New Open Source Font by Production Type: Spectral

AbrahamLeeAbrahamLee Posts: 93
edited June 19 in Type Business
I just saw this announcement for a new typeface called "Spectral", commissioned by Google (Dave Crossland?) for Google Docs: https://www.productiontype.com/news/spectral_a_new_typeface_for_google_font

Thoughts on the design?

Edit: For some reason, my browser automatically put this in the "Type Business" category, which was not intended. Sorry about that.

Comments

  • Jack JenningsJack Jennings Posts: 147
    It's another typeface of many released by Google. I don't think that it is the purpose of this forum to critique specific typefaces (of which there are many released every day) without being requested by the designer.
  • AbrahamLeeAbrahamLee Posts: 93
    It's another typeface of many released by Google. I don't think that it is the purpose of this forum to critique specific typefaces (of which there are many released every day) without being requested by the designer.
    Fair enough. I was just curious. Thanks, Jack.
  • @AbrahamLee Actually thank you for bringing this up.

    @Jack Jennings Is that true? How droll, and regressive. Good things can come from unsolicited feedback* – it's really a matter of intent.

    https://github.com/googlefonts/spacemono/issues/1

    I guess I'll have to see if the moderators censor me:

    Spectral reminds me of Mrs. Eaves, in its delicate forms, very modest x-height... but also its spacing being way too loose.
  • Jens KutilekJens Kutilek Posts: 114
    I’m wondering about the decision to release the fonts in TTF format only, because the conversion quality of the TrueType curves is not very good. The source PostScript UFOs look good, but the TT curves could be better even with the same number of control points.

    (PS in the background)


    (left: PS, right: TT)
  • Jens KutilekJens Kutilek Posts: 114
    I agree with @Hrant H. Papazian, I think unsolicited comments are fine, and yes, the spacing of Spectral is too loose ;)
  • Michael JarboeMichael Jarboe Posts: 210
    Google Money
  • Jack JenningsJack Jennings Posts: 147
    All of these comments would be better filed as issues on GitHub, which is the forum that the designers have chosen to release their work.

    Especially given that I don't think TD is frequented by the designers, anything posted here is just going to amount to a glorified sub-tweet. Especially because the initial post was made without offering any take in itself, the optics of this is just trolling for negative hot takes.
  • All of these comments would be better filed as issues on GitHub, which is the forum that the designers have chosen to release their work.
    But maybe we, rather than just the developers, can take something away from an exchange of opinions on a typeface...? I often find critique threads very instructional. And a discussion here might even result in more feedback for the devs in the long run.

    As for the typeface: Strangely enough, the presentation on the website renders it difficult to judge the typeface as a text face, which is apparently its intended primary role. From what I can see, I find the Lights quite charming, but lose interest with every step towards the ExtraBold. Already in the Regular, I find the rotated stress of /c/e jarring (sort of like in Times New Roman), and the /a turns from graceful into ungainly.

    The spacing is very wide indeed — judging from their website, I suspect they specifically wanted the typeface to work at small sizes on bad screens. I don't mind it so much in the lighter weights, but again, in the Bolds, I feel like I keep seeing individual letters next to each other rather than wordshapes and cohesive lines.
  • AbrahamLeeAbrahamLee Posts: 93
    Especially given that I don't think TD is frequented by the designers, anything posted here is just going to amount to a glorified sub-tweet. Especially because the initial post was made without offering any take in itself, the optics of this is just trolling for negative hot takes.
    I certainly did not have the intention of trolling for negative comments, but genuine analysis and discussion, given so many experts here. I wish I could say I'm in the expert category, but I'm not and am mostly following a lot of the discussions that happen here. Folks like you, Jack, might see things about the typeface family that I wouldn't simply because my eye hasn't been trained to (yet). There's a lot for me to learn from you all.

    And you are right (again), I should have offered my own take, which I will now do. As a whole, I find the shapes a bit distracting. I'm not sure if it's the general letter spacing or my taste for more inky, organic and smooth contours found in many classical serif families. I can see how the design works well for on-screen rendering, but unless the text is very small, the very wedge-shaped serifs and terminals really jump out at me. I guess I would have expected to see more of a slab-serif design, but instead I feel like I'm seeing too many edges and not enough words and letters. I would expect to see such bulky features only in a design that was intended for smaller optical sizes where the eye notices them less, but where they provide geometric clarity and substance.

    Of the weights, I think the Regular and Bold designs work together the best and can imagine those will be used the most. The various stroke thicknesses in the Extra Thin weight seems inconsistent across the glyphs.

    Those are my non-expert thoughts. I'd very much be interested to hear yours.
  • @Jens Kutilek Depending on what version of fontmake was used, PS to TT conversion can produce different results. Since version 1.2.6, fontmake uses 0.001 of the unitsPerEm for the maximum conversion error allowed before splitting curves, it was 0.0025 before. 0.0025 was bad, 0.001 is better but users are free to go for finer conversion.
  • Jens KutilekJens Kutilek Posts: 114
    I filed an issue regarding the TrueType conversion on GitHub.
  • D. Epar tedD. Epar ted Posts: 706
    "...the TT curves could be better even with the same number of control points."

    Except for the intended environment and use, that's great advice. But 40, 60, 120 hours later, what pixels are changed in the output? Plus, you are looking at curves the user would never see unless they stroked the font. In TT, at least, just like punch-cutting, one is always and only addressing the transparent (also known as white). So whatever error you see there, no matter how small, it's even smaller.;)


  • Jens KutilekJens Kutilek Posts: 114
    Well I noticed the bumpy curves by zooming in on the PDF specimen, which was the reason to compare the outlines on top of each other in the first place.

    I agree that at the intended environment and size it will not be noticeable. But you never know how large somebody will mis-use a text font ;)
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,150
    It helps that a new typeface looks good when the glyphs are closely inspected up large, even if the intended usage is small.

    That’s because one purposively forms one’s impression of where it fits in the vast panoply of faces, and culture in general, by such inspection—so one can’t help but be aware of the quality of detailing, which will thus colour one’s estimation of the design’s merit.
  • D. Epar tedD. Epar ted Posts: 706
    Jens, "you never know" is great, but I think we know a lot more about the needs of scaling down than scaling up, for this project.

    Nick, drawing large more than helps— I require it. But am not talking about  generalizations of impressions users may or may not ever have, vast panopolies, culture in general, or design merit in the world, just this project. 

    I think Jack is right, especially after reading people's comments "on the design", so far. The design itself, as opposed to its capture and generalization, is all that's not being discussed. 

    So, if you go with Christian being right, and that Others may benefit from knowledge of a better capture and generalization of that design, then the specification, price, schedule, and future, are important and they all play a role in the learning experience.

    Here, this project was perhaps dooooomed from the start. You can't apply the style list of Roboto to a relatively high contrast serif design and expect it to work great for every use, even if utterly and totally confined to Google Docs and slides. 

    The premier compromise is spacing, and as it appears, the developers safely left it open so it'd work down to every small size, and at a greater distance on slides. Any other use and the user would need to minus track. The other way around, spacing every single style according to what it's internal whitespace requires, would likely end in disaster for your average google user. 

    There is a new thing though, that helps with this... what's it called again... in any case, under the circumstances here, no amount of proper solicitation would correct that. There are simply not enough masters, either in the font, or the peanut gallery;)







  • Hrant H. PapazianHrant H. Papazian Posts: 692
    edited June 22
    Can't good hinting make the spacing acceptable based on PPEM?

    > The design itself, as opposed to its capture and generalization, is all that's not being discussed.

    False.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,150
    David, devices (phones, tablets, monitors etc.) are platforms, not documents, so “book” faces are just one of many genres that are applicable.

    In theory, as we progress further into Minority Report territory, as well as parametric fonts that profile and target users, they may also profile media, with “graded” axes; and also profile typographic variants, for instance adjusting extender length according to leading.
  • @John Hudson OK, if not hinting, could variable font tech soon become a way to deploy good spacing based on size? Although it would have to be automatic, not requiring too much intervention, certainly none by the reader.
  • Jens KutilekJens Kutilek Posts: 114
    @John Hudson OK, if not hinting, could variable font tech soon become a way to deploy good spacing based on size?
    Sure! The Optical Size axis can adjust spacing and everything else.
  • @Jens Kutilek Automagically, or would the designer need to write specific code? And is size data even reliably available?
  • Jens KutilekJens Kutilek Posts: 114
    @Hrant H. Papazian It will ultimately depend on layout engine support, but ‘optical size’ is a defined standard axis, so I think support will eventually be pretty good.

    All the type designer has to do is to map point sizes to the desired axis positions.

    I think it will work well for ‘normal’ viewing conditions (computer displays at normal reading distance), but factoring in a variable view distance or even zooming may be tricky to get right for the layout engine programmers.
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