah!) But she has issues with spacing. So, the problem becomes a good design challenge. If you choose to use Mrs. Eaves start using stylesheets with spacing rules specifically for her.

She's like chocolate. Too much and you get sick, but a little now and again is always a nice thing.

(That said there are other Baskerville's. Doesn't Storm have a gorgeous one?)

timd's picture

Storm has two gorgeous Baskervilles
11pt and above
10 pt and below
Tim

ebensorkin's picture

Oh yeah, and I agree that Mrs Eaves doesn't cohere very nicely as a body text... It does have a certain colour that some folks might like. But it feels too brittle to me. It catches or restrains my eye too much as I read. I think that some of that is probably the kerning but much of it is letterforms. The letters are maybe just a little to interesting to play together nicely as a team. Which is an irritation.

That said, Zuzana did kick ligatures into the spotlight again. We should should thank her for that. And I think it's worth metioning that no face Baskerville style face looks quite so happy or perky as Mrs Eaves. Particularly in the ligatures. To me the face has a kind of Californian - or maybe sf/bay area - optimism. Put the font on a package or invitation and you get the subliminal impression that you too can have the happiness that the font radiates. That quality too could be irritating or impressive depending on what your intent is. To me, it explains why graphic designers like the font so much - a built-in optimistic/sensual emotional character. Why people think it looks 'feminine' is beyond me. But assigning a sex to fonts trains or vegetables has always seemed silly to me.

Miss Tiffany's picture

There are many recent (last 10 years or so) typefaces which suffer from being to brittle. I have a theory about some type designers being hypnotized by the sharp curves which are created in Illustrator.

timd's picture

Vegetables?

ebensorkin's picture

Patricia, why 'pissed off'? Do you feel that he is getting away with something?

Tiff: Nicely put. Also: Gorgeous yes. Optimistic no.

Christian: Don't you think the public has a resposibility to evaluate fonts as well? If I had designed Mrs Eaves I would hardly place restrictions on it's use. People make little enough money from their fonts as it is. The responsibilty as I see it is with the designer who buys/uses the font.

ebensorkin's picture

Vegetables. Some people will assign a gender to anything. Fonts too.

Hypnotized. - Good theory!

crossgrove's picture

I've never had an occasion to use the face, but I can see it's tremendously popular among designers.

If someone really wanted to get Mrs. Eaves to work better for text couldn't they use InDesign's Optical kerning option? Switch back and forth between Optical and Metrics kerning and print each out. Maybe the Optical option would save the face for your project. The other factors people have described may still weaken it, but it's worth a try.

hrant's picture

You called? :->

As I'm fond of saying, Mrs Eaves* is a beautiful woman who has a pronounced speech impediment. The problem is most people are too busy staring at her hair and cleavage to notice she has trouble communicating. You could say that the problem is subvisible, and so escapes general criticism, like how laymen think sans fonts are just as -or even more- "legible" (read: readable) than serifs.

* The font. I have neither seen a portrait of
Sarah Eaves nor read about her speech skill.

When it comes to reading, a font's various attributes make it suitable for certain sizes. Mrs Eaves has vertical proportions suitable for 14 point at the lowest (and this is why some people will reject it outright as a text face - I personally think a large book, like one placed on a lectern, maintains 14-16 as a possibility for text). Mrs Eaves also has a color (lightish) suitable for sizes slightly above the nominal ideal (~11pt). BUT: its spacing is for sizes around 8! In addition, its spacing is just plain bad - although very few people (not even most typographers) will notice. And it's not an issue of kerning: although Mrs Eaves has deplorable kerning, it would still work much better if its base spacing were decent.

> Mrs. Eaves could get a passing grade if they invested some time in spacing

No, it could be great if they did so. And they had a chance, when they released the OT version. Now, there is a good reason not to change a font's spacing when you re-release it (some clients will hate the reflow) but there's also a bad reason lurking in the background: hubris. Mrs Eaves's spacing hamartia was heavily discussed early on, and it's possible that fixing the spacing would have been an embarassing admission, and artiste-ic climb-down some people can't manage; these tend to be the same people who cannot tolerate any criticism of their fonts, and generally don't engage in criticisms of the fonts of others: they consider it all sacred Art. Which is of course entirely anti-user.

--

I guess in the end, most people find that being in the
company of great beauty is worth more than being able to
actually understand anything meaningful that beauty says.

hhp

hrant's picture

> If someone really wanted to get Mrs. Eaves to work better
> for text couldn’t they use InDesign’s Optical kerning option?

Carl, that's exactly the thought I had (on Typophile in fact) a while back. But my faith in InDesign's algorithm was not as well placed as my contempt for Mrs Eaves's spacing; the latter is simply too much for the former to handle.

hhp

pattyfab's picture

Eben - not that he's getting away with something, more that I don't like the direction he pulled design into for awhile. I think there's a hostility towards the reader - in the service of "breaking the mold" or something. Which is why I can appreciate his work from a distance. We need to be tweaked to be sure, but he never won me over.

I'm an artist too and feel the same about a lot of the art I see - glad someone's making it but wouldn't want to live with it. And the same feeling that people are so hungry for the next big thing that they lose sight of the relationship with the viewer. We end up drowning in hype but only history will tell - either with art or typography - what the lasting effect will be.

Hrant - great image the beautiful woman with the speech impediment. Or just that she has nothing much to say.

ebensorkin's picture

RE: You called? :->

Yes, we need our vegetables sorted by gender! ;-)

RE: I guess in the end, most people find that being in the
company of great beauty is worth more than being able to
actually understand anything meaningful that beauty says.

I agree. It happens all the time. With people & text. At least you admit the beauty is there even if it isn't your priority!

pattyfab's picture

The problem is I EXPECT beautiful women to be stupid. Beautiful fonts - I'd like to be able to use them, especially if they present themselves as useful (i.e. ligatures, open type, etc).

hrant's picture

> there’s a hostility towards the reader

Or just the plain ol' ignorance -and ignoring- of the reader's needs.

> Or just that she has nothing much to say.

Or maybe that she has learned to say nothing much.
At least when the spit-guard is off.

> we need our vegetables sorted by gender!

It's all in the wrist?

> At least you admit the beauty is there even if it isn’t your priority!

I further admit that it is in fact a priority for me! :-)
Whether I like it or not. I just hope I can keep that in check,
and that we can see beauty deeper than just on the surface.

> I EXPECT beautiful women to be stupid.

They're not. But because society helps them avoid thought by making their beauty adequate for survival, most of them simply take the easy way through (like most everybody else) and they don't develop the habit of thought -and expressing thought- enough.

hhp

pattyfab's picture

Well some of them are. Call me bitter.

ebensorkin's picture

RE: I don’t like the direction he pulled design into for awhile.

I don't know if it's fair to blame David for that. It seems to me that the blame - if it lies anywhere - would be with those who aped his style. And actually I am not sure that we are not going to need the mold broken again before too long. Certainly I think that design is looser & more expressive today than before the grunge car wreck. But thats just me.

RE: people are so hungry for the next big thing that they lose sight of the relationship with the viewer.

Agreed. That's always a problem when it happens.

RE: she has nothing much to say.

This sounds sexist to me. And moreover body language, gesture, and facial expression are forms communication too. The problem with Mrs Eaves would seem to be in being too expressive & communicative. So it's the way it's 'said' that being objected to. You can after all read text set in Mrs Eaves!

As I understand the arguement text faces are meant to be more neutral in character.

But when it's time to dance do you really prefer the better talker or the better dancer?

Or do you just want to ban dancing?

hrant's picture

> The problem with Mrs Eaves would seem to
> be in being too expressive & communicative.

Nope, in terms of immersive reading, it's simply the spacing. I personally think we can go quite far in terms of "expressiveness" without ruining immersion, as long as the important things (like good notan) are there.

hhp

pattyfab's picture

When the looks go south with age, I'd rather have the better talker.

Which also relates to the "only one typeface for the rest of your life" thread. Gimme a classic anytime.

ebensorkin's picture

RE: The problem is I EXPECT beautiful women to be stupid.

That does seem like a problem. Like any prejudice of gender race etc, I think it deserves to be set aside.

ebensorkin's picture

RE: I personally think we can go quite far in terms of “expressiveness” without ruining immersion.

I think your right. You are probably willing to go farther with this than I am judging by your type faces and what you have said about fraktur/blacletter. However, Viva Notan!

RE: I’d rather have the better talker.

I agree actually - but I don't expect everyone to feel or act that way - even when they may expreses the same opinion. We don't always know ourselves so completely. Social choice as type analogy is fraught with difficulty too.

typequake's picture

I recently prepared my wife's resume in Mrs. Eaves!
I thought that a feminine Baskerville would evoke what she wanted to convey. Also, my wife's name demands a particular ligature.

Anyway... my wife was hired -- no doubt because she's great -- but I should mention that the interviewer asked her which font she used...

hrant's picture

> the interviewer asked her which font she used…

Unless the interviewer was type-aware by training,
that's actually a bad sign (for the font, not your wife).

hhp

Paul Cutler's picture

Not long ago I had to design the invitations for the private showing of the King Tut exhibit in LA. I used Mrs. Eaves and a mix of ID optical (minus 10 if I remember correctly) and hand kerning. Of course there wasn't a lot of body text.

I was happy with it and so were the many who had a say…

peace

Miss Tiffany's picture

More and more people are type-aware. I no longer think it is a bad thing if people ask.

paul d hunt's picture

if you have some specimens of well-set Mrs Eaves, do share! I wanna see images.

Miss Tiffany's picture

also to Hrant: In fact, I have clients and know of other people who make a point of asking about the typeface as they see it as something which shows knowledge of some kind. ;^)

SF's picture

pattyfab's picture

Everybody has computers now, hence fonts are not an alien concept to most people anymore. Why is it a bad sign that the client asks?

hrant's picture

Because it means the font is upstaging the content.
It's only a good thing if type is somehow connected
to the interviewer or the job.

hhp

Palatine's picture

SF. Aha! See? Now there's an example of a well-set Mrs. Eaves. She's a display face, folks. Unfortunately, Emigre and the less typographically aware are pimping her as an all-purpose text font.

User her sparingly or not at all.

enne_son's picture

I have never set anything in Mrs. Eaves, and haven't gone back into previous threads to review the discussion of spacing. My question is: is the spacing bad because it is all over the map, or is it bad because it is considered too loose [= an edit: was 'wide'].

Licko designed the characters to be wider / shorter in their x height (Patty's: 'squat') than the typical Baskerville. This contributes to more white within the letters, and if perfect spacing keeps the whites between the letter in synch with the whites inside letters, the interletter spacing must be looser than what we might normally think. So the wideness of the face dictates an open spacing.

If a compact, well-consolidated word image is what a text face should strive for, Mrs. Eaves moves in the other direction.

Does Licko claim otherwise?

ebensorkin's picture

Peter, I'll have to look at that. It's an interesting point.

hrant's picture

> is the spacing bad because it is all over the map,
> or is it bad because it is considered too loose

1) The spacing is all over the map.
2) The spacing is mismatched to the vertical proportions (and the color).

Licko cannot claim Mrs Eaves has low/high readability,
since that would violate the all-important Emigre mantra.
Obviously, the issue of boumas, optimal notan, etc. isn't
even remotely on the radar.

hhp

enne_son's picture

"The spacing is mismatched to the vertical proportions."

Hrant: can you spell out or show me what this means?

hrant's picture

Repeated from above:
When it comes to reading, a font’s various attributes make it suitable for certain sizes. Mrs Eaves has vertical proportions suitable for 14 point at the lowest (and this is why some people will reject it outright as a text face - I personally think a large book, like one placed on a lectern, maintains 14-16 as a possibility for text). Mrs Eaves also has a color (lightish) suitable for sizes slightly above the nominal ideal (~11pt). BUT: its spacing is for sizes around 8!

Although the numbers above are certainly open to discussion,
the important thing is that there's a relationship between a
font's spacing, color, vertical proportions and intended use.
And to me Mrs Eaves clearly violates the relationship(s).

hhp

Palatine's picture

To me, it's a very simple issue. Perhaps my inexperience with respect to design might actually serve me well here.

A serif face meant for body copy (was Mrs. Eaves meant for that?) is either reasonably easy to read, or it isn't. If it isn't, then the designer's intentions regarding the stylistic raison d'aitre of the face, such as Licko's goal of a "light", "open" face or whatever else she wanted to do to Baskerville, no longer matters. As a text face that is to have the same function as a Quadraat, Palatino, Renard, Dolly, etc., Mrs. Eaves fails.

I really don't care what Licko's stylistic justifications are. If Mrs. Eaves breaks the rules of sound typograpyhy (simply put, stuff that makes type easy to read), then it's all a wasted effort in that regard.

Mrs. Eaves finds success in other applications: wedding invitations, menus, displays, short tracts of texts, and so on. It's still a wide playing-field. SF's example is gorgeous. It seems the spacing is tighter as well.

Certainly, if the spacing were improved considerably by Licko, then we'd really have something that is worth more than a nice ligature set. The small x-height and overall squat letterforms would still not be ideal, but it would be enough to allow Mrs. Eaves to perform adequately as a versatile serif face. This would certainly inspire a greater appreciation of its beauty.

hrant's picture

> if the spacing were improved considerably by Licko

Or somebody else. Many famous and -otherwise- capable type
designers (like Gill) have as a rule left the spacing to others.

In fact, I've heard that James Montalbano has in fact done
a respaced Mrs Eaves for a client, I presume will full permission.
This could just be a rumor though, so don't go repeating it without
saying so. And in any case, it's not something he, or anybody besides
Emigre, is likely to be able to sell (or even gift to existing Mrs Eaves
owners) outright.

hhp

enne_son's picture

"there’s a relationship between a font’s spacing, color, vertical proportions and intended use."

What is the relationship between vertical proportions and spacing?
Do fonts with a small x-height require tight spacing? Why is that? Does it hold for condensed and expanded forms equally?

Isn't spacing part of what makes up colour? That is, a font only has a certain colour under a certain spacing. Where the spaces between the letters and inside the letters are in synch, in a font such as Mrs. Eaves the typographical result will have an even texture but lightish colour. When the spacing is tighter than that given by the condition in which the whites are in synch, the colour may be darker, but the texture less even. [later edit: added the word "texture"]

crossgrove's picture

"Do fonts with a small x-height require tight spacing?"

Peter, to be specific, all the factors Hrant named interact, all the time. The size a face is set at affects the behavior of spacing, and x-height also affects it, differently, at different sizes. There isn't an easy way to pick apart which feature (x-height, stem thickness, serif length, overall spacing) is causing a specific effect. They all affect each other.

I would say colour in a text face is a very imprecise and subjective thing to describe, when other factors such as evenness of spacing, and differentiation of letterforms are so much more crucial to the performance of a face.

Hrant has explained this above: Mrs. Eaves has letterforms and proportions which are appropriate for a specific size range, almost exclusively above 14 points. However, it seems to have spacing appropriate for sizes *much* smaller. This means that at small sizes, where the spacing is more appropriate, the face looks weak and tiny. At sizes where the letterforms hold up, the spacing is blowing apart. There's no size or setting that makes the face really excel, and certainly not for extended text.

enne_son's picture

Carl, in my comment about colour I was not defending Mrs. Eaves. I was formulating an observation about the relation of spacing to texture and colour. (This might have been unclear. I originally wrote: Where the spaces between the letters and inside the letters are in synch in a font such as Mrs. Eaves, the typographical result will have an even texture but lightish colour. I have now moved the coma so it reads: Where the spaces between the letters and inside the letters are in synch, in a font such as Mrs. Eaves the typographical result will have an even texture but lightish colour.) [etc.]

I'll try to write a little more about the intent of my question about the relation of vertical proportions to spacing later.

hrant's picture

Peter, I figured you were trying to go beyond Mrs Eaves and into specifics of how the various parameters of a face relate - sorry I was lazy in my previous reply, in fact missing an important aspect:

Those factors I mentioned are certainly not the only ones, and in this case specifically the issue of width comes strongly into play, with a wider font indeed needing more letterspacing, but also with a wider font being better for smaller sizes (so another area where there's an imbalance in Mrs Eaves).

In terms of x-height, as we know about Latin in general, it's more important to consider that than the point size (although not at the expense of ignoring the weight of the extenders completely). So a font having a wide body (relative to the x-height) is more significant than a font simply having a small x-height. And good letterspacing depends on the proportions and color in the x-height region more than anything else.

Where vertical proportions as a whole come into play however is in the suitability of a font for a given point size, since extenders play a greater role the deeper you go into immersion (the more you rely on the parafovea). There's of course a limit to how small you should make the x-height, since the fovea will always carry a notable chunk of the weight of reading.

hhp

enne_son's picture

Hrant, you're right about my intent.
My purpose was to indicate that a letterform-set with a wide average horizontal dimension relative to the vertical in the x-height area--because of the amount of internal white produced--requires a loose spacing to set properly, so the spacing Licko provided might not be wrong relative to the intrinsic demands of the letterform.

Tight spacing is only productive if the design allows it, that is, if the counters are small enough in the horizontal dimension to bear it. Tightening the spacing of a font which is not made for tight spacing leads to other problems. Tight spacing is not a readability value at normal text sizes in itself. Words with tight spacing and compact counters benefit the perceptual integrity of the visual wordform, or as Noordzij might say the "consolidation of the word". But there is a discrimination affordance constraint for compact counters at small sizes. These countervailing pressures control the fitness of the face. In general I agree with the assessments about the fitness of the face for various forms of usage described above. It just strikes me as a face with an appeal incommensurate with it's fitness. It is a Bernard Modern in a way.

brampitoyo's picture

Didn't Emigre mentioned somewhere (if I remembered correctly, in their red exhibition catalog from way back) that their typefaces were not designed to possess a timeless and utilitarian quality to them, but rather designed to reflect the qualities and spirit of "our times"?

So obviously, they're doing what they do best.

Regarding the selection of Mrs. Eaves, have anyone tried Tribute yet? I find it to be surprisingly usable in body text situation, despite its lively character -- and nobody uses them!

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