Q: What are the basic and advanced principles of turning body text sans into serif and vice versa?

Vasil StanevVasil Stanev Posts: 204
edited May 24 in Technique and Theory
Hi gang,
I am looking for the opinion of designers that have done such projects for non-displays. Do you change the overall stem thickness and in what ways, what are the pitfalls across weights and italics, have you run into peculiar cases that need special treatment, is there something I should know that is not mentioned here.
Thank you in advance

Comments

  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,290
    I’ve created suites of sans and serif, designed to work together, but I don’t believe in transforming one into the other. That goes against the principle of contrast.

    My biggest concern is that they both appear to have the same horizontal scaling.

    The Bold sans and the Regular serif should look like they have the same x-height, as this combination is most likely.
  • Jasper de WaardJasper de Waard Posts: 303
    I’ve created suites of sans and serif, designed to work together, but I don’t believe in transforming one into the other. That goes against the principle of contrast.

    My biggest concern is that they both appear to have the same horizontal scaling.

    The Bold sans and the Regular serif should look like they have the same x-height, as this combination is most likely.
    Don't you normally optically equalize the x-height of the Regular sans with that of the Bold Sans (same for serif)? Then it shouldn't matter which weight you choose to match the serif to, right?
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,290
    edited May 24
    Not when the serif has much more contrast than the sans.
    In that scenario, different serif weights are likely to have a consistent x-height. 
    But the sans x-height increases the bolder it gets.

    That’s what I did in my Modern Suite:

  • Jasper de WaardJasper de Waard Posts: 303
    Aha, I see what you mean now. But to me, the two types in your top example only look aligned because they are close to each other. If I pull my focus away from the horizontal center of the image, the x-height of the bold sans appears smaller than that of the serif, due to the larger counters of the serif.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,290
    edited May 26
    For the round characters, perhaps, but I find that the tops of the thick vertical and angled straight stems in the Bold have a lot to say in defining the x-height.

    Also, the perception of x-height is, I think, somewhat subjective; all one can do as a type designer is try different heights and see which looks best to one’s own eyes. I did make experiment with print-outs of body text at various sizes, and was happy with the equal x-heights of the Regular Scotch and the Bold Sans, which I wanted to preserve for display purposes. In particular, I was influenced by the Edward Jones wordmark, in which the sans seemed too tall in the x-height, at least for my taste. But what do I know, maybe Mr Jones liked the logo concept but asked the designer to “Make my surname bigger!” 


  • AbrahamLeeAbrahamLee Posts: 191
    FWIW, I agree about the bold sans x-height looking too tall.
  • Jasper de WaardJasper de Waard Posts: 303
    Yes, me too, and you are entirely correect about the subjectivity of it all of course. That's actually a rather significant problem i  type design in general
  • Kent LewKent Lew Posts: 782
    That's actually a rather significant problem i  type design in general
    Or an opportunity for the graphic designer/typographer to exercise their art & skill in matching/sizing.

    It’s not always up to type designers themselves to solve every typographic challenge. You do the best you can, then turn it over to the users and hope they have taken time to develop their own skills.
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