"Asymmetrical" joins on the N?

nina's picture

Hello Typophiles!

What a great place to be. :)

I'm currently working on the digitization of an old metal face I asked about here before. I'm fairly new to type design, just having started the postgraduate type design course in Zurich, Switzerland, so please bear with me ;-).

Here is the Uc alphabet:

Well, it has these unexpected quirky details. I just spent the entire afternoon trying to figure out the N, the question being that the joins of the diagonal with the left & right stems respectively are solved quite differently (these are my sketches, please forgive any crookedness). And interestingly, the "asymmetrical N" is only present in the original sample from Emil Gursch Foundry in Berlin (1910); Berthold slightly redesigned the typeface in the 1920s and rereleased it with symmetrical N joins. So I guess they were wondering too ;-)

Hans Jürg Hunziker, my teacher in this, told me to change it to make the joins equal. I realized changing the angle of the diagonal runs me into other problems, but found a very "neutral" variation by moving the diagonal a tad to the left.

What I'd like to know, though, is why this may have been solved like this. While I would like to "filter out" some of the weirdnesses that stem from the lead "medium", as well as some of the historical specialties, I would still want my digitization to remain as true as possible to the original typeface, so if the thing with the N was a valid and purposeful design decision, I wouldn't necessarily want to change it.

So, can anyone tell me some reason why this asymmetry in the joins could have been a valid design decision? Does it relate to any of the other letterforms? (I realize the left join, as is, matches the apex of e.g. the A; but when I use this system on both joins, like in the middle sketch, the N looks a bit like it's about to break apart.)

FWIW, whereas Karen Cheng's "Designing Type" does not show any asymmetrically joined sansserif N's, I've checked some other fonts and noticed that Verdana, for one, does the exact same thing – it has a "flatter" or "wider" join on the left and a more "acute" or narrower one on the right.

Thanks a lot for any input!

jupiterboy's picture

One more similar font, FWIW.

Zeppelin 41

nina's picture

Yep, Zeppelin was mentioned before as being very similar:
http://typophile.com/node/50670 (24 Oct 2008)

However Ronsard is as much the same as it gets; I must assume they worked from the same base material, even though there are some changes (like longer extenders – they botched that beautiful "g" – or those horizontals they inserted in joins on the likes of "N" and "A", except in the Extra Bold), and some strangeness (like them referring to it as a 1950s design, when the original Industria was designed in 1910/1913 [which I think also shows]; I don't know when the design was initially sold in France under the name "Ronsard", though).

hrant's picture

Certainly, if you're planning a literal revival, don't spill the beans here, or anywhere! Fortunately -in more ways than one- you seem to be above making such fonts.

BTW, there was once an attempt at an "exclusive" sub-forum on Typophile that was going to be by invitation only; presumably that would reduce unethical behavior while encouraging people to share more freely and perhaps be [even] more candid as well.


nina's picture

Oh, interesting. What became of it?

hrant's picture

It was over six years ago, so it's a bit hazy, but IIRC it was during a membership drive with three tiers, and the top two tiers had a $4 option of getting into that "club" during a "sunrise" period. I went for it. Probably because I didn't think I could get unanimous approval (that was a condition) of the existing club membership in the future. :-)


nina's picture

Heh. So, I assume it died again? Or is it still here, secretly? ;-)

I must say I'm not unattracted by the idea. The German forum (typografie.info) has a couple of 'hidden'/'private' forums, but those are unconnected to paid membership – you can only get in by being invited/approved.
It can be nice to have an optional/additional place where not the entire 'net is watching the conversation.

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