current Greek typographic trends?

paul d hunt's picture

i'm curious. after reading over Gerry's short history of the Greek script, i want to know what the current trends are in Greece regarding the handling of their own script. i was doing some digging to reference the Gill Sans Hellenic, which was used for the 2004 Olympics in Athens and found a sample on the Cannibal Fonts website. i was a bit surprised, because as i quickly browsed through several of the type families on this site, most seemed very westernized to me, being highly geometric. however, if you look at faces produced here in the west, they seem to follow traditional models more closely, with the new ClearType fonts and Thomas' new Hypatia Sans showing a lot more calligraphic flavor. which brings me to an actual question: do native Greeks prefer more westernized (geometric) or more traditional (calligraphic) for Greek extensions of western faces?

dezcom's picture

Paul,

The book "Greek Letters: from Tablets to Pixels [Michael S. Macrakis (editor)" may still be available from Abe Books or Oak Knoll. It is probably the best source through the mid 1990s.

ChrisL

dezcom's picture

On preferences, my guess is that there is not a consensus of opinion on geometric vs. calligraphic. The Greek Font Society may be a good source:

http://www.greekfontsociety.org/pages/en_publications2004.html - 20k -

also, here is an article by Klimis:

http://afroditi.uom.gr/uompress/pdf/klimiscv.pdf

ChrisL

PS: That last one was not the article I thought from Klimis. I will look for it.

hrant's picture

"Greek Letters: from Tablets to Pixels" is wonderful, but when it comes to current trends it's too old.

From my modest experience (basically talking to Greek type people in 2002 and 2004) they generally don't like the Latinized forms. The Western habit of relying heavily on chirography on the other hand is very old-fashioned, and any native who uses a computer is likely to like that even less (even though I personally think it's less bad). But they haven't been given many real alternatives to the two "schools", so... The one recent Greek font I admire is Apollonia.

So Paul, if you could help, they'd love you for decades.

hhp

Si_Daniels's picture

>i want to know what the current trends are in Greece regarding the handling of their own script.

I think your best bet would be to invest in a trip to Thessaloniki in June.

paul d hunt's picture

I think your best bet would be to invest in a trip to Thessaloniki in June.

heh. or hopefully another investment starting this fall will pay off just as well. :^p

david h's picture

> I think your best bet would be to invest in a trip to Thessaloniki in June.

moreover -- buy newspapers , see books, CDs etc etc. As Chris said there is not a consensus.

hrant's picture

> it’s how that alphabet originated

Well, not exactly. It came from the Phoenician, which was also angular.

> this face is no more nor less radical than Futura was to the Latin type.

That doesn't make sense, considering the
precedent in one and the lack in the other.

> The design of Olympia addresses ithe issue of
> modernism and tradition, latinization is irrelevant.

The two are strongly related.
Modernism is not a universal culture.

> Don’t follow trends, make them.

Great advice. But for text face design, first you need
a firm grasp of readability. This applies to Latin too...

If you want to make something highly readable you either mimic
or you fathom. And you can't innovate properly without the latter.

> take a look at Akira Kobayashi’s career for inspiration.

What about talent?
Maybe (and this seems quite likely) Akira has more than average?

Another central thing is nativity: Japanese people for example are exposed to a lot of Latin when they're growing up, while Latin users don't see much besides Latin. Nativity is glossed over mostly by people who would suffer a drop in credibility by admitting they lack enough of it.

And Simon's advice is rock-solid.
Don't rely on souvlaki buddies too much...

hhp

dezcom's picture

"do native Greeks prefer more westernized "

By Western, do you mean American or European as well? Greece is an EU country and part of Western civilization so I am not sure you can separate the two. It seems to me that there were some ancient Greek mathematicians (Euclid and Pythagorus) who had something to do with Geometry as well :-)

ChrisL

hrant's picture

Greece is more around the border between East and West.

hhp

dezcom's picture

Perhaps all the more reason to not be unified in their preferences on type.

ChrisL

paul d hunt's picture

gee. i get in trouble whenever i use the term "Western" don't i? leave it to an Arizonan to think that everything Western has to do with his own culture. :^p
i guess i should have said "latinized" or "modernized" instead of "Westernized," as we all know that Greece is the cultural birthplace of Western culture.

dezcom's picture

Paul,
I didn't mean it that way. I was trying to indicate that Greece is an unusual case. Latin was initially Greconized so it is really a soup mix. Greece was also influenced by the Ottomans, the British, and now, Americans. What is authentic and pure Greek is a very fuzzy thing. Look at Hyphen 2006 and see what typeface it is set in? We live in a World more international in nature than ever. Purist nationalistic notions just don't have the sway that they used to. Unlike the pre digital era, Greeks can buy type anywhere in the world online. They have choices, they make choices just like the rest of the world. They are not stuck with what used to be on a Monotype hotmetal typesetter any more. This is a very interesting topic, Paul, and I had no intension of putting you in an uncomfortable place by trying to pin down Westernism. Personally, whatever Westernism used to be, is certainly something else now, thanks, in part, to the internet.

ChrisL

dezcom's picture

"Even the pen manuscripts from that era show a very “blocky” way of writing."

True, but blocky may not be quite the right word.

ChrisL

hrant's picture

> The first greek alphabets ...

I was objecting to your use of "originated".
Greek was angular partly because the Phoenician was.

> preserved in stone

Think a little bit what that implies...

> Both Olympia and Futura take liberties with traditional letterforms

But in qualitatively different spheres of context and precedent.

> that doesn’t equate modernism with the west and the latin alphabet.

Who said anything about "equate"?

> it’s not a big deal

You're very much mistaken.
When one is not exposed to non-Latin visual language
as a child, one is handicapped in that sphere for life.

hhp

gtrianta's picture

My opinion on the subject is based more on intuition and less on thorough research so I am going to be careful on what I say (it's the heart talking rather than the mind on this one).

I totally agree with Chris Lozos's position on the way modernist values have changed into something universal for almost all "western societies". In fact some of the best works (imho) in greek poster design have been made during the 60s/70s by graphic designers like Michalis and Agni Katzouraki, and Freddy Karabott and were very much influenced by modernism.

So, yes Greece is most of the times a "user" and not an "initiator" (and when it comes to typography, that is the case), and, yes, Greece has for many years tried to decide whether it considers itself east or west. The thing is though that our (my) dilemma has now changed - and it's based on Chris's conclusion: we are able to purchase typefaces and get inspired by designs from all over the world. So, do we really need to think in terms of "nationalistic" or "latinized" or "exoticized" or whatever designs, rather than thinking in more universal terms.

Gerry Leonidas's analysis is truly detailed and correct. But in my opinion what is rather interesting to see is that Helvetica (and Helvetica-looking typefaces) has been the default in several applications in graphic design for a lot of years from the 60s up to the 90s, and then Meta and Din came and replaced it, and then (a few years ago) Myriad came and replaced them, and then (fewer years ago) Fedra came and conquered the contemporary greek typographic world. As you can see they are all contemporary and mainly geometric (instead of calligraphy based) typefaces. And then, in the book industry, Didot (like GFS's Didot), and Times were the default. And they never left the scene, only to find themselves occasionally replaced by Minion or Warnock (in the past few years).

So, what I am trying to pinpoint is that foreign (that is non-greek) typographic designers have now (and I guess always had) a "power" to lead the trends in greek typography without too much critique or even competition. And of course it's not them to blame (if there is anyone to blame). The think is that you can count the greeks that actually try to understand and thoroughly research the phenomenon called "greek typography" in your two hands. Their work is undoubtedly remarkable. But the educational and research gap is something that literally prevents upcoming greek designers to be critical when faced with an "imported" interpretation of the greek alphabet, let alone innovative when it comes to designing their own interpretations.

So, to conclude, for me there is no such thing as a preference towards traditional or geometric typographic forms in comtemporary Greece. There are just people trying to cope with constant change or mimicing imported norms. And there are fewer people trying to fathom how did we get here and (if they should/could) change it.

George Triantafyllakos - backpacker.gr

hrant's picture

My point concerning Futura vs Olympia is that the latter is qualitatively more progressive, less reliant on precedent; your equating of the two is non-sensical.

> That’s not been my experience.

Nobody can expect you to see clearly within your own system. You can't easily know that your progressive text face is in fact a flop. In fact in your case when an expert tells you so, you choose to turn the tables in your hubris. You have to listen to and trust others to tell you what's most likely going on with your designs.

> if you do your homework.

It's not only a matter of homework. Formalism only covers half the ground, the rest is incommunicable, non-transferrable subconsiousness, nativity. It is known that the formative years of a person's childhood bestow certain affinities that cannot be gained later. It is known for example that children who learn two languages early on end up being fluent in both to a degree an adult can never attain.* Never. This is our biology, and you are no less human than any of us.

* In fact early-bilingual people attain a different type of intelligence. In effect, their brains develop slightly differently. This is not shocking - in fact teenagers go through pronounced structural changes to their brains during puberty.

So you simply cannot "get" it any more. It's too late.
Ignoring this reality is self-serving and possibly even dishonest.

hhp

paul d hunt's picture

i decided that this is a good case for stylistic sets: make a more calligraphic version and a geometric version, and let end users choose (assuming they have Adobe CS products :^p ).

dezcom's picture

"There are just people trying to cope with constant change or mimicking imported norms. And there are fewer people trying to fathom how did we get here and (if they should/could) change it."

Thank you George, that is exactly it in the nutshell. Greeks, or any of us anywhere, are not limited to what happens between here and the next village so designers do not confine their work to what was done in that bygone era. What is the value in reconstituting the past for everything we do? If past generations had done that, there would not be any typography today. Greeks were seaman and traders and explorers and invaders. They gathered from the foreign lands they saw and developed a culture and a language and an alphabet. If they took nothing from Phoenicians or Babylonians or Assyrians, perhaps that writing would never have come. The Romans borrowed from the Greeks, and later, the Greeks borrowed back. Mix in the Turks, and later the rest of Europe and you see what a conglomeration it was. This all took thousands of years by slow ships and by foot. Today, cultures blend in an instant. Today, what used to be the next village, is now the entire globe and at the speed of a T1 line.
Just think of having this conversation among us all, separated by thousands of miles. If we just did what our older culture had done, we would never know each-other.

ChrisL

paul d hunt's picture

i'm bumping this just to see if i can get a bit more mileage out of this thread...

hrant's picture

Hey, that bump did in fact jolt my memory! I was meaning to add the following:

It seems to me that just as important (perhaps even more important) than the angular vs curvy "potential authenticity" difference between Greek and Latin is the former's much lower regard for alignment. The Latin caps are made to fit (mostly) between two lines, and the Latin lc (mostly) between four. In Greek however historically there's been a certain leaning towards a single median line (especially in the caps) as well as a large degree of deviation from the "x-height" as well as the extender lines in the lc.

So I think it might be possible to sometimes make Greek more
"authentic" by being a bit naughty about vertical alignment.

hhp

ebensorkin's picture

That's an interesting point.

Looking at written Ethopic scripts and especially John H's Nyalla ( but not other Ethopic fonts so much ) shows an example of that going on in another script. Chris' sample does seem to bear your idea out to a point.

Do you have any good examples to look at.

What would Gerry say?

I wonder if from a political EU & trade perspective looking Latin compatible might be seen as desirable. I have heard this described ( in the context of Greek) as the urge towards 'modernity' here on Typophile. Interestingly this is also how I have heard a Ato, an Ethiopic type designer express himself.

I can't say I love the idea myself - but that might not be the point sometimes.

paul d hunt's picture

Nick, did you delete all your posts from this thread?

hrant's picture

Yes, it's become a habit of his. If I don't play by his rules he pouts and leaves. And behind the scenes he's lobbied to make his rules those of Typophile, buy nobody's buying. And that just makes him angrier.

But the most I should reasonably be expected to do I've already done:
http://typophile.com/node/16005 _
Ah, the things I would have written in the Globe & Mail thread... And I have to suspect this is the reason he's been starting so many threads lately, at least when it comes to "news".

But apparently it's never enough. You're either with him, or against him.

hhp

paul d hunt's picture

if nick truly did this, i'm outraged! this is not playing by the rules. under the old typophile system, posts could not be edited or deleted after an hour of the original posting. i feel it's okay to edit things out of your posts, as long as you mark that the post has been edited, but deleting all posts from a thread wholesale is just wrong. all this said, this is me speaking for myself and not as a moderator. however, i WILL be taking issue on this with the powers that be if such behavior continues.

hrant's picture

It's hard to say what the cutoff time should be for editing.
I guess some cutoff might in fact make sense though.

Now, if you're angry that some valuable insight you thought you had long-term access to has suddenly disappeared, contact Nick and it's quite likely that he'll privately reconstruct whatever he had written here. Like all artists-at-heart, he only gets angry at people who criticize his work. And only the most groveling apology can have a chance of getting them to forgive. No way, no how, bud.

hhp

blank's picture

It’s hard to say what the cutoff time should be for editing.
I guess some cutoff might in fact make sense though.

Allowing additions to posts without editing the old text would be nice. This would preserve text while still allowing additions in an order more convenient to people dropping in later.

ebensorkin's picture

The sense of a thread unravels when the posts go missing. I don't know what Nick has in mind here & I would like to hear what he has to say before I give him a hard time; but I was really disappointed to see his posts missing. :-(

dezcom's picture

Paul,
I found the article from Klimis. I can't post it to this thread, it is a pdf.
Maybe this will work:

http://www.dezcom.com/greek_typography.pdf

ChrisL

guifa's picture

Dezcom, that's a great article. Thanks for posting it.

«El futuro es una línea tan fina que apenas nos damos cuenta de pintarla nosotros mismos». (La Luz Oscura, por Javier Guerrero)

Nick Shinn's picture

Paul, I don't need to explain why I deleted my content, as Hrant already has, and he knows more about me than I do myself.

paul d hunt's picture

nick, i didn't ask why you did it. i asked if you did it. for whatever reason, i feel that deleting posts wholesale is NOT OK. but obviously you disagree and i can accept that.

dezcom's picture

Mathew,
Klimis has a long article in Hyφen but it is only in Greek.

ChrisL

panos's picture

I wouldn't say that there is a dominant typographic trend but I would understand the curiosity as sometimes perception could be slightly different than reality.

Of course, there are a lot of highly geometric type families in Greek that are widely used as well as many others that are based on chirography that are equally used. The difference is on where and how they are used. As G.Trianta remarked, Gill Sans Hellenic, DIN Greek, Meta Greek or Myriad could be a trend for a corporate or magazine design use, while Warnock, Fedra B, Omonia or our Apollonia (which like many GFS type families are designed by T. Katsoulidis) could be a trend for a book design.

And again, I totally agree with G.Trianta' quote
"So, do we really need to think in terms of “nationalistic” or “latinized” or “exoticized” or whatever designs, rather than thinking in more universal terms."

What I would question though, is some information about a brief history of Greek script in modern times. Especially, I don't see any relation between the social or political status in Greece of the early seventies and Linotype's typeface development to a so called "western" texture.
This texture existed decades before and had there been an influence on type, this would surely be towards a "non western" or a more "exoticized" direction.
All Greeks who lived that period (1967-74) remember that during the military junta, everything "western" was considered as a bad influence or even a sub-cultural product.
(Not to mention that all english speaking songs were banned from the radio, or that famous records such as the Beetles "Sgt Pepper's..." was first released in Greece 8 years after its original release and a year after the fall of the dictatorship).
Also anyone would remember these tacky revival parades at the Stadium dressed in ancient clothes or like byzantine emperors.
And of course, the motto "We belong to the west" was not repeated then, simply because the first time it was pronounced was 4 years after the fall of the dictatorship by the late Karamanlis (uncle of today's PM) on his effort to track the country into the European Community and back to NATO alliance. Instead, the sound bite used by the colonels was the triangle "state, religion and family".

So, as written above, the Thessaloniki conference in June, or even finding some Greek newspapers, books and printed material would be a good resource to have a more spherical of what Greeks prefer.

hrant's picture

The overall sociocultural milieu of Greece in the 70s was surely as you describe, but I guess that's a testament to the fact that type has been (and still is, although to a lesser degree) a hidden subculture, and this made it possible to produce highly Latinized designs at that time. This "covertness" I guess allowed the Greek newspaper people of the 70s to tell Linotype to make those fonts as Western as possible without getting in trouble. At least that's the version we always hear, including from people like M Carter! I guess it's possible that Linotype and its designers would like to deflect "credit" for the highly Latinized Greek typestyles of the 70s, and in reality it was mostly their idea (probably because such a style would have been easier to make for them) but I have to doubt it.

hhp

John Hudson's picture

I guess it’s possible that Linotype and its designers would like to deflect “credit” for the highly Latinized Greek typestyles of the 70s, and in reality it was mostly their idea (probably because such a style would have been easier to make for them) but I have to doubt it.

The design programme was very much driven by demand. Mike Parker relates that Linotype were approached by a Greek businessman who wanted to be their sales rep in Greece. He claimed that he could get Linotype composing machinery into every newspaper and typesetting house in Greece if Linotype would undertake to produce any Greek typeface requested by the customers. Linotype had no significant Greek type development prior to this, and the faces produced were as requested by the Greek customers, communicated to Linotype via their sales rep, who apparently succeeded in gaining for Linotype virtually the entire Greek type composing market.

Why did the Greeks want Helvetica, Baskerville, etc.? That is indeed an interesting question given the social and political situation of the day. Helvetica is particularly interesting because it's associations were not merely western but internationalist and linked to a modernist movement with strong socialist links.

hrant's picture

> Why did the Greeks want Helvetica, Baskerville, etc.?

Well the question really is why did Greek newspaper men want to be more Western, and the answer might be that, considering newspapers tend towards the liberal end of sociopolitical thought, they wanted to resist the ideals of the junta, albeit in a subliminal, and essentially safe, way. The couldn't publish liberal, dissenting content, so maybe the typography was turned into a venting mechanism.

hhp

John Hudson's picture

A quick check on dates indicates that only Helvetica Greek was released during the dictatorship, in 1971. Century Schoolbook was released in 1976, Baskerville in 1979, and ITC Souvenir in 1981. All for Mergethaler Linotype's V-I-P system.

So in large respect the social and cultural situation of the junta years is less relevant, except in the case of Helvetica, than the period immediately after.

Regarding Helvetica Greek, what would be interesting to know is when the project was initiated, which Greek customer(s) for Linotype systems expressed a desire for this typeface, and how it was first used.

By 1973, opposition to the military regime had become increasingly open both domestically and internationally, and the opposition was not limited to left or liberal groups, but included businessmen worried about the regime's impact on international investment in Greece and also monarchists calling for the return of King Constantine and the establishment of a constitutionally legitimate government. It would be interesting to see examples of how Helvetica was used during this period, the first couple of years of its introduction in the Greek market.

hrant's picture

> only Helvetica Greek was released during the dictatorship

But when were the other ones commissioned?

hhp

John Hudson's picture

I doubt if any of them were initiated during the dictatorship. I suppose Century Schoolbook might have been initiated in the dying days of the colonels' regime, but that suggests a two year development schedule, which would surprise me for V-I-P faces.

Mike Parker or Matthew Carter could probably give a better idea, or someone with access to Linotype records from that period, if they survived. From what I recall, there isn't much about Greek (or Cyrillic) in the LT non-Latin archive at Reading.

paul d hunt's picture

on a related note... i just got the Greek Letters: From Tablets to Pixels book and saw Matthew Carter's Cadmus Greek for the first time and was shocked by the non-descending zeta and xi and the s-shaped final sigma.


(sorry hrant, i stole your image, or rather recycled it :^)

i'm guessing if Carter did it, it must be something that's acceptable. what say ye?

hrant's picture

Ah, one of my favorite images! :-)

John for one has written about Cadmus here before, and I think I remember exactly why he thinks it's not really "authentic" (and I probably agree) but I'll let him address it again himself (or find the old thread). On the other hand, I myself value an effort at authenticity even more than actually achieving authenticity, because the latter does not of itself preclude a mere mimickry of precedent (which I can't stand) and the "innocence of desire" is more likely to -eventually- produce real progress.

hhp

paul d hunt's picture

Here's John's comment on Cadmus.

It's interesting that this sample is different from the character set showing in Greek Letters. The sample above shows a delta without the top stroke, another oddity?

Rob O. Font's picture

This is good thread thank you.
John:"but that suggests a two year development schedule, which would surprise me for V-I-P faces."
Surprise you...which way?;)

John Hudson's picture

David, I wouldn't have thought that developing a Greek face for V-I-P would have taken that long, but I don't know exactly what the design-to-manufacturing process was.

I have to say, I really like the idea of a customer coming along saying 'We need this typeface!' and being able to respond 'Okay, come back in two years and it will be ready'. :)

Paul, thanks for digging up my previous comments on Cadmus. I'm always nervous when someone makes reference to something I said e.g. four years ago. Am I going to have to explain why I said it, or why I might have changed my mind in the interim? In this case, I think the comments pretty much stand. In reference to your comment about the final sigma, I actually don't find this a problematic letter in Cadmus: the transition from the top part of the final sigma to the descender should be more fluid than the transition in zeta and ksi.

Rob O. Font's picture

"I don’t know exactly what the design-to-manufacturing process was."
Ahhhh. It was slow. As slow and meticulous as the letterrdrawing was, the making of plaques and then fonts and then proofs took 30-60 days from the time manufacturing got the drawings until the office got proofs. Take this and put it in a tube and send it to Greece, London or Frankfurt for comments and you'd add another month. Make changes, two more months. etc...in 4-6 months you migh have one style...each style after that took more time not less, as it most often doesn't today.

"I really like the idea of a customer coming along saying ‘We need this typeface!’ and being able to respond ‘Okay, come back in two years..."
Lol. yeah I never got to say it but it was normal then and customers would say "AWLRIGHT, can't wait!" Time passed differently too, I think.

quadibloc's picture

The claim that newspapers used more Western fonts to protest the regime of the generals strikes me as odd. After all, the generals pressed for the use of Katharevousa instead of Dimotiki, thus they wanted Greece to purge Turkish words from its language - to abandon Eastern influences, and get back to its Western roots.

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