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  • Re: Efficiency in kerning pairs

    Most kerning in Latin fonts involves diagonal or overhanging shapes., i.e. the shapes that are exceptional to the straight-straight, round-round, and straight-round relationships that determine the default spacing.

    The only times you should ever find yourself kerning a straight to a round is an uppercase straight being followed by a lowercase round, which in some designs might benefit from being slightly tightened.

    When I'm kerning, I look at everything, including straight-straight, etc. in context of words, because its a process that I find useful to confirm default spacing. But when I examine the results in the kerning, I typically see the same set of kern pairs involving diagonals and overhang shapes.

    How many "kern pairs" did some of the most famous letterpress types have? 

    None. And diagonal and overhang shapes produced big gaps within words. We can do better.
  • Re: Efficiency in kerning pairs

    The original typographic definition of "kern" referred to a portion of a letter on a metal type body that was left to protrude off of the type body and be supported by an adjacent type body allowing for the optical space between the two types to be reduced.

    So while it didn't happen very often in metal/letterpress, it did exist.
    I remember cutting kerns on type when I was a letterpress student at college.
    Pain in the ass does not come close to describing the process.
  • Re: When did the "Serif vs. Sans" derby started?

    Since Mark Simonson seemed interested in the early Macintosh fonts, I thought I'd post a sample of the *original* Macintosh bitmap fonts -- i.e. the ones used on the prototype systems before Susan Kare had finalized the “city” fonts which shipped with the first macs in 1984. These are from mid to late 1983. (note that apple “restarted” its system version numbers for the final release, going from 7.x to 0.85).

  • Re: Efficiency in kerning pairs

    The desire to limit the number of kern pairs has not usually been about file size, but about app bugs (see below).

    Nowadays with class kerning, it is also more likely that there is no direct relationship between some theoretical "# of pairs" and file size, as classes work... differently. Generally if you are worried about "too many pairs" and file size, you should be using class kerning judiciously to reduce the impact of the kerning on file size.

    15+ years ago, it was common for applications to misbehave when presented with more kerning data than they knew what to do with. The critical number would be as low as 3K kern pairs, but more commonly ~ 4K to 8K. There were a variety of different bad behaviors after the critical # was reached, depending on the app:

    - ignore pairs after the first X pairs
    - ignore pairs before the last X pairs
    - read X pairs and start writing over them with additional pairs, starting at the beginning

    I remember limiting fonts to 4K or 5K kern pairs because of this.

    Apps have gotten better since then, of course.
  • Re: Aspects of quality for a typeface

    This reminds me of the famous quotation:

    "If there were an individual, readily recognized quality or characteristic which the type designer could incorporate in drawings that would make any one type more beautiful, legible, or distinguished than another, it is obvious that only type of that kind would be designed." - Frederic W. Goudy

    It was obvious to me what he meant by that. So many songs are written and recorded every year, and only a few catch on and become popular. So many expensive movies are made with high hopes, and then flop. As with music and movies, there's no easy way, no shortcut (in the vein of "more cowbell", humorously advocated for country music), to designing a typeface so that it will be accepted.

    Craftsmanship in the design of a typeface is essential, but it doesn't guarantee a good result, it only makes one possible.
  • Re: When did the "Serif vs. Sans" derby started?

    And what was the inaugural moment for screen serifs? Georgia? I mean, it was almost 30 years ago (1993), so is there probably some earlier successful attempts?
    In 1991 Microsoft added TrueType to Windows 3.1 and Apple added it to System 7. Both included nice TrueType versions of Times. But IMHO the real breakthrough for serifs on screen happened in the early 2000s when LCDs replaced CRTs and users moved to operating systems that used subpixel text rendering as the default. Georgia was a very functional typeface, as were earlier customized serifs like Courier and Times. But there’s a big difference between fonts needing to be painstakingly crafted for legibility on a screen and a font just displaying well with basic, or even no, hinting.
  • Re: Aspects of quality for a typeface

    E.g. FF Trixie, the original distressed typewriter font.
    • Quality of glyph outlines = horrible
    • Quality of spacing = monospaced, what do you expect?
    • Quality of kerning = kerning is nonexistent
    Well, in that case, those choices were based on a particular reasoning, which was important for that special design. And then, executed accordingly, it shall be right and that makes it good.
  • Re: Aspects of quality for a typeface

    There is a problem with that approach. Many apps have a small caps button or command. If the font includes small caps, they are used. If they don't, the the caps are scaled down. Your users will need to know to ignore the small caps function and change fonts instead.
  • Re: Optical correction in Arabic monoline

    Personally, at this weight, I would go for something between the 2nd and 3rd options, so maybe 76 on the vertical. But of the three presented, the third looks best.

    I think this kind of optical correction addresses a mixture of perceptual bias—a tendency of a person familiar with the norms stroke modulation in the script to perceive monoline as unbalanced—and actual optics. It's difficult to disentangle these.

    I know, as someone familiar with the modulation patterns of a lot of different scripts, that my perceptual biases are not linked to my native script (Latin); that is to say, how I perceive monoline Arabic is affected by my experience of Arabic, not by the modulation of Latin.
  • Re: Cantarell redesign

    This is good, and mostly faithful to Cantarell’s personality, but I think it’s definitely too much of a departure from the original. I remember seeing the changes between versions 0.0.24 and 0.0.25 last year and thinking, “Why is Cantarell turning into Source Sans Pro?” and this redraw takes it even further. Cantarell really grew on me (at small sizes on a low-res screen) when I was using GNOME as my everyday desktop environment, and its original personality is its raison d’être. If it’s going to become more and more like Source Sans, GNOME should just switch to Source Sans outright and save you all the work.

    In particular, the sharp increase in the roundness of the curves/bowls in a, b, d, f, g, j, p, q, and 5 is too much of a difference. A few other things that seem like change for change’s sake are the altered stem-to-leg design of K/k, the slenderized quote marks, and the five-pointed asterisk.

    I think the goal of the Cantarell redraw should be to make it a better version of itself—not to morph it into a whole other sans.