Fixed Stroke Width and Hebrew

Ori Ben-DorOri Ben-Dor Posts: 221
edited August 2017 in Technique and Theory
As you probably all know, horizontal strokes appear wider than vertical strokes of the same width, which is why fixed-stroke-width fonts usually compensate for this illusion by having their vertical strokes a bit wider.

Hebrew fonts are no exception: if you check out notable sans serif fonts such as Narkis Tam or Oron, you'll note that vertical strokes are indeed wider.


I'm working on a rounded, fixed-stroke-width Hebrew typeface (working title: Amigo), and after conducting a few experiments, I've come to a conclusion that in Hebrew, truly fixed stroke width works pretty good, probably because Hebrew is "reverse contrast" in its nature, that is, in traditional Hebrew fonts the horizontal strokes are the wider ones.

Check out Amigo (a work in progress):


  • Interesting observation.
  • I did a fixed stroke width Arabic and it works just fine IMO:

  • Khaled, I'm no expert in Arabic typography, but that's quite an unusual and interesting font, I think, and the fixed stroke width doesn't strike me as the most unusual thing about it.
    I don't think I've ever seen such connections. The za to ya discontinuous connection, for example, is unconventional, isn't it?
    The lam-alif ligature also seems to me original.
    Have you published it? How was it received?
  • @Ori Ben-Dor, it is a rather unusual design indeed, it isn’t my original design, though.The font is available here, and is mostly based on the old Cairo metro signage with few modifications and expansions:


    I always liked the text on the signs since I was a kid, people seemed to like the idea of making a digital version of it when I was toying with the idea a few years ago.
  • Check out Amigo (a work in progress):

    I have to disagree Ori, the optical issue should not be ignored in Hebrew and in your typeface. If you like to create a contrast in your typeface, you create it, and balance the letter-forms accordingly.

    Even in this layout when examining each letter on it's own, and at this size, many letters are popping up distorted a little, mostly /ח/ם/ט/כ/ע/ש, the right bottom of the /מ and the digits.

    It'll be more significant in text layout and decreasing font-size. Eventually, the cleanness and texture quality will suffer of it.

  • Ofir, I think there are two separate issues here: contrast in general (where I see no problem), and individual letters that appear too dark or unbalanced due to reasons other than lack of contrast (I'd add /צ to your list).
  • I'm specifically talking about the optic driven contrast as the cause for distortion.
    Did you test the typeface in text layout and smaller size?

    Since I design my fonts with Fontark, all the first letters construction is made with mono-linear outlines, always, no matter the design or language, everything is looking much better after implying the V-H optical correction.
  • Ori Ben-DorOri Ben-Dor Posts: 221
    edited August 2017
    That's a display type, I'm not sure text layout and smaller size are the right tests.

    V-H optical correction is good if you want V and H to appear equal, but what if you don't? What if you want horizontal strokes to appear wider than vertical ones? Depending on how much wider you want them to appear, making V and H mathematically equal may turn out to be exactly what you need.
  • What if you want ...
    You can ask it on Latin scripts as well. What if you want the H parts to be as thick as the Optical illusion decides? 
    I'd say that if you like your font to look fine, you shouldn't.

    Here's a logotype I have to see every time I cross the street ...

  • You CAN ask the same question about Latin, but often it would make less sense, since Hebrew is "reverse contrast" by nature. In other words, having the horizontal strokes appearing wider is natural for Hebrew and less so for Latin.
  • Ofir ShavitOfir Shavit Posts: 367
    edited August 2017
    It doesn't matter in... A. this scale of "contrast", it appears, to me at least, as a distortion rather than something deliberate.

    B. Your specific design and modern Hebrew letter forms.
    While traditional Hebrew scripts were constructed according to the H emphasis, as in this typeface (Vilna by Shmuel Gutman) for example: 

    ...the modern, more geometric letter forms, as in your design, are losing the horizontal emphasis and are affected by the optical issue as much as Latin does.

    Look at your /ש and the Vilna /ש. What does it have in common? ,why should your /ש tolerate reverse contrast? Why did you thin the middle /ש's connection to the left stem if you "trust" this reverse contrast concept?

  • Ofir, your second point is kind of begging the question. My whole point was that thanks to the horizontal emphasis in traditional Hebrew, the path paved by early modern Hebrew san serifs such as Miriam is not the only way. So it's true that my design doesn't conform to some conventions of modern Hebrew letter forms, but that's exactly why I started this thread, to share my impression that it doesn't have to. If you still think truly fixed stroke width doesn't work, not even in Hebrew, then that's fine, you're entitled to your own opinion, of course. I think it does, or at least is worth exploring (my design, in its current state, isn't the best demonstration. It's a work in progress, as I mentioned).
  • Ofir ShavitOfir Shavit Posts: 367
    edited August 2017
    Every thing's worth exploring, I'm just sharing my experience, understanding and view on your specific design.
    My point is that optics doesn't read or understands traditions, on the contrary. 
    The only thing that matter is the result, and understanding it.
    Geometric Hebrew sans and even serifs, are simple geometric shapes (squares, circles, diagonals). look at my Sartat, and Status-quo (sans), or Satat and Had-keren (serifs), in all weights, even the thinnests, it is Hebrew, but it didn't (in early stages) and wouldn't have looked fine without the H-V optical compensation.
    And to add to your research, take a look at Ben Natan's Yamim veleilot (Days and nights) where you can see a subtle but deliberate reverse contrast that works.

    It will be interesting to see your progress!
  • I have to disagree Ori, the optical issue should not be ignored in Hebrew and in your typeface. If you like to create a contrast in your typeface, you create it, and balance the letter-forms accordingly.
    You are absolutely right that the issue of the apparent stroke widths of horizontal and vertical strokes being altered as an optical illusion... can't be ignored in Hebrew any more than it can in Latin.

    However, that in no way invalidates Ori Ben-Dor's typeface. It may be that the desired effect is created by using equal and horizontal stroke widths without any compensation - since it is likely to be acceptable when the apparent stroke widths are slightly in the direction of the traditional ones for the script, instead of being visually uniform, but it is usually not acceptable when the apparent stroke widths vary in the opposing direction, as would be the case for Latin.

    That isn't at all the same as saying that optical compensation doesn't matter for Hebrew, just that for a particular choice of intended visual effect, taking explicit action may not be required. The apparent contrast that an optical illusion creates... is also a possible design choice.
  • Thanks, John, that's exactly what I was trying to say.
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