Critique, Please

hrant's picture

So what do you guys think of my new bitmap font?


Isaac's picture

when can we expect this one to be released? will it be expensive?

Stephen Coles's picture

Very cool, Hrant. I spent all Halloween trying to
think of something clever to carve and I ended up
with a plain ol' pumpkin instead of a jack-o-lantern.

hatz's picture

will u also design a greek version of it?..

hrant's picture

I would sell it, but pumpkin bitmap fonts have a very limited lifespan: the teeth are already caving in.

BTW, you know how in type design some people say the tool affects the results and others disagree. Well, in pumpkin bitmap design, the tool (an apple decorer) seems to have a fundamental significance.

As for the Greek version, it was a disaster. Maybe I should have used dolmades...


tsoler's picture

...if you need a greek version, you'd better not use dolmades, because there is a confusion if it is greek or turkish food...and if there is something greeks and turks would claim both, believe me they will.

BTW (as you prefer), you seem to know a lot about greek foods and fonts? Have you been in Greece?...after a second thought erase "fonts" from the question above... outside greece i think they know more about greek typography than the native designers.

hrant's picture

I used to go to Greece a lot as a kid; as an adult I was there in July*, and previous to that 7 years ago. Greek food is amazing. Mediterranean cuisine in general is the best. Fortunately LA has a lot of good restaurants from every culture. Greek fonts: I think non-Greeks did a lot of damage in the past (like Porson, and even Aldus), but in the computer age the Greeks themselves made things worse. But it looks like in the past decade there's been a lot of discontent (in a good way), so soon we might see a major renaissance.

I gave a talk at a typography conference in Thessaloniki (a wonderful town).
It was an earlier (and longer) version of this:


Jared Benson's picture

...and to think of it: It's probably turning into an italic at this very moment. (If only it were always that easy)

tsoler's picture

So Hrant you were at the conference in Thessaloniki! I stay in Thessaloniki and I took part in the conference, so we may met.

I agree with you that the "latinized" of greek letters by various non-greeks made damage (to me the most horrible example was Van Krimpen's "Romulus", but I like Porson's types).

I guess, you propably know Yorgos Matthiopoulos and the Greek Fonts Society. People like Yorgos and Klimis Mastorides are our hopes for this renaissance you mention...but to be honnest, maybe 1 in 10 graphic designers in Greece really care about the identity of the form of the greek letters, not to say that adjusting the forms of latin fonts seems ideal to them...and that's why I think Matthiew Carter is one of the great designers of our times, but he did make damage in the development of the greek design identity.

hrant's picture

(From pumpkins to Porson... Isn't the internet amazing?)

I was only at the conference the day I was on. Your town simply had too much to offer!

Romulus was indeed a monster, but even in this age of (supposed) cultural sensitivity it has admirers. And it's interesting to note that some of our best Latin designers made some of the worst non-Latin fonts. Why is this? I think the reason is pride, a dangerous two-edged sword: it motivates creativity in what's your own, but also causes you to look down on what isn't.

The problem I see with Porson is one of my main contentions with the whole of western philosophy, and its love of simplification; humans are not simple things - ligatures are *useful*. Plus the one thing he should have "simplified" (removing the slant that Aldus so wrongly implemented), he didn't.

There seems to be a lot of Greek type designers these days, but my acquaintance with them is as limited as my understanding of the script. That said, the person who has so far impressed me the most on the ground is Katsoulidis; there's also Gerry Leonidas, who has great depth of knowledge.

As for most Greeks not caring, yes, it's a problem, since change comes quickest when people have awareness. But as long as there's less people who favor Latinized type than those who want to return to authenticity, that's not so bad. In the 70s, when Carter was making those Latinized fonts, he was following the direct wishes of his Greek clients. He really couldn't have said "shame on you for betraying your culture"... Who wants to become a martyr for somebody else's culture? (Well, I guess the idle bourgeoisie does, with their "Free Tibet" bumper stickers...) I think it's a very high reflection on Carter that he had enough of a reaction to the cultural bankruptcy of his Greek clients to make Cadmus (and then Skia).


hatz's picture

greece's problem is its complex to highlight its relation to ancient greece and to insist that it has been the cradle for western culture to which we want to belong now, "forgetting" that for a long period greece belonged to the east...

that's why we regard anything imported from the west as something divine and consider some eastern traditional achievemets as not so cool...

there is a need for us to understand the evolution of greek fonts...

if you think of the fact that the design of greek fonts until the end of the 20th century was an import, you'll understand that there is no greek history at all...

so we come to the dilemma for "new" greek font designers: to start again with the bycantine legacy (historically correct, but difficult to introduce) or to follow the achievements of the foreign teachers (also difficult, if you work with a criteria)?..

there is also a third solution, which is being followed by new greek font "designers" and which is the most common habit here:.. to take a latin font and use the latin lc "n" as an lc "eta", the latin lc "s" for the final lc "sigma", the latin lc "z" for the lc "zeta", et al...

this is happening, because there is no historical self-conscience and, as a bigger reason, it is faster to implement and faster to be sold (if sold, because the greeks seem to admire burt lancaster in "the red corsar")...

and when you see that the need for new fonts in the greek market is concentrated mainly in the lifestyle magazine and advertising sector, then you'll understand the "need for speed" of a font design... globalization happens also here...

and as long as greek designers will be profit-oriented followers (but kings in their village), there will be not much correct font development here in greece...

not to forget that in the only public eductional faculty in greece (tei of athens), where you can "study" for three semesters font design, you are taught by architects and painters... bright font designers, like katsoulidis and matthiopulos, teach graphic design and computer graphics in the same faculty...

(so i guess from pumpkins to porson, we have got now to greece's problems in the sector of education)

as far as for your excuse that dolmades are not suitable for the greek version of your bitmap font, i don't understand why you tried it on dolmades and not on pumpkins, which can also be found in greece... :)

hrant's picture

According to John Bowman, "The most important Greek type ever was that designed for the Cambridge University Press by Richard Porson." (Greek Letters, p. 131) Although I wouldn't necessarily dispute that, I would certainly add that Porson's work was also in some ways a very important step backwards as well. In a textbook Modernist manner*, he banished ligatures from Greek, in the naive desire to make it easier to read. As if humans are computers.

* If way before Modernism was an "official" movement. To me Modernism is actually the natural thought pattern of Western Civilization.


John Hudson's picture

Ligatures began to disappear from Greek typesetting long before Porson. Late books set in Aldine style types were already being set with few or no ligatures.

hrant's picture

Being set yes, but in terms of sort availability in a font, Porson does seem to have been a turning point - but I'm no expert.


John Hudson's picture

In Britain, Porson may be seen as the turning point in the sense that before his new type almost all Greek set in Britain used the Aldine style, with or without diacritics. On the continent, the Didot romantic style had already spread rapidly, and this too was generally set without ligatures. But I think the absence of ligatures in both these styles needs to be seen as a response to the decline in the use of ligatures that had preceded their development.

It should be noted that the Porsonic style remained an almost purely British phenomenon: it was never takem up on the continent, nor in Greece.

hrant's picture

I'd have to double check, but isn't New Hellenic "Porsonic"? Or was New Hellenic also restricted to The Island (as I like to call the UK :-)?


John Hudson's picture

Scholderer's New Hellenic is definitely not Porsonic. New Hellenic refers back to the Complutensian Greek and other pre-Aldine styles, a development that began with Robert Proctor's Otter type. Proctor's The printing of Greek in the fifteenth century had a big influence on Scholderer.

The Porsonic style is very distinct from the later developments of Proctor and Scholderer. Like the Aldine style, the Porsonic has upright caps and slanted lowercase. The most distinctive characteristic of the style are the lunate epsilon and the very round, full alpha. The Porsonic style is a kind of hybrid of the Aldine and Romantic styles but simplified and regularised. It looks like what it is: Richard Porson's meticulously neat Greek handwriting, which North Americans would call 'printing' because with few exceptions the letters do not join up.

anonymous's picture

Please forgive my ignorance. Did Porson INTRODUCE a Greek font ??

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