ductus

jodb's picture

I am looking for definition(s) of, and reliable sources for the word 'ductus' (if possible with annotated images).

Nick Shinn's picture

Now Chris, about that inverted pentagon…

enne_son's picture

[Nick] The idea that letter designs may be conceived of as constructed from (geometric) outlines is fundamentally non-chirographic.

Post hoc ergo propter hoc [wikipedea entry here]

Yesterday Gerrit Noordzij sent me the following (I sometimes send him links to threads for his information or amusement):

The discussion drags the participants back into the tread down paths that I tried to leave:

The pen does not control form, but strokes.
Broad nib writing is controlled by the tool,
Flexible pen writing is controlled by the hand. Pressure is only possible in the direction of the hand (The Stroke p. 71 and L’Encyclopédie, Paillasson, picture attached).

"tread down paths" should be read as tread-down paths, an adjective / noun combination. When I asked what a "tread down path" is, Noordzij replied: I wanted to say tread down with a meaning like worn-out. The tread down path I have in mind is the conventional talk about writing and the classification of type.

enne_son's picture

An integral part of the message Noordzij wrote was this.

There is a lot to learn for me from the piled up misconceptions. They resemble the assumption that early typography imitated manuscript books. I believe that our predecessors just tried to make a book.

[This makes the leaving of "tread-down paths" thing more clear.]

I asked: But didn't they choose from and follow conventions of arranging type in columns that they were familiar with because of the manuscript tradition?

GN: Of course. And not just the columns, but also the arrangement of paragraphs, the use of versals and, first of all, the shapes of the writing. They conformed to all aspects of the manuscript tradition, but not to imitate it, let alone to make the reader believe that the typography was written by hand. Without these current characteristics of a book, their books wouldn’t be books. In the same manner type designers didn’t try to imitate handwriting, they just cut the elements of writing. The alternative wouldn’t be recognized as writing.

hrant's picture

Gerrit's opinions have value in proportion to their distance from typography.
"Printing was a fall"? Game over.

hhp

eliason's picture

"cut"?

enne_son's picture

"cut" as in punch cutting

Nick Shinn's picture

Post hoc ergo propter hoc

I have no idea what you mean by this Peter.
Are you agreeing or disagreeing with me?

Describing letter shapes by outlines does, of course, require those outlines to be made by a hand-held mark-making device, but by “non chirographic” I mean that the process does not involve creating stroke weight as a property of the pen nib, either by its thickness (broad nib) or the amount of pressure applied (flexible nib). It is a conceptual, designerly process, in which stroking plays no physical role. Such outlines could even, in theory, be coherently produced by a succession of small dots, i.e. pointillism. In type, by cutting with punches.

enne_son's picture

Hrant, you are entitled to your own opinions. Your quoted phrase is not a quotation but a careless extrapolation. Gerrits remarks about broad-pen, flexible-pen writing, and early typography in the above are well-observed, accurate and helpful.

hrant's picture

My quoted phrase is an affirmative answer to a direct question posed
by Robin Kinross. I have no reason to doubt that he believes it.

What bothers me is not the nominal accuracy of the above, but that:
- The subtext is anti-type.
- He's using you.

hhp

enne_son's picture

Nick, you seem to be making an after-the-fact [post hoc] geometric derivation of a shape the generative cause of the shape historically [propter hoc]. 'Ergo‘ is of course ‘therefore.’

I can accept the fact that in your own mechanical processes “stroking plays no physical role.’

Doesn't pen-specific stroke-making [ductal arithmetic] ever provide a notional template for you?

dezcom's picture

"Broad nib writing is controlled by the tool,
Flexible pen writing is controlled by the hand. Pressure is only possible in the direction of the hand"

I rest my case, This is exactly what I was trying to get John to see. Noordzij said it well.

Nick Shinn's picture

…you seem to be making an after-the-fact [post hoc] geometric derivation of a shape the generative cause of the shape historically… [propter hoc]

Yes, I proposed straight causality.
I wasn’t sure whether you were contesting the notion of outline construction as being after-the-fact, or suggesting that the idea of it being non-chirographic is after-the-fact.

My superimposition of a circle over the outline of a Bodoni “C” demonstrates that his logic was concerned with constructing via outline shapes, not strokes.

As Noordzij says, sure there’s a residue of written form, but it’s not about that.

dezcom's picture

"about that inverted pentagon…"

I guess I am missing your drift with this?

I was just trying to find some typical geometric--even golden section reason to choose a point of intersection of the larger arc other than "that looks about right"

Nick Shinn's picture

Not much drift.
Only that there is some symbolism associated with geometric forms.
Not sure if that has any bearing on ductus.

enne_son's picture

[hpp] My quoted phrase is an affirmative answer to a direct question posed
by Robin Kinross. I have no reason to doubt that he believes it.

https://listserv.heanet.ie/cgi-bin/wa?A2=ind0405&L=typo-l&D=0&F=P&P=41004

I think you are re-writing history.

[hpp] What bothers me is not the nominal accuracy of the above, but that […] the subtext is anti-type.

The subtext is not to oppose type to writing, but to see type as writing (with prefabricated shapes).

hrant's picture

No, I think you (plural) are being apologists. Because this is
just a personal exploration for you, you feel no need to change.
Try actually making a font that shoots for the future.

It doesn't matter that he uses computers. Some people gladly use
technology to preserve the past. Let me ask you point-blank:
Do you think that GN prefers the age before printing was invented
over this one? (BTW really, why does he have to use you to filter
his thoughts? When is the last time he did more than preach to the
choir? A choir that he put together himself. I've really had it up to
here with this "virtual" conversation.)

The subtext is to keep type close to writing with the right hand
holding a broad-nib pen. You can see with your own eyes that this
is dying, a little bit every single day. To me it's long overdue.

hhp

John Hudson's picture

Nick: [Dürer] was right, and proved it by demonstrating that letters could be described by geometric lines. And today, you and I work in digital media, drawing letter forms by vectored paths.

You are confusing the practical ability to use geometry to describe arbitrary and conventional shapes with the idea that there is a geometry underlying those shapes. The geometry is something that we apply, not something that resides within the letterforms. Vectored paths are useful in our work precisely because they are so flexible that we can use them to describe virtually any arbitrary shape presuming we have a unit grid fine enough. There is no underlying mathematical geometry in the letters, no Platonic abstract ideal of the letters. There is only the cultural conventional collection of shapes that we recognise as letters, and the common historical phenomenon, repeated all over the world, is that those shapes evolve first through writing.

John Hudson's picture

Chris, I don't have difficulty seeing the point that the hand controls the modulation of the split nib stroke weight. But as Noordzij notes: Pressure is only possible in the direction of the hand. Remember that I am interpreting the influence of written forms on typographic forms -- or as Noordzij puts it, ‘cutting the elements of writing’ -- in terms of styles, which I see as constituted, in the case of writing, by particular ductus (movement sequence, and in the case of the split nib also pressure) and particular tool. The fact that the split nib can create so much more greatly varied modulation patterns than the broad nib, by virtue of the controlling hand, is orthogonal to these observations, because the actual range of styles of writing and type based on the expansion stroke model is comparatively small, especially with regard to type. There is little evidence of rotation, and hence, since pressure is only possible in the direction of the hand, the patterns of thick and thin strokes tend to be regular and mostly replicating conventional patterns in letters that evolved as written with a broad nib. The fact that we can, with a split nib, write letters in ways that contravene those conventional patterns didn't mean that we did.

[The exceptions, as illustrated by the image Peter posted above, is in what typographers are obliged to call swash styles, which the same image shows in their context, which is that of ornament. It is instructive, I think to contrast the letters created by 17th and 18th Century writing masters with the ornamentation with which they surrounded those letters. There is much greater variation in the modulation patterns of the ornaments, much greater evidence of rotation and of discretion in the amount of pressure, than in the the letters.]

John Hudson's picture

Hrant: Try actually making a font that shoots for the future.
_____

A Klee painting named Angelus Novus shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.

That's Walter Benjamin, of course. My codicil to this is that we, the living, ride on the shoulders of the angel. Some of us are facing forwards towards the past and some of us are facing backwards towards the future. I don't know whether we've chosen to sit that way, or were put there by genetics or by providence. I do know that it is frequently difficult to understand, appreciate or even remember to respect the people who are sitting the other way. But that does seem to me something that we can choose.

enne_son's picture

[Removed. Sorry, I'm unsure for now how to move forward from Hrant's last post in a constructive way.]

dezcom's picture

John,

There is a point where the origin of a process loses its grasp to the next influence. That is not to deny that the origin method never played a role. Instead it means that it no-longer leads the progress. Clearly you disagree, but I place that moment of passing the baton over to construction techniques at the moment of didone types. Writing was no-longer leading the pack, it relinquished its role and became only a historic marker.

Nick Shinn's picture

The geometry is something that we apply, not something that resides within the letterforms.

True, the territory is not the map.
But when we learn to read and write, it is by categorizing letter forms according to their basic topology, which is simple geometric figures.
Durer took the idea of that geometry a step further, by demonstrating that the ductus of pen, or whatever was used to style monumental capitals, could be systematically translated into mathematical language. It would be possible to then describe the shapes purely by text, without reference to the images.
That's not really surprising, as the “organic” movements of the hand follow basic letter shapes that are geometric, and the tool is a system which bears rationalization.

.00's picture

You guys that you have beaten this thing to death. Momma mia this is over. Ductus Fucktus!

John Hudson's picture

Nick, the geometry of the letter as a shape, what you call its basic topology, and the geometry that can be used to describe the outline of particular letterforms are quite distinct things, which is why I remain unimpressed by Durer's exercises (although his visual results are better than those of most attempts by this contemporaries, which suggests that he knew more about the conventional, organic forms than they did, so had a better idea of what it was to which he was applying the geometry). Ironically, the only way to get from the geometry of the basic topology to a modulated letter is to apply a stroke model (which is exactly what CJK stroke-based font technologies do). Geometric construction of an outline is an outside-in approach, while application of a stroke model to the basic topology is an inside-out approach. Both are legitimate design processes, but unless we're setting out to design something 'experimental' -- i.e. contravening the norms of either basic topology or conventional modulation --, then it seems to me that we have little choice but to acknowledge the chirographic, because after 550+ years we're still designing typographic letters whose modulation patterns were established in the writing of particular times and places.
_____

Chris: Clearly you disagree, but I place that moment of passing the baton over to construction techniques at the moment of didone types. Writing was no-longer leading the pack, it relinquished its role and became only a historic marker.

I think where I disagree is with the notion of a moment, of a passing of the baton. I do think that something important happened in the period we're talking about, beginning with the Roman du Roi as Nick suggests, and that one of the things this involves is the idea of rationalisation, in both form and manufacture. But I see this as a process that begins in the late 17th Century and doesn't really come to fruition until the late 19th Century, when two key things happen: we cease to be a scribal culture because of the introduction of the typewriter, and the manufacture of typefaces becomes an industrial, machine process. That's the point at which, if the Roman du Roi were then proposed, it could have been manufactured direct from the engraved plates, via pantograph, without the interpretative skills of Grandjean. So that's 200 years that seem to me too long and messy to say that there is a moment at which writing relinquishes its role and a kind of constructivism takes over. And still I ask, what was being constructed, what was being rationalised, if not writing? Where did the shapes that were being rationalised come from? Where did the modulation patterns resulting from the construction come from?

Nick Shinn's picture

… the only way to get from the geometry of the basic topology to a modulated letter is to apply a stroke model (which is exactly what CJK stroke-based font technologies do).

There are other ways, for instance a displaced “double exposure”, which could also be conceived of as dragging a basic monoline.

John Hudson's picture

You mean something like this?

I think the number of shapes with which this produces an effect consistent with letter modulation is quite limited.

hrant's picture

Funny, I had a similar idea in a waking dream last week!

hhp

dezcom's picture

John, you can transpose in more than one direction and use a number of vectors.

PabloImpallari's picture

24:41 "Another word, here I've drawn formal script all my life and I'd never heard of the word ductus. And this French man used it, but ductus is a Latin word. It means to lead. That hairline that joins to the next letter is called ductus, meaning it leads into the next letter."
http://www.lynda.com/Print-Design-tutorials/doyaldyounglogotypedesigner/...

John Hudson's picture

Yes, but I'm not convinced it's a useful approach. I accept Nick's correction that there is more than one way to get from a topography to a modulated form. It seems to me that any 'double exposure' transposition is mostly just modelling the topography as written with two corners of a broad nib (Tim Holloway sketches with two pencils taped together for the same effect). Is adding additional copies, segments or vectors really useful? I'd be intrigued to see some results.

William Berkson's picture

John, I think that drawing with two pencils tied together, at a constant angle, and a copy of a single line offset in the direction of the constant angle are mathematically equivalent. Once you allow for rotation and expansion of the moving front, then you won't be able to get the same effect by offsetting a copy of a single line.

typerror's picture

Pablo

I think that when the forms are "drawn," as opposed to "written" with a tool that "informs" the letter, the word ductus becomes irrelevant. Certainly there is an order to which "thing" YOU do first but; a calligraphic tool defines the path and order of the making of a form.

Drawn and written are two very different things to me, and yes I do both.

hrant's picture

And I think using the term "painting" for writing emphasizes the distinction
contra drawing. Painting involves making filled marks; drawing is defining
notan's edge. This isn't about ideology*, it's about clear communication.

* I'd also substitute "misinform" for
"inform" - that is an ideological issue.

hhp

dezcom's picture

John,
My favorite trick was to tape two pencils to a big fat rubber eraser. I used mechanical pencils to avoid the harrows of sharpening ;-) Later, I used a block of wood with holes drilled in it to fit the pencils. I sometimes added a 3rd pencil off axis to limit the thins. My all time favorite is still flat blocks of charcoal on rough paper.

typerror's picture

Hrant :-) Not worth my time, as you come to the table well spoken but ignorant. Produce your vision and prove us all wrong, but until then STFU.

John Hudson's picture

The charcoal's nice, Chris, because it creates a solid image while also revealing what happens at joins, overlaps and reversals. Noordzij used diluted ink to achieve the same visualisation of the ductus.

John Hudson's picture

until then STFU

My alma mater!

hrant's picture

Michael, that smiley would only fool a teenage girl - you're too
emotional, which is typical of those with your particular interests.
Painting, after all, is art.

Anyway, I'm working on my "vision". However:
- I could never prove anything, and in any case I don't expect to change your mind.
- I don't need to prove anything (even to myself) to have an instinctive grasp of what works and what doesn't; I knew what was wrong with chirographic type way before I even took that one cheesy calligraphy course.
- You could always analyze Legato to see a better way of making fonts.

hhp

typerror's picture

:-) Hrant, you make me laugh.

hrant's picture

Your fonts however make me sad.

hhp

hrant's picture

BTW Michael if you'd like to see an exploration of non-painting
chirography (which has yet to be done on the ground) see this:
http://typophile.com/node/31095
If you'd like to cut to the chase skip to my post of 2/20/2007.

hhp

typerror's picture

I would never consider you one worthy of critiquing any font, good or bad. Your site shows your lack of sensibility and taste, and a lack of ability to design for the future.

typerror's picture

P.s. Node 31095 is far preceded by Sumner's explorations and Sherri Kiesel's work done much earlier than you attempt. It should be noted that both were "calligraphers" at the time. Woops, I almost forgot Gunnlager. You were late to the table again smart ass.

Cheesy calligraphy course? You spoke highly of your teacher in the old thread. You truly are situational.

hrant's picture

My site does indeed suck*. It was done almost 12 years ago,
and at every turn I admit that I'm not good at graphic design.
But to be brutally honest I think my left pinky toe is better
prepared for the future of type than a painter could ever be.

* Except for the horizontality, which I think is awesome.

> Sumner's explorations and Sherri Kiesel's work
> Gunnlager.

Could you show examples? I have a feeling that's something else.
However -as I myself mentioned towards the end of that thread,
which you're probably too flustered to have read- the work of
Ray Eames, in the form of the "Cover Numerals" is indeed much
older. However that's not exactly what I was talking about either
since there's no formation of "bodies".

> You spoke highly of your teacher in the old thread.

Maybe I was being too nice - I apologize. The truth is the class was
all middle-aged housewives, and when I pointed out what aspect
of calligraphy I wanted to explore (what I call "faux type") he was
visibly perturbed. He knew his stuff, and I learned quite a bit, but
it was still cheesy.

--

No matter how much I might rile you, rise above it and keep
your mind open. Leave your island, at least for a vacation.

hhp

dezcom's picture

"...creates a solid image while also revealing what happens at joins, overlaps and reversals."

That is exactly why I like it, John! Also, it gives hints of speed of stroke with the darker parts being slower. Stroke direction is also quite clear. Mostly, it allows me to draw quite large and use full arm and body--a much more assured rhythm than the tiny metacarpals.

typerror's picture

No Hrant... I'm done. Too many inconsistencies, denials, and excuses. You are a fraud.

William Berkson's picture

Ok, I get it. This your new Christmas Card: Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Man and STFU.

I'm sure the calligraphy will be great.

PabloImpallari's picture

@Michael

> I think that when the forms are "drawn,"
> as opposed to "written" with a tool that "informs" the letter,
> the word ductus becomes irrelevant.
Agree 100% now that I have a (very) little of experience. However when doing the very first baby steps in drawing letters, having the "ductus" concept of the imaginary pen in mind, was very useful in learning where to put the weight when drawing.

> ...a calligraphic tool defines the path and order of the making of a form.
Yes, mostly. But you can also "Cheat" the tool. For example, while most formal scripts are done using a pointed pen, you can also use a broad nib pen and turn it over the edges for drawing the hairlines (as in some of the samples from the Universal Penman).
Another example: Most calligraphy manuals teach you "Never change the angle of the pen" however the truly beautiful forms comes from rotating the angle while dragging it, and by using just a portion of the chisel instead of the full surface of it, and also by varying the pressure.
I believe that to truly "feel" the Ductus thing, you have to try real calligraphy tools. The 2 pencils taped together won't do it. (However, is useful as a teaching concept).
More over... it's not just the tool.. it's the position of the hand, the arm... the full body motion and the tool working together.

> Drawn and written are two very different things to me
Yep, different, but interrelated.

> and yes I do both.
And you do both really well, let me add. I am a fan of your work.

I will also like to share these videos... the ductus in live action
Rulling Pen:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CRL1kfMPvIs&feature=g-all-a&list=PL203A39...
Brush:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Df55H8--dQ&feature=autoplay&list=PL203A3...
Niels Shoe Meulman Brush:
http://vimeo.com/11985453
Hermann Zapf
http://vimeo.com/5385464

hrant's picture

> having the "ductus" concept of the imaginary pen in mind, was
> very useful in learning where to put the weight when drawing.

The problem is you're not necessarily putting the weight where
the reading eye needs. And the more you rely on it the further
you probably are from where you should be.

> Most calligraphy manuals teach you "Never change the angle
> of the pen" however the truly beautiful forms comes from
> rotating the angle while dragging it, and by using just a
> portion of the chisel instead of the full surface of it,
> and also by varying the pressure.

Keep following that logic - you will end up in a land
entirely free of ductus, breaking away from painting
and moving into the proper determination of notan,
which is the heart of reading, hence type design.

> different, but interrelated.

I see them as being at 90 degrees; they sort of point
in the same direction, but of course if your direction
of travel is off by ~45 degrees soon enough you're lost!

--

To be fair, if you're only making display fonts, you're OK. But for
a text face, Beauty is elsewhere. In fact it's on another continent.

hhp

PabloImpallari's picture

> To be fair, if you're only making display fonts, you're OK. But for
a text face, Beauty is elsewhere. In fact it's on another continent.

I understand that text faces have a entire different set of rules, and that good reading flow and rhythm is more important that beauty. However they can also be beautiful, for example: Zapf Renaissance, Galliard

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