Smeijers' Renard

mike gastin's picture

I just recieved a copy of Counter Punch by Fred Smeijers. I am very excited about this book and have been ejoying reading it.

I have found his type - Renard - difficult to read and was wondering if I am alone. I keep finding myself looking at the lower case 'w' and hanging on it as it appears in the text. Also, the black color of the text is distracting for some reason. The overall feel I have is that the reading is choppy.

I am no type expert and am not discounting Mr. Smeijers' work. I am just wondering if others have some experience with Renard and some input.

Thanks.

hrant's picture

Although I don't have your strange experience with the "w", to me Renard is indeed a bit mannered. And even though I like my text a bit dark, I think Renard goes a bit too far. That said, one could see Renard as a mild experiment of sorts, and I think it's largely a successful one, so in the overall it's a valuable font.

hhp

John Hudson's picture

Have you seen Robin Kinross' Unjustified Texts? It is set in Fred's newer Arnhem typeface: this is also quite dark, but on the whole I prefer it to Renard.

eolson's picture

It's interesting to hear reaction to these faces.
I'm a fan of Arnhem (and Smeijers for that matter).
Andrew Crewdson did a feature on Fred and Arnhem here:
http://www.new-series.org/?arnhem

I tend to share John's preference for the dark Arnhem.
It's like a nice hard cup of coffee.

Nick Shinn's picture

Being over 50, I find both the types mentioned, with their strong colour, easy to read. In that sense, they both remind me of Janson.

On inspection, yes, that w is a bit wide.

But to tell the truth, these are plain typefaces that I didn't really notice as I was reading -- they did their job, and I didn't derive any extra pleasure from them.

Quadraat, however, is a Smeijers typeface that I sometimes find myself savouring, rereading a line of text. Its forms have an organic coherence and an evenly distributed personality.

mike gastin's picture

Thank you for the responses.

I hope that I did not sound critical of Mr. Smeijers' work, as I do not feel qualified to make a judgement of it, other than how I am finding myself intereacting with the type as used in the book.

The contents of the book are amazing and I only wish I did not have to work a job, so that I could spend a week or two reading and re-reading Counterpunch and maybe even playing with some of his ideas.

hrant's picture

Pay close attention to chapter 24 - it's the most valuable part of the book. His thoughts on the "j" are what launched my Alphabet Reform project, via my realization -towards the end of the book- that the "a" in the Latin alphabet faces the wrong way. Not really, it turns out, but a catalyst is still a catalyst.

hhp

defrancisco's picture

Dou you guys know who distributes Arnhem? Is it a public release, or a custom face?

jfp's picture

Despite I found the n,m,hu a bit narrow I never found any problems when I have read Counterunch in Renard.

The general weight/color remind me the excellents Janson or Ehrardt that Hyphen and Typographic Papers use or used.

Old Renaissance book show similar color for text too and fitting of the letters. Renard is a good exemple of a very good text typeface. Note that Renard exist (or existed) in 2 or 3? text versions, with various colors...

eolson's picture

hhp said:
"Pay close attention to chapter 24 - it's the most valuable part of the book."

Chapters 24 and on are great as they contain some reflection and speculation - something not often found in type books.

mike gastin's picture

As to Chapter 24 - I am not there yet, but will respond once I have read and digested it.

As to the type, I am over 60 pages into the book now and it is much easier to read. I think the issue, as posted in another thread, is I was not used to a face like this. It has taken some reading to get used to the color and weight of the face.

Any other suggestions on works as valuable as this book? (I have Bringhurst's Elements)

hrant's picture

Alexander Lawson's "Anatomy of a Typeface".
Walter Tracy's "Letters of Credit".

hhp

mike gastin's picture

Thanks, Hrant. They have been added to my list of near future purchases.

Nick Shinn's picture

>>rereading a line of text.

> just read Rick Poynor's Obey The Giant: Life in the image world while on holiday and I caught myself doing precisely

I haven't seen that book. But apparently its designer made an appropriate choice of typeface. Of the three Smeijers typefaces mentioned so far, Quadraat would be the best for Poynor, a writer who captures the reader with the novelty of a proposition, then convinces not just with logic of his argument, but also with a flamboyant turn of phrase. (Or word, such as "scoff"..)

A theory: when someone reads a piece of text, their understanding of it is colored by all the other texts they've read in the same typeface.



hrant's picture

Interesting theory.

hhp

eolson's picture

Have a look at the Hyphen Press news

http://www.hyphenpress.co.uk/news/index.html

mike gastin's picture

I finished the book this weekend. It was excellent. I was interested in Fred's comments about word forms as opposed to letter forms.

He said Irish set in the roman alphabet is ugly. I would like to see a sample of this. Can anyone point me in the right direction? Any pdf's out there in Irish?

Mike

hrant's picture

I don't think "ugly" is a useful word here, especially when somebody is discussing a culture he has no real nativity in. It might be better to think of it as "inauthentic" (which could be ugly to some people, but it really goes beyond aesthetics). Inautheticity does two bad things: it harms a culture, and it reduces functionality.

Interestingly, some people think that the Latin alphabet has an element of inauthenticity even for things like English! Zhukov & Sadek's "Typographia Polyglotta" contains insights like this.

hhp

mike gastin's picture

Hrant -

Fair enough. I am only paraphrasing what Fred said.

Also, I am not sure who you mean when you say, "especially when somebody is discusing a culture he has no real nativity in." Are you meaning Fred? Me?

I also wondered about English and the Latin alphabet. I can see a strong argument for French, Italian, Spanish and Portugese to mention a few Latin-based languages. They, in my mind, should be best suited for the Latin alphabet - assuming the culture that developed the Latin alphabet did a good job of creating a symbol system that matched their language well.

Anyway, Hrant, do you have any samples of Irish written with the Latin alphabet that I could look at?

kakaze's picture

I love the way Irish looks in the latin Alphabet. It's completely unintelligible if you don't know the mutations, but it has a very distinctive look to it.


Chuaig m

hrant's picture

I didn't mean to snap - especially not at you. But I did mean that the validity of aesthetic appreciation of something from a given culture is proportional to one's familiarity with that culture. For example, very few non-Armenian dislike Olde-English-style Armenian fonts... :-/

Samples? I was hoping our resident Gaelic expert (Matha Stand

hrant's picture

{Take this with a bag of salt...}

From what I know, Gaelic can be written with dots (more authentic) or with "h"s to mark where a dot is supposed to be (more technology-friendly). For the latter you can use Chris's nice sample text. But for the former you need a special font.

This is "dotted" Gaelic in a Times New Roman (inauthentic*) style:

gaelic_1.gif

While this is in the Colm Cille font:

gaelic_2.gif

* Gaelic has such variance that "authentic" is actually very hard to qualify. Except it's pretty clear that the conventional Roman model for example isn't.

hhp

mike gastin's picture

Big thanks to both Chris and Hrant for providing samples. Very interesting.

And, Hrant, I agree with you in that how can I actually judge it? I know that my take on it is colored (or coloured!) by my cultrual bias.

I must say, to view the Gaelic set in the Colm Cille face is very satifying - even though I have no idea what it says or any cultural references.

BTW, I did not think you snapped at me. Thank you for explaining your comments, though. I just wanted to make certain it was clear that I was not calling someone else's communication 'ugly'. Although, I would defend Fred's comments in that I belive they were made in the pursuit of understanding and not as a criticism of a culture ...etc.

OK. Enough qualifying for this evening.

Thank you again for the samples.

kakaze's picture

Hmm, I've never seen gaelic with dots over it before, even in printed material where you would assume they would show up. And I've never seen the alternate letters either as in that TNR sample.

I wonder if they're something that they've completely dropped for modern usage?

hrant's picture

From what I know, the dotted Gaelic is still a valid way to write the language without risking alienating readers, even though the "h"-ed version is indeed more used.

hhp

kakaze's picture

Heh, speaking as a non gaelic speaker, I prefer it with the h-es.

matha_standun's picture

>it looks like he got himself a life. ;-)

Not so much getting a life as figting for the last 6 months to hang on to the one I've already got. Office poltics almost got the better of me. But don't worry, I've still got a job and an appartment but it was a hard struggle.

Now this is an interesting thread

Officially (in other words, according to our beloved government) dots and dodgy characters have been considered backwards since the 1960s and Roman must be used in all cases (unless of course you're trying to sell something to tourists).

For me (but I'm not the only one), there are a few problems with this.

1. Does the government actually know what it's talking about ? Or did it just go along with the cheapy printers who wanted to eliminate the cost of maintaining two alphabets? And as the present government is allowing/ helping the Irish language to disappear, why should anyone listen to anything they say about typography?

2. Nobody has designed (or even customised) a Roman font with the letter frequency and general uniqueness of the Irish language in mind. It's all very well to say that Roman works but, to be honest, setting GAelic text with it can be a bloody nightmare. The very poor quality of modern gaelic typography is shameful.

Chris, h-es are just grand but you wouldn't believe how practical dots are.

Check out what Vincent Morely is doing here:

http://www.fainne.org/gaelchlo/

It's all in Irish but just click on everything in the first section and see what you think.

Matha

kakaze's picture

The dots may be useful, but the h-es give it character I think. Like the excessive usage of y and w in Welsh. You can tell right away that it's Welsh.

To me, aesthetically, the h-es just look better.

And honestly, as long as Clannad keeps doing songs in Gaeilge I could care less about how they write it :-)

hrant's picture

> To me, aesthetically, the h-es just look better.

Sure, but that's Modernist deliberation. Like remove the dots from "i" and "j" and see how much more "elegant" Latinate text looks.

When it comes to readability, divergence (which could be seen as depth of harmony) is what counts, so the dots aren't just more authentic, they're more functional (for text).

hhp

kakaze's picture

If the dots made it any easier to read, wouldn't they have been kept?

hrant's picture

No, because functionality (especially of that depth) generally takes a back seat to convenience. As long laymen can read something deliberatively, they think anything that saves money/effort is a good idea. But readability isn't legibility.

hhp

matha_standun's picture

If the dots made it any easier to read, wouldn't they have been kept?

In a perfect world, maybe, but when it's a group of non-specialists (who have a million other things to worry about in any case) making the decision, the principle criterion is going to be saving money.

When the government did away with the dots and the bizarre, backward characters that were upsetting Ireland's printers, there were no national Gaelic language newspapers. Now there are two and one of them's just gone daily. Modern Irish Gaelic is notoriously difficult to set in justified columns because of its relatively very long words. Very often, you end up with two words per line with an enormous, eye-catching space in between. With up to 5 h-es in some common words, dots are extremely useful for this sort of work.

All the same, because of the high 'h' content, this particular letter does play a big part in Gaelic's visual personality.

Matha

Bald Condensed's picture

> Quadraat, however, is a Smeijers typeface that
I sometimes find myself savouring, rereading a line
of text.


I know what you mean, Nick. I just read Rick Poynor's
Obey The Giant: Life in the image world while on
holiday and I caught myself doing precisely that several
times. Do I need therapy? ;)

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