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Nick Shinn


Nick Shinn
Last Active
Member, Type Person
Invited by
Admin James Puckett
  • Re: Share your pleasure and learning experience at drawing revivals

    Here is the Dair link, fixed.
    Your motivation at working on revivals is close to mine.
    I don’t think so. You asked about experience in the design process, which I recounted, not motivation, which I didn’t.

    My motivation for the Modern Suite was primarily to correct a couple of misperceptions prevalent in 2004 (and perhaps still), namely that the didone genre has poor readability, and that the sans serif is a modernist, 20th century invention. Also, I felt that the available Scotch Moderns were too cookie-cutter clinical in their finish, and there should be a more “post-printed” version published—a concept established by ITC Bodoni.

    My motivation for Goodchild was again contrarian, namely to produce an old style newspaper text face. I figured why not base it on the source, Jenson.

  • Re: Share your pleasure and learning experience at drawing revivals

    I prefer to do original work, but I have drawn a few revivals and restorations, in which I aim for either facsimile-level authenticity or major reinterpretation, I’m not a big fan of tinkering. I work from printed samples, but not foundry specimens. Some PDFs:

    Dair (Cartier, 1967)
    Drawn over scans (no autotrace)

    Modern Suite (Scotch Modern, Figgins Sans, mid 19th century)
    Drawn by eye (no scans)

    Goodchild (Jenson, mid 15th century)
    Drawn by eye (no scans)

    I’ve certainly found satisfaction in being able to use my fonts to create facsimiles of ancient documents—in fact, achieving that goal was a large part of the production process, which I hesitate to call design. There is design, though, in expanding the character set and features, but it’s still not in the same league as creating new, original typefaces.

    A big motivation, and reward, in doing these revivals was investigating and gaining an understanding of another time, another place, another technology, through the process of design, as an adjunct to academic, literary-intellectual wisdom. Trying to get the letters to combine nicely in the same manner as the original, one goes through the same trials and tribulations, no doubt, as the original designer, and it’s a weird kind of out-of-body feeling, like being in their skin, or having them look over your shoulder as you’re slaving away.

  • Re: Ordinal/superscript feature for French

    I don’t put a Superscript feature in every typeface, but when I do, I include the basic alphabet, plus egrave.

    I also include figures, parentheses, plus, minus, period, comma, dollar, cent and ®.

  • Re: Are we heading towards a "VariableFontCloud"?

    Then, practising type designers will become high-concept style curators.
    That is, if their social media identities are free of blemish. 
  • Re: I trained a neural network to kern a font (mostly)

    Theunis, I wasn’t addressing drudgery, but the quality of a type design. 

    By artificially removing the type designer’s exercise of taste in determining spacing, design veers towards impoverished me-too sequel, proscribing emergent qualities. That’s how algorithms create bubbles to trap people in cultural stasis.

    Artificial means fake, dontcha know. What’s intelligent about that?

    On the subject of drudgery, I suspect many type designers might actually enjoy putting on some favorite tunes and playing with the lovely glyphs they’ve drawn, getting to know the relationships between them all a little more profoundly, exercising one’s judgement, thereby keeping one’s good taste in shape (fitness!) and up to date.

    As well as drudgery, kerning might also be considered meaningful human activity, after Morris, or Gandhi’s spinning. Type drawing is craft.

    It’s important to develop new techology in a humanistic manner. For algorithms, that means treating them as tools to enhance the user’s abilities, not bypass and atrophy them. Therefore, the interface is critical. The worst situation is offering no control of the settings (preferences). Even when those are editable, so often the user just sticks with the default. Worse, many agencies and design firms change the default kerning settings in InDesign etc. to “Optical”, a dodgy proposition which can go spectacularly wrong.

    But all this is theory; let’s see some typography.