The good ship Notanic

ebensorkin's picture

This thread is not just another Notan / Bouma / Readability ramble. Instead it's a place to let us post visual examples of excellent, ( or vile ) Notan to discuss. Samples could be from a font, be just a glyph pair, or come from non-digital sources such as stone carving, calligraphy etc. Who's first in line?

crossgrove's picture

Eben,

The screens we're looking at are so different from printed pages, we're already in a mire as far as interpreting what we see or rasterizing things consistently. My biggest issue is that the low resolutions seriously limit the size range we can evaluate. The additional variables of sharpness, contrast, reading environment, resolution settings, these things make it a very coarse and incomplete picture.

I've been wishing someone would prepare some PDF samples with text fonts carefully set as consistently as possible: three realistic, common reading sizes, good measures, good leading, consistent x-height, built-in spacing and kerning, set ragged right, adequate white space, standard layouts. If this was done with a broad selection of faces, without a foundry or esthetic bias, it would be helpful for discussions like these, as well as to people needing more information for purchases or type selection.

Maybe someone could devise a template in InDesign, and various designers (with various access to different fonts) could plug new faces into it (as long as they can adjust to match the standard x-heights). Each face could be a PDF, or collections of pages could be assembled by one person.... A Typophile PDF repository?

Nick Shinn's picture


Neville Brody's typeface "State".

hrant's picture

Nick, I'd never seen that! Cool. How old is it?

hhp

dezcom's picture

Eben,
The sample type I posted was set in Adobe Illustrator and then "Saved for Web" using PNG24 as the selection. Photoshop is locked into pixels and doesn't quite work for text.

ChrisL

Nick Shinn's picture

One reason that I have no faith in any of the reading theories or research discussed on Typophile is that none of it explains how one can possibly read the above, let alone fluently.
How does the reader differentiate the letter from the join?
And where is the contrast between positive letter-as-figure and negative background that is considered so fundamental to legibility?

William Berkson's picture

>how one can possibly read the above, let alone fluently

I don't think the theories are that well developed. It doesn't mean they won't be in the future.

On your thought-provoking example:

1. I do think it is much harder to read than it would be if it were solid--that is, it would slow down and fatigue a reader more.

2. The letters do have a rhythm and regularity which tells us where to look for a letter. And of course we've learned to read script shapes--more slowly and laboriously than print.

Nick Shinn's picture

it would slow down and fatigue a reader more.

Yes, but it's a question of degree, not kind.
The underlying process is the same whether you're walking on a road or running across rocks.
So yes, one must walk before one can run, but don't slow me down 'cause you 'bot can't get its feet off the ground.

hrant's picture

Nick, what are the chances we can get you to adopt a broader
New Year's Resolution this time, plus stick with it longer?

hhp

crossgrove's picture

Nick:

"reading" isn't the same thing in your example as it is in book or onscreen text reading. Quite different actually. A clue here is how large the type is. Legibility isn't Readability. Hope that helps.

Nick Shinn's picture

Hrant, I have tried not to mention the "r" word (and I certainly haven't mentioned it in this thread). However, I didn't resolve to lose all interest in how we read.

Shirokoru, which reminded me of State, got me thinking about situations where we can read even though there is no dominant side in the positive/negative gestalt -- in other words, where the notan does not directly map the typographic form as a letter with an area, a simple figure/ground image -- and hence outline type sprung to mind.

It would be convenient to explain away how we manage to read an outline script by putting it in the "deciphering" and "legibility" category, rather than the "immersive" and "readability" one, but I'm afraid that although I admit these categories can be useful, I don't think they have much to do with the way we read.

I believe that readerability is extremely flexible, and allows us to read different types in different ways. From our perceptual toolbox, we choose different tools to read a very tight Helvetica Thin setting than we would for a classic Bembo setting.

And in reading text set in an outline script, as with all challenging settings, we probably rely more on guessing word shapes than the letter-first model proferred by Kevin. But that doesn't mean we're not engaged in immersive reading. Surely there are different depths of immersivity -- where do you draw the line: word, phrase, sentence, paragraph, page?

Actually Carl, I showed outline of a monoline script because thatt is most promising for an outline text setting, as there is less problem with the outline doubling up between letters.

hrant's picture

> I have tried not to mention the “r” word

Yes, but clearly that hasn't been a de facto solution on the ground (not that you honored your previous Resolution for nearly long enough) which is why I said we should try to broaden it next time.

hhp

Nick Shinn's picture

New year resolutions are more an expression of general intent than inviolable rules.
My intent was to think outside the Readabiity/Legibility box. It's not been easy, when that concept is so engrained and crops up so readily in discussions on the reading process.

ebensorkin's picture

none of it explains how one can possibly read the above

Thinking about notan seems ideal for running scripts because the notan model isn't character or glyph centric. I don't think the mind is either which is part of why I like the bouma model so well. Also, according to Peter ( or so I imagine) the 'salient cues' for the letters are still there.

Admittedly outlines introduce an additional factor in desciferment of a word or phrase or bouma if you like. I am not sure how to explain how we deal with that & actually I think we don't deal with it all *that* well. Why? I definitely don't want to read too many words set in outline - even if it grabs my attention.

I think you may have brought a particle physics problem to geometry class as it were. Still, it's a visual sample/example. So bravo. You are well ahead of the rest of us where that's concerned!

Carl: VERY good idea. What kinds of Copyright issues are there? Without addressing issues of color on the page and for looking at how two or three glyphs relatemaybe we could say, render it at 96pt size or above or so x height equals 1 inch or something - what do you think? What do you think of Chris' PNG model? It sounds good to me... Also some of the examples I will want to post later will probably come from scans made by other people or photos of carvings. So I know ahead of time that not all of my examples will be superb.

I hope to follow Nick's fine example & post a new sample soon. But before I do:

To reiterate just a little the idea I have had for this thread (true or not) is that notan is not easy to 'see' or rather notice when it's working well. However if we look at classic examples of difficult character combinations and see them working or failing by various degrees the Notan will be easier to see and perhaps it's applicability to our work will be too. And maybe I can gain the viability of my pet 'contextual notan' idea too. That's why I posted the 'ra' & 'La' examples and asked William to help me with the samples I was missing. Let's look back at the samples of 'La' & comment on them. I don't want William's good will to be wasted! Does anybody have any further comments about 'ra' combinations?

joachim's picture

> Shirokoru, which reminded me of State, got me thinking about situations where we can read even though there is no dominant side in the positive/negative gestalt (Nick)

I believe to remember that the Fuse series had loads of experimental fonts that challenged reading habits in one way or another or more... so I wonder whether other Fuse fonts might also hold interesting notanities in store? Is there any place online where all fonts of the series can be seen?

Shirokuro and State seem cousins (about equal amounts of black and white), though State is intersecting (using vector compounds) and thus reminds me of Shatter (for which the Letraset folks reportedly sliced Helvetica up with X-actos) -- while Shiro is interlocking, kinda like those complicated hand greetings that some dudes practice :)
...and that T of State is definitely "not resolved" ;))

dezcom's picture

Maybe that bis why NFL referees are so obscure and confused :-)

ChrisL

joachim's picture

Great patterns on those ships...... they must have been inspired by my 'Tiny Tim' font :)))

Browsing further, the site talked about gestalt theory, and then mentions the font 'Gestalt':
http://www.typography.com/catalog/gestalt/more.html
which in turn reminded me of good old 'Stop':
http://www.myfonts.com/fonts/linotype/stop/familytree.html

dezcom's picture

Shades of Mecanorma :-)

ChrisL

ebensorkin's picture

The HFJ link didn't work for me. But googling it took me here:

http://www.typography.com/catalog/gestalt/index.html

It looks like I had better comment on 'La' first if I have any hope of getting your comments on the subject! Okay, so when I look at the samples we have here imprefect as they undoubtedly are I see that the 'problem' and some of the 'solutions' are maybe not so well represented. The examples I had for LA were just a little too middling. So here are some examples that I think suggest something interesting about 'hole' problem in the combination 'La'.

Let's look at what I think of as an examples of 'problem' relationship. Here is Geneva. And Mrs Eaves. In both cases the gap just seems too big to me. It's too much of a 'hole'.


Here you see the 'hole' made by the shape of the L. It looks a bit too irregular.I see many many ways of compensating or ovoiding what looks imballanced to me. In fonts based on handwritting I see that the L is bent over filling that gap partially.


Blackletter partially fills the gaps too. Petras Script is not blackletter of course but it seems to use the same strategy as to Fette Fraktur to deal with the 'hole'.


Also, a serif can help fill that space - in many styles. Courier, and Rockwell and Cooper Black.



Cooper Black is a little bit of a hybrid. It uses the bent serif as well like these fonts do: Hoefler Text and Goudy Oldstyle


Or perhaps the most obvious choice in a Sans - the leg of the L can be shortened. Here we have Futura Medium, Humana Sans, and Meta Book Pro and Octone.




In Graffiti There is another solution - raising the leg. Sort of appropriate for making a liquid mark.... Here is: Owned, Streetcred and Fanboyhardcore



And you can have a mix of lifted leg and serif a la Rockwell: Kickshaw

And then there is stuff that looks like a contextual altrenate: Shake Your Head

So, What do you think?

timd's picture

Albertus uses a deep cut on the L, a similar solution to the lifted leg.
I think that there is a limit to the amount you'd want to reduce the hole as that is what makes an L an L and scale comes into play, a 48pt L would, in an ideal world, be narrower than a 6pt L (if not a display cut), so I think you'd have to separate text from display in your analysis. I find your script (including the blackletter) samples are moving towards a confusion with an uppercase C.
Tim

William Berkson's picture

The hole created by the L is a problem of uneven color--because of no black in the northeast quadrant. With the r you have the same problem in the southeast quadrant, but it is less as the r arm can be short, and you can extend the serif to the right under the arm. Also we read more clues at the x-height, so the baseline gap is somewhat less obtrusive.

The L problem is partly solved by the serif on the leg, which is often one of the biggest in a font, as in your Hoefler text. David Kindersley argued that the serif on the leg shifts the L's 'optical center' (the point ideally equidistant between sidebearings) to the right. And this allows more space to the right of the leg, and less to the left. This help to avoid the problem of the leg being too close to the next letter, creating a 'crash' or clotted spot. Too close seems to be a problem in the Albertus example given by Tim.

There is an inevitable tension among three factors in glyph design: diversity of form, even color, and avoiding too close proximity of blacks.

The L and sometimes the R are the biggest problems, and with the L particularly you can't really design it away.

Glyph designs are always a compromise between the different factors, and trying to be too perfect on one is going to mess up the others.

This is particularly true on the caps-to-lowercase combination. One of the things I have learned from working on Caslon is to keep in mind that the caps are really a different script that has been slapped together with the lower case. Trying too hard to harmonize them, which is the modern tendency, may backfire. They are, after all used as markers of sentence beginnings, titles, etc. Making them too harmonious with the lower case defeats this purpose.

Caslon could on occassion make his caps way over weighted, as in the Double Pica L above. And sometimes they stand off too far from the lower case--the italic caps can be in the next county. Still, I think he understood that you can use the different structure of the caps to give strength and emphasis to a font, and that is a quality that can be lost in the quest for even color.

Finally, loose enough spacing, as in Caslon, helps make compromises work, and the mania for tight letter spacing can impose bad choices on you.

hrant's picture

HFJ's Gestalt is not significant here.
But the Hoefler Text "La" has good notan, like Caslon's.

> the r arm can be short

1) But at the expense of its distinctiveness = legibility/readability.
2) So can the bar of the "L" (and with the same negative).

> we read more clues at the x-height

I actually don't think this is true per se, especially not during immersive reading. On the other hand, there are indeed more clues there (and maybe that's what you really meant).

> There is an inevitable tension among three factors in glyph design:
> diversity of form, even color, and avoiding too close proximity of blacks.

I think this is about half right.

> it is important to keep in mind that the caps are really a different script

Very good point. There is a pretty strict limit to how much you can make the two cases harmonize. The good news is that there's a lot more to type design than formal harmony.

BTW, making caps too dark compared to the lc actually had a practical application: setting more attention-grabbing all-caps, out of the box.

hhp

timd's picture

>Hoefler Text “La” has good notan

Is this because the 'vertical' serif creates a well for the white in the L or because the serif frames the white of the open counter of the a, or both?

> the r arm can be short

Or curved back to the vertical like Esta.

Tim

William Berkson's picture

>>Hoefler Text “La” has good notan

>Is this because the ‘vertical’ serif creates a well for the white in the L or because the serif frames the white of the open counter of the a, or both?

I don't think it is the relationship to the 'a', which is not that great anyway.

You can look on the vertical serif as adding weight to the lower right quadrant, reducing the unevenness of color. Or you can think in terms of notan, and see the serif as counterbalancing the white expanse above it. Either way you slice it, it means the L leg can be a little longer and still look ok. With a sans, you are really forced to make the leg shorter, I think, as in Eben's examples above.

hrant's picture

> Is this because ...

I think in Hoefler Text (like Patria, and unlike Albertus for example) it's because the white -like the black- is well-proportioned, designed if you will (although -unlike the black- it's "design" in a necessarily non-deterministic way) and "happy" alongside the black.

> I don’t think it is the relationship to the ‘a’

?
Notan is all about relationships, so by "the 'La' has good notan" of course I was talking about the balance of black and white between the two glyphs.

> You can look on the vertical serif as adding weight to the lower
> right quadrant, reducing the unevenness of color. Or you can think
> in terms of notan, and see the serif as counterbalancing the white
> expanse above it.

I guess Eben's long and studious elaboration on the difference between color and notan (and the importance and primacy of the latter) didn't do much...

The relevance of notan (here, and in general) is about
relationships, not compartments. East versus West.

hhp

William Berkson's picture

The reason I think it is useful to think in terms of 'color' here is that the L is so open that there is little 'activation of the white' that people usually think of in discussing notan. Assymetric balance of blacks within the bounds of the sidebearings and the body height is also very important. When it is done well, then you have a much better shot at fitting with other letters, including the a.

The handling of the L in Hoefler text is very traditional, and works. Albertus, a variation on the traditional approach, and works, but for some reason is badly spaced here. Patria and Mrs Eaves (above) have too small a serif in relation to the weight of the stem in IMHO, and color worse for that reason.

timd's picture

Albertus is badly spaced because I took it from the myfonts site preview rather than set it properly, my feeling is that the La works as a combination, but I really posted it as a follow-up to Eben's posts as another example of how it could be treated.
Mrs Eaves is also suffering from small x-height.

Tim

hrant's picture

I'm not sure what "activation of the white" means. Sounds like something Peter would say, but it seems to assume some sort of threshold, which I can't see existing.

The "L" is indeed very open colorwise but -as Caslon and Hoefler Text show- that doesn't necessarily prevent good notan (although you really need a hefty serif there*). This is in fact a good example of the difference between color and notan.

* You're right about Patria btw, and the same thing applies elsewhere, like the "E" and even the lc "z". That's probably the single biggest thing on my to-fix list.

> When it is done well, then you have a much better
> shot at fitting with other letters, including the a.

Good point, although here again there's the danger of missing the "special" thing about notan, that it's about relationships, not just discrete things abutting.

> Mrs Eaves is also suffering from small x-height.

Do you mean in relation to the participation of the "L" in notan? Because a small x-height can be a very positive thing in terms of readability (assuming it harmonizes with other the elements, such as spacing and color, which it doesn't in Mrs Eaves).

hhp

William Berkson's picture

>I’m not sure what “activation of the white” means.

I'm not sure either, but it's the phrase that Frutiger uses for what his goal is in "designing the white" as he puts it. I am assuming it goes some direction toward having the white push into foreground. And to go all the way on that is not a good thing in text faces. (the earlier example you pointed out is a display face.)

There is some 'thing' that happens with the whites in the counters when you get everything right, and I suppose that's what he's talking about. I mentioned earlier Cyrus Highsmith saying that the glyph 'becomes part of the paper instead of sitting on top of it'. And Chris Lozos wrote about the white and black 'locking' together. There's just a bunch of metaphors.

hrant's picture

> it’s the phrase that Frutiger uses

Ah, the scissors guy.

Metaphors are usually fun and sometimes useful, as long as they don't make
things worse, and thinking in term like "get everything right" is... inhuman.

hhp

enne_son's picture

Since "the caps are really a different script that has been slapped together with the lower case" [Bill], is it possible that the black and white of it (notan) can never be as effectively leveraged in mixed settings as they can in purely lowercase settings? Is it possible that the basis for such leveraging is just not as there. See Noordzij's discussion just below.

[On the matter of metaphors]: To me the metaphors--if metaphors is what they are--are metaphors of proper salience, and reference important craft-attunements. Within the bounded map of the word-(or sub-word)-object both the black and white are information that go toward visual wordform resolution (a perceptual processing routine). That, I believe, is the import of Cyrus Highsmith's comment.

William Berkson's picture

>thinking in term like “get everything right” is… inhuman.

I said right, not perfect. There are many, many things to get right and working together for a text font to be able to compete with the excellent ones out there. And when I can get a bunch of letters together that seem like are all working as they should, it seems to me somehow that both the whites and blacks glowing. That's what I'm talking about.

Another sense of rightness is, interestingly, that I lose the location of the letter I'm working on in a display string. When a glyph disappears, that's a good sign.

ebensorkin's picture

Tim, Nice point about curving the LC r back. And the Albertus. It's all well & good to talk about notan but there are also semi-isolatable techniques people have used to cope with what are in my mind Notanic issues, problems. Thanks for grasping my idea!

I guess Eben’s long and studious elaboration on the difference between color and notan (and the importance and primacy of the latter) didn’t do much…

This is not a suprise is it? Habits are hard to break. Also Notan is hard to wrap your head around. But worth it. Speasking about color brings up terms like 'even' which are misleading on their surface despite what experts might say. I think more descriptive and probably more accurate are 'notan', 'tension' & 'relationship'.

Mrs Eaves is also suffering from small x-height Probably. But a shorter leg and or a larger serif on the leg would have promoted a nicer notanic balance.

‘activation of the white’

I think that these words refer to activationg the white mentally while designing not some kind of wacky figure ground effect or any other of a number of distractions. Notan isn't white centric.

ebensorkin's picture

Another sense of rightness is, interestingly, that I lose the location of the letter I’m working on in a display string. When a glyph disappears, that’s a good sign.

Another case of non-litteral description! :-0

But I think I get what your talking about. Of course you could get that effect with a constructed/geometric face quite easily. And that's why they don't work for text. Too much regularity. The seeemingly wild aspects and excentric matches found in text faces ( I will never forget the day I actually looked at a double storey g carefully) require extra consideration - and that's where taking a notanic position can help. Relationships need not be even, the need to be balanced.

Thinking about your description I started to worder how that sense of balance might shift around as you work on text for smaller sizes. When I look at something like Beorcana the combinations look funky when seen at large sizes. The way you balance your notan probably shifts too. Carl, would you comment on this?

Anybody got a new combination problem they want to examine?

Does anybody think my 1st two examples were 'just fine'? Or that my analysis about the problems and solutions was off?

ebensorkin's picture

...the basis for such leveraging is just not as there.

I think it's more difficult to solve for Notan with many upper case letters. I will even admit that the problems to be solved might be presented for the sake of teaching as being in a different class, kind, or category in general; but the ground in which the problem is solved (or not) is still Notan. And there are exceptions. The D is a great example to contast with the upper case I. The I is fairly simple to solve for upper case or lower. It's an exeption. But not an exception for Notan. I think that while the problems vary alot between glyph combos, uppercase & lower & even kinds of scripts - the same issue: Notan; applies across all forms - even Thai & Hebrew & Cyrilic & Chinese etc.

William Berkson's picture

>> I guess Eben’s long and studious elaboration on the difference between color and notan (and the importance and primacy of the latter) didn’t do much…

>This is not a suprise is it? Habits are hard to break.

Eben, I really hope you are not taking up Hrant's deplorable habit of ascribing any disagreement on an issue to personal failings in the other person.

I don't think I am stuck in silly type habits. I don't have a lot of type habits to break, as I have only been drawing type for a bit over two years.

I think we just disagree about understanding phenomena that in reality nobody understands all that well. I did explain in detail why I think the concept of 'color' is critically important in type, specifically the importance of balance of blacks, and Doyald Young's demonstration of this in logos. Do you have Doyald Young's book? Have you read his case study of his 'Prudential' logo?

>Of course you could get that effect with a constructed/geometric face quite easily.

I haven't drawn a geometric face, but I think it would be quite a big challenge with a geometrical face. The 'disappearing' comes from achieving even color and extensive visual consistency from character to character. Simple geometrical shapes go directly against even color in character after character, and they have to be masterfully modified--as Futura is--to achieve the harmony that makes type 'disappear'.

ebensorkin's picture

personal failings

If I meant that I would have written *bad* habits. No, I had no jibe in mind. I just meant 'habits of mind'. I don't mean ( or think) 'silly' either. It's true we don't agree on all of this but - so what? Where's the fun in that?

‘Prudential’ logo
The only think I recall re- that logo was the way they went progressively towards an abstract state until it became too much & then they toned down the abstraction. I don't think that's the story you mean. What's the gist of this Doyald Young book?

Without being 'good' a geometric face can easily have the uniformity that allows characters to disappear. Futura is only semi-geometriuc compated to the faces I was referring to. I mean those techno faces... should I post an example? Anyway, my point is that no matter if it's extremely easy to achieve or very tough because of the complexities involved in a good text face - the dissapearing glyph is telling you something. I think it's tellling you that some kind of relative Notanic balance has been acheived. But I was also trying to draw a distiction. Just because a glyph now 'fits' in a face doesn't mean that the Notan of the face is rich. Just that it's balanced.

enne_son's picture

Eben, did you see the connection between my point about the basis for leveraging the light / dark (notan) of it being not as there, and Noordzij's comment about the basis for a rhythmic bond not being present in the capitals?

Also, I deliberately said the basis for the leveraging was "just not as there."

I think the point is effectively demonstrated in pretty well every "Largo" you showed. In each case the 'argo' makes a notanically integral bouma-object, with the "L'" consistently breaking away. We are so used to seeing this, we don't realize how badly.

Isn't it the case that the most we can hope for in the "La" combos is a harmonious integration of the blacks between the right end of the leg of the "L" and the bowl of the "a", and a smooth flow of the white, from the white between the arm and bowl of the "a" into the white just above the leg and to the right of the stem of the "L"?

The notan won't be 'ideal' or 'solved' in formal-functional terms across the word-object--and, as someone already suggested, perhaps it shouldn't be in proper names and at the beginings of new sentences--but we will have leveraged the black and white of it intelligently.

(Hrant, I'm picking up on your excellant comment elsewhere that the important thing is the leveraging of notan.)

William Berkson's picture

>What’s the gist of this Doyald Young book?

'Fonts and Logos' is a 385 page large-format book studying fonts and logos. It is one of the best books on drawing letters, I think, and just has a wealth of information. It's value is not in any 'gist' but in the wealth of detailed comments on letters and illustrations of trial and error in drawing logos by a master of drawing letters. His goal is logos, not typefaces, but many of the same principles apply. The trial and error examples bring you into the mind of a master draftsman of logos, and that is its great merit. The Prudential example is the most extensive documentation of the process of developing the wordmark for 'Prudential', as well as a related font.

I can't do better by way of summary than Hermann Zapf in the Introduction "This is logo design at is best by a designer with an outstanding international reputation of many years. Study the examples to open the door into this imaginative and inspiring world of logo design."

Oh and Hrant often has recommended it along with the 'triumvirate' as one of the handful of best books on letters, and I agree.

Personally, what I learned most from it was the importance of even color, and what it means in practice to achieve it. With all due respect, Eben, from your comments (can't see even color in a word; easy to achieve with geometric face) I conclude that you really don't understand the concept of even color as the term is used by Young.

In so far as 'notan' is a different concept in type from 'color', it does have to do with the whites having a special kind of presence.
Here is Frutiger, who I believe is the most prominent type designer to advocate 'designing the whites'. This is from the Wikipedia article:
***
“The white surface of the paper is taken to be ‘empty’, an inactive surface, despite the visible structures that are present. With the first appearance of a dot, a line, the empty surface is activated. A part, if only a small part, of the surface is thereby covered. With this procedure, the emptiness becomes white, or light, providing a contrast to the appearance of black. Light is recognizable only in comparison with shadow. The actual procedure in drawing or writing is basically not the addition of black but the removal of light. The sculptor's work also consists essentially of taking something away from the block of stone and in this manner forming it: the final sculpture is what remains of the material” (Rauri, ?) A professor of Frutiger's, Alfred Williman said: “Do not apply black but cover up white, so as to make the light of the white sheet active.” (Traces) Frutiger took this as his mantra.
***

So this, as in art exercises on 'notan' is more than balance; it is imparting a certain quality to the whites.

Finally, in type design the relationship of the weights of the horizontals and vertical and diagonals I don't think can be determined only by looking at the whites. You also have to look at how the blacks relate to each other. For example, can you tell what the weight of the cross bars on the f and t should be only by looking at the balance of white and black? I think you also have to consider how it relates to the weight of the stem, of the serifs, the horizontal part of the arches, etc.

hrant's picture

> I really hope you are not taking up Hrant’s deplorable habit of ...

Yes Eben, it's much better if you pick up one of William's wonderful habits, like getting somebody to spill their guts out in elaboration, disagree fundamentally but not bother to say anything, so that you can just keep droning on about your hyper-conservative, more-static-than-Pluto's-moon pet beliefs and quoting and re-quoting "Standard" texts which of course everybody has to memorize in order to understand anything, without fear of actually having to counter-elaborate in any meaningful way. Shame on you for trying to get people to understand and use a word that their pappy never told them about. How can they need a new idea, a new word, when they have already Arrived? And Eben, make sure not to take into account that you're having real disagreements with actual people - otherwise we might run the risk of actually understanding things and getting somewhere new.

> I don’t think I am stuck in silly type habits.

Who said anything about type?

> The ‘disappearing’ comes from achieving even color

Indeed, information disappears, poof!

> The notan won’t be ‘ideal’ or ‘solved’ in
> formal-functional terms across the word-object

Indeed. The most we can do is target an ideal, knowing full well that we can never get there, not least because it's a construct, not anything real. This is the difference BTW between ideal and perfect: the latter make you think it's something real you can get to. What it is is a disease.

hhp

hrant's picture

>> "This is logo design at is best

LOGO being the operative word!

> you really don’t understand the concept of
> even color as the term is used by Young.

Eben would have to be a retard not to understand such a simple thing.
Eben is not a retard.

> In so far as ‘notan’ is a different concept in type from ‘color’,
> it does have to do with the whites having a special kind of presence.

No, no, no, no, no!
You're completely not listening at all.

Frutiger is good at a lot of things. Understanding good notan -different than having good instincts about it and/or actually making it- is not one of them. He, like so many others, here and elsewhere, is stuck in the western mindframe of figure/ground, of primacy and subservience.

hhp

enne_son's picture

"it’s a construct" [Hrant]

...and a heuristic one at that...

I don't know what 'an ideal' might be other than that we should target a notan that is adverse to componential abstraction, response bias collapse or letter-by-letter slot-processing. We can get there!

William Berkson's picture

>not bother to say anything

Hrant, not only are you gratuitiously rude but you are talking nonsense. I have responded to Eben in detail and in fact at excessive length.

>Indeed, information disappears, poof!

I have explained that even color has to be balanced with variety in letter form and other factors. But obviously you prefer to rant and rage rather than discuss the topic, so I won't respond further.

hrant's picture

I'm not ranting and raging, I'm playing!

Even color per se is anti-reading. What you want is a lack (actually a minimizing) of errant-fixation-causing distractions in color (and pattern). Not the same thing at all. Even color is yet another Modernist, western illusion.

hhp

ebensorkin's picture

Long post again. Surprise, surprise, - right?

Strangely all these statements tie together fvor me and remind me of idea I have been chewing on about Notan for a while:

- 'Even color per se is anti-reading' ( Hrant )

- '...even color has to be balanced with variety in letter form' ( William )

- '...we should target a notan that is adverse to componential abstraction, response bias collapse or letter-by-letter slot-processing' ( Peter )

- '...but we will have leveraged the black and white of it intelligently' ( Peter )

- 'I think the point is effectively demonstrated in pretty well every “Largo” you showed. In each case the ‘argo’ makes a notanically integral bouma-object, with the “L’” consistently breaking away' (Peter)

Peter, thanks for answering my question! I think I can answer yours primarily & the other more obliquely by saying that I think it's the Notanic strain that is perhaps one of the salient cues for the letter L. So I am argueing that a relative amount of 'breaking away' is maybe a signature of the letter. Unless it's blackletter maybe! But that breaking away like any characteristic can cut into bouma or become part of the richness of it. And so I suppose I also agree with your point about needing to leverage the variation & cues - either by playinmg them up or toning them down to create a collection that works together. Which brings me to Williams quote : typographic 'Even color' properly understood ( as far as I can see) is a collection of variety that works. That variety might be pretty wild. Nick Fontesque comes to mind. Who would have thought it would hold together but it does! Even color achieved by too much reduction in this variety is, I think anti-reading. The modern faces that comparmentelize gylphs too much are guilty of this I think. Frutiger was brillaint at compensating for this modernist comparmentalization. In contrast, when I look at Calson or Bembo I can't help being amazed at their balance of Bizzare shapes. William, I think you said something similar at Typecon actually! They also offer greater interaction which works for not against the faces.

Anyway I don't want to lionize Bembo. I want to suggest that there are lots of places to look for Notan at work and that we should keep looking for it and talking about it.

Frutiger/Notan
William I agree you & Hrant and many others I suspect that Frutiger's use of what I will call Notan was superb. I suspect you might be willing to say so too. Maybe not using the word Notan. Would you? Suffice it to say - he's amazing! I would love to talk to him about it if that were possible. Anybody got an 'in' for me?

But, William I have to agree with Hrant that using his words to *define* Notan is a mistake. Unambiguosly. Especially if you are interested in debunking it. I don't begrudge you BTW if that if that's what you have in mind. It's your perogative! But either way your better off reading Japanese or Chinese folks in translation - it's their idea to begin with.

It's also true that I have repeatedly said ( & will say again it seems ) that White CANNOT be 'primary' from a Notanic point of view as you suggest here: I don’t think can be determined only by looking at the whites. Who knows - maybe white *is* primary. I have no evidence for that. So until I do - we agree.

What I think is probably going on in that quote is a kind of rhetorical flourish or deliberate hyperbole. Why? Because an instructor who is on his game knows that in practice it will be hard for the student to stop being black-centric. So as a teacher they can be free to overemphasize the white to give the kids a chance to get some of that balance happening.

I conclude that you really don’t understand the concept of even color as the term is used by Young.
Having not read the book I know that I can't have any idea. Perhaps I'll get a chance to read it & get back to you. I have a feeling that you were still feeling insulted and this phrase was an expression of that. I want to reiterate that while I don't seem to agree with your about Color or Notan I don't see it as a bad habit on your part. Also, there certainly there are far more folks running around saying Color than Notan. It's an intrenched term of art as it were.

But there are lots of things in type that wear out their usefulness & we move on. Like consistant widths in a Linotype machine for Romans & italics. You can compensate - sure. But who would want to if they could avoid it? I feel that way about the term Color. I think it obscures as much as it reveals. If it was the best we had I'd be happy to go ahead & make the best of it. But I think Notan is a more useful, accurate & descriptive term. It's a term that's going to take some getting used to but I think it will be worth it.

timd's picture

>Do you mean in relation to the participation of the “L” in notan?

Yes, I think that Peter's comment about the argo being an object separated from the L is well illustrated by Mrs Eaves, my comment was a reaction to the setting that Eben posted. Again on the La combination (apart from the length of the leg) there is something about that vertical serif that needs amending, either bigger (wider or taller) or shaped*. Of course this is treating it as a logo rather than as a character that is going to have to interact with other characters and that is going to have to retain the characteristics of an L within a range of sizes (although one can't control any subsequent use, I think the character should still be designed with some thought to an optimum use). Looking at Geneva in the same way it would be optimally intended for smaller scale and I think that for small sizes it is preferable to have a hole that is so obvious (the relatively tall x-height helps exaggerate it) to increase the qualities that make an L an L.
Tim
* or possibly it is just too similar to the other serifs to perform its purpose.

enne_son's picture

"But who would want to if they could avoid it? I feel that way about the term Color. I think it obscures as much as it reveals. If it was the best we had I’d be happy to go ahead & make the best of it. But I think Notan is a more useful, accurate & descriptive term." [Eben]

Why force a choice? Both notan and colour are relevant reference axes vis à vis type. And their ranges of convenience are partly overlapping, creating, with many other relevant reference axes, a field of multiple countervailing but co-relevant, partially non-overlapping and mutually non-exclusive normative functional pressures. Typographical practice happens at the intersection. The different modernisms might navigate the pressures differntly, but it's my impression that Frutiger, for instance keeps them well in balance. Some modernisms might navigate the pressures poorly. Modernisim isn't a mono-dimensional entity or direction.

Nowadays when I think of colour I think of the dark / light (notanic) 'register' the glyph set exists in. And relative to this, the criterion of colour evokes a concern for consistency across the glyph set of where the members of the set are on the dark / light distribution spectrum. While notan evokes over and above this a concern for the 'valence ratio' if you will, of the white vis à vis the black. A notanic emphasis comports well with the notion that both the black and the white in word-object bounded maps are perceptual decisionally 'psycho-active.'

[relative to 'valence ratio']: It could well be that there is an assymetry in vision whereby the coarser, magnocellularly-based, fast, ensemble statistics collecting, parafoveal pre-processing of the word object relies more on the distribution of whites inside the bounded map than the finer, parvocellullarly-based, slower, foveal, visual wordform decisional processing, which might rely on finer features supplied by the black, like lack of closure here, sidednes of a stem there, disturbance of expressedness elsewhere.

How do we adjust for this?

hrant's picture

> a relative amount of ‘breaking away’ is maybe a signature of the letter.

Yes!
(With Tim saying the same thing too.)

> overemphasize the white to give the kids a chance

And this is actually why I seem to extreme myself sometimes (although
subbing people for kids). It's sort of a well-meaning slap in the face.

> Why force a choice?

Not a choice, an awareness, of differences and relative merits.
Because people (adults) don't change unless they're pressured.

> It could well be that there is an assymetry in vision ...

This multi-frequency aspect of perception/cognition is something that's actually already somewhat accepted I thought. And yes, it does play into the fovea/parafovea duality, with the former being* higher-frequency and able to see -fewer- letters** with near-total assurance, and the latter being lower-frequency and able to see -more- letters (via multi-letter boumas) with more guesswork. BTW, when you take into account that English for example has a redundancy of over 50% (and apparently almost 70% according to one researcher) you start realizing that the parafovea playing over 60% of the role in reading (in optimal situations) is entirely plausible.

* Or actually, choosing to be, since it has lower frequencies as well.

** Special-case boumas.

But I don't think parafoveal perception can work with the inside whites very much. Also, I wouldn't ignore the potential significance of cues in the parafovea.

hhp

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