Digital opticals

eomine's picture

This is something I've been thinking about lately.
What was the first digital typeface to have optical sizes?

I think the first digital font to have them was ITC Bodoni
(released in 1994, according to Daidala). But, it's a
revival.

So. What was the first original typeface, created with
digital technology, to have optical sizes?
Maybe something from Adobe, back in the days of MMs?

Thomas Phinney's picture

Yes, I think so. Minion MM back in 1991 (which also predates ITC Bodoni).

Of course, it all depends on what you mean by optical sizes. I suspect that Minion MM was the first digital typeface to have the full range of characters in a range of optical sizes.

However, some degree of optical size variation had been done even earlier than this. Adobe Garamond, for instance, had an all caps titling face back in 1989.

Of course, Adobe Garamond was a revival. But I see the question of revivals versus originals as rather orthogonal to the question of optical size variation.

Regards,

T

Thomas Phinney's picture

Heh. That was a cross-post, though you wouldn't know from the wording. :-)

I should have gone on to say that I strongly suspec some other late 80s faces had titling or display variants. However, I expect they may have all been revivals or fairly straight translations of pre-existing photo or metal typefaces.

T

Si_Daniels's picture

I'd be willing to bet that there were bitmap font sets in the 70's where at each size the letter shapes were different at say 12ppem and 10ppem. This would meet the definition of 'optical sizes'. Si

Nick Shinn's picture

FB's Belucian was pretty early, I recall.
89 or 90.

gerald_giampa's picture

Bernard Gothic, ATF, 1987

gerald_giampa's picture

But still, a revival.

hrant's picture

Besides Simon's interesting wrench-in-the-machine, I think we might need to narrow this even more: multiple sizes (of an outline) font for text, not just one for text and one for display - that's kind of minimal. And if we're discounting revivals, I might guess this: the first non-revival MM font that Slimbach made - what was that?

BTW, although the ATF Kingsley people were probably the first to implement optical scaling on a full-production level, Jacques Andr

eomine's picture

Thanks for the input.

Hrant wrote:
> I think we might need to narrow this even more:
> multiple sizes (of an outline) font for text, not
> just one for text and one for display - that's
> kind of minimal.

Yeah, that's a good brief.

So I guess that Adobe Minion MM (1992, according to the Readme PDF downloaded from Adobe) can be considered the first non-revival, optically-scaled digital typeface.

And good call, Simon. Screen fonts were certainly the first optically scaled typefaces created in computers. But currently I'm more interested in optical scaling for 'outline' fonts.

I think I know the answer to this question, but is there some easily accesible reference (links, books, magazine articles) to the ATF/Kingsley stuff?
Thanks again.

hrant's picture

There's virtually nothing on Kingsley.


hhp

eomine's picture

That's what I thought.
Thanks anyway.

bieler's picture

Hrant

The manual for Type Designer I (ATF/Kingsley's font design software) had some information. Still have the disks for the software but can no longer find the printed manual. Probably tossed it in one of those purges. Someone other than myself must have purchased this though. Do you think?

Some of the early information from Reading that was published on digital type might have something. They were quite aware.

Of course, this will take some work. The digital realm certainly, and willingly, finds it quite easy to destroy its own history.

Gerald

piticu's picture

Computer Modern family designed/wrote in Metafont by prof. Donald Knuth back in 1977. It has 8 optical sizes (5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12 and 17pt). As far as i know.

puffinry's picture

Does Computer Modern count as a revival or not?
It's supposedly based on Monotype Modern 8A, but
I don't know how similar it really is. Has anyone seen
a sample of Modern 8A, so they can compare?

I don't know what CM Greek was based on, if anything.
Does the sans go all the way back to the beginning?
It's not based on an existing type as far as I know;
could it even be the first instance of an extended family
including complementary sans and serifed designs?

I'm not sure about your dates. According to Hermann Zapf,
Computer Modern was created in 1980.

piticu's picture

According to Knuth, CM was created in 1977:

http://www.tex.ac.uk/tex-archive/fonts/cm/mf/README

first paragraph.

As for the cm sans, it is based on the same Monotype Modern: both cmr10.mf and cmss10.mf (for example) load cmbase.mf, just check it out.

CM i think it is the biggest font family, not only "complementary sans and serif". There are more: startin from typewriter endin with funny fibonacci face or upright italic.

i found a book typeset in Monotype Modern8A but the pic is useless. maybe someone will buy that book and we all see a comparison: http://www.arionpress.com/catalog/048.htm

For a indepth between mm and cm: http://www.tug.org/TUGboat/Articles/tb22-3/tb72hoenig-modern.pdf

puffinry's picture

Okay, I think we're basically saying the same thing: the
first sketches were made in 1977, and the first digital
Metafont implementation was made in 1980.

There are several large typographic families available
now. Lucida is probably the largest, and certainly larger
than CM. I don't know of any earlier example (but
of course there are a lot of things I don't know).

Knuth's upright italic is a kind of typographic sick joke,
not a useful typeface. :-)

piticu's picture

Upright italic is not a joke, it is a proof of what metafont can do. I know Knuth loves jokes, but I don't think that cm ui is one of them.

As about cm family, i'll put together all the fonts available (including ams, bright etc). I'm curious about the number. Does anyone has the complete lucida family? I only got 19 fonts:

lucida, italic, bold, bolditalic,
sans, sansitalic, sansbold, sansbolditalic,
typewriter, italic, bold, bolditalic,
sanstypewriter, italic, bold, bolditalic,
mathextension, mathitalic and mathsymbol.

There are more?

chanop's picture

Lucida grande which is a unicode one. Y&Y provides LucidaBright regular, italic, slant, smallcaps, demi, demi-italic, and demi-smalcaps; LucidaFax regular, italic, demi, and demi-italic; LucidaBlackLetter; LucidaCaligraphy-italic; LucidaCasual regular and italic; LucidaHandWriting-italic; and a family of 11 fonts for LucidaNewMath.

Nick Shinn's picture

>Knuth's upright italic is a kind of typographic sick joke,
not a useful typeface.

Backslanting an italic is the origin of Dalliance Roman, wittily Post-modern.

hrant's picture

Gerald, I remember last year you mentioning the Kingsley stuff that you have - I'd love to see any of it. Maybe on the 15th? I'll remind you. :->

The Reading stuff: What year-range am I looking for? Any specific publications?

> upright italic is a kind of typographic sick joke

Some people (like Martin Majoor and the Underware boys) would disagree.
But not me. :-> Although not a "sick joke", an upright italic -at least in the primary role of emphasis that an italic should have- is a dysfunctional artsy affectation. Unless you call it a "cursive roman" instead and use it independently. Then it can be somewhat cute - although not much more.

--

I don't think CM is a revival - for one thing it's way too ugly.
So Eduardo, I think that's your answer after all.

hhp

puffinry's picture

> Some people [...] would disagree

There's certainly a fun debate to be had about whether
an italic font need necessarily be slanted, but the CM
'upright italic' is just the ordinary italic, mechanically
unslanted. It has to be seen to be believed. :-)

I can't find a sample online, but you'll see that it's
actually (shudder) used in the Zapf article I linked
earlier, to set the text "Editor's note" in one of the
footnotes. (Such a pity that Texiness and taste seem
so inimical to one another.)

To be fair to Knuth, I think his intention (aside from
the understandable desire to play with his new toy
Metafont) was to demonstrate to the typographically
innocent that the structural differences between roman
and italic forms go beyond mere inclination, and
it's certainly a shocking demonstration of that!

eomine's picture

BTW, I just found this link.
It's from an old Seybold Report, but it's interesting.

John Hudson's picture

Ah, I've been waiting for Hrant to raise his objection about the dysfunction of upright italics again. I've now read two books set in Martin Majoor's Seria, both using the upright italic for emphasis etc. and I didn't find any problem with it at all. I read the books and my brain processed the italics as italics. I don't think one can form a general rule from this that upright italics are always going to function as well as slanted ones -- surely this depends on the individual design --, but equally one shouldn't denounce upright italics as dysfunctional on a theoretical basis. Go read a book that uses them. Further evidence that our reading ability is good enough to handle most of what we typically throw at it and then some.

hrant's picture

Your experience is moot for two reasons:
1) You're a type designer.
2) Nobody can consciously gauge their own immersive reading.

There can really be no doubt that slant is the central attribute of an italic* - everything else (like cursiveness) is secondary. Don't disagree just because I'm the one saying it, John.

* In its primary role as an emphatic style.

--

That said, sure, an upright italic won't give you problems 95% of the time. But good design is exactly in that last 5%. Otherwise just use Times and Arial, and nobody will [consciously] notice jack anyway.

hhp

John Hudson's picture

I didn't try to 'gauge my own immersive reading', I just read the bloody books. I read them like any other book, and the italics functioned like any other italics: they did their job, they typographically signalled information about the text.

[If anything, being a type designer is more likely to be an impediment to comfortable immersive reading of things like upright italics: it makes one more likely to notice something unusual and out of the ordinary. Being a type designer is something one overcomes in order to be a reader.]

I disagree with you because I disagree with what you say, not because you're the one saying it. I'm not about the run out and start designing upright italics, because I do think that there is a net benefit to slant: a compound differentiation of letterform and slant is more effective than a single differentiation of letterform (upright italic) or slant (sloped roman). I also agree that slant generally makes for greater differentiation than letterform. Where I disagree is in how great the differentiation actually needs to be for successful reading: I think a well designed upright italic can be perfectly sufficient in this regard and that slant, while desirable, is far from necessary. I do not think slant is even the 'central attribute of an italic': the central attribute is sufficient differentiation from the roman, however that is achieved.

Giampa's picture

Hrant

Gerald, I remember last year you mentioning the Kingsley stuff that you have - I'd love to see any of it. Maybe on the 15th? I'll remind you. :->

Which Gerald?

hrant's picture

John, the point is that while you were bloody reading you don't know if you missed any emphasized words because they were not distinctive enough because there was no slant. Consider the "I" for example.

And you can't overcome being a type designer. If you did you couldn't design type any more. Being type designers make us a bad benchmark for readability.

Slant is central to an italic because it's the thing that determines what else might be needed to pull it sufficiently away from the Roman, and only if the slant isn't strong enough. Slant is also central because it's the only attribute that's required for an italic to work well in an emphatic role. The other attributes are basically aesthetic.

I'm not saying all an italic should have is slant, but what I'm saying is that slant is a necessary condition - while cursiveness for example is not. So a slanted-Roman is less bad than an upright italic.

> Which Gerald?

Lange. Although I certainly remember you talking about Kingsley as well - I'm still waiting for the goods!

hhp

Giampa's picture

John
,
Ah, I've been waiting for Hrant to raise his objection about the dysfunction of upright italics again. I've now read two books set in Martin Majoor's Seria, both using the upright italic for emphasis etc. and I didn't find any problem with it at all.

John Hudson's picture

...you missed any emphasized words because they were not distinctive enough because there was no slant. Consider the "I" for example.

Only egomaniacs italicise 'I'. I don't read those sort of books. :-)

piticu's picture

Robin Huston:

Nick Shinn's picture

>Being type designers make us a bad benchmark for readability.

Right. And musicians have no idea what their music sounds like.

hrant's picture

First of all, the parallels between music and type are seriously over-rated. Massively.

But anyway, I didn't say that type designers have "no idea" what their designs look like, just that their consciousness filters things more -and in different ways- on their way "down" to the subconscious. This should be pretty obvious. This is why evaluating a text font by merely reading it is not enough. And there's another reason: a font contains many more glyphs than are encountered in any reading session. So reading provides "deterministic" evaluation, but not "mathemetical" evaluation: for the latter you have to look at each glyph in the font, which is something that doesn't happen in reading. For example, a font can have a wonderful alphanumeric set, but a lousy eszet - and few people will ever realize.

--

Some more thoughts about upright italics: the chances that an emphasized word will be noticed is proportional to the length of the word (among other things). We might agree that single-letter words are highly problematic for an upright italic, but there are only two of those in English, and one of them ("a") has a structurally different form in cursive, so it's not disasterous (although I might doubt the ability of a reader to appreciate the difference [enough] during immersive reading). And I might further concede that three-letter words are pretty safe. But in English two-letter words are about 20% of text! And I think that's a notable problem.

hhp

Giampa's picture

Hrant

(although I might doubt the ability of a reader to appreciate the difference [enough] during immersive reading)

Have your read "Towards and Ideal Italic"?

hrant's picture

Yes, and I think Morison:
1) doesn't deserve credit for the idea (which he took). The RdR boys deserve the credit, and Tuleu (of the Deberny foundry) deserves credit for making the first good (and maybe still best) slanted-Roman, many decades before Morison;
2) does deserve credit for elaborating on it, but the idea requires a high degree of design-sense to make it really work - and Morison had little (certain other positive qualities he had plenty though). As for Dwiggins and JvK, they went the wrong direction, probably under Morison's bad influence.

hhp

Giampa's picture

"Towards an Ideal Italic" predates Times New Roman. I wonder Morison never took his own advise when he oversaw Times Italic?

Bald Condensed's picture

Yes, I guess that should be Minion MM. Mr. Phinney?

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