A Serif with Serifs? What else is funny?

Vladimir Tamari's picture

As I was standing in the checkout line at a Tokyo supermarket my eye met this Arabic numeral "1". For a while I was struck dumb - what tha! is that a serif - with serifs? It was disorienting - a typographical zen koan- what am I seeing? Then I thought of the poor lettering designer unused to Latin letters and interpreting the 1's upper stroke (can it be called a serif?) in his or her own way. I almost burst out laughing. I later came and took a photo of the sign. The green variation is my photoshopped vision of what a serif with serifs with serifs ...might look like. Keep adding serifs like this and you get a fractal...
Have you seen anything else that is funny? I do not mean ugly or badly-designed glyphs or letters, but something that would make a typographer laugh.

kentlew's picture

> Then I thought of the poor lettering designer unused to Latin letters and interpreting the 1’s upper stroke (can it be called a serif?) in his or her own way.

Uh . . . that would be Frederic Goudy. http://www.myfonts.com/fonts/adobe/copperplate-gothic/

Vladimir Tamari's picture

You are absolutely right - even Microsoft Word has this Copperplate Gothic font! Ok the joke is on me, but I still think it is ..quaint. In Japan so many signs use strange English I thought this was a graphical extention of the genre. See http://www.engrish.com/

cerulean's picture

Back in school I attended a presentation by... Hoefler, I think, but I may not be remembering correctly. Anyway, he was leading us through the design of a typeface, and apparently the creation of swash characters had become a bit much, and he had to indulge in a little self-parody. Imagine an octothorpe, a slash, a period... all with a big ol' Bookman swash extending from the upper left, or as close to an upper left as could be had.

dezcom's picture

When I first saw Copperplate years ago, I thought the figure 1 was quite odd as well but now that I am used to it, it doesn't bother me.

ChrisL

John Hudson's picture

Here's an interesting design challenge: devise another form for the numeral 1 that conforms to Copperplate and also retains a significant visual distinction betweem 1 and I.

russellm's picture

This is kind of like one of those fishing stories where the fish gets bigger with every telling, because I can't find it now, but... I did a sketch a few months ago of letters with endlessly iterating serifs... Well the idea was infinite iterations of serifs, but it gets crowded really fast so it only got to about 4 or 5 levels. And it was the Goudy Copperplate 1 that gave me the idea. It's odd. It looks like a part of a kitchen sink drain, but I like it.

-=®=-

Vladimir Tamari's picture

Alessandro - thanks for the haha-meter (am I the only one who finds the Typophile link color too subtle to distinguish from the rest?
cerulean - yes swashbuckling periods and slashes are what I had in mind uner the category of funny type.
ChrisL - the eye can get used to anything - even that eyeglass lowercase g- I wonder what is its ancestry?
John - does Copperplate have lowercase?
russellm - nothing new under the sun I guess! Well the idea was infinite iterations of serifs, but it gets crowded really - also its tiring to make manually. As to getting crowded that would not happen if each iteration gets smaller- it will be much like a mathematical fractal where the original has a given outline, and succeeding iterations become smaller and more complex - one has to zoom to see them. Fascinating stuff really- I just tried the freeware program ChaosPro to produce fractals but there may be less difficult programs that demonstrate the results only as animations.

Florian Hardwig's picture

am I the only one who finds the Typophile link color too subtle to distinguish from the rest?
No, I’m with you.
I’ve sent a feature request, you could do so, too: http://typophile.com/contact

Mark Simonson's picture

does Copperplate have lowercase?

No, but a typeface from the 1970s called American Gothic, which was based on Copperplate, does. It was designed by Vladimir Andrich for Alphatype. (He also did a lot of the Filmotype fonts back in the 1950s and the exquisite Andrich Minerva for VGC.)

Nick Shinn's picture

I like the link colour the way it is.

piccic's picture

I have no memory of reading about that, but for some reason I always thought Copperplate Gothic was designed to be used mostly on small sizes, especially business cards, and those "serifs" all over the letter are a compensation means for the ink (negative inktraps). Am I daydreaming or maybe there is some evidence of this? :=(

A thing goes for sure, at least for me: Copperplate used for storage signs and in large applications is awfully bad…

EDIT: Ah, I forgot. "What else is funny", for Vladimir:
Modula Ribbed by Zuzana Licko
Jesus Loves You by Luc(as) DeGroot
and finally, Serifs taking hold, Punten also by DeGroot.
I own a license of Punten, and I always thought it's quite a stroke of genius… :=)

Vladimir Tamari's picture

piccic-Claudio: Funny as in weird? yes...but you are right - As for Punten, apart from the spectacular serifs reminding me of insect antennas, it has a very fine sense of design and line. The & is magnificent. It seems to be reaching back to those calligraphic scripts with lots of curved hairline flourishes.

piccic's picture

Interesting how Punten looks primarily beautiful to your "Arabic-eye"… :=)
It is indeed, Luc(as) masters the forms. Most of the experiments you see are based on the excellent forms of his typeface Thesis "life-project" (see Nebulae and Jesus Loves You).

Punten always conjured a feeling of the unavoidability of tares, and sufference from disorder in this world, to me…

kosal's picture

What else is funny? How about all the jokes on Typographunnies!

Vladimir Tamari's picture

Interesting how Punten looks primarily beautiful
The designer is obviously skillful and cannot make an ugly outline, although he seems to have tried hard here ;-)

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