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Posts: 165
Considering the lowermost point at the bottom of each figure, which of the following statements describes your impression?

a) Bottom of 5 looks lower;
b) Bottom of 6 looks lower;
c) They look the same height.

• Posts: 278
Same height.
• Posts: 56
Both glyphs lean left.
• Posts: 165
Left? I've asked myself if the 6 doesn't lean right...
• Posts: 1,354
It depends what part of the bottom of the letters I am focused on. If I focus on the relationship of the left side of the 5 to the right side of the 6, then the five looks very slightly lower. If I focus on the relationship between the right side of the 5 and the left side of the 6, then they look to be the same height.
• Posts: 994
(a)
• Posts: 165
I'm with Thomas, 5's bottom looks lower to me too.

I guess that's because the radius of the curvature at the bottom is smaller in the 5.

I've checked some fonts, and haven't found one that compensates for differences in the curvature radius by playing with the height.

Should I?

Does that suggest a flaw in the design and I should simply make the 6 narrower or something?

Or should I simply use Jasper's impression as an excuse and leave it?
• Posts: 165
To demonstrate my claim about other fonts, here's Helvetica Neue Black. Do they look the same height to you?

• Posts: 170
To me, the 5 and 6 look very much the same at the top, and also the same at the bottom, but I'm less sure. With the 8 and the 0, at first the 8 looked bigger, and later, the 0 looked bigger.
• Posts: 165
edited March 2017
By the way, come to think of it, what I'm suggesting here kind of defies the logic of overshooting.

The bottom of the 8 is less curved than that of the 0, so it looks higher (at least to me, and probably to Thomas too), and I'm suggesting that it (that is, the bottom of the 8) should be lowered to compensate for this.

On the other hand, if the bottom of the 8 had been even less curved to the point where it had been straight, we would have said the opposite: that it's the bottom of the 0 that should be lowered (overshooting).

What's going on here?
• Posts: 165
edited March 2017
Thanks, John. That's very insightful.

Do you have any practical conclusions? Would you pull down Helvetica's 8 or my 6? Would you change anything following your observation that 56 and 65 make different impressions?

(Let me add, referring to your first point, that I first observed the problem while looking at a test printout set in 60 pt, which is realistic for my font.)
• Posts: 1,354
Does it bother you? If so, do something about it. But bear in mind that the optical effect may be due to multiple factors, so mi inclination is only to fiddle with actual overshoot amounts after all other aspects of a glyph are finalised.
• Posts: 509
Continuing on Johns remark the differences in perception might have be caused by the size (and resolution) of the screen people where using.
• Posts: 165
Academically speaking, it does bother me. In practice, if Helvetica suffers from this problem, I guess I could live with my font suffering from it too. Either way I guess I'll just follow your advice and leave it for the very end.
• Posts: 209
It's easy to get obsessed over this kind of details. Usually I just set my overshoots to about the same value or according to the shape width, then after modeling all your glyphs when you print test pages you can actually look and tweak overshoots if needed.
• Posts: 723
I've checked some fonts, and haven't found one that compensates for differences in the curvature radius by playing with the height.
FWIW, I have on occasion placed the overshoot of an eight or a zero differently than the general overshoot value, if I felt they looked smaller (in the case of eight sometimes) or larger (in the case of lining zero sometimes).

I’m not saying that I was right to do so, or that one should (or shouldn’t). Just that it isn’t completely unprecedented. ;-)
• Posts: 1,060
edited March 2017
The more non-flat a bound is the more overshoot it needs. To avoid the torture of having a different overshoot amount for every single different profile (not to mention due to their internal whites) we compromise by discretizing the overshoot amounts, like how most people overshoot triangle shapes more than rounds, but not different rounds. The degree of discretization depends on many things, not least intended use size; for a display font that really cares, variant overshoot amounts even within rounds is entirely rational.

BTW Frutiger even applied different "overshoot" amounts to flats of different length! I suspect diagrams like the one below ("Type Sign Symbol", p. 21) have quietly made a type designer queasy...

• Posts: 165
edited March 2017
The more non-flat a bound is the more overshoot it needs.
Doesn't the 80808080 example convince you that's not always the case?

==
stare very closely at very good printouts at the size you are optimizing for
Well, that's exactly the problem: I first noticed the illusion while looking at a printout at about the size I'm optimizing for.

On the other hand, it wasn't a very good printout. Which brings me to another issue: I really need a better printer. But that's for another thread.
• Posts: 1,060
The problem with relying on specific outputs is that you don't know which one an end-user will see...

> Doesn't the 80808080 example convince you that's not always the case?

That's due to the internal white. Like how darker weights need a taller x-height to look the same height.
• Posts: 165

That's due to the internal white. Like how darker weights need a taller x-height to look the same height.
The internal white space surely plays a role here, but I truly think the curvature plays a role too. Try hiding everything except for the bottom; doesn't what's left from the 0 still look lower? To me it does.
• Posts: 150
The problem with relying on specific outputs is that you don't know which one an end-user will see...
Which is why I’d think it’s a good idea to work with good quality prints, so you don’t design for a specific distortion but factor as much as possible of that out. Btw as Georg pointed out above, of course screens are specific too, so arguably you’re always looking at “specific output”. But screen + print at least already make for 2 different specifics.
• Posts: 1,354
Yes. Unless your brief is to design for a specific output device or condition, it is better to proof at the high end, simply because there is too much variation in the low and medium end. Of course, one gets clients saying 'We want this to work really well on screen, but also in print, and we do a lot of print-on-demand, but also high-end offset, and...'. Oh well, at least I don't hear 'We need it to fax well' anymore.
• Posts: 1,060
edited March 2017
> it is better to proof at the high end

Yes. The screen. (Reduction lenses welcome.)