Quality; or, What Makes a Font Great?

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  • Dave CrosslandDave Crossland Posts: 1,052
     define soul please

    I seem to recall (might be wrong! :) that a few years ago you asserted that some type designs have a soul, and that many quickly-made libre fonts did not have a soul. As I remember, at that time I remember treating the concept with contempt :) 

    But I think this concept now makes sense to me, as follows:

    We are conditioned to expect type forms to be a certain way; given a handful of letters in a given type design, a system of shapes is established that determines the expectations for the rest of the letterforms. Part of our expectations are forms that confound the general system. 

    The soul of a typeface is the emergent properties of its shape system; kind of the median expected design. 

    If each letter in a typeface is in harmony with this deeper/inherent character, then the typeface has soul. If the letterforms are too repetitious, they fail to meet our expectations and thus the type has no soul. If the letterforms are drawn unusually (some might say poorly) they fail to meet our expectations and thus the type has no soul. If some letterforms are missing, the type fails to meet our expectations and thus it lacks soul. 

  • I seem to recall (might be wrong! :) that a few years ago you asserted that some type designs have a soul, and that many quickly-made libre fonts did not have a soul.

    No libre fonts involved :) It was about Naiad vs Ambiel
  • Ofir ShavitOfir Shavit Posts: 371
    @Dave Crossland I think your definition is just a definition of good typeface not of a typeface's soul. A soul is something metaphysic (If at all, it exists in the highest frequency of energy in the base of creation) and I'm not sure if Pablo meant it like that or just as a metaphor. 
    Type is made of shapes, therefore, in a regular manner of thinking it doesn't and can't have a soul, but saying that shapes are just shapes is not true either.
    An amazing phenomenon is that everything a man does somehow reflects him(/his soul maybe) and he is embedded into it. Make any sketch, and it will inevitably reflect many aspects of your personality and other mental qualities.
    Everything resonates. Even bad type :).
    This reminds me of Odded Ezer's Skype-type project 

  • I don't remember what I said years go. Heated online discussions should always be taken with a grain of salt. Quickly made or no so quickly made, libre fonts or not libre fonts, I think a lot of typefaces don't have a "soul" whatever that means.
    I think OP should give some examples of typefaces he considers as great.
  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,167
    Each technology has its own soul, as well it should.
  • Dave CrosslandDave Crossland Posts: 1,052
    Fortunately Frank's "interventions" on this board have plenty of soul :) 
  • Really good advice from the folks here. Thanks from my part for that.

    This is vague, but my personal view anyway: You can think of a typeface as a person, someone with character, habits, quirks, manners, voice. I find it easier to imagine then which are ingenious and which are mediocre, and why so; which are interesting people to know and which will be shallow or boring soon enough.

    And, please, take this humble learner's view with some critical reflection ;)
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