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John Savard


John Savard
Last Active
  • Re: Aspects of quality for a typeface

    This reminds me of the famous quotation:

    "If there were an individual, readily recognized quality or characteristic which the type designer could incorporate in drawings that would make any one type more beautiful, legible, or distinguished than another, it is obvious that only type of that kind would be designed." - Frederic W. Goudy

    It was obvious to me what he meant by that. So many songs are written and recorded every year, and only a few catch on and become popular. So many expensive movies are made with high hopes, and then flop. As with music and movies, there's no easy way, no shortcut (in the vein of "more cowbell", humorously advocated for country music), to designing a typeface so that it will be accepted.

    Craftsmanship in the design of a typeface is essential, but it doesn't guarantee a good result, it only makes one possible.
  • Re: Brain Sees Words As Pictures

    While I can read Cmarbidge, Cgiarbmde doesn't work.
    This might be because the latter's letter dislocations are too great (throwing off the parallel compilation) but it could instead/also be because the descender is moving too far, disrupting the bouma.
    For myself, the first thing I think of is that in Cgiarbmde, the "g" has become a hard g, while in Cmarbidge, the sounds stay the same, but are re-ordered.

    The idea that it is all interrelated - we see the individual letters, the bouma, the context of the words, the apparent sound values - makes perfect sense to me.

    And with such a complex process, learning a new and different script means throwing most of it away until facility in the new script is acquired. So even if it would cure dyslexia, I don't think we will switch to an adaptation of the Korean writing system any time soon.
  • Re: Kerning and Nick Shinn's mashed potatoes preference

    Kent Lew said:
    do feature some kerning... in the traditional sense of bits that hang over the rectangle.
    Exactly — These are equivalent to negative sidebearings. But not pair kerning, in the sense of specifically targeted adjustments.
    Of course, though, kerns "in the traditional sense" have one thing in common to targeted adjustments versus a negative sidebearing. If a kerned letter like an f  with an overhang is followed by a letter like another f, or an l, or an i, instead of a letter like a or o, either one has to follow it with a space so that the kern has something to rest on, rather than colliding with the succeeding letter and being damaged, or one has to use a ligature instead.

    The idea came from metal type, after all. Applying kerning to letter combinations like Ya, Yo, and so on, while much more common in phototypesetting, was also on occasion done with metal and wood type, at least in display sizes, by physically cutting the type slugs.

    It is precisely because kerning was considered so valuable that it was even done in metal type, despite the difficulty of doing so in metal type, that it is generally considered to be very worthwhile to do in digital type, now that there are no longer practical considerations preventing it. If kerning hadn't been invented until digital type came along, then the suggestion that it isn't really worth bothering with would perhaps meet with a warmer reception.

    But, as noted, using the technique of kerning to facilitate setting type in as tight a fashion as attainable, while it may have some validity for attention-getting advertising typography in large display sizes, is indeed something in the deprecation of which for general text typesetting I am happy to join.

    The fact that kerning can be abused doesn't mean that kerning isn't a good thing.
  • Re: Article on typography & culture wars

    That, as Hrant as said, typography may be more politically charged than we are willing to acknowledge, may well be true.

    However, I don't think that the article referenced made a convincing case for this.

    Of course a particular typeface or style of typefaces can, for historical reasons, acquire a negative connotation. But that's not a problem, it just means people will avoid it, unless they want to identify with extreme views.

    As for Serbian and Croatian: the issue has to do with writing systems, with scripts, not with typefaces. The problems with Arabic typography are real, and indeed due to colonialism, but they too are far off the purported topic of the article.

    If they could have tried to show how, say, the use of Scotch Roman or Baskerville, or even Times Roman, instead of Helvetica or Univers, sent an insidious message that patriarchy and tradition were just peachy... even if I didn't agree with them, at least I would have admitted they were actually talking about what they were claiming to be talking about.

    As it is, the article showed that typography is perhaps not as utterly devoid of political subtext as we might like to think... but not that this is so to any extent that requires anyone to actually do anything about it.
  • Re: What is a newspaper typeface?

    I would put it this way: with a large x-height, and with open counters, newspaper type has to lack certain features that suggest grace and delicacy. That does not mean that it cannot be designed with aesthetics strongly in mind; that does not mean that it cannot be beautiful in some respects.

    But when you combine those deficiencies with a need to be very familiar and comfortable to a wide range of ordinary readers, it is likely that the resulting face will not be all that interesting to those whose primary interest is aesthetic and not practical.

    I would not call Melior ugly; but then, I would not call Corona ugly either, and yet I can understand that some might feel that way. However, of late, the technical requirements of newspapers have changed, as they're now being printed by offset lithography instead of by stereotype, and that has reduced the problem.