Bold Thorn

nina's picture

Is there any substantial reason against dropping the right-side serifs in the capital Thorn in bolder weights, rather than making the bowl really flat? How do Icelanders/Faroese feel about this? (Sorry if this has come up before, couldn't find anything.)

Here's what I mean:

This will obviously only be a problem where serifs are thick, contrast low to non existent (or reversed I guess), and target sizes below «huge».

In the way of examples, I've found that Dispatch and ITC Officina Serif use the serif-dropping approach, whereas for instance Rockwell opts for thinning the serifs more than normal. I personally think that's rather ugly (and wouldn't work for all faces), but how attached are Thorn-users to their complete serifage?

Also: I assume all capitals (uppercase, smallcaps, &c.) in a given font/style should be treated the same? (The third weight above would work with the serifs in the cap, but not the smallcap, so I've removed them in the cap too.)


[Edited vicious typo. Sorry]

hrant's picture

Sounds like you should go to ATypI-Iceland! :-)

One thing you might factor in is divergence from the "P".
So maybe drop the bottom half-serif only? You'd then
lower the bowl to below center.


oldnick's picture

I ordinarily only drop the right serifs if the font is EXTREMELY bold; otherwise, I simply make the counter shallower/less tall...

sigurarm's picture

This is a problem... and a pain... bah!

In bolder weights it is sometimes not possible to make a reasonable Thorn without stripping off the serifs (as much as I hate to). And often there is no space to make a bowl without making the whole character look like some kind of a big ink blob but that is what one would always try to first.

The bowl does not have to be the size of the P bowl and often I rather watch the bowl of the R.

And yes, please visit us at the ATypI in September.

hrant's picture

Here's an idea: allow it to descend!
Hey, if it's good enough for the "Q" (and often the "J")...


Nick Shinn's picture

I've only had this circumstance once and didn't like the "missing serif" scenario, so I cheated by making the right side of the serifs thinner.

I figured that there are other strokes in the font that are thinner than the normal serif (here, in Eth), and other thin white spaces (e.g. between O and acute), to provide resonance—and as long as the glyph reads OK at a glance, no worries.

nina's picture

Thanks for the input all!

Hrant, frankly I think I'm out of major «new» (i.e. not-tried-and-tested-before) ideas with this – for one thing, I don't have the time right now that I'd want/need for testing and asking people for feedback etc. Is there prior evidence of something like letting the Thorn descend working?

To recap, the problem is that if I leave the serifs in, especially in the Bold Smallcaps (not to speak of Petite Caps) the bowl becomes quite deflated, which looks like it can't be right (and definitely doesn't look too recognizable). And since this is for smallish sizes, the serifs start nastily clogging against the top/bottom of the bowl long before.

> The bowl does not have to be the size of the P bowl and often I rather watch the bowl of the R.

Good to know – thanks!
I'll try again to leave them in in the Demi and only drop'em in the Bold...

> Sounds like you should go to ATypI-Iceland! :-)

Very sadly, I won't be able to, unless a number of miracles happen. :-/

Edit: Nick, that does look good! But trying something like this for a wide face risks becoming a bit of a caricature...

sigurarm's picture

Thorn used to be with a descending stem when it was handwritten, so it's not so crazy idea. But this is hardly to be seen anymore.

1996type's picture

When will we see more of this typeface? I like it :-)

Frode Bo Helland's picture

It’s Ernestine, no? Just expanded character set.

hrant's picture

You're right about the pain of having to collect feedback if you
try anything speculative. That's where "nativity" is most valuable.

> trying something like this for a wide face risks becoming a bit of a caricature...

Note that apparent size is always in the mix of what to compromise;
just like the binocular "g" needs to look slightly smallish for other
things not to go more out of whack, the Thorn can be allowed to
look a bit smallish (in this case, narrower) too.


nina's picture

> ... the Thorn can be allowed to look a bit smallish (in this case, narrower) too

Ah! Good thought. Thanks.
Seems like these serifs will get another chance! :-)

Jasper, Frode: Yes, Ernestine. It's being completed and finalized, so yes, it will be out before the world ends. :-)

riccard0's picture

it will be out before the world ends. :-)

And there was much rejoicing! :-)

eliason's picture

I wonder if there's any way this could work:

ebensorkin's picture

I wonder if you couldn't build on Nick's approach by allowing the joins to become less horizontal and more diagonal ( like the join on the n) as the font becomes bolder which would allow you to have a bigger counter. Or you could angle only the outer portion of the bowl.

If you choose an approach like these looking at the joins in your very dense glyphs like th & 8 and anywhere else you may have made an optical adjustment would give you a kind of baseline to compare against.

Té Rowan's picture

Nick's serif-shaving trick works. As I recall, one Gunnlaugur Briem has written a web scroll on the making of the thorn.

@eliason - I think it would work well for a steelsmith; less so for general use.

nina's picture

Interesting thoughts Eben – I hadn't thought of trying such funny things with straightly orthogonal joins.

> one Gunnlaugur Briem has written a web scroll on the making of the thorn

He's quite brief about the cap Thorn though, and does not address this serif question. Unless I'm looking in the wrong place…

Té Rowan's picture

Dunno. Been a long while since I looked it over.

ebensorkin's picture

People do all kinds of wacky things to letters as they get bolder and bolder.... Still, the best thing is probably to find a group of users of the glyph and to show them some options ins seal setting and see which ones work best for them.

I suspect that the value of the serifs in making a rapid and correct ID of the letter is limited and that the clarity of the bowl and it's placement at the midpoint is the main thing. I can imagine loosing the serifs starting a a certain size to preserve what might be most essential.

Nice question and a nice thread!

I am curious to see if anyone else comes up with a still better solution.

Chris Harvey's picture

How do Icelanders/Faroese feel about this?

I believe Faroese only has the ð, not the þ.

nina's picture

Oops, looks like you're right. Thanks for the correction.

Jens Kutilek's picture

How about this solution?

I think I've seen it in more than this one example, can't remember exactly where though ...

kentlew's picture

For what it’s worth, Jens’s example is also how Cyrus Highsmith chose to solve it in Salvo Serif Black:

I can’t say whether this succeeds for native Icelanders or not.

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Nina, you could try a squar(ish) counter. I’ve been drawing on a square-inside/oval-outside thingy and found I had to dramatically narrow the round letters because they appeared so much wider. I can’t say how effective it will be vertically though.

ebensorkin's picture

I have asked some Icelanders to come comment. Crossing my fingers....

Té Rowan's picture

We're used to the Thorn being (near-)symmetrical, so this one is IMAO a bit too close to a P. Mind, the Anglo-Saxon Thorn tends to look a tad odd to us, too.

nina's picture

Reminds me of what Colin posted to Twitter, from Photolettering: Þj Pj

I'm not an Icelander, but for my feeling it is rather too close to a P – especially since in my case I'm not doing a display font where that probably wouldn't matter so much.

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