What are 'true italics'?

24

Comments

  • Michael ClarkMichael Clark Posts: 135
    People are going to do as they wish and it is beyond your and my capability to stop them. I do not know if there is a "better" term but italic is, to me, not "appropriate."

    If it is a "true" writing style then why not classify it as cursive.
  • I guess some of the dissent has to do with terms losing accuracy in translation. Apparently, italic is not the same as cursive to Michael. In the Netherlands however – where Roman vs Italic is taught as the two types of construction – the native term for italic is cursief. Likewise, an upright italic would be eine aufrechte Kursive in German.
  • Jan SchmoegerJan Schmoeger Posts: 280
    Is this one of the occasions where English is the odd one out among the other European languages: apart from the German and Dutch mentioned above, the Italian is "corsivo" (?), Russian "курсив", Czech "kurzíva", Spanish "cursiva". What is it in French?
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,166
    English is the odd one out among the other European languages…
    English is not really a European language. That’s why it doesn’t have those funny little marks over a lot of the letters.
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 1,190
    edited May 2013
    Italic, functionally, refers to a class of letter that is used in a particular, conventional and articulatory way in most Latin script typography. I'd say this use, based on textual function rather than specific style characteristics, has to play a rôle in discourse about italics, even if this ends up with convoluted statements such as 'The italic of the Seria family is an upright cursive'.
  • Michael ClarkMichael Clark Posts: 135
    edited May 2013
    This is as close as I can come to an upright italic. It just happens to be joined in some instances which would imply that it is a script. It, if it were not joined as it is here, would be cursive... joined would be a script. I guess it is a hybrid. But who cares. It intimates the hand wrought form. It has only a slight lilt but enough to shout written... hence italic. Once again, I apologize for coming from where I do but it is inculcated into my lexicon, my definitions/nomenclature.

    And yes, American English falls short in this conversation!
  • Michael ClarkMichael Clark Posts: 135
    edited May 2013
    I am truly not trying to be trying here... it just seems that people are parsing certain segments of "genres" and labeling things without the key ingredient. And yes, English is truly a hazard in this discussion. Slope is the key for me, and it has been historically. But the particular font in question in this thread was lacking in carry through (probably laziness or ignorance) which, had it been carried through, would have lessened my willingness to opine.

    And Florian... italic to me, with my historical background, is cursive. Script emanates
    from the pointed pen and engraving plates influenced by them.
  • I am a week late to this party, but it was Martin Majoor's Seria that convinced me that an 'upright italic' (at least one that in places is only nominally slated) makes perfect sense. It's the cursive/flowing form of the letters that makes all the difference. Just imagine if some imaginary ur-cancelleresca writer didn't place the paper exactly perpendicular to the direction of the line, but a few degrees past it ...
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 1,190
    In his two books of talks and essays The Tree of Meaning and Everywhere Being is Dancing, Robert Bringhurst uses Rialto Piccolo as the text face. The Rialto italic isn't perfectly upright, but the slant can only be 2–3 degrees off vertical and it relies on distinctively cursive forms and horizontal compression for contrast with the roman. It is more than adequately effective.

    There are always going to be some outliers. In an English sentence, if you italicise just the personal pronoun I then readers may easily miss the emphasis if the italic type isn't sufficiently slanted. I expect other languages throw up similar situations. But I don't think these outliers present a strong argument against cursiveness and other non-slant aspects of italic types being sufficiently distinct from roman for many purposes.
  • Seria is fabulous. There is substantial differentiation between the upright and the italic due to major change in width and structure between the two. And there is some angle, even though it it minimal. Not at all what is going on with Kolyada, IMO.
  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 980
    Cursive you, Red Baron!
  • If we're not to call them upright italics, is there a better term?
    Considering Kolyada, the italic form is on the verge of losing it's emphasis.
    The emphatic form of upright roman in this sort of interpretation might simply be called "romanic".
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,166
    edited October 2013
    One can talk and write about truth in type, but with regards to this thread, it’s an issue that Bree addresses by design. And very nicely, I might say!

    Pluto too, with a more cursive approach.
  • Ben BlomBen Blom Posts: 174
    So, for people who believe in the concept “upright italic”, Pluto is a good example of an “upright italic”. If so, those believers might prefer to rename “Pluto” into “Pluto Upright Italic”, and to rename “Pluto Italic” into “Pluto Upright Italic Italic”. (For them, “Pluto Sans” might be the non-italic version of “Pluto Upright Italic”. What name would they prefer for “Pluto Sans Italic”?)

    A so-called “upright italic” design makes perfect sense, but naming it “upright italic” does not.
  • I’m a half-year late to the discussion, alas.

    I’d like to make a case that the true difference between roman and italic is more one of contrast and harmony, and perhaps structure, than of slant as such.

    Sure, many faces of the last hundred years use a sloped roman as an italic (even some serifed), but in these faces, the italic offers little contrast and is very sparingly used and firmly subsidiary to the roman; many people prefer the terms “upright” and “oblique/slanted” rather than the “italic” and “roman.” The essential counterpunctal interplay between roman and italic (or serif and sans) just doesn’t exist between upright and slanted – it’s more akin to different sizes or colors. Slant alone doesn’t cut it. In fact, many apparent obliques have subtle structural changes and aren’t sloped romans, strictly speaking.

    Furthermore, some faces play with slant, further blurring the issue. Trinité has a slant of... where’s my copy of Bringhurst... one degree, just enough to be perceptible. (Well, perceptible to everybody here, at least.) Some of Deepdene italic has a slant of just over two degrees – nearly upright. Many Italian calligraphers wrote letters with italic structure (transitive strokes, lower joins, and so forth), and their letters were certainly italic (or maybe Italic). Or take Euler – it is an upright italic.

    Cheers.
  • Tiffany WardleTiffany Wardle Posts: 153
    edited October 4
    Many of those Typophile threads are now findable again. Search on Google using the string: typophile.com true italics "John Hudson"
  • Adam TwardochAdam Twardoch Posts: 301
    edited October 5
    Four years later: this is a hilarious thread. 

    Terms evolve as does type design. So in today's world, my take is the following. 

    cursive is a structural descriptor: when letters have a structure more related to fluid writing than to mechanical composition; it doesn't matter if they're upright or slanted 
    slanted is a structural descriptor: when letters are generally slanted i.e. their normally “vertical” strokes are actually inclined; it doesn't matter if they're cursive or not 

    mechanically slanted is a structural descriptor that describes the process of derivation: when letters are made purely by automatic geometric distortion (slanting) of their upright counterparts
    optically slanted is a structural descriptor: when letters look like slanted versions of their upright counterparts but have undergone optical correction

    italic is to me primarily a functional descriptor: when letters serve as a subordinate companion to other, typically upright, letters, used typically for light emphasis; however, some people may have a different notion of italic

    true italic is both structural and functional: when letters are structurally both cursive and slanted, and functionally italic — any other definition would be confusing to me; a copperplate script font is not “true italic” because, while it may be cursive and slanted, it is not functionally an italic

    — upright cursive is a structural descriptor: when letters are cursive but they are not slanted
    oblique is a structural descriptor: when letters are optically slanted but not cursive; in a sense, oblique is the opposite of upright cursive

    — upright italic is both structural and functional: when letters are structurally upright cursive and functionally italic
    faux italic is both structural and functional: when letters are mechanically slanted (could even be from an “upright italic”), and they're functionally italic 

    If “oblique” is purely structural in my categorization, then I’d admit the term oblique italic, where letters are structurally oblique and functionally italic. 

    The font in question has an “upright italic” (i.e. its italics are an upright cursive). Pluto and Bree on the other hand are upright cursives without being italics. 
  • Adam TwardochAdam Twardoch Posts: 301
    edited October 5
    BTW, these definitions may be helpful in answering the questions of “what's the difference between Bulgarian and Russian Cyrillic” or “what should italic Arabic look like”. 

    Bulgarian-style Cyrillic is more of an upright cursive when compared to Russian-style Cyrillic — though I also elsewhere said that Bulgarian-style Cyrillic is more “round” while Russian-style Cyrillic is more “square”. Note that in pre-World War II Germany blackletter was called “broken types” (gebrochene Schriften) while “roman” types were called “round types” (runde Schriften). 

    Italic Arabic many be many things. If italic is a functional descriptor, then it means that the subordinate companion to any given main font could differ in various properties: it could be more slanted or more cursive, or both — or perhaps employ a yet different strategy. 

    Hiragana is cursive while Katakana isn’t, but Hiragana is certainly not italic, not even upright italic. May be upright cursive though. 
  • Hrant H. PapazianHrant H. Papazian Posts: 718
    edited October 5
    I just got here, and I'll try to go back and read all of the above, but partly to hook this into my Participated threads for future reference I'll offer this for now:

    Using cursiveness to reference the authenticity of Italic is largely spurious, because a font is a tool that serves readers more than the artistic urges of its creator; an Italic is generally meant to emphasize snippets of text, and cursiveness is not up to that task. Slant is mostly what makes an Italic true, and in fact cursiveness generally distracts from the character of the Roman. Upright Italic for example is a terminological affectation, arguably driven by the romanticism of the hand-made. Quite often it's much better to leverage the term Cursive instead of Italic. Oh, and what is True Cursive? Not a font.  :-)
  • true italic is both structural and functional: when letters are structurally both cursive and slanted, and functionally italic — any other definition would be confusing to me; a copperplate script font is not “true italic” because, while it may be cursive and slanted, it is not functionally an italic
    While this makes sense within your taxonomy, I think the term ‘true italics’ should be avoided altogether. It seems to suggest that slanted italics with a cursive structure are truer than or superior to (mechanically or optically) slanted italics with a roman structure. When the term is used in common parlance, I always wonder if it is supposed to imply (or even state) the superiority of one structure over the other or if it is only used for want of a better term. So whatever your take on italics, cursiveness and slant, I would try to steer clear of this conceptual and terminological muddle.

    In most contexts, ‘cursive italics’ should do, given the relative rarity of upright italics. When more precision is needed, you can always say ‘cursive slanted italics’.
  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 90
    edited October 5
    Ben Blom said:
    So being noticeable slanted, is a necessary condition for an italic font. Because of this, "upright italic" is a misnomer/oxymoron.
    Not necessarily (to the second sentence quoted). Since, conventionally, italics are not merely obliques, but are also somewhat cursive, an upright typeface which has the cursive nature associated with italics could be called an "upright italic" to give it a quick, simple name.

    But this is despite the fact that, by definition, italics are slanted (at least perceptibly, although perhaps not necessarily noticeably). So calling such a typeface just an "italic" instead of an "upright italic" is a misnomer - and so is "true italic", and anything else that doesn't make it clear that what is being talked about is not actually a real italic at all.

    In other words, I think a clear distinction should be made between the use of what is, yes, technically, an oxymoron, where it is still clear what is being referred to, that is used for brevity or even out of laziness - and an actual misnomer which is misleading. Personally, I'm OK with the former, but not the latter, but you are certainly free to be more picky about what you consider acceptable.

    I have a hard time believing the designer of this typeface is actually Italian.
    LOL!
  • It seems to suggest that slanted italics with a cursive structure are truer than or superior to (mechanically or optically) slanted italics with a roman structure.
    Given how much work they are, they had better be superior! :grimace:
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,166
    Adrian Frutiger and Hermann Zapf were required to second guess their original italics for Optima (Nova) and Frutiger (Next), under the (marketing?) premise/pretext of the superiority of “truth”, but it was immediately apparent this was a mistake. The truth will out, as they say.
  • After four years of dormancy this topic seems to take the turn from discussing nomenclature to discussing marketing, and rightly so. If anything this thread shows that the various terms are largely up for interpretation, especially so when you ask your average buyer. The real issue is ab/using the ambivalence of said terms as a means to sell type. Designers are desperate to appeal to potential users with terms they presumably identify as marks of quality. All in all, this is the same issue that brings families with 64 styles and 5000 glyphs each to the market, no matter if the design calls for it or not. More is not less, in type design?
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,166
    edited October 5
    Thanks Florian, I had assumed they were.
    But had he no say in the matter?

    (I know he provided input for the old style figures, it was in the short documentary I saw at TypeCon when he was given the SoTA Award.)


  • Mark SimonsonMark Simonson Posts: 831
    edited October 6
    Sounds like Steinert didn't take him seriously when he objected. Apologized later, but too late to change it.

    I think it's possible that this cursive sans italic trend will be looked back on as a fad. Particularly cases like this where existing designs are retrofitted with them.
  • Adam TwardochAdam Twardoch Posts: 301
    edited October 6
    Linotype Univers and Frutiger Next are the late-1990s reworkings which suffer from many problems. Linotype Univers has terrible interpolation compromises (too large contrast in the middle weights), Frutiger Next has those poor forced cursive italic forms. Those projects are like remakes of 1960s films done in the 1990s. Hardly an improvement, so they’re best forgotten. 

    Univers Next and Frutiger Neue are the 21st-century reworkings. I think overall Frutiger Neue is an actual improvement, while Univers Next seems to improve over Linotype Univers but only in minor ways. Some spirit of the original Univers, especially the great square comoressed cuts, are lost. But overall, they were done in a fashion truer to the original spirit, and under the care of Akira Kobayashi. They’re much more successful reboots within the FTU (Frutiger Typographic Universe). 
  • Ben BlomBen Blom Posts: 174
    — italic is to me primarily a functional descriptor: when letters serve as a subordinate companion to other, typically upright, letters, used typically for light emphasis; however, some people may have a different notion of italic
    Italics are being used for emphasis, but also for many other purposes. Trying to define a style of letters or fonts based on what they are used for, is interesting—but not very useful. Likewise, one can try to define computers based on what they are used for—but that’s useless, because they are “universal machines” with unlimited uses. Letters and fonts are also “universal machines”. So are italic letters and italic fonts.

    Let’s keep things simple, like this: italic = slanted = oblique (and it doesn’t matter whether italics have a shape more related to fluid writing than to mechanical composition, or not—like it doesn’t matter for uprights).

  • Ben Blom said:

    Let’s keep things simple, like this: italic = slanted = oblique (and it doesn’t matter whether italics have a shape more related to fluid writing than to mechanical composition, or not—like it doesn’t matter for uprights).

    I almost agree.

    Italics are, indeed, slanted letters. So mechanically obliqued Roman is a kind of italic, even if it is not considered to be the best kind.

    Since, though, traditionally, most italics are cursive - at least when one is dealing with a serif typeface instead of a sans-serif one - one can refer to this kind of italic as "classical italic" or "traditional italic", instead of only as "cursive italic"; that is, while italic does not imply cursive, italic does suggest cursive. Which is also why one can get away with calling a certain type of letter an "upright italic".

    Once again, this gets into the question of how humans use language. Natural languages don't work in the precise fashion of programming languages or mathematical notation; they make a considerably more fluid use of the associations of words in addition to their actual meanings.

    Keeping things simple - yes. But trying to make things simpler than they can be for terminology employed by human beings won't succeed.
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