Mean and Puritan

quadibloc's picture

In my opinion, although it is very early in its lifetime to say this, I suspect that the popularity of Times Roman bids fair to endure nearly as long as that of Caslon.

Of course, there was Stanley Morison's own famous comment on that font:

As a new face it should, by the grace of God and the art of man, have been broad and open, generous and ample; instead, by the vice of Mammon and the misery of the machine, it is bigoted and narrow, mean and puritan.

Yes, it has short descenders and a large x-height, but not so much so as Corona, for it was designed originally for use in a newspaper, albeit one printed with more care, and on better paper, than the typical North American newspaper.

An alternate version of Times with long descenders was offered for a while by one founder (I think Monotype itself); it was made to match regular Times in size, which meant that leading was obligatory, as it was still cast on the body of its nominal point size - the long descenders became vertical kerns. I don't know if it was ever digitized.

But my question is this: given the popularity - and evident merits - of Times Roman, why hasn't someone (or has someone, outside of my meagre knowledge) produced, as it were, a "Times Book" in which not only the descenders are lengthened, but so are the ascenders (slightly), with the lower case reduced slightly in size relative to the upper case so as to moderate the x-height to a "normal" value, and the stroke widths then also adjusted (made heavier in the lower case, or lighter in the upper case, or both, so that the ratio between them remains at the appropriate value)?

Times is a beautiful font, but if those characteristics of it which save on paper (the vice of Mammon perhaps becoming the virtue of wise stewardship of our forests) can fairly be recognized as a problem, why can't this problem be solved, so that the fullness of the beauty of Times may be appreciated - and the spirits of both Stanley Morison and Victor Lardent find peace?

blank's picture

…why hasn’t someone…

Times is classic Dutch book type adapted for newsprint. Why would anybody bother reversing the process? There’s hardly a shortage of good Dutch book faces out there already.

quadibloc's picture

Oh, silly me. Yes; if one likes Times Roman so much that one wishes to have a regular book typeface that looks as much like it as possible, there's always... Plantin.

I do think, though, that Times Roman isn't just an adaptation. Even compared to Plantin, it has just that extra little bit of zing - by sharpening the serifs, as Caslon did - and so it isn't entirely beyond imagining that for some, nothing less than a book-ified Times would do.

Nick Shinn's picture


Times and Starling Book.
**
BTW, I'm puzzled why you would consider the most-read book face ever to not be a "book face".
Aren't mass market paperbacks books?

quadibloc's picture

I think Times Roman actually works quite well in books. But its proportions aren't those of a classic book face, and so even Stanley Morison himself has criticized it.

Since the "flaw", if flaw it is, of a large x-height is so easy to correct, I had wondered why this had not been done.

But then I came across the font New Aster, designed by Simoncini for Linotype, which seems to be rather close to what I was thinking of. Or perhaps I've just been confused about what the x-height of Times is.

jstypo's picture

In my opinion, although it is very early in its lifetime to say this, I suspect that the popularity of Times Roman bids fair to endure nearly as long as that of Caslon.

Indeed, very, very early. You may have to bequeath your great grandchildren's grandchildren the link to this discussion for them to ascertain any truth in this statement.

Today there are so many excellent book faces in their own right that it seems almost embarrasing to drag Times into their company.

nina's picture

"I’m puzzled why you would consider the most-read book face ever to not be a “book face”."
Nick, would you really classify fonts not according to the design's intention,
but actual usage?
Let's see… I have a book partly typeset in Aachen here (yes, really).
So does that mean Aachen is a book face? :-\

jstypo's picture

The name escapes me right now, but there is a well known German newspaper set in Sabon --yes, a book face!-- and the results are surprisingly agreeable. Somehow my sense of anticipation is not whetted by that book set in Aachen ... although one never really knows.

Mark Simonson's picture

The compactness of Times Roman is probably what made it popular for paperbacks.

Nick Shinn's picture

Nick, would you really classify fonts not according to the design’s intention, but actual usage?

What's this Nina, reductio ad Aachen?

There are many ways to categorize any font.
We're talking about a face, designed for an upscale newspaper, that has become the most-used, most-read face in book publishing. It seems absurd to not consider it a book face, amongst its many other uses.

Morison's antipathy represents the hypocritical snobbery that exists within the type and design world, looking down upon the "trade" work that most of us must do to make a living--serving mammon--while we admire work that is more refined and "creative". But he was mistaken about the rudeness of Times: it was used as the text face of the Penrose annual for many years, during his lifetime, in an open, generous and ample layout. Apparently, it passed muster with his peers.

There is no reason "classic" (hardcover) book faces need have a small x-height and supposedly aristocratic proportions. Dante, for instance, is quite proletarian in that respect.

quadibloc's picture

Frankly, I wouldn't be above typesetting a book in Corona. But my reasons would not be entirely "mean and puritan"; rather than trying to save trees, it would be because the face was once so familiar - and still blends familiar ingredients and proportions - that it might be more nondescript than Century Expanded, and thus better approach the worthy ideal of the "crystal goblet".

But snobbery though certain things may be, I'm not sure it's hypocritical. Designing Paragon and Aurora and Excelsior and Corona... yes, it was a living, but as a post here noted, designing the TTS legibility fonts was more "work" and less "fun" than working on something that would be more creative, more of a labor of love.

Thus, cutting Jenson Oldstyle or Poliphilus - that's the sort of thing a type designer wishes to get to do when he gets to the top of the field. That's what will be acclaimed and remembered when rubber rollers on stereotype presses become museum pieces.

It's not hypocritical to pay one's rent by doing the work that one can find, or to prefer to be doing something more creative. That's true in technical fields as well as artistic ones.

jstypo's picture

Frankly, I wouldn’t be above typesetting a book in Corona.

Under certain circumstances you might have to do even worse.

I've seen books 'typeset' in communist countries --I'm thinking of Cuba in this particular instance-- where the setting itself is nothing more than pages banged up on 1950's typewriters, reduced to the final book size. Awful doesn't even begin to describe it. One can only pity those who are obliged to use such books.

I'm sure that gently scolding those who produce books this way cannot be construed as snobbery nor hypocrisy. As typographers, one is just upholding over 500 years of tradition while at the same time showing that we've learnt a thing or two along the way.

nina's picture

Nick, maybe language is a bit too imprecise here. To me a font being a "book face" would primarily mean "a typeface designed for books" and [somewhat] optimized for that purpose. Now maybe a font could be a "book face" as well as something else; but if on the other hand you take "book face" to mean "a typeface used in books", then that can really be anything. Which makes the term kinda useless in my book (sorry).
Not meaning to derail the thread, this is really just semantics.

William Berkson's picture

I agree that Times New Roman is a great typeface, with many assets.

As Mark said, it is extremely compact, which makes it good for shorter columns--newspaper and magazine columns, paper backs. Also of compact types it combines being dark, readable at small sizes, and clean all at the same time.

Whoever did it basically took a large x-height Dutch type and put sharp, lapidary serifs, like Gill's Perpetua, on it instead of the slabby originals. This worked very well, and it is hard to beat for compact, short printed columns at small size.

However, to me it is a little too compact for ideal comfort in reading. Also its sharpness and compactness has a certain kind of "I'm all business" aesthetic about it that I don't think is best for many uses.

At long measure, such as in a single column on letter size or A4 paper with narrow margins, it is pretty much of a disaster.

Nick Shinn's picture

It’s not hypocritical to pay one’s rent by doing the work that one can find, or to prefer to be doing something more creative.

No it's not, if those two situations are considered separately; but the connection between them is tenuous.
It's hypocritical to assert that one's rent-money work is inherently inferior, or that one's work which achieves popular acclaim is thereby second rate.

Further on Morison's hypocrisy: he was happy to take the acclaim for having excogitated Times, although it is now understood that he swiped the design from Starling Burgess and Victor Lardent did all the work.

Thus, cutting Jenson Oldstyle or Poliphilus - that’s the sort of thing a type designer wishes to get to do when he gets to the top of the field.

A bit of a generalization. I suspect that more of us take a crack at reviving Jenson early on.
And if you made it to the top and wanted to leave your mark on history, surely doing something original would make more sense than a revival?
BTW, Poliphilus wasn't designed or "cut": it was pure concept, a photo-facsimile.

hrant's picture

Nina is right, a font's ideal usage isn't
determined by its most popular usage.

> There is no reason “classic” (hardcover)
> book faces need have a small x-height

Except, of course, readability!

> it is now understood that he swiped the design from
> Starling Burgess and Victor Lardent did all the work.

Have there been new revelations since the APHA articles?
Because if not, this characterization is bogus.

hhp

Nick Shinn's picture

Except, of course, readability!

Times has almost the same vertical proportions (cap to x-height ratio) as Minion, a face that has become quite popular and respected for book and text work in general. Is Minion, too, not really a "book" face, because of its x-height? (Don't tell Robert Bringhurst!)

nina's picture

"almost the same vertical proportions (cap to x-height ratio)"

That looks conveniently similar indeed – but wouldn't the x-ht/extender ratio really be more relevant than x-ht/cap?

hrant's picture

Nick, are you being serious?
Minion's x-height is notably smaller* plus its forms are much wider.
To a text face designer, there are mountains and valleys between them.

* Look at the extenders, not the caps! Duh.

hhp

Nick Shinn's picture

...wouldn’t the x-ht/extender ratio really be more relevant than x-ht/cap?

I think all three (cap height, extender height, descender length) are relevant to x-height.

However, isn't it true that in typography we normally discuss x-height in relation to cap height, and extender length in relation to x-height? In other words, we say that a typeface has a small x-height if it is small in relation to cap height. But if it is small in relation to extender length, we don't say that it has a small x-height, rather, we say that that the font has long extenders.

Therefore, it is correct to say that Times has a large x-height and short extenders; and that Minion has a large x-height and long (er) extenders. What you are saying, Hrant, is that any typeface with long extenders has a small x-height, according to which logic Minion does not have a large x-height. But if you ask typographers about Minion's x-height, I think the consensus would be that it is medium to large, because they will compare it to cap height. Duh.

nina's picture

Of course they're all relative, etc.
Frankly, I don't know of that convention of defining one via the other and not the other way round. But if that is indeed so, it seems (a) a bit arbitrary, and (b) not very helpful, at least when discussing readability: How relevant is cap height to reading, compared to extender length? Not very, I would surmise, at least not if you're typesetting English. So doesn't it just make more sense to talk about x-ht/extenders?

hrant's picture

Nick, relevant? You mean like 95% of text (lc) versus 5% (UC)? There's no way you can equate "vertical proportions" with "cap to x-height ratio" as you did above. That's like saying an airplane gets more traction than a car because its wheels are relatively smaller than a car's. It ignores almost everything that matters.

A setting of Times looks nothing like a setting of Minion, and that's due largely to the latter's x-height being much shorter and wider, not compared to the caps but compared to the vertical span of the bulk of text.

hhp

William Berkson's picture

I think the most useful measure of size of x-height for the sake of type discussions is the percentage of the em. For then you can specify caps, ascenders, descenders etc independently in relation to that as well.

However, as 95% plus of type in extended type is lower case, the relationship between the x height and the ascenders is visually the most significant figure for aesthetics and possible affect on readability.

The actual affect of x-height on readability I think is pretty hard to pin down, in a case when differences are as small they are between Minion and Times New Roman.

The difficulty is that the overall readability is, as Nick is fond of pointing out, a matter of the overall setting. If you have short columns tightly set at 10 point, then Times might win. If columns of a somewhat longer measure set at 11 point with a little more leading, then Minion might win. But we don't have any good measures yet anyway.

Further, as Hrant points out, the width and color of the type are also important variables. These may not be independent factors in readability, but interact with x-height/ascender-height ratios.

Nick Shinn's picture

There’s no way you can equate “vertical proportions” with “cap to x-height ratio” as you did above.

I agree with Hrant, Nina, and Bill, that the relationship between ascender height and x-height is the most significant.
However, that is NOT the way that x-height proportion is generally defined, e.g. TypoWiki:

"The x-height is measured as a proportion of the total cap height. A typeface is said to have a large x-height when the lowercase x is relatively tall compared to the capital X. A typeface is said to have a small x-height when the lowercase x is relatively short compared to the capital X."

hrant's picture

I'm glad you changed your mind.

> TypoWiki

That is a confused and misleading definition. Anybody who relies
on that definition will mess up important decisions within minutes.
Somebody fix it please.

hhp

William Berkson's picture

Well, Nick, the x-height in a piece of metal is a fixed number, however many fractions of an inch or how many millimeters. When we go to digital type, because it is scalable, I think it is preferable to compare the x-height to the em. Then, for example, you can speak of how sizes of x-heights compare across fonts, and when they match in setting on one line. If you pin the comparison in relation to either the cap height or ascender height, you lose that. Also in the font itself the x-height is actually a number in units based on the em. So I think the Typowiki would better define size of x-height as percentage of the em, rather than the cap height.

What do you all think?

hrant's picture

The problem with defining x-height size in proportion to the EM (as intuitive as it might sound) is that it gives a font's size-on-body a deciding say on how big the x-height seems; if the font has a lot of talus (internal leading) the x-height will seem deceptively small, and vice versa.

This is a problem because a user can choose any point size and he often does this to compensate for a size-on-body that's too small or large; but a user cannot change a font's vertical proportions.

So talking about x-height with respect to extenders* really is the best compromise I think.

* Which can be limited to ascenders since descenders are: usually predictably slightly shorter than ascenders; and most of all, rare in text.

hhp

Nick Shinn's picture

I’m glad you changed your mind.

About what?
As I said, Times is, among its many applications, a book face, and it has the same vertical proportions (cap to x-height) as Minion.

It may make more sense, in some respects, to consider x-height in relation to ascender height, but that doesn't alter the fact that in typography, x-height is pegged to cap height.

And in practice, cap height is, I believe, more consistently pegged to em square.
I haven't done the calculation, but I would imagine that if one measured the em-unit height of caps and ascenders in a dozen faces, the cap heights would be more consistent than the ascender heights.

Therefore describing x-height in terms of cap height would give a better idea of absolute x-height at a given point size.

Bert Vanderveen's picture

When Times was conceived for the namesame newspaper that paper had a few things working for it: superior printing, much better paper than other papers, a much higher price (twice the average if I recall correctly — not that I am THAT old).

Hence the sharpish serifs, the fairly low contrast and the other features that set Times NR apart from contemporary typefaces. And then the evident conclusion that Times looks bad in other papers with their low grade paper and higher printingspeed & in consequence works very well when used in books (better paper, better printing).

. . .
Bert Vanderveen BNO

quadibloc's picture

I know that my local newspaper only switched from Corona to Times Roman back when they adopted improved printing processes in order to include color photographs on their pages. (They've since switched to something else.)

And, yes, the Times of London was a very prestigious newspaper, not printed on the same kind of newsprint as most other newspapers. The copies I've seen were printed on white paper, but this could have been a special print run on paper that weighed less for shipment overseas.

Elsewhere in this thread, I am boggled by one poster admitting that the ratio of x-height to ascender height is more important than the ratio of x-height to cap height, even if the latter is the conventional definition of x-height... but also continuing to maintain that this in no wise contradicts his statement that, since the latter form of x-height is nearly equal between Minion and Times Roman, therefore it is invalid to categorize the former as more of a book face than the latter.

I wasn't aware that the definition of a "book face" had to depend on the conventional definition of x-height even if an alternative view of that parameter was more typographically valid: it is unclear to me what reasoning this is based on.

I wouldn't be averse to agreeing with statements that Times Roman is not all that bad as a book face, or that the difference between the x-height to ascender ratio between Times Roman and Minion is not all that large, but this specific argument seems to have a clear flaw in logic.

William Berkson's picture

>Therefore describing x-height in terms of cap height would give a better idea of absolute x-height at a given point size.

Nick, in digital fonts x-height is of course specified relative to the Em, and the Em is scalable.

So instead of a 'better idea' why not just use the x-height relative to the Em, as I suggested above, which gives a completely *exact* idea of the x-height at a given point size?

The x-height of Times Roman is 450 when the Em is 1000. And the x-height of Minion Regular is 438 on the same scale. That is a complete specification of the x-height.

If you want to discuss how it will set, and the readability in a given usage, then you need to look at other factors: length of ascenders, descenders, cap height, set width, color, and diacritics, depending on the use you are considering.

This is also my answer to you, Hrant. You are right that how small or large on the body matters, but so do all the other factors I mentioned. So we'd do better to express x-height as it is actually specified in a digital font: in proportion to the em. Everything else can be a bit misleading.

Note: After your input, I revised the TypoWiki to include the fact that in digital fonts the x-height is specified in Em units.

hrant's picture

Ah, the same old Nick.

> Times ... has the same vertical proportions (cap to x-height) as Minion.

And humans have the same vertical
proportions (length to head size) as dogs.

> in typography, x-height is pegged to cap height.

No.

If I edit a wiki, will you change how you work?

> Therefore describing x-height in terms of cap height would
> give a better idea of absolute x-height at a given point size.

Which, as I explained, is not nearly as useful as talking about
the relationship of x-height to ascender height. And you agreed.

BTW, I heard Cirque du Soleil is looking for a Logic Contortionist.

> The x-height of Times Roman is 450 when the em is 1000.
> And the x-height of Minion Regular is 438 on the same scale.
> That is a complete specification of the x-height.

No, because it fails to include the one important reference point: the ascender height. The relevance of x-height size does not need to, and should not have to go through the trouble of combining two separate measures (the other being ascender-to-EM) to grasp what's really relevant.

BTW, related:
http://typophile.com/node/15367

hhp

William Berkson's picture

>No, because it fails to include the one important reference point: the ascender height.

Yes, because including that one factor leaves out others and is misleading.

Ascender height is *not* the only important factor relevant to how the type sets. So are cap height, descender length, and many other factors--in fact many more than I mentioned above.

So even though I agree that ascender height is the single most significant factor, the most accurate and least confusing is just to give x-height in Em units or as a percentage of the Em.

hrant's picture

> including that one factor leaves out others and is misleading.

True, but to me it's still a much better compromise. And if you want a bigger picture nobody's stopping you from looking at other measures. It's just that essentially forcing people to do that sort of extra mental work just to get beyond a 95% idea of how big the x-height really is is wasteful.

It's like looking at a pangram to get an idea of a font. Sure, it's not
enough to make a final decision, but it narrows things down very nicely.

hhp

Nick Shinn's picture

I wasn’t aware that the definition of a “book face” had to depend on the conventional definition of x-height even if an alternative view of that parameter was more typographically valid: it is unclear to me what reasoning this is based on.

It won't be typographically valid if typographers don't understand you.
In a meaningful discussion, the participants should all understand the terms involved to mean the same thing.
So it's logical to observe the conventional meanings of words, even if you think they don't make sense.

You proposed that a smaller x-height version of Times would be worthwhile, because "book faces" have small x-heights.
I alerted you to the fact that they do not, according to the conventional understanding of what x-height is.
I didn't make this up, or write the TypoWiki. I have been in the type business many years, in various capacities, and my understanding is that x-height is defined in terms of cap height. Of course, that may not be entirely logical, and one may work with a different understanding, but that doesn't alter reality.

There are cross purposes here.
As Hrant says, when comparing typeface design, it is useful to consider ascender length in assessing x-height.
As I say, when considering the absolute size of x-height a typographer will get from a particular font at a particular point size, it is useful to consider cap height.
As William says, if you really want to determine exact x-height, the number of em units will tell you.

quadibloc's picture

In that case, the question is simply about my referring to the x-height of Times, rather than another related attribute of Times, as being a reason to class Times as not a book face: you were showing by this argument that I expressed myself wrongly, not that Times really has as much right to be considered a book face as Minion - because there are significant differences between Minion and Times in this respect, just not the one that I named.

Right?

Nick Shinn's picture

This is getting a bit confusing.
I'm saying that Times is a book face through widespread usage as such, irrespective of its x-height, however that is defined or understood.

There is a typographic myth that Book Faces Have A Small x-Height, which is ironic, as there is also the convention that x-height is small or big in relation to cap height, which doesn't support the myth.

In previous threads on this topic, I recall some posters saying they have comfortably read whole books in ITC Garamond.

hrant's picture

> This is getting a bit confusing.

I wonder why.

Nick, Times and Minion do not have similar vertical proportions; and as a result they do not have similar affinities in terms of how they're used. Period. A conveniently faulty wiki does that change that. And conveniently deluded typographers (assuming what you say is even true) don't make it OK to use such confused and misleading language here.

> if you really want to determine exact x-height,
> the number of em units will tell you.

Who cares about the absolute units? The irrelevance of point size (which is flexible) compared to the huge relevance of a font's vertical proportions (which is inflexible) breaks the usefulness of basing necessarily relative measurements on the EM.

> I’m saying that Times is a book face through widespread usage

There, it's finally out.
Absolute readability relativism rears its ugly head yet again.

hhp

Nick Shinn's picture

Which, as I explained, is not nearly as useful as talking about
the relationship of x-height to ascender height. And you agreed.

Same old Hrant, misrepresenting to score points.

What I said was "significant", not useful.
If we're talking theory, ascender height is significant. In practice, less so.

Try this test: set two paragraphs with the same spec, one in Minion, one in Times.
You will be hard put to determine which has the larger x-height.
Now suppose you say, "well, Minion has 8% taller ascenders, therefore I will reduce the Minion setting by half a point size for a more accurate comparison, and now Minion has a smaller x-height." Well duh, you made it smaller, so of course it now has a smaller x-height!
With regard to ascender height in this comparative setting, the typographer would be more inclined to say that the ascenders of either face are too long or too short with regards to the leading, or the mise-en-page.

Ultimately, ascenders are long or short in comparison to x-height, not the other way round.
Because x-height is the most apparent vertical dimension of a typeface.

Nick Shinn's picture

There, it’s finally out.
Absolute readability relativism rears its ugly head yet again.

Finally? That's what I've been saying all along.
Yes, I believe in "Readability Relativism". New shoes take time to wear in, no matter how ugly the old ones.

Book designers specify Times for text because they like the way it looks and reads.
Publishers and distributors report no adverse sales effects.
Readers don't have a problem with the face.
In fact, they wouldn't buy a mass market paperback if it was set in a "book face", because it would look too much like hard work to read. Book faces connote literary content, and they want easy language. This is a cultural dimension of readability that doesn't appear in any of the lab research, which is generally done with college students (correct me if I'm wrong).

quadibloc's picture

> In fact, they wouldn’t buy a mass market paperback if it was set in a “book face”, because it would look too much like hard work to read.

I know what you're trying to say, and generally speaking it is true for the most part - after all, there were people who thought Fraktur was readable - I do have a quibble here.

Mass market paperbacks set in Caledonia instead of Times Roman don't seem to have any problem selling. I will admit that Jenson Oldstyle might scare people away, and Caslon is much too unfashionable.

Corgi, a British paperback publisher, has used Plantin and other book faces (IIRC, even Bembo) in books which were aimed at the great unwashed (having been written by an Englishman who claimed his body was taken over by a Tibetan after he fell out of a tree) without apparent harm as well.

hrant's picture

Nick, you're not fooling anybody. The most you're
doing is confusing people, but I guess that's the
best alternative to fully exposing a deep illogic.

> If we’re talking theory, ascender height is significant. In practice, less so.

What a load of bunk.

Your test is the sort of naive thing only the shallowest of typographers would perform. First of all, a font's x-height is certainly not the only player in apparent size. But also, if two fonts have the same absolute x-height but one's ascenders are taller, you need more leading; and that puts pressure on the vertical proportions, hence the point size. All these dimensions are linked, and cap height is one of the very smallest factors. You're allowing a font's size-on-body to completely throw off any valid evaluation. So your comparison is nearly totally useless, and no decent typographer would be "hard put" to realize that Times and Minion are not similar in vertical proportions, which is what you said, and I objected to.

* BTW, now you've quietly dropped the cap height reference?

> ascenders are long or short in comparison to x-height

Sure - same difference! The point is, caps are far less relevant. You admitted this once before, but then found a convenient weasel hole in the wiki.

Repeat: saying Times and Minion have very similar vertical proportions is completely false. If you're strong enough to admit that, you would save yourself a lot of contrived logic, not to mention a lot of typing!

> Book designers specify Times for text
> because they like the way it looks and reads.

Complete hogwash. Most book designers who specify Times
should not even be designing a toilet paper dispenser.

> Publishers and distributors report no adverse sales effects.
> Readers don’t have a problem with the face.

You know no such thing - there are no reference points!
This is pure, baseless fabrication.

The fact that readability research has been so flawed does not give you license to believe things that tickle your artistic fancy. The truth is, you would rather nobody ever did any readability research.

--

Concerning the ridiculous, inhuman belief that we can read in any font just as well if we simply spend enough time reading in it, I would rather just refer to the archives.

hhp

quadibloc's picture

>> Book designers specify Times for text
>> because they like the way it looks and reads.

> Complete hogwash. Most book designers who specify Times
> should not even be designing a toilet paper dispenser.

I don't know if I can really dispute that statement. After all, a lot of books do simply use Times Roman by default, without much thought being put into their design.

But I will at least point out that Times Roman has been used in some very well-designed books. The Codebrakers by David Kahn, from Macmillan impressed me very favorably with how Times Roman looks when used well. (They did get the chapter heading for the chapter titled "Russkaya Kriptologia" badly mangled, even though the italic page headings were right... nobody's perfect.)

>> Publishers and distributors report no adverse sales effects.
>> Readers don’t have a problem with the face.

> You know no such thing - there are no reference points!
> This is pure, baseless fabrication.

It's true that he is being... anecdotal. However, I think that it can be safely said that except for the few who take an interest in such things, most people don't pay much attention to fonts.

If a book is set in Univers or Optima, people will notice that it's trying to be "contemporary", so that usually happens in books on art and design.

If a book is set in one of the condensed Scotch Romans from the 19th Century - or even in the vastly superior Binney & Ronaldson Oldstyle, they'll notice it's old fashioned.

"Typeset" the book on an IBM Executive typewriter, and they'll notice there's something fishy right away.

Otherwise - Bembo, Palatino, Times Roman, Caledonia, Baskerville, Century Expanded... if the responsible parties have made a reasonable effort to choose a halfway-decent serif font, and an appropriate point size given the font's x-height, a column width not stupendously long, and a little leading if necessary... and they will just go off merrily reading without noticing the effort that has been made on their behalf.

Whatever may be wrong with Times Roman, I strongly doubt that it is so seriously wrong as to percolate into the consciousness of the general public. It would indeed be kind of nice if Times with long descenders were seen more often - given that 12 point Times on a computer is 10 1/2 point Times with 1 1/2 points leading or thereabouts anyways, it's not as if we would have broken kerns falling out of our laser printers - but I think someone could set a mass-market paperback in Corona with hardly anyone noticing anything was amiss.

hrant's picture

> most people don’t pay much attention to fonts.

Most certainly true. But it is the job of a text face designer to
design not for the consciousness, but for the subconscious.

--

BTW, for the record: I've edited the wiki for "x-height".

hhp

quadibloc's picture

> Most certainly true. But it is the job of a text face designer to
> design not for the consciousness, but for the subconscious.

Yes, it is true that people don't have to be directly interested in or aware of fonts to be affected positively when a printed page is a thing of beauty.

But when a response is subconscious and not explicit, that also means we're dealing with something that isn't out in the open, and that means - as one would expect when the subject is aesthetics, in any case - that we're dealing with something likely to be subjective rather than objective.

I think that Times Roman can be, and has been, a contributing part of many beautiful pages of text. It does have design limitations - so it is unsuited to the kind of typography where one would want Centaur instead - and it has been misused, as can happen to any font. Times, optically condensed by 10%, is something that deserves the kind of obloquy you appear to be hurling at the font in general. But all of this is just my personal taste, and you therefore do not have to account for why your taste may differ from mine - nor I for why mine differs from yours.

hrant's picture

For the record, I haven't said anything nasty in this thread about Times. In fact its only major negative for me is its over-use, so nothing to do with its technical [un]suitability for book setting. Furthermore, its particular vertical proportions (shared BTW by Georgia and my own Patria*) make it useful in a certain type of setting. That said, I do think there's a way to increase its versatility in this age: reduce its contrast and increase its weight; basically thicken the thins. It could also be made slightly wider. BTW, this would not necessarily reduce its economy, as I explained in my Daidala interview - do a Find for "economy" here:
http://daidala.com/25apr2004.html

* Which was not pre-planned, honestly.

hhp

Nick Shinn's picture

Hrant said (all one post):

...you’re not fooling anybody. The most you’re doing is confusing people, What a load of bunk...
Your test is the sort of naive thing only the shallowest of typographers would perform. So your comparison is nearly totally useless...
You admitted this once before, but then found a convenient weasel hole in the wiki...
If you’re strong enough to admit that, you would save yourself a lot of contrived logic...
Complete hogwash. 
This is pure, baseless fabrication...
.... does not give you license to believe things that tickle your artistic fancy...
The truth is, you would rather....
Concerning the ridiculous, inhuman belief...

An impressive display of personal invective.

Nick Shinn's picture

I do think there’s a way to increase its versatility in this age: reduce its contrast and increase its weight; basically thicken the thins. It could also be made slightly wider.

I did that in with Beaufort (1999).
It has been used as a book face, quite large, by Harlequin.

hrant's picture

You insult what I love about this craft - I defend it, by means
that I feel have the best chance of working. It's not about you.

hhp

Nick Shinn's picture

I'm sorry to see the self-righteous character assassination has started again.
I had hoped you'd moved on.

William Berkson's picture

Hrant, I agree more with you (and with Kevin Larson) that readability is not simply familiarity, but something more objective as well.

But what is the point of the invective? Nick is entitled to his opinions, and to respect, right or wrong. Your invective spoils the case you want to make.

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