Schlagwort-Archive: Typografie

A short paragraph, typeset in Input Sans, a proportionally spaced typeface by David Jonathan Ross

Same look, less pain:
Proportionally spaced typefaces with a monospaced appearance

76 people pressed and 12 people found it worth a retweet when Ivo Gabrowitsch wrote: “If I had one wish, I’d wish for less ‘inspired by’ and more ‘solves this problem’ typefaces.” It is hard to disagree with what he says – but it is also hard to disagree with Ksenya Samarskaya’s reply: “Best ones do both, no?” This post is about what I consider to be a successful example of doing both.

Many designers are in love with the aesthetic of monospaced typefaces (i.e., typefaces in which each character occupies the same amount of horizontal space, as opposed to proportionally spaced typefaces in which character widths are independent of one another). The appeal of these typefaces may stem from some kind of nostalgic association with typewriters or from their use in technical environments (computer terminals, programming etc.). Maybe it’s both. In any case, the fascination is there. As a consequence, monospaced (or fixed-width) typefaces are used everywhere – not least in contexts in which their defining feature (fixed spacing) is irrelevant. But this feature keeps on having an impact, mainly on the experience of the reader. In monospaced typefaces, glyphs have to be wider or narrower than in typefaces without the fixed-width constraint in order to fit everything in the space that is available while keeping the spacing optically balanced. The result is not what most designers would like to set a novel in and it’s not what most readers would like to read a novel in. Actually, anything beyond a short stretch of text is a pain to read in a monospaced typeface, however nice things may look at first blush.

A short paragraph, typeset in Input Mono, a monospaced typeface by David Jonathan Ross

Type designers have found a solution to this problem. It’s not a new solution, but it is a solution that I think deserves more attention (hence this post). Type designers have created typefaces that look like monospaced typefaces, but actually use proportional spacing. The benefit: Designers get to keep the look they love, but readers don’t have to go through the pain of a true mono. Such typefaces – some call them ‘monofaked’ or ‘fauxnospaced’ – are easier on the eyes than the ‘real thing’. It is a balancing act for type designers to keep enough elements of typical typewriter fonts in order to avoid losing the appearance, while at the same time making substantial improvements to reading ease.

A short paragraph, typeset in Input Sans, a proportionally spaced typeface by David Jonathan Ross

The first typeface that fits this description was apparently one called Bulletin Typewriter: Released in metal as a monospaced font, it became available with proportional spacing in phototype and transfer lettering formats. The earliest in-use example of the proportionally spaced Bulletin Typewriter I am aware of is from 1973. American Typewriter was released not much later. In the following list of other typefaces in this category, I will – as usual – apply a liberal interpretation of any relevant criteria: Any typeface that vaguely looks like a console or typewriter typeface (read more about this term in an article by María Ramos) has a ‘monospaced appearance’ in my book. For a change, the sorting will be chronological rather than alphabetical to emphasise developments in this genre.

Proportionally spaced typefaces with a monospaced appearance

  • 1973: Bulletin Typewriter by Morris Fuller Benton (Mecanorma)
    (The link refers to a digital version of the metal monospaced typeface, originally released in 1933 by ATF. A proportionally spaced version was only available in phototype and transfer lettering formats. It’s in the list mainly for reference.)
  • 1974: American Typewriter by Joel Kaden & Tony Stan (ITC)
  • 1989: Officina Sans & Serif by Erik Spiekermann & Just van Rossum (ITC)
  • 1996–98: Letter Gothic Text by Albert Pinggera (FontFont)
  • 2000: Bs Monofaked by Mário Feliciano (Feliciano Type Foundry)
  • 2000: New Letter Gothic by Gayaneh Bagdasaryan (Paratype)
  • 2001: Courier Sans by James Goggin (Lineto)
  • 2007: Newsletter by Ingo Krepinsky (Die Typonauten)
  • 2008: Lacrima Senza & Serif by Alexander Colby (Milieu Grotesque)
  • 2008–2010: Lekton by Luciano Perondi and students at ISIA Urbino (Google Fonts)
  • 2010: Typewriter by Henrik Kubel (A2-TYPE)
  • 2011: Hellschreiber Sans & Serif by Jörg Schmitt
  • 2011: Relative Faux by Stephen Gill & The Entente (Colophon Foundry)
  • 2011: Signika by Anna Giedryś (Google Fonts)
  • 2012: Anaheim by Vernon Adams (Google Fonts)
  • 2012: Executive by Gavillet & Rust (Optimo)
  • 2013: Documan by Martin Vácha (Displaay Type Foundry)
  • 2014: Input Sans & Serif by David Jonathan Ross (DJR)
  • 2014: Queue by Tal Leming (Typesupply)
  • 2014: Triplicate by Matthew Butterick
  • 2015: Clone by Lasko Dzurovski (Rosetta)
  • 2016: Millimetre by Jérémy Landes (Velvetyne Type Foundry)
  • 2016: Operator by Andy Clymer (Hoefler & Co.)
  • 2016: Proportional by George Triantafyllakos (Atypical)
  • 2017: Attribute Text by Viktor Nübel (FontFont)
  • 2017: Bitcount Prop by Petr van Blokland (TYPETR)
  • 2017: Comspot Tec by Nils Thomsen (TypeMates)
  • 2017: iA Writer Duospace (based on IBM Plex Mono by Mike Abbink & Bold Monday)
  • 2018: Covik Sans Mono by James Edmondson (OH no Type Co)
  • 2018: Drive Prop by Elliott Amblard & Jérémie Hornus (Black[Foundry])
  • 2018: Tuner by Simon Renaud (Production Type)

This list started on Twitter. Thanks to Reed Reibstein, David Jonathan Ross, George Triantafyllakos, Daniel H., Dave Coleman, Anthony Masure, Martin Wenzel, Frank Adebiaye, Michael Piotrowski, Akira Yoshino, Eric Mellenbruch, Max Phillips as well as the people from Studio Het Mes, Fonts In Use and Displaay Type Foundry for suggesting typefaces. If you know of any additional typefaces that may qualify, please get in touch.

Olicana, a script typeface with optical sizes

Hands for all sizes:
Script typefaces with size-specific variants

Size matters – at least in type. With digital type, we can use any font at whatever size we desire. But more often than not, we should not. Typefaces that work well at a certain size usually do not work equally well at other sizes. A typeface with pronounced contrast, sharp details and tight spacing that looks great on a billboard will fail at typical body copy sizes. Conversely, a typeface with coarser details and sturdier proportions, optimised for small sizes, is likely to look clunky when set large.
FF Tisa and Orpheus
But what if you would like to use the same typeface for headings and text? In that case, you may want to consider a typeface with ‘optical sizes’ (i.e., variants with size-specific adjustments). Many such typefaces exist (Identifont has an alphabetical list). Tim Ahrens and Shoko Mugikura have written about some of them and provide a list of all typefaces covered in their book on their website. Browsing through these lists, I noticed that few are script typefaces (i.e., typefaces based on calligraphy or other types of handwriting). That surprised me, given that handwriting is also markedly size-specific. The release of a new typeface in that category was the reason for me to compile the following list:


Welcome to @isoletters

On 1 January 2018, I will start sharing pictures of letters on a new Twitter account: @isoletters. I have been taking letter pics for years and occasionally shared them, for example on my @‌isoglosse Twitter account (which I will continue to use for anything except letter pics) or on Flickr. Browsing through my collection, I decided that I would like to share pictures from it more regularly. A collection is not worth much when nobody looks at the items and maybe gets inspired by them. For that reason, I will try to post one picture on each day of 2018. You are welcome to follow. I also hope that you will comment, correct me if I am wrong and share your own pictures. What kind of pictures can you expect?
All pictures I will share on @isoletters are of some typographic interest (or at least I think so). Given my own background, I may also slip in some pictures that are interesting from a linguistic perspective. When trying to classify the pictures I collected, one may end up with roughly the following categories:


Old type in new fonts? First impressions of Fontstore

A few days ago, Font­store launched – a new player in the market for subscription-based font services. To be accurate, Font­store is both a foundry and a font service provider: You can buy fonts there like at any other foundry, but you can also become a subscriber. For $ 15 per month (or $ 150 per year), you get access to their entire library of desktop fonts. Having used Typekit for a few years and having reviewed the Monotype Library Subscription (MLS) last year, I was curious to see what Font­store has to offer. The very first impression was not too favourable: Their website is slow and cluttered up with animations and effects, making it difficult to get an overview of their collection (others loved their site or also hated it). Font­store does not excel at transparency either: The name of its founder, Satya Rajpurohit, is nowhere to be found on the website (though he has promised to remedy this). In order to access the Font­store Library (the contents of which will be discussed below) through the subscription service, I subscribed and payed by credit card; both went without problems. Installing the app syncing the fonts on Windows was not exactly a seamless experience, though: I got a number of warnings that are typically not shown upon installing software, but just going ahead did not crash the system. Once installed, you go to the website, select the fonts you want to use, and they are available just seconds later.

Slim pickings for type designers

As I noted in my review of the MLS, low-priced font subscription services do not only raise technical questions, but ethical ones as well. Creating fonts is a time-consuming task requiring specialised skills that are gained through extensive training and practice. Few type designers create fonts just for the fun of it. Most do so to make (part of) a living – but you need a lot of subscribers before you are able to provide decent payment to all type designers. As a customer, you have to decide: Is subscribing to such a service tantamount to supporting exploitative working conditions and fuelling the downward price spiral in the font market? In the case of Font­store, the decision may be a little easier: All typefaces were commissioned for that service with (I presume) designers knowing what they signed for. In a post on TypeDrawers, Satya Rajpurohit, the founder of Font­store, explained that Font­store offers different payment models to type designers, neither of them based on royalties. In any case, the business risk mainly rests with Font­store, rather than with individual designers. That seems friendlier than royalty-based models, but $ 15 per month is still not much to go round, so time will tell if the system is sustainable. Also, even the best offer in a given situation can be a bad one: Font­store carries fonts from quite a few young type designers, some of them releasing their first retail fonts. Many senior designers may have been reluctant to accept Font­store’s payment models and have their fonts offered at a bargain price.


Die englische ›type foundry‹ und ihre deutschen Äquivalente


How do you translate type foundry into German? Gießerei (literally castery), the traditional term from the era of metal typesetting, is not used for digital foundries and seems unlikely to be revived. This text is supposed to ignite a debate about possible alternative terms. These include Schriftanbieter (literally type offerer), Schriftenhaus (type house), Schriftherausgeber (type editor), Schrifthersteller (type producer), Schriftlabel (type label), Schriftverlag (type publisher) and the English loan word Foundry.


Wie übersetzt man type foundry ins Deutsche? Bei einer Diskussion auf Twitter, die sich um die Suche nach einem Begriff für die deutsche Wikipedia drehte, wurde klar, dass es hierzu keinen Konsens gibt. Grund genug, sich das englische Original und einige mögliche Übersetzungen genauer anzusehen.

Den englischen Begriff definiert Wiktionary als »a company that designs and/or distributes typefaces« (»ein Unternehmen, das Schriftarten gestaltet und/oder verbreitet«). Erster Bestandteil ist type – ein Wort mit griechischen Wurzeln (altgr. τύπος ›Schlag, Stoß; Abdruck; Gepräge, Relief; Abbild, Vorbild, Vorlage; Form, Gestalt‹ zu τύπτειν ›schlagen, stoßen‹), das, übers Lateinische und Französische, Ende des 15. Jahrhunderts ins Englische kam. Ausgehend von älteren Bedeutungen wie ›(Vor-)Bild, Vorlage; charakteristische Form‹ wird es seit dem frühen 18. Jahrhundert für Drucklettern verwendet. In dieser Bedeutung wird es im Deutschen mühelos mit ›Schrift‹ wiedergegeben, so auch in einigen Wörtern, die im Weiteren besprochen werden. Der zweite Teil der Begriffs ist es, der bei der Übertragung ins Deutsche Schwierigkeiten bereitet. Drucklettern entstanden bzw. entstehen in einer foundry. Auch dieses Wort, das im Englischen seit dem 16. Jahrhundert belegt ist, stammt aus dem Französischen: Das Verb fondre, das wiederum auf das lateinische fundere zurückgeht, bedeutet unter anderem ›schmelzen‹. Eine fonderie ist eine Werkstatt, in der Metall geschmolzen und in neue Formen gebracht wird, zum Beispiel Buchstabenformen (deren Kombination zum Zeichensatz einer Schriftart als font bezeichnet wird). Im Deutschen bezeichnet man solche Werkstätten seit dem frühen 17. Jahrhundert als Gießerei bzw., wenn sie sich mit der Herstellung von Buchstaben beschäftigen, als Schriftgießerei.

Der deutsche Begriff Gießerei ist, anders als sein englisches Gegenstück, in der Zeit verblieben, in der Buchstaben aus Metall waren. Für Unternehmen, die sich mit digitaler Schrift beschäftigen, hat er sich nicht eingebürgert. Aber was soll man dann verwenden? Dass sich die Frage überhaupt stellt, dürfte auch daran liegen, dass ein Großteil des Geschäfts in dieser Branche auf Englisch abgewickelt wird. Auch auf Deutsch wird über Schrift geschrieben, aber häufiger noch auf Englisch. Die Zahl der type foundries, die eine deutschsprachige Website unterhalten, ist niedrig. In der Diskussion und bei der Recherche tauchten dann doch sechs Wörter auf, die die nähere Betrachtung lohnen: Schriftanbieter; Schrifthaus; Schriftherausgeber; Schrifthersteller; Schriftlabel; Schriftverlag (bei allen kann der erste Teil auch ›Schriften-‹ lauten, aber die Verteilung der Formen ist nicht bei allen Begriffen dieselbe).


Identical zero and oh glyphs

Zero vs. oh: Strategies of glyph differentiation

When characters look similar to one another, misreadings or even misunderstandings may result. In such cases, type designers often try to avoid glyphs looking completely identical. One example of a similarity that can get too close for comfort is between the digit ‘0’ (henceforth: zero) and the letter ‘O’ (oh). Differentiation strategies between lining zero and upper-case oh have been shown to be fairly uniform across typefaces: Zero is almost always narrower and often less tall than Oh. These and other strategies have been discussed in a 2013 article by Charles Bigelow. He focuses on lining figures in typewriter typefaces and only briefly mentions contemporary approaches to non-lining zero and lower-case oh – a pair that is also prone to confusion and seems to be treated with less uniformity in recent typefaces. Inspired by a tweet by Shiva Nallaperumal, I have compiled typical and not so typical ways of distinguishing non-lining zero from lower-case oh. My observations are mainly based on old-style roman text typefaces in the Typekit library; this sample is not representative of anything but the Typekit library itself, which, however, contains a bunch of well-known, widely used typefaces.


Charis SIL, used in the Longman Pronunciation Dictionary

Fonts for phonetic transcriptions: An overview

In 2014, I started compiling a list of fonts for typesetting phonetic transcriptions using symbols of the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). It is probably the most comprehensive and up-to-date list of such fonts, providing short, yet detailed reviews of the typefaces and the quality of their symbols – but it has two disadvantages: First, the reviews are written in German, which most people do not read. Second, the list – featuring more than 40 typefaces – has grown quite long and maybe even a bit confusing. If you are looking for a decent sans-serif typeface that includes phonetic symbols in its bold style, the long list will not be much help. That is why created a table of all fonts for phonetic transcriptions I am aware of (thanks to Friedrich Althausen, the designer of the Vollkorn typeface, for the suggestion!).
Charis SIL, used in the Longman Pronunciation Dictionary by John C. Wells
For each font family, I have indicated whether the roman and italic styles in the regular and bold weights contain phonetic symbols (R: Regular Roman; I: Regular Italic; B: Bold Roman; BI: Bold Italic).¹ Whenever a typeface family includes more than these four styles, this is noted in the ‘More styles’ column (but you’ll have to look up the details for yourself). This is also true when a typeface has more than one bold weight (e.g., Semibold and Bold) or more than one italic style (e.g., ‘true’ italics and oblique). If you want to read the reviews of the typefaces, click on their names (warning: 🇩🇪 content ahead).

In each category,  means that a (more or less) complete set of phonetic symbols is available. Even if a font is marked that way, some symbols may be missing. (✓) means that a style or weight is present in the typeface, but that it does not contain phonetic symbols.  means that a style or weight is missing entirely from the typeface in question.² The last column contains a rating: This is not about whether a typeface is nice in general, but only refers to the design and functioning of the phonetic symbols. Still, it is certainly somewhat subjective, so feel free to comment if your evaluation differs substantially from mine. Also, please let me know if you know of any other typefaces with phonetic symbols.


Phonetic repair service: Fixing ATypI’s IPA

The 2015 edition of the annual conference of the Association Typographique Internationale (ATypI) took place in São Paulo, Brazil. Its visual identity was based on the phonetic transcription of the local pronunciation of the name of the host city: /ˌsɐ̃w ˈpawlu/. From this transcription, one symbol was isolated and used as a sort of logo: /ɐ̃/ – both an interesting glyph design-wise and the symbol of a characteristic sound of Portuguese (a nasalised centralised vowel). I think it was a great choice for a type conference in Brazil. What’s more, I liked the typefaces they used in their visual identity, among others Voces (by Ana Paula Megda & Pablo Ugerman) and Brasilica (by Rafael Dietzsch). An extension of the latter, including phonetic symbols, has been announced for 2016 (and I’m quite curious about that).

Logo of the 2015 ATypI conference, using a phonetic symbol

Despite the cleverness of the concept, not all of its implementations were equally successful. I saw one on YouTube that I was a bit disappointed about: The video recordings of all conference talks – kudos for making them available – had thumbnails showing the names of the speakers and phonetic transcriptions of their names. As I already pointed out on Twitter, many of the transcriptions were inaccurate. In some cases, it was not even clear to me if the transcription was supposed to represent an Anglicised pronunciation or the way speakers would pronounce their names in their native languages. Admittedly, making phonetic transcriptions is not that easy – whether you use the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), as they wisely did, or any other system. I don’t know who created the transcriptions in the thumbnails and I don’t know why they ended up being inaccurate: Maybe the transcriber was lacking information or it was a rush job or correct transcriptions were garbled in the design process.

What I want to do here is to provide correct transcriptions of the native pronunciation of the speakers’ names (or at least, I will try to avoid the most egregious mistakes that were made in the original transcriptions). As I said before, making phonetic transcriptions can be difficult: Language varies a lot – across place, time, situation etc. Not everyone agrees on how to describe all this variation; not everyone agrees on how to transcribe it. Trying to pin down the symbol that exactly represents one sound has led to heated debates among linguists more than just once. For that reason, I’d like to invite you to let me know if you disagree with the way I transcribed any of the names.

For all those who do not read IPA transcriptions fluently, there are some audio recordings: Whenever you see a 🔊 symbol next to a name, you can click on it to listen to the speaker’s own pronunciation of their name. Most speakers say something along the lines of ‘Hi, my name is […], I come from […] and my mother tongue is […]’ – all that in (one of) their native language(s). I hope to add more recordings in the future, but this may take some time. Similarly, some transcriptions require a bit of research, so the list will not be complete from the outset, but be filled over time. Anyway, here is the list:


Monotype Library Subscription: A user’s experience

MLS. That’s not the name of a tropical disease or some obscure government agency. The abbreviation stands for Monotype Library Subscription. Launched a few days ago, MLS is a subscription-based service that gives members access to “more than 9,000 fonts (2,200 font families)” (Monotype says). The price tag is at no more than €/$ 14.99 per month (or €/$ 119.99 per year). The fonts can be used in desktop applications, but – unlike the fonts on Typekit, a competing service by Adobe – not on websites.

For graphic designers, this sounds like a good deal. €/$ 14.99 per month for high-quality typefaces is next to nothing. A regular licence of most typeface families available through the MLS would cost twenty times as much or more. The choice seems ample: The library, Monotype says, features “reliable workhorses” (such as Avenir Next), “unique choices” (such as Ginkgo, Linotype’s take on the Dolly genre) and “attention grabbing” typefaces (such as Balega). Let’s be clear, though, that most of what you get is hardly at the cutting edge of contemporary type design. Innovation happens elsewhere. This may be a deal breaker for all those who are trying to produce fresh or even innovative work. In that industry, Rockwell (released in 1934 and based on earlier models) probably won’t count as ‘attention grabbing’ any more and Oranda (from the mid-80s) does not qualify as ‘unique’. That may be less of a concern for those interested in subdued text typography: MLS includes a number of modern classics that have aged with grace and can still be used nicely (such as Caecilia), along with some good recent releases (such as Quire Sans). It helps, by the way, if you only need to use Latin-based alphabets: For those, the language support of most typefaces is good. For Greek, Cyrillic or Arabic, not so much.


Bram de Does (1934–2015): “Ik sta schaakmat”

On 28 December 2015, Dutch type designer and typographer Bram de Does (* 1934) passed away. Jan Middendorp (@DutchTypeJam) honoured him by posting a picture in which we see text handwritten by De Does. The text is a reply to a comment that Peter Matthias Noordzij made on the letter ‘k’ of a custom headline version of De Does’ Lexicon typeface. The reply is in Dutch, so I tried to translate it to English:

“I can understand that you find it [the letter ‘k’] ugly. I do not manage to find it really beautiful either, but still do not know what I could improve in it. I do not want to make the bottom serif on the right any wider; ‘k’ already leaves such a large gap on the right-hand side. I do not want to make the upper right-hand part extend more to the right because this would cause these white spaces [cf. picture] to differ so much. I do not want to lower the junction in the middle because the space labelled ‘b’ would become even smaller then. Do you have any ideas? I am checkmated.”

In the third, fourth and fifth sentence, De Does uses object-initial constructions in Dutch, which are difficult to render in English. A construction that uses left dislocation probably comes closest in English: ‘The junction, I don’t want to lower it’ – but that does not sound particularly natural to me.