Does that “y” exist?

Sometimes I see that kind of “y”, but usually in non-professional typefaces. Does it really exist in the world of “good typography”?



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  • Actually it can often be just the ticket (especially in terms of spacing).
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 1,172
    Yes, it exists, and can certainly be appropriate to this style of type, but yours is too wide, as is your lowercase u (your uppercase U, conversely, is too narrow). Begin by making the counter of the u and y the same width as that of the n, and then gradually reduce their width until they appear optically balanced with the n. A counter with an opening at the top will tend to appear wider than one with an opening at the bottom, so the u and this form of y usually need to be made slightly narrower than the n.
  • The illustration is Nordique from Andrea Leksen, not by OP (though the good advice holds).
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,150
    Well yeah, but it needs a bum-shaped “w” to keep it company.
  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 636
    Would it work in Cyrillic as well?
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 1,172
    Would it work in Cyrillic as well?
    In a type style like this, yes it could. This construction — with related uppercase — is found in handwriting, and could be adapted to type that also uses the monocular a and g like this one.

  • Hrant H. PapazianHrant H. Papazian Posts: 699
    edited August 28
    Would it work in Cyrillic as well?
    As long as that's not what its Latin "y" looks like.  :-)
  • Ofir ShavitOfir Shavit Posts: 326
    I hope it's ok (remove if not) to ride on this topic, asking the same question about this g' I came up with while working on a new typeface (and another one). It is an hybridisation of two and one stories g'.
    Do you know any? What do you think about it?


  • Ofir ShavitOfir Shavit Posts: 326
    Thanks @Hrant H. Papazian !
    I moved the discussion here.

  • I call this [alternate] the Van Koch g.
    I am not sure this form is an alternate. And who is Van Koch? Do you mean Rudolf Koch? In fact, these, or similar, forms are common to many Art-Nouveau typefaces, e.g. Belwe-AntiquaBernhard-AntiquaSchelter-AntiquaSouvenir (ATF and ITC), Hobo, and very probably, more.

  • Hrant H. PapazianHrant H. Papazian Posts: 699
    edited August 29
    @Maxim Zhukov  Sorry if I was unclear: that glyph is an alternate in FF Ernestine (where the main form is similar but has an ear). As for "Van Koch", that's a humorous (well, I try) portmanteau of Van Gogh (lost an ear...) and (Rudolf) Koch...
  • Maxim ZhukovMaxim Zhukov Posts: 53
    edited August 30

    @Maxim Zhukov  Sorry if I was unclear: that glyph is an alternate in FF Ernestine (where the main form is similar but has an ear). As for "Van Koch", that's a humorous (well, I try) portmanteau of Van Gogh (lost an ear...) and (Rudolf) Koch...
    But Hrant, all typefaces I referred to, have their ‘ears’ uncut. What sets them apart from the ‘regular’ forms of the g (single- and double-storey) is the special treatment of their lower portions (‘loops’). No wonder I missed your ‘Van Koch’ joke. 

    All designers of those typefaces I referred to were German, except Benton. Some experts believe that the design of Benton’s Souvenir was influenced by two German faces—Schelter-Antiqua and Schelter-Kursiv—from the eponymous foundry’. I suspect, the reason of German designers’ experimenting with the form of the l.c. g was their desire to hybridize two conventional varieties of the g—monocular (in Fraktur) and binocular (in Antiqua).
  • Thank you, Ken!

  • The German standard baseline does not fall at the same uniform, fixed proportional position for all sizes of type, they way it would in a scalable digital font. Certain sizes of type got very, very short descenders, which really only work for blackletter typefaces.

    Kent Lew said:

    Here’s an illustration of the scheme.
    Thank you for this priceless information, Dan and Kent. Do you think the reasons of popularity of the ‘bobtail g’ form in German typefaces of early 20th century were mostly, or entirely, technological, not aesthetic?


  • Basically, since the bobtail-g seems to have become popular in the era after baseline standardization had already been institutionalised.

    I do not have “proof” of this; meaning that I have never read an article or letter where a designer said, “I make my g look like this because of the availabile baseline space,” but I have developed a hunch.
  • Kent LewKent Lew Posts: 626
    I do think Dan’s hypothesis is an interesting one. The appearance of this style when it did may be more than purely coincidental. I don’t know that anyone will ever run across any definitive “proof,” though.

    Given the examples cited, the bobtailed form seems to have found greater reception with the Germans. The few experiments by Benton did not seem to have any lasting influence in general among American designers, anyway.
  • Maxim ZhukovMaxim Zhukov Posts: 53
    edited August 30

    ⟨…⟩ I have never read an article or letter where a designer said, “I make my g look like this because of the availabile baseline space,” ⟨…⟩.
    But you might have read, or heard, bitter complaints at the difficulties in designing typefaces for the line-casters using duplexed matrices—





    —or horror stories on struggling with the Monotype’s 18-unit system. Yikes.
  • Dan ReynoldsDan Reynolds Posts: 93
    edited August 30
    Indeed, I have read both! However, most German type designers in the foundry type era did not have to worry about these things. So the comments I am aware of come from non-German designers.

    The number of German type designers who designed for Linotype was (basically…) limited to those who designed for D. Stempel AG. Intertype adapted several German designs for their machines, but as far as I know, the designers of those typefaces did not work on the adaptations themselves; I have not double-checked this, though. The number of German type designers who worked with Monotype in the U.K. during the foundry type era was also relatively small, at least in comparison with the number of German type designers who worked with German type foundries. What I am getting at is that I have not uncovered so many complaints in that direction. I suspect that the young Hermann Zapf may well be on the record for comments like you suggest, however.

    As I mentioned in my Kerning talk, I have not run acrosss German type designer criticism of the standard baseline, which is something I would be more expectant to find than German designer criticism of typesetting machines’ design requirements. Thanks to Jan Middendorp, I know that there were Dutch type designers who DID complain about the German standard baseline, although not as much as Van Krimpen complained about Monotype’s 18-unit system (is it possible for anyone to complain about anything as much as he went on about that?).
  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 79
    edited August 31
    Clearly I'm no professional type designer. The only thing I could see (apparently) wrong with the typeface sample that began this thread was that the capital Y should have had a shallower V-part and a longer stem. The width of the letter U completely escaped me.

    Now, the typeface is unusual in that the upper case is a conventional geometric sans-serif, while the letterforms in the lower case have a special rounded shape. Since the specimen given shows the two alphabets separately, I can't judge whether their juxtaposition will be problematic.

    As for the lowercase w, it looks like the lowercase v, not the lowercase u, in most typefaces, so I don't see that the wrong shape was chosen for it.

    Thanks to Jan Middendorp, I know that there were Dutch type designers who DID complain about the German standard baseline, although not as much as Van Krimpen complained about Monotype’s 18-unit system (is it possible for anyone to complain about anything as much as he went on about that?).
    Obviously, if anything actually happened, then it is possible for it to have happened. :)

    However, I am still surprised that the 18-unit system is a significant cause for complaint. I had not found the coarseness of the 9-unit system of the IBM Selectric Composer to be visibly apparent.

    That does not mean that it did not have limitations. The letters M, m, and W should have been 11 units wide, not 9 units, to be in correct proportion. Also, unlike the situation with the Monotype caster, all typefaces were spaced the same way, which led to the same painful limitation for italics as found on Linotype - and further problems for any typeface other than Times Roman, for which they spacing chosen was appropriate.

    However, that an 11-unit system would not have caused problems for the reader of a text doesn't mean that it could not have meant much more work for the type designer.
  • When I adapted Times to the widths of the Selectric Composer, I found it quite distorted some of the letterforms and proportions. M and W were particularly bad, yes.
  • Thank you for this interesting historical information.

    I searched for historical information on Van Krimpen's objections, and I see that it was his preference to design directly for the unit system, even though the usual practice at Monotype was for designers to make their drawings without reference to it, with the letterforms then being adjusted by other hands.

    This suggests that Van Krimpen's more serious objection was to the reworking of his designs in a significant respect by others, but I have not yet read his comments on this subject.

    As to Monotype's practice, this is quite understandable given historical precedent. At ATF, the widths of characters also fit into a grid, but quite a different type of grid than used by Monotype. There, the width of each character was a multiple of 1/4 point (this is actually an oversimplification; in larger type sizes, quantization to a unit of 1/2 point or 1 point would be used if it seemed reasonable, and in the other direction, 1/8 point may have been possible).

    This meant that for a given size of type, the widths of the characters had more flexibility than in Monotype's system.

    At Monotype and ATF, when a typeface was produced in different sizes, the smaller sizes were optically adjusted; they were slightly wider in proportion to height, and also usually slightly bolder. In the case of Monotype, the width adjustment had to go in steps of 1/4 point of "set width".

    But in the case of ATF, this meant that the relative widths of the characters had to be altered, admittedly only slightly, for every type size.

    Given this precedent, Monotype may have felt that the aspect of design workflow noted above, where someone other than the typeface designer would adjust the face to fit within the constraints of the unit system, would be workable and acceptable.
  • Incidentally, in doing a web search, I see that you created the Virtual Composer font which was used in an attempt to establish that the Killian memos were inauthentic. I wasn't able to find out who originally drew Press Roman for IBM.
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