Kris Sowersby on Typographical Gender

In sharing his process for creating Epicene, Kris Sowersby writes:

Describing things as “masculine” or “feminine” in design and typography is historically and culturally loaded. Language is powerful, typography makes language concrete. Language has a shared meaning and heritage. The typographic ancestry of “masculine” and “feminine” traces a direct bloodline to people like De Vinne and Loos. When they write “delicate and light” is feminine, “strong and bold” is masculine, they’re really saying “women are weak, men are strong”. It’s that simple. This language is corrupt and bankrupt in today’s society. Gender shouldn’t be used as a metaphor when better, simpler language is available.

He concludes:

The gendering of ornamentation seems borne of cultural amnesia or myopia: decorative fabrics and accessories are commonly worn by both men and women today, especially by non-Europeans; highly-decorated illuminated manuscripts were made when men dominated artistic production; and during the 18th century, lace, leggings, wigs and high heels were worn equally by men and women.

While attentive to history, Epicene is not a revival typeface. It is an experiment in modernising Baroque letterforms without muzzling their ornamental idiosyncrasy nor falling into the trap of gender codifications. It’s a firm statement that fonts have no gender.

All fonts are indeed epicene.

I am totally on board with fonts have no gender. I also believe fonts should support many languages as possible, including Vietnamese.

Kris Sowersby on Physical vs. Digital

In sharing his process for creating Signifier, Kris Sowersby writes:

Fonts once existed as physical things used to make more physical things. Even if they were melted down to make bullets or forgotten like the Fell Types, they still existed materially. Digital fonts only exist fleetingly. They are experienced, mediated by a screen. Once the power is switched off they cease to exist. A craft history with five centuries of physical output replaced by virtual output takes some reconciling. We have retained our sense of line, spacing and form. We have lost the physical, material touch, as Ruskin once railed against. What we have gained is speed, flexibility and reach.

I really wish Signifier designed with Vietnamese diacritics.

Syntax

Thuy On:

The keening of us
the spaces between
a kerning too distant
your clauses conditional
dashes sprinting away
I didn’t want to be modified
& left dangling
but you trailed into ellipsis
and left me falling through gaps.

Via diaCRITICS.

Joe Moran on Spacing

Joe Moran, First You Write a Sentence, (p.190):

Every typographer understands that the space between the type matters as much as the shapre of the letters themselves. The letter-carver David Kindersley said that “a bad space is worse than a bad letter.” How much of a gap you leave between the letters, between the words, between the lines, between the paragraphs: it all matters beyond words. Space makes the reader feel cared for, even if she can’t put her finger on why. The way the writing looks is also what is says.

David Berlow on Variable Fonts

David Berlow writes for TypeNetwork:

The web has changed the typographer’s role. Typographers no longer decide on typefaces, font sizes, line lengths, line spacing, or margins; they make suggestions via marks and instructions so that text can make those choices for itself, responding to the context of an unknown reader’s environment.

The entire mini web book is worth a read.

Structural Typography

Bethany Heck:

Regardless of if you have imagery, regardless of how good the copy is, and regardless of the typeface, if you force yourself to think of type as a structural tool, you’ll always be able to add depth to your designs. It forces you to go beyond the fundamentals of typesetting to seek new opportunities for interaction and storytelling with typography, and to consider the formal qualities of every typeface you choose in the hunt for connections between its graphical design and the message you want to reinforce.

An informing, enlightening read.

Frederic Goudy on Legibility & Readability

Goudy on legibility:

Legibility depends on three things: first, simplicity, that is, a form having no unnecessary parts; second, contrast, as shown by marked differences in the weight of the lines composing the individual letters (stems and hairlines), and also shown in the varying widths of different letters; and third, proportion, each part of a letter having its proper value and relation to the other parts and to other letters—these three things in connection with the aspects of purpose and use.

Goudy on readability:

… a type without mannerisms, and that is easily and pleasantly readable, masculine, its forms distinct and not made to display the skill of the designer, but instead to help the reader. Type must be easy to read, graceful, but not weak; decorative, but not ornate; beautiful in itself and in composition; austere and formal, with no stale or uninteresting regularity in its irregular parts; simple in design, but not with the bastard simplicity of form which is mere crudity of outline; elegant, that is, gracious in line and fluid in form; and above all it must possess unmistakably the quality we call “arts”—that something which comes from the spirit the designer puts unconsciously into the body of his work.

Perfectionism in Type Design

In a conversation on the update of Robert Slimbach’s classic Minion, Robert Bringhurst pointed out Slimbach’s perfectionism:

You’re famous in some circles for that kind of perfectionism. And for more persistent kinds of perfectionism too. Minion had only been out for a couple of years when you rebuilt it as a multiple master typeface. And in 1999 or 2000, you made the first OpenType versions of Minion, folding the Latin, Greek, and Cyrillic, along with the ornaments, the small caps, and everything else into a single font. I studied those fonts pretty closely when they were released, and I was amazed and delighted by what I saw. There was phenomenal attention to detail. For example, all the diacritics were subtly redesigned and repositioned, made a little narrower and lifted farther up above the letterforms. I’m sorry to say it, but in the English-speaking world, most type designers don’t know or care very much about such details. And not everyone takes font upkeep and editing that seriously.

I agree with Bringhurst although I do see some improvements in designing diacritics. I always have tremendous respect for Slimbach for making his typefaces as accessible to many languages as possible. Minion is of his exemplary examples.

Nikkels on Design & Typography

Walter Nikkels, Depicted:

When a design is good, it objectifies seeing, it takes a distance from its maker, the design takes on a natural character, as though it had always been there. Conversely, when the design has not been entirely successful, it remains your design, in its failure to succeed completely remains incomplete, as it were, and does not want to separate itself from its maker. (He then becomes a culprit rather than a designer).

Nikkels (p.13):

Typography is the backbone of graphic design. Virtually all specific tasks you deal with as a graphic designer were formulated in the history of book design. Typography is to graphic design what painting is to the visual arts: the top number. Beyond that I see two conceptual trends in history of typography: interpretive typography, which analyses the content and attempts to response to its design, and autonomous typography, which considers interpretation nonsense. According to the this second trend, typography should refer to itself.

Nikkels (p.21):

As a young designer I noticed that modernist typography is easier to learn than classical typography, because its structure and decision process can be easily and objectively described, like in a schoolbook. Classical typography is tricky; it is a web of optical corrections. It requires a long training in looking and thinking.

Nikkels (p.30):

Typography is nothing but representation and dignity. Unlike many of my younger colleagues I try to deal with images with an ethic and aesthetic derived from typography, rather than the other way around. Typography is concerned with the logic of reading, including the reading of images. A book is a narrative, a sequence of pages. The images too have to be narrated in a book. Displayed in a logical way and plausible way. Narration and display come together, related to each other. The illustration can be narrated and the text can be displayed. In my work the only thing that matters is the dignity with which this takes place.

Nikkels (p.59):

Typography is a discipline of silence. Now and again it tries to be noisy, but that is almost always bound to fail, unless the loudness is called for, for example, a poster and sometimes in advertising.

Nikkels (p.62):

The typography, the treatment of the text.

Nikkels (p.180):

In the theory of typography, the intercharacter spacing and the interword spacing are considered essential for the quality of a text as a visual structure. That though is based on the classical canon of mutually harmonious relations between measurements and spacing.

Harold Evans on Readability

Harold Evans, Do I Make Myself Clear?, (p.39):

Readability isn’t a literary or legibility issue. It’s a dispassionate, objective measure of whether a selection of words and sentences will be understood by the intended audience. Comprehension comes before enjoyment; you can’t be gripped if you can’t follow the narrative.