A peek at Meta Serif

kris's picture

For those who are interested, Christian has a nice page on Meta Serif. Apparently it will be released in October!

—K

Stephen Coles's picture

Its working title was FF Meta Antiqua. I'm glad they went with the duller name, if only for Americans and other dullards. Looking forward to pimping this wonder on FontShop.com next month.

Paul Cutler's picture

>only for Americans and other dullards

Like yourself? :)

That is a beautiful font.

pbc

Si_Daniels's picture

FontShop: "Serving Americans and other dullards since 1991"

I love the new slogan - t-shirts perhaps?

metalfoot's picture

I'm not sure whether to be inspired or discouraged when I see brilliance like this on display. I love it! FF doesn't really ever release a clunker, does it?

Must keep reminding myself that my furtive attempts at type design is like a high-school orchestra trying to play Tchaikovsky... I'll get some stuff right, some things maybe even brilliant, but it'll take years of practice and dedication to get consistent at it.

Paul Cutler's picture

Are you kidding me man? Their catalogue is huge. There are some definite clunkers there.

They're a really good resource, not my favorite, but good.

pbc

Stephen Coles's picture

Whoops. I was painfully unclear. By "Americans and dullards" I mean those who don't really know what an antiqua is -- and that group did include myself until very recently. I was afraid that "Antiqua" might be misconstrued by the less-experienced as "old".

John Hudson's picture

Stewf: Its working title was FF Meta Antiqua. I’m glad they went with the duller name, if only for Americans and other dullards.

But just think, FF Meta Antiqua kind of implies the possibility of FF Meta Fraktur, which would be really cool.

John Hudson's picture

I don't think the top of the lowecase a is working. In the sans, the apex of the a is pushed to the right, which gives the letter a wonderful tension that makes it one of the most characteristic aspects of the typeface. Erik always points to the funky g as Meta's most distinctive letter, but since the a is so much more common in text it has always seemed to me the 'Meta-letter'. In the new serif design, something totally different is happening in the a: the apex is much further to the left and this, combined with the heavy terminal, makes the dynamic of the top part of the letter completely contrary to what is happening in the sans. While the sans a is very tense and carries a lot of character, the serif a is strangely bland in comparison, and doesn't echo the sans as nicely as the other letters do.

kris's picture

I don’t think the top of the lowecase a is working.

Oh noes! Does this mean one less customer? What if it works beautifully at 10 point?

—K

dux's picture

It's quite charming. Inevitably there were going to be compromises made, but you've both done an excellent job in transferring the sentiment to a serif. I particularly like the tilting head-serifs.

SuperUltraFabulous's picture

I thought in the initial sample from way back from the Spiekermann blog that the fonts would get the lachrymal terminal treatment as in DB Serif. I seriously misjudged the sample (or I need to upgrade my glasses/brain).

Actually Meta Serif looks like it's based on an earlier design:
http://www.myfonts.com/fonts/fontfont/ff-meta-boiled/

Seriously tho, crunchy bracketed terminals are so not pretty :-/ but, the italics do have some measure of warmth in them.

Mikey :-)

peterbruhn's picture

I see in the sample that you have put in "Xdotaccent" and "xdotaccent" in the glyph set – in which language are those used?

dux's picture

Seriously tho, crunchy bracketed terminals are so not pretty :-/

I'm working on a design with these at the moment, and really, they are not handsome features.

peterbruhn's picture

Thank you Christoph.
(Sorry about the off-topic guys).

John Hudson's picture

Kris: What if it works beautifully at 10 point?

Then you need different fonts for different sizes. But we know this already.

Christian writes, on the Meta Serif preview webpage: In the end, I think FF Meta Serif has only a passing resemblance to FF Meta, but when you set a headline or a block of text, it somehow looks just like it.

At larger sizes, such as a headline, the a jumps out as simply not very Meta, and undermines the 'looks just like it' effect. And its the only letter, so far as I can tell from the images on Christian's site, that does this, so of course my eye jumps straight to it every time. Looking at it longer, I think part of the issue is the weight movement through the lower bowl as well as the position of the apex. The Meta a has a strong opposite pull between the lower left of the letter and the upper right, because the bowl sags slightly and the apex pushes up and out. This is brilliantly done, and makes the Meta a very distinctive and dynamic. The Meta Serif a is a very nice, very balanced letter, and as such it is lacking the dynamism that makes the sans so interesting.

Look at the comparison setting of the word 'organized' on Christian's site. In every letter except the a, despite the different contrast and proportions and the presence of the serifs, the two types echo each other very nicely. But the two a's look completely unrelated.

kris's picture

Mike: Seriously tho, crunchy bracketed terminals are so not pretty :-/ but, the italics do have some measure of warmth in them.

Do you mean the Meta Serif terminals? They are specifically designed to withstand a laser-printed beating at 10 point, much like Meta Sans can handle a lo-res thrashing. They may not look "pretty", but rest assured they can handle their own at small sizes!

John: At larger sizes, such as a headline, the a jumps out as simply not very Meta, and undermines the ’looks just like it’ effect… The Meta Serif a is a very nice, very balanced letter, and as such it is lacking the dynamism that makes the sans so interesting.

What can we say? We made a serif companion to one of the most popular sans serifs of our time, a sans that has been around for 22 years! This is plenty of time for folks to look at it, get used to it, use it and form their own opinions and feelings about it. As far as I know, drawing a serif 22 years after the sans doesn't really happen that much—these days sans/serif families tend to be drawn at the same time.

So I understand your disappointment with the "a". I am glad that you acknowledge despite the different contrast and proportions and the presence of the serifs, the two types echo each other very nicely. To this end, I'm sure you'll agree the serif "a" plays nicely with the rest of it's seriffed brothers & sisters.

—K

TBiddy's picture

Not to harp on the point John made, but before I read his post I actually had the exact same reaction to seeing the lowercase "a." I point to both that letter and the lowercase g as being "very Meta." All in all though, it is a gorgeous face and it works well as a companion with the sans. Fantastic work!

ybaggar's picture

I like the Serif "a" way more than the Sans one.

poms's picture

>But just think, FF Meta Antiqua kind of implies the possibility of FF Meta Fraktur, which would be really cool.

Yeah, excellent idea, with a "ch"-ligature and … ♥ I always thought Meta has s.th. very deutsches in it. Rotis Fraktur? No, no need for that ;)

I'm excited to see Meta Serif in extensive action, btw. without Meta as a compagnion.

The best

SuperUltraFabulous's picture

Hi Kris:

I love indestructible type too. But my favorite treatments for this kinda work is cropped ball terminals and hyper-modulation a la Charter, Exchange, and Paperback.

Mikey :-)

Si_Daniels's picture

>They are specifically designed to withstand a laser-printed beating at 10 point,

Great, a new motivational poster design for the office... "The laser printed beatings will continue until the fonts improve"

Sharon Van Lieu's picture

Now that was funny, Sii!

Randy's picture

Kris: Congratulations. I really think your work is terrific, and am glad to see you've fallen in league with company that will push you even further. Meta Serif looks like a cracker, as does the stuff for Pentagram. Keep it up!

On another note: there is something deeply funny about people asking for a Spiekermann font to look more like the other Spiekermann fonts. Next thing you know, people will want a brush script.

ebensorkin's picture

Looking at the sample I have to say that solid & impeccable were the first thoughts I had. Congratulations.

Re the 'a' I have to admit that I think John is right about there being a stronger divergence there than in the other letters I can see. On the other hand, it seems to me that with the serif it would be harder to justify the strong arch. The reason I say this is that the arch isn't just an affectation. It helps to say to the eye 'this is an a'. It has a purpose. In the case of the serif version it is the serif in part that does this job. You could pull the serif down, make it smaller & put some arch back in but I wonder if it it would end up feeling pretty forced and like there were too many things happing in the letter at once. Maybe not. I would have to try it to see. Not that I think Kris needs my help. Is this the kind of thing you had in mind John?

Paul Cutler's picture

Thanks for the arrows - perhaps you read the Eben thread?

pbc

ebensorkin's picture

Arrows?

Was that '...the thread, Eben'?

Just in case I wasn't clear I am asking Kris & John if they think (or don't) that the presence of the serif inherently makes it harder to mirror the sense & tension of the sans a in the serif a.

Paul Cutler's picture

Was there not a thread asking if arrows should be included in a font? And if so was it not you who was asking?

…or…

Do I dream of ridiculous notions?

…or…

All of the above? (the most likely scenario)

pbc

timd's picture

Yes

Tim

ebensorkin's picture

I see. And you are thinking of arrows because meta famously was a font with lots of arrows in it. Yes? Now I think I have it.

Nick Shinn's picture

Leveraging brand equity.
Oh, sorry, I thought this was the BS thread :-)

John Hudson's picture

Eben: Just in case I wasn’t clear I am asking Kris & John if they think (or don’t) that the presence of the serif inherently makes it harder to mirror the sense & tension of the sans a in the serif a.

I don't think so, no, because there are plenty of serif lowercase a letters with internal tension. The Meta Serif lowercase a is a very well balanced, very static form. There's nothing inherently wrong with that, but it looks odd among other letters that do have more internal dynamism and especially odd in the context of the strong internal dynamism of the original Meta a. So the primary issue is not specific dynamism, e.g. that of the Meta a, but a general discrepancy between static and dynamic forms. This needn't be addressed by trying to directly emulate the dynamic of the Meta a; it could be addressed by introducing any dynamic at all into the Meta Serif a. Just give me five minutes with the outline. :)

But all this should be read in context of the remarks above about different fonts for different sizes. As with most other contemporary typeface design projects, Meta Serif is trying to do (at least) two things at once: in this case, to be an indestructably legible type at 10pt and to 'look just like Meta' at display sizes. And maybe the lowercase a indicates the breaking point at which these two goals are mutually opposed, because I've no doubt that this letter is legible at 10pt -- even when given a sound beating by a laser printer -- but at display sizes it looks nothing at all like Meta.

So I look forward to the Meta Serif display cut, and would actually give it higher priority than Meta Fraktur or Meta Brushscript. :)

kris's picture

Paul Thanks for the arrows - perhaps you read the Eben thread?

If you look carefully, I posted four typeface samples with arrows, the last one is Meta Serif Black! So yes, I read the Eben thread, but it didn't influence the decision.

Nick Leveraging brand equity. Oh, sorry, I thought this was the BS thread :-)

What do you mean?

John Just give me five minutes with the outline. :)

Oh really? As you are an accomplished typeface designer, you don't need the outline. Just draw what you think it should be like and show us. Your five minutes start…now.

—K

kris's picture

Randy Congratulations…Keep it up!

Thanks mate—will do!

Mike I love indestructible type too. But my favorite treatments for this kinda work is cropped ball terminals and hyper-modulation a la Charter, Exchange, and Paperback.

Those are great typefaces. What is "hyper modulation"? Do you think we should've drawn Meta Serif with "cropped ball terminals"?

Poms I’m excited to see Meta Serif in extensive action, btw. without Meta as a compagnion.

Great—so are we!

—K

ebensorkin's picture

I have to admit to being a little entertained by that response. The thing is I can imagine an 'a' like John describes and I am sympathetic to his reasoning. But at the same time I have a feeling Erik has the 'a' he wants which surely must be the point. None of this means that I am less curious about what John might conjure up - I am too interested in learning not to be.

John Hudson's picture

Oh really? As you are an accomplished typeface designer, you don’t need the outline. Just draw what you think it should be like and show us.

Sure, make me do it the hard way. 23 minutes, including reconstruction of the existing a.

On the left, a scan of the Meta a. On the upper right, my reconstruction of the existing Meta Serif a. On the lower right, my revised form echoing the dynamics of the original Meta a in the top right and in the lower bowl.

Now we can play the Sesame Street 'One of these things is not like the others...' game.

The bowl is interesting, because the greater modulation in the serif design allows for greater stress than in the sans. If you follow the shape of the sans counter in the serif letter, you get a much more static letter, but if you shift the contrast to emulate the amount of weight in the lower left of the sans bowl stroke, you get something with a similar dynamic, even though the counter shapes are now more different.

Kris, please don't take these quibbles about one letter as an insult. On the whole, I think Meta Serif looks like a really good and eminently useable type. And at text sizes, considering the typeface idependent of Meta, the lowercase a is a nice, legible form. But if part of your goal is to look 'just like Meta' in headlines and other larger settings, then this letter is letting down the side, so to speak.

Stefan Seifert's picture

Hi John!

Not bad.
I like the a above more. Maybe it’s the reason why I don’t like too much the two a’s on the left.;-)
The a on the top right is rounder where the bowl from above enters the straight stroke. More rounder the (difficult) solution there is the better. Excuse my sad English.
Nice character after all even if it lacks a bit of charme.

salute
Stefan

Stefan Seifert's picture

Hi Alex (metalfoot)

>Must keep reminding myself that my furtive attempts at type design is like a high-school orchestra trying to play Tchaikovsky... I’ll get some stuff right, some things maybe even brilliant, but it’ll take years of practice and dedication to get consistent at it.

I know what you mean.
And really seems that there is left little space for a singular to do things that may keep up.
But I think we should try to do something maybe more romantic, spirited, like a symphony with violins of Gustav Mahler, more poetic. That maybe doesn’t work on a hundreds of thousands laserprinters, at 5,6 point on monitor and so on. Something with soul. Maybe less useful, but beautiful. And to my eyes there is much much room left there empty.

salute
Stefan

Stefan Seifert's picture

PS

look at the stuff that Enschede typefoundry sells. It’s more like what I meant.
Forget Fontshop just for a while and keep on working!

Stefan

Miguelzinho's picture

Hey John,
Your change of the meta serif seems like nit picking to me. The change is so minuscule that it will be impossible to see at text size and hardly visible at display.

Christian say on his site:
In the end, I think FF Meta Serif has only a passing resemblance to FF Meta, but when you set a headline or a block of text, it somehow looks just like it.

I think what Christian was trying to say is that the individual letter-forms are not identical to Meta sans – the typeface is a serif and has a much higher contrast thus this would be impossible – but when used in text the accumulative aesthetic and feel has a real resemblance to Meta sans.

After all is that the goal of making a companion typeface, to simulate the overall aesthetic & feel of the original typeface?

Or should you go through glyph by glyph ensuring the glyphs simulate the aesthetic & feel of the original glyph? I think not.

eriks's picture

In the end, I think FF Meta Serif has only a passing resemblance to FF Meta, but when you set a headline or a block of text, it somehow looks just like it.

So says Christian, and that’s why i involved him (and he involved Kris). I had had several attempts at sketching the Brand Extension, but i never got across the hurdle of making it just like the Sans, albeit with serifs on. The original Meta owes a lot of its idiosyncracies to the fact that the first versions never really got finished by today’s standards, they were cobbled together over time and the expansion of the family then involved many other designers. That is probably just as well because perfection can be dangerous and make a face slick and unpersonal. My own sketches never got anywhere and it took Christian to take a step back and design a serif companion that is more than an extrapolation. We deliberately didn’t want to make MetaSerif as stylish and novel as MetaSans was when it was first designed in 1985. It is supposed to be an ordinary, legible typeface for all purposes. MetaSans was designed for small sizes which didn't stop people using it for headlines even though there is a proper headline version. The serif companion will probably suffer the same fate, but we never intended each single character to be the exact seriffed equivalent of its sans original. MetaSerif feels like MetaSans, and they look good together. That was our brief and i think we have achieved that. Which doesn’t mean that certain characters couldn’t look different or may even be improved. I have learned that there comes a time when things are best left alone. After many years at trying to get it right, i now look forward to actually using MetaSerif. Only that will determine whether we did well.

The illustration shows alternative shapes for the drop on the a as a model for other characters.

Nick Shinn's picture

Leveraging brand equity...BS thread :-)
What do you mean?

A witticism.
If I have to spell it out: it's cute to poke fun at others, but when creatives mock the vacuous language of suits, there may be something ironic when that language perfectly describes their own behaviour. An example of the virtue and precison of "corporate BS" is the way in which it nails product extension, a practice which has become de rigueur for any successful typeface. My comment is not one person's criticism of the venality of another's behaviour, for after all business is business and I have done such brand extensions myself (Fontesque Sans, for instance). So don't take it personally!

However, there may be a bit more bite in my wit, if there is more similarity suggested by the name than there is formal correspondence between the original and the serif version.

The interesting thing is how similar sans and serif faces should be in order to work together.
I agree with Erik that too much similarity is detrimental, because a typographer needs some edge when contrasting styles.
But on the other hand, from a marketing perspective, perhaps the different branches of mega-families won't be purchased and used together at all. For instance, TheAntiqua is used as a text face in New Scientist, and the sans heads are Dax, not TheSans.

paul d hunt's picture

on mr schwartz's site, it says:
it needed to be 100% compatible with the sans

what exactly does that mean?

Stefan Seifert's picture

>That is probably just as well because perfection can be dangerous and make a face slick and unpersonal.
>I have learned that there comes a time when things are best left alone.

Dear Mr. Spiekermann,

I am proud to take part at a comunity that seems to be worth for a person like you to post comments.
I have read in a book years ago about the making of your Meta that you said it wasn’t meant to be too perfect.
Since then I have had in mind this phrase for a long time and it did make you very sympatico (this says Leo.org) in my eyes.
And it helped me in to stand to my own designs.

I think it is an attitude that has to be kept in mind in todays work otherwise we may go nowhere or at least have it very hard to begin things and then better them over the time.

Stefan

Antonio Cavedoni's picture

Paul, he probaby it means metrically compatible. It’s something that Spiekermann et al. have often done, taking the metrics of Arial or another widely available font and use that as a starting point to draw a custom type. That helps with existing documents already set in that typeface: they can be switched to the new, custom one, without having the text reflow. The same is true in reverse, texts set in the new custom typeface can look “similar” in Arial et al. without text reflow.

Si_Daniels's picture

>After many years at trying to get it right, i now look forward to actually using MetaSerif.

I'll drink to that...

eriks's picture

he probaby it means metrically compatible.

No, not at all. Besides, when you take one face’s metrics and design another one over it (as Arial did for Helvetica), that’s not compatible, but identical. Otherwise it would be useless.

MetaSerif being 100% compatible with Meta means that you can mix them in the same line and they will work together without you having to adjust the size or the tracking of one of them. We often have to mix sans and serif in one document, like an annual report where the text would be in serif while the number section would be sans. Or we use sans for captions, subheads, listings as contrast to a more traditional serif textface. We did this for the Economist, where we contrasted my Officina Sans with the proprietary Economist Serif, designed by Ole Schäfer. This helps navigation, adds interest and makes typographic hierarchies obvious.

I have always liked to add a sans headline to serif text, but doing that in the same paragraph or even line was only possible with either a lot af adjustments or within one of the mega-families. Some of those -- like Rotis -- are simply clones of each other with bits removed or stuck on, providing noise instead of contrast. The whole Meta-systemis supposed to solve separate typographic problems while keeping a family resemblance. This is not a family of identical triplets (there is also MetaHeadline), but sisters and brothers or even nieces and nephews.

Antonio Cavedoni's picture

Erik, thanks for chiming in once again. I got that impression by watching your Personal Views lecture movie, but I now stand corrected.

Lex Kominek's picture

Sorry to join the party so late, but I have to say I like it :^)

- Lex

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