Avoid "stroke"

It's not the first time Hrant has shoehorned his ideas about how we shouldn't be thinking about strokes into other threads. It's an interesting idea so I thought it deserved its own thread.
If you want your design to achieve its maximum potential, avoid "stroke". Language shapes thought.

Comments

  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,516
    Let’s be PC about it and start calling them “positive spaces.”
  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,049
    edited February 13
    I have a problem with the notion that any term is either always good or always bad.  I also have a problem with any single way to design something that shuns all others. Personally, the only time I think in strokes is when I am using a pen. But I have no problem with anyone who always thinks in strokes.  We each have our own way of seeing and our own path of production.  There is no harm in listening to whatever anyone has to say about design but there is no need to either agree or not.
    I personally always see in shape and counter-shape, with one building the other.  I don't care if others agree or like it or hate it.  I am not offended by disagreement.  I don't even have a name for my way of working because as soon as you get an exact term, you limit the process to what has already been done.
    I do, however, dislike dogma.  Dogma counteracts open design.  If any individual chooses to be only stroke conscious, so be it. If any person chooses whatever they want to call the opposite of stroke, fine, so be it. Just don't draw dogmatic lines in the sand and say all others are bound by either.
    This is supposed to be an open forum to discuss typographical concepts.  We don't need to foster antagonism, we need to foster inquiry and dialogue and let any reader decide their own path. We should, however, not try to dismiss others' ideas or belittle them.
  • Hrant H. PapazianHrant H. Papazian Posts: 1,047
    edited February 13
    Ray, thank you for starting this thread.
    It's probably a good idea to have a go-to repository of things I can point to instead of repeating myself (although hand-crafting a contextual reply does have its merits). That said, if I were to watch people give bad advice and keep my mouth shut, I would be a lazy hypocritical traitor. Which of course I am to some extent (like anybody else) but the less the better.

    ----

    The deepest I've gone into the problem with stroke-based type design (AKA chirography) was my talk at ATypI 2009 in Mexico City, where I put forth that in the Display-Text axis, the stroke has æsthetic value towards the former, while detracting from the functionality of the latter. So it's not worthless. But it is anti-reading, and certainly highly over-rated, thanks in large part to the mediæval charisma of Gerrit Noordzij. More than anything I hope to right balances. And this one is waaay off.

    In contrast to the depth of that talk, I think the most succinct I've been was my Typographica review of Legato in 2004. Slightly tweaked:
    "Its essential attribute is that the white inside and between the letterforms is made equal in importance to the black bodies of the individual letters. It does this by disposing of the linking between the two edges of the black, something inherent in the conventional forming of shapes derived from a marking tool, such as the broad-nib pen. By making the black and white harmonize, Legato approaches an ideal of readability, since reading involves the perception of positive/negative space as one thing."

    Painting the black is facile and romantic; an expression of personal physical control. Essentially Art, not Design. It cannot result in ideal white, no matter how much it wants to. The more the black contorts itself to approach ideal white, the more it sacrifices its own integrity, while never arriving at the ideal. I enjoy drawing this parallel: Thomas Jefferson loved Sally Hemings. But she was a slave nonetheless. The concept of the stroke precludes the harmonious marriage in ideal notan.

  • Hrant H. PapazianHrant H. Papazian Posts: 1,047
    edited February 15
    That's all essentially off-topic, but I'm not one to curtail discourse:

    Prefix "para" if you must, but since I feel in a font that's necessarily so anyway I think it's superfluous, and could even serve as a form of apologism/distancing that distracts us. Because as @Thomas Phinney said elsewhere language does influence us; it doesn't have to be Deterministic (nothing is anyway). I believe that saying "stroke" (wait, not "parastroke"? :-) does reduce the chances an individual will come to grips with notan, thereby holding us back collectively.

    As an aside (hoping its own thread would be overkill... :-) concerning "foundry": if somebody managed to explain how it does more harm than good, I would stop using it, and encourage others to also stop. See also:

  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,247
    I can’t help seeing type in terms of strokes.

    In particular, when I look at an A or V which is perfectly symmetrical, it looks like the “down” stroke is thinner than the “up”. 

  • Hrant H. PapazianHrant H. Papazian Posts: 1,047
    edited February 15
    Same here. It's very hard to overcome, but necessary in proportion to desired readability. Although actually there's nothing stopping it from factoring in to a consciously appreciated style as well.

    Like so many things in type, designing notan is "subvisible": requiring training to see. Observing things like Legato is good training.
  • Frode Frode Posts: 19
    edited February 15
    Can you please stop quoting your own tweets?

    I am more conscious of challenging the pen stroke than I would have been if Hrant was not butting in in every thread – subtweeting my every tweet, no matter how unrelated the topic. But, honestly, I’m not sure some of the stuff we publish would have existed if not for that. I appreciate having my ideas challenged from time to time – only not all the time.

    In particular, when I look at an A or V which is perfectly symmetrical, it looks like the “down” stroke is thinner than the “up”. 
    I would absolutely <3 a thread on the various “optical” compensations & their relationship with traditional writing tools, such as the notion horisontalz thinner than verticals look the same.
  • Hrant H. PapazianHrant H. Papazian Posts: 1,047
    edited February 15
    Frode said:
    Can you please stop quoting your own tweets?
    No, I like Ray's idea of pointing to things instead of repeating. Whether I quote myself or somebody else, it's still a reference.

    subtweeting my every tweet
    I think you're greatly exaggerating. For one thing, you stopped following me long ago.
    I would absolutely <3 a thread on the various “optical” compensations & their relationship with traditional writing tools, such as the notion horisontalz thinner than verticals look the same.
    Agreed, it's a great help in understanding the problem. Like how I would have been far less likely to understand the harm of chirography without Noordzij's formalization of the moving front, and I am thankful for that. The multiple schools now perpetuating mediævalism, not so much.
  • Please stop quoting your own tweets, Hrant.
  • Language is thought.

    I think the term stroke is just the one end of the equation. Why it sticks around as a valid and useful term is less because of writing and more because of seeing.
  • Jasper de WaardJasper de Waard Posts: 262
    edited February 16
    Language is thought.

    A common philosophical idea since Wittgenstein, in particular, but not entirely undebatable. I for one, believe thought is, or at least can be, independent from language. The obvious example is thinking through visualizations, though one could perhaps stretch your argument to include 'visual language' as well. Nevertheless, I would argue that if we did not have concepts (i.e. thoughts), before language, we would never have had language. A sound becomes a word when it is paired with a concept, so for the word to come to be, the concept must have already existed. Ergo, we can think in concepts, regardless of words. All this is not to say that words cannot shape our thoughts, of course.
  • Hrant H. PapazianHrant H. Papazian Posts: 1,047
    edited February 16
    Please stop quoting your own tweets, Hrant.
    Maybe you mean tweets by anybody you block, since you have to succumb to curiosity and lower yourself to unblocking individual tweets. One reason I never block. It's like trolling yourself.

    Asking somebody to re-type thoughts? Yeah, bibliographies are evil too.
    Johannes Neumeier said:
    Why it sticks around as a valid and useful term is less because of writing and more because of seeing.
    What we imagine seeing.
    Seeing is exactly why chirography is misplaced.
    Jasper de Waard said:
    thought is, or at least can be, independent from language.
    Yes, language affects thought, but does not determine it.
  • I'm all for freedom of expression, I don't mind people using the term stroke, and Hrant quoting himself. But while Hrant's arguments against using stroke are legitimate and insightful, as well as arguable, trying to shut him up or "manage" his activity is less legitimate imho.
  • I had a strong grounding in 'notan' from graphic arts training, before I came to type design. The concept of 'stroke', coming most emphatically from Noordzij but also from picking up a calligraphy pen, enhanced my vision of 'notan' in designing type. I don't think anybody could say that I have compromised my type design to the idea of the stroke, but it has definitely improved my eye.

    Readability is a product of familiarity. Stroke doesn't aid or hinder finding a perfect design, unless you are talking about machine readability. Even then...
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 1,343
    @Beau Williamson I agree with almost everything you wrote there. The idea that concepts of stroke and notan are in opposition ignores all the ways in which designers deal with both on a daily basis.

    I think this statement needs some nuance though:
    Readability is a product of familiarity.
    Familiarity is a necessary aspect of readability, but if one presumes equal familiarity with different styles of type — or different scripts, for that matter — it doesn't follow that they are necessarily equally readable in the sense that they would score equally well in comparative testing for speed and comprehension.

  •  — it doesn't follow that they are necessarily equally readable in the sense that they would score equally well in comparative testing for speed and comprehension.

    But if the familiarity isn't equal, one might score better with one group and the other score better with the second group. And reading speed might counteract comprehension. I'm not saying that there is no way to distinguish fonts that are better than others for reading, just that the difference between a font designed to ideals of 'stroke' versus one designed to ideals of 'notan' will come down to familiarity. If both fonts are well designed, there will be no way to predict which will do better.
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