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Bless me everyone for I have sinned. It's been more than 30 weeks since my last post. It's been so long because back in March, PattyFab scared the crap out of me a few times with her posts, and more than one person decided it was easier to spit vinegar on me for "having" to read my overly long posts than it would've been to just - I don't know - ignore them.
Still, my love for the brainpower existing here is irrepressible and I can no longer deny being drawn to how much there is to learn here. And indeed, during my absence I've been haunted by questions I'm hoping someone (smart) here will be charitable enough to answer for my own peace of mind. I promise, not only did I spend 30 minutes editing this for length, I also tried to reduce the yawn factor as well. That's how bad I need answers to these questions:
1.) I've released like eight fonts since Feb. '08, with moderate but increasing success. Before finishing them, I reviewed each one in a variety of programs (for spacing/kerning, visual appeal, even-ness, etc.), and tinkered with numerous settings to compare the differences before eventually realizing each was as good as it would ever get. This to me usually ended up with the fonts being as technically-sound looking as anyone else's I've ever seen, though perhaps not as inventive or attractive. By this I mean, all my ascenders and descenders looked perfectly even regardless of the point size, were uniform in height and contrast, so on and so forth. But here's the thing:
I have NEVER set the x-height of my lowercase "f, t, u, v, w, x, y and zs" 10-12 points lower than the rest of the lc letters. The extreme tops of my uppercase "Os" and "Gs," et. al. are exactly the same as the "A" and "E" as well. In other words, I don't mess around with overshoots, etc., and generally don't follow many of the other seemingly set-in-stone rules of type design.
Yet, in every font I've created thus far - at least on my screen and in print - the letters all look great, surprisingly so at times. Which begs the questions: am I crazy? Is my monitor screen the visual equal of a self-cleaning oven? Am I color blind to that little bit of blackness in rounded letters that's supposed to peek above the top of my UC Es and Fs? Or is it possible that whole jack-up the top of the caps thing just a dumb rule people have been blindly following? I'm serious - in fact, according to the "rules," the lower case "t" in the font Vectora apparently is supposed to look at malnourished and retarded as it does.
2.) Can anyone explain the difference when the start point/blue node of a lower-case "m" set at the highest point on the far left of the character, versus the bottom-most right point? Supposedly for Type 1 fonts, the start point is best placed on the bottom right (or thereabouts). In my experience, however, the only apparent benefit of that is the broken sewer-pipe manner in which it screws up the kerning on the right side of the m. Even if my right sidebearing is set at 125 and the kerning between the m and an "i, is set at plus-50 for example, the two letters lay on each other like siamese twins. I've seen no evidence of how the placement of this point has any other effect. HELP!
3.) I spent more than a decade designing and redesigning newspapers all over the South, so I do have some advanced design experience. Unfortunately, though, I didn't and never will go to Reading, never attended one of those international type club events, and never had an example of one of my typefaces blown up to movie poster size so people could walk by and check it out. Nor do I see myself ever doing these things.
I've also never had my 15-minutes of collaboration fame with the Zeuses of typography, and don't see that ever happening either. Not to mention, even if it did I'd be run off on the first day because even Zeus doesn't like having his brain constantly picked at 60-90 second intervals like a monodrone. Basically I've spent the last three years educating myself on the field, mostly by trial and error rather than consuming every Zeus-authored online font-tutorial.
That said, something continues to terrify me: do all those things mean I could never be a successful, respected tipografia disenador? Could there really be as much benefit in knowing Unicode numbers and names by heart as there is at being an expert on the concept of "convert font hints to links?" Because to me the former is child's play ... the latter, though, might as well be asking me the air-speed velocity of an African Swallow.
4.) After a nearly psychotic amount of time experimenting and comparing, I was absolutely crushed to discover a horrible truth: in my eyes, when it comes to most if not all fonts, applying hints to the vertical stems not only fails to improve the typeface, it almost never fails to make it look like unmitigated crap. Then when I remove those verticals and only hint the horizontals, the font looks like a fluffy velour comforter I could bury myself in. It's just beautiful.
Sure on occasion at an obscure point size, my lower case i or l might look a tad bulemic next to his siblings, but that evil is nothing compared to the alternative. I realize this all depends largely on perception, but lately I've been reading where hinting might be overrated, which has provided me a ray of hope. That still doesn't answer my main question: am I actually "cheating" because these hints are "expected" or considered a "given?" Or is there a chance my potentially poor perception is really my own little blessing in disguise? I just can't help it - at my desk, on my screen, through my eyes, a font without vertical hints might as well be Cameron Diaz, while a font with them looks like the girl from the Planter's commercial. I'm totally vexed by it: I always got the impression vertical hints were essential at the very least, but 100 percent of the time in my experience, they are a font's version of hepatitis.
5.) If (relatively speaking) I have a true desire to be a respected, successful disenador, am I eventually going to have to force myself to seek and identify the beauty and/or appeal in Gill Sans? Because - like "Garamond" - that typeface immediately makes me want to vomit on sight. And I'm especially concerned because of how prevalent Gill Sans is around the world. I can't stand that lower-case "a." I really dislike the x-height that's slightly higher than the top of a good comma. I mean, I really, really do not like it AT ALL. So why can I not shake the feeling I'm almost obliged to love it if I ever want to consider myself even marginally versed on the beauty of type?
And finally ... 6.) My take on a long-disputed ... um ... dispute that seems to have no clear cut, ethically correct answer but here it is: Simply put, I do not rely solely on "auto-kerning" to kern a font. But, I also don't sit there and build 3,000 houses of cards one-by-one either.
Instead, I do this: I determine the best kerning classes and save them in .txt, auto-kern the font, import the classes, expand them, and then proceed to start cleaning off those hundred or so I know are always troublesome (you know, the LT, AV, Fa, Vo, etc.). In my opinion, it would be ignorant of me to think a computer brain applying various algorhythms has no chance whatsoever of at least matching in quality what my eyes could produce, if only something like 25 percent of the time. In fact, I am convinced the most efficient and successful approach not only involves recognizing and knowing those "trouble" pairs, but also having extensive knowledge and awareness of how the particular auto-kerning engine affects the font itself. So no, I do not manually kern thousands of pairs in fonts I create ... am I going to hell now? Or is there some legitimacy to spending more time mastering the natural trouble spots and application of the auto-kern engine? Have my ethics been permanently disgraced?
I would be SO grateful for anyone's views on one or all of these questions, because they really bother me big time.