Twenty-two things you should never do with typefaces

Olivier Deneef's picture

Hi everyone,

For my masterproject i'm writing about the conflict of academic - professional designers.
I want to work for this thesis around the book - Twenty-two things you should never do with typefaces - by Enric Jardi.
For every rule he tels not to do, i want to prove that it can be done, because type is more than rules, it's about a feeling, you cant just say how to become good type… atleast not in a radical way…

The first thing i want to bring up is the following:

"Avoid script, Letters that look like handwriting can be a nice decorative resource, but they are not exactly typefaces".
This is rule Nr. 8 in the book

I want to prove that you can use script letters properly, so now my question is, can you guys give me good examples of the correct use of script letters, or is this rule correct? Shouldn't you use them? What are good script letters and are there well-known designers who use them frequently?

I realy hope this brings a discussion alive, because it would help me very much and i would use all the text in my project that is posted here.

Best regards,

Olivier

penn's picture

The most important thing here is to first look at how he defines a "typeface". If he goes on to describe his definition of a typeface, I would look at that closely to determine whether or not you can contradict his rule.

Contradicting his rules while not playing by his rules won't result in anything significant.

penn

Olivier Deneef's picture

You're absolutely right penn,

"Using scripts is like plastic flowers in your house; they work, but they will never be like real flowers. That is why you should bear in mind that a calligraphic typeface is a somewhat fraudulent style." says Enric Jardi.

For me, i think he's talking about a script as a textletter, as a letter to set the body with.

Now i don't have anything against these books, the reason why i'm doing this is because i think it is funny that for the mere part of the rules in typography you can give an example that contradicts it, and that is what i will try to do with this book.

Olivier

typerror's picture

“Using scripts is like plastic flowers in your house; they work, but they will never be like real flowers. That is why you should bear in mind that a calligraphic typeface is a somewhat fraudulent style.”

First off, if there are any really true forms they are calligraphic - not plastic! And if you want to go the fraudulent direction... just look at the sans! They are the contrived forms.

And this guy is licensed to teach? By the looks of his typefaces he has never drawn or lettered anything in his life... that should be a clue!

Sad
Michael

dezcom's picture

Tell the guy to look at Ale Paul's work and see if he still thinks the same way.

ChrisL

typerror's picture

Good call Chris!

"conflict of academic - professional designers."

The first pontificate, the latter produce. Nuf said?

Michael

Olivier Deneef's picture

Thanks for the comment ChrisL,

this is what i want to hear, i want examples like you just said, so i can illustrate there are beatiful calligraphic letters to use in text etc… I want examples people :-)

P.S: i don't know the author, i don't criticise him, i'm just using his book

typerror's picture

I would lose the book after you are finished with the project, and I am criticizing him. He is an idiot.

Go on any of the collective foundry websites and look for scripts, and look specifically for ones that would do well in text. They ARE out there.

Michael

Si_Daniels's picture

There are only three things you need to consider about lists...

1. They are generally incomplete, silly or just plain wrong
2. People who write lists are generally assholes
3. Lists accurately convey the assholeness of the author

pica pusher's picture

I don't believe Jardi's suggesting calligraphic forms are bad, Michael. Seems to me he's saying script typefaces mimic true handwriting in the same way that plastic flowers mimic real flowers.

The challenge, then, is to create a design where a script typeface works but perfect, beautiful handwriting wouldn't.

(edit: we cross-posted, Simon, but your list cracked me up!)

Olivier Deneef's picture

"The challenge, then, is to create a design where a script typeface works but perfect, beautiful handwriting wouldn’t."

i never thought of it this way, but you're absolutely right! i think this will be the challange for me, to find a case where a script typeface just works better than handwriting…

any suggestions?

typerror's picture

I think you are naive to believe that there are not those who basically despise lettering. It HAS been stated on this site before. I just chalk it up to ignorance.

With OT there are times when I cannot tell the difference between type and lettering. That sort of defeats his argument. Check out Stephen Rapp's newest additions to the script arena.

Michael

Olivier Deneef's picture

thanks for your help michael

penn's picture

Check out the sudtipos foundry. They have some nice script faces.

penn

John Hudson's picture

conflict of academic - professional designers

Can you explain what you mean by this?

typerror's picture

Greetings John.

I have been involved with a couple of universities for a number of years. I noticed that those who were not producing, working in the real world, subjecting themselves to client scrutiny were proliferators of bs. Their rhetoric was basically untested, erroneous and pure tripe. The profs who were splitting their time between the REAL world and academia were much more grounded. Does that help John? Pretty simplistic but what I found.

I once taught a class in Lettering in Contemporary Design. Much to my surprise at the end of the semester the Chairman called me in. He told me the students came in en masse and said they learned more from my class than they had learned in 4 semesters of typography. All the type teachers were educated, but non practitioners!

Michael

dezcom's picture

Always Practice before you preach but never preach before you practice.

ChrisL

Stephen Rapp's picture

There is a book a couple years back, which I don't recall the title; but it was double sided. One side had traditional typography explaining the rules, and the other side was more contemporary and broke each rule. Maybe someone here might recall that.

As for scripts being plastic... all type is nothing more than images that represent language. It may be true that calligraphic scripts are not "the real thing" compared to directly written lettering, but they can still convey much of the beauty and energy of hand written text. Calligraphic and handwritten type designs like other display faces have their place in design and are certainly validated by the test of time.

typerror's picture

You are right Chris. I just let them make "mud pies" and then gave them the constraints of fit. Three of the best semesters I ever spent. Then budget cuts hit! Adjunct, the ones with their finger on the pulse, are the first to go.

Michael

typerror's picture

If I am not mistaken, Mistral is 55+ years old. I would not hesitate to use it today if called for. And I am a lettering artist/type designer first... designer second.

Michael

blank's picture

Tell the guy to look at Ale Paul’s work and see if he still thinks the same way.

Seconded. And you should really talk to Ale about this subject and see if he has a recording of his talk from Typecon, or similar talks, about the awesome impact his fonts and workshops have had on package design in Latin and South America.

William Berkson's picture

Hmmm. Let's see: the Ten Commandments, a list. That means the list maker is ... .

Wow that explains a lot about the world I never could understand :)

AndrewSipe's picture

There are only three things you need to consider about lists...

1. They are generally incomplete, silly or just plain wrong
2. People who write lists are generally assholes
3. Lists accurately convey the assholeness of the author

Judging from this list, Si, you're only moderately assholey.

hrant's picture

> masterproject
> For every rule he tels not to do, i want to prove that it can be done

They gave you a Bachelor's?

--

Rule #1 that most idiotic graphic designers break within
two minutes: do not squeeze/stretch type horizontally.

Feeling? Try eating tree bark and see how you feel.

>> a calligraphic typeface is a somewhat fraudulent style.

This is essentially true.
I remember the first time I held a large metal sort of
Palatino Italic in my palm, I had this very powerful
negative vibe in me telling me: THIS IS NOT RIGHT.

hhp

typerror's picture

"I remember the first time I held a large metal sort of
Palatino Italic in my palm, I had this very powerful
negative vibe in me telling me: THIS IS NOT RIGHT."

I won't even post what I originally typed in. But you have proven what I have thought all along. You have no clue. Your agenda has dulled you to excellence. You talk about discovery and yet you are unaware of what impact Palatino had when it was released!

Totally clueless. And now I have no respect for you.

Michael

hrant's picture

Oh yeah, WELL, WELL...
(I'm sorry, I tried, but couldn't really muster an emotional reaction.)

I can offer these clarifications however:
1) What I felt was a very abrupt, gentle but significant vibe. Unless I'm an expert at self-hypnosis, my Agenda, which is conscious, I doubt could have had such a visceral effect. Essentially, my anti-chirographic stance comes just as much from the depths of my being as it does from the (contextual) heights of my thought.
2) It was Palatino Italic's physical presence on the rectangular face of a stick of metal that I found "fraudulent". Palatino -especially the Roman- as an abstact design itself is perhaps less offensive to me. That said, even if I think any font has its place, I don't personally believe Palatino is something to be emulated, especially not today.
3) Whatever "impact Palatino had when it was released" is not relevant to my stance, and certainly not my anecdote. The Black Plague also had a large effect on Europe.

hhp

James Arboghast's picture

@typerror: You have no clue. . . Totally clueless. And now I have no respect for you.

An ad hominem personal attack or "argument against the man", and a logical fallacy. It seems you're not content make an ad hominem attack on Enric Jardi, calling him an "idiot".

Note: I am not defending anybody here, just pointing out the ad hominem stuff when it happens. Remember that the whole world can potentially read this.

j a m e s

FeeltheKern's picture

I think this Enric Jardi list is a sort of social engineering -- he's assuming the reader is probably in school, a newcomer to design, or just doesn't know a whole lot about typography. I would imagine he's a proponent of the philosophy that "you need to know the rules before you can break them," which I happen to agree with.

The worst that could happen, if let's say a design student really takes his list to heart and lives by the rules their whole career, is that they produce safe design. It's probably boring uninspired work most of the time, but at least the world is safe from their terrible experimentation, and most of what they produce will at least be "effective," in the sense that it will look like professional work

The best situation is if they learn the rules, try to follow them, but then figure out on their own after a few months or years that there are a whole lot of exceptions to the rules. Personally, memorable learning moments for me have been when I see something I was taught was true is not always true, or is flat out false.

I think the most common situation, however, is for people to totally disregard the rules just because they are called rules, and they don't want to design according to set parameters -- they want to reinvent the wheel, be the next David Carson. It would be much worse to learn the rules and abide by them your whole life, to be sure. But I think most people spend a lot of time trying to be totally original, and not not enough time absorbing influences and then naturally evolving that into their own voice.

Of course, you need to really believe that the rules are "The Rules" in the beginning, otherwise you're not going to take them seriously.

fredo's picture

Perhaps off topic, but anyone who's familiar with the work of Enric Jardi, knows he is an excellent designer.
And his flower analogy works for me. If you want to reach the core of typography, scripts are simply not where you start. But I think this is common knowledge among designers that are not crap.

William Berkson's picture

On script faces, it is true that they are often used inappropriately. But they can be used well, and beautifully. I know this is boring, but also true. Calm down, folks, enjoy the fall weather.

dezcom's picture

There is also something to be said for a period of a completely naive approach to design where you have not learned any rules or axioms. With this once in a lifetime opportunity, you get to struggle with the forces that make type work or fail and apply your logic to why certain things affect each other. This tact brings a learning which is deep and substantive. You may find that you arrive at a similar set of "rules" but you really get a better grasp of "why" these rules came about. Afterwards, you can study all the rules and dialogue about them with a real understanding of when to apply and when to ignore the rules. If you learn the rules first, you can never experience the child-like state of discovery that unbounded learning can bring you.

ChrisL

Olivier Deneef's picture

@ John hudson

Academic - more cultural, more conceptual designs
Professional - dtp work, less creativity, higher output.

(don't say that one is better than the other, they're just different)

As i mentioned it, it had nothing to do with the teachers, all of our teachers work, have earned their position as a teacher.

Hope this answers your question.

@hhp, don't realy get your point

@feelthekern

"The best situation is if they learn the rules, try to follow them, but then figure out on their own after a few months or years that there are a whole lot of exceptions to the rules."

This is the situation i'm in right know, for three years we have learned nothig but rules, but during these years we also broke them, just to see wat works and what doesn't. This is why is want to do this with Enric Jardi's book - it could be any other book with rules about type - i have learned them, and now i want to play with them, make the opposite of his book, i just think it's realy funny to do, as a research for myself, what works, what doesn't etc…

@everybody else, thx for your comments, learned alot these last two days

hrant's picture

The problem with the "breaking the rule or not" mentality is that it's never really a binary decision. This is something Modernism (my definition of which extends back to the Ancient Romans) has forced on us, and it's time to break free of those shackles.

Believe you me, I can appreciate the desire to break rules - so many of them around us are so stupid (although mostly the ones made by politicians in a democratic system, not the ones made by craftsmen). But starting with the assumption that any rule must be false is stupid too.

For example, reading text is not just a matter of habit; the human eye and brain prefer certain things, like type that's within a certain size range. Similarly, if you assume that a typeface designer has made his curves just so, blindly compressing/extending type is unintelligent and unwise. Testing the limits of such rules is highly commendable, but being intent on breaking them is sad old 90s PoMo.

hhp

Olivier Deneef's picture

True hhp, but let's make one thing clear, maybe it was wrong of me to say that i wanted to "break the rules",
cause that's not really the point. I'm searching for arguments to prove that there isn't such a thing as "one correct way" of typography, its what you as a designer want to do with it, maybe making something so wrong that it's just right for he purpose…

When a designer stops asking himself questions about the "why" of so many things, he's in trouble, or at least that's what
works for me…

greetings

Olivier

Nick Shinn's picture

As for examples, one can find a lot in advertising.
They are not necessarily plastic imitations of the real thing, but offer the genuine glamour of trompe-l'œil.
Artifice, not artificiality.
In that sense, there is not much difference between a painstakingly rendered one-off piece of fancy-swashed script and a piece of typography in a painstakingly rendered Ale Paul OpenType font.

Ch's picture

generally i feel that rules are for suckers, yet i conform to many out of convenience, cowardice, or common sense. but aesthetic rules in particular are just conventions with no relevance to the real creative process.
font and letter designs impress me in large part because they represent hybrid skills where so many disparate disciplines converge. conventions and standards have a valid place here in a way that seems less true for other forms of creativity.
perhaps that is the craft, while unconventional and experimental forms edge in from other places.

i like this project, for its simple formality. 1) list the rules. 2) break the rules.
it should be easy to find examples of all sorts of transgressions.

and to paraphrase sii: ad hominem attacks are generally incomplete, silly or just plain wrong. people who resort to them are generally assholes, and the attack conveys the assholeness of the author.

sorry at the moment i don't have more to contribute other than attitude and encouragement.

Graham McArthur's picture

Take away the rules and you have no game. The rules define the craft. If gravity ignored the rules we would all drift endlessly in space and yet it is the laws of gravity which enable us to fly. Change or defy a rule only means you replace it with another. No matter how hard you try you will always have at least one rule left: there are no rules. Also no matter how hard you try you will still need to draw the line in the sand or else you can not cross it.

"...aesthetic rules in particular are just conventions with no relevance to the real creative process."

Not so.

Thenquin's picture

ad hominem: an attack on a persons' character rather than the argument they put forward.

ad mominem: a "yo' momma..." rather than focus on the argument put forward.

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

Olivier,

You know, Jardí's book really has two parts. One half, as you say, is called Twenty-two things you should never do with typefaces (that some typographers will never tell you). But if you flip the book over, the other half is called Twenty-two tips on typography (that some designers will never reveal). It says things like, "Reject fake bolds, italics and small capitals," and "Learn how H&Js work." Are you going to try to refute these tips, too? ;-)

Sorry... I'm just playing devil's advocate... testing your thesis.

[EDIT] By the way... The English version of the book has its own page here.

dsb's picture

Students are taught "rules" because they haven't yet developed the eye to see certain details.
Once a student can see how off the proportions of fake small caps or bolds look (especially in running text), they are no longer rules, they are just what looks right and what looks off.

Can you even make fake bolds in Indesign anymore? I thought I heard or read that it only does it if the font is available?

derek

Olivier Deneef's picture

Hey Ricardo,

You're right, that part of the book makes much more sense, but even then i will give counterarguments for each one.
I'm not saying he's not right about fake bolds etc… but for H&Js i will give an example of will holder… it's maybe not the right thing to do, but it works for him. It's examples like this one that makes it interesting for me.

And you're right about testing my thesis, critique helps me (hopefully) to a higher level in my thesis :)

Best regards,

Olivier

P.S.: @ CH, thanks for your comment, really liked what you said.

wrenfern's picture

I think this thread has revealed a more interesting angle of approach on your project. Perhaps present examples of breaking the rules that result in both utter failures as well as great success. I think it would be much more rewarding to work on for you, and offer more to the reader as well as they become an active participant in sorting the issue out for themselves. Plus the exploratory slant is much more appealing and mature than a reactionary one.

FeeltheKern's picture

I like Wrenfern's idea above. The end goal is good design, and there are multiple ways to get there. Some people do it through strict rules, some people do it through having a rule about no rules or trying to break the rules, and most of use a combination of conventions with our own personal spin.

My feeling is that the people who really stand out are those who go to polar extremes -- for instance in the Helvectica documentary, they interview people like Massimo Vignelli and Stefan Sagmeister. They don't interview Joe or Jane Designer who does some pretty nice annual reports, and gets a few things in the annuals every year.

The question of "is there one approach, regarding the adherence to, rejection of, or finding some middle ground in terms of rules, that produces good design?" is a much more interesting question to me. My guess is that all hinges if you're looking for regularity -- people who adhere to rules are going to produce design that is more predictably good than those who are wildly experimental. The wildly experimental person is going to maybe produce a lot of failures, but a few incredibly memorable things as well. But that's just my guess.

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