Advice From TypeTogether

The following passages are quoted from TypeTogether’s Building Ligatures: The Power of Type.

José Scaglione on type design (p. 18):

That type design is not an island. Type design is connected to languages, culture, history, and also to communication and design. Our history is written with typography.

Veronika Burian on type design (p. 18):

Type design is not about beautiful shapes. It has a reason, it has meaning, it is a part of our culture, our identity. And it will not disappear. It will change like every language changes. There will be new type projects and new fonts, but type design and typography will always be here.

Burian on why we need more types (p. 28):

Many people are unconvinced about the need to create new fonts, but letters are no different, at least from an artistic point of view, from other cultural interactions like poetry or music. Type design is a carrier of our culture and is subject to developments and trends, especially in this world of constant change. The number of individual elements – tones, rhythms, or letters – is quite small but they can be combined in nearly limitless ways.

Trends, technology, media, and even languages evolve. These changes require an appropriate typographic response that becomes an expression of contemporary culture; and each generation has their own expression.

Burian on modern times (p. 28):

One of the main engines pushing type creation forward is technology. Typography is mechanised writing, and as such it must advance together with printing presses, computers, communication devices, and media.

Scaglione and Burian on foreign language (p. 68):

Taking great care when setting text in a foreign language is a sign of professionalism and respect for the audience. Although Europe as a whole has strong cultural ties, its orthographies are still rather unique. Correct diacritics are part of playing nicely together on the international playground.

Fournier on Book Typography

Pierre-Simon Fournier, Manuel Typographique, 1764:

After the first necessities of life, nothing is more precious to us than books. THE ART OF TYPOGRAPHY, which produces them, provides essential services to society and secures incalculable benefits. It serves to instruct the citizenry, to extend the progress of the arts and sciences, to nourish and cultivate the mind, and to elevate the spirit: its task is to be the agent and broad interpreter of wisdom and truth; in a word, it is the portrayer of the mind. Thus one could rightly call it par excellence the art of all arts and the science of all sciences.

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.


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.


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.