Reviving metal-type concrete poetry – opinions?

KP Mawhood
KP Mawhood Posts: 295
edited April 2016 in Type Design Critiques
It's a translation of Flemish concrete poetry to English language. Is it better to imitate exactly, or translate the aesthetic to take advantage of modern resources / tech? Options so far:

1) License several different fonts, with contrasting / imitative features;
2) License a super-family with one or more display weights;
3) License font(s) with modification rights, and adapt for flexibility of form.

NB: Not enough time/money to design from scratch, and I question my skill.

Examples of the Flemish original attached. Any thoughts appreciated. Thanks. :smile:
007.pdf 342.2K
032.pdf 309.5K
053.pdf 354.6K
096.pdf 304.2K
130.pdf 316.7K


  • Marc Oxborrow
    Marc Oxborrow Posts: 220
    edited April 2016
    I would choose option #1. The typefaces in the original aren't so idiosyncratic that something would be lost if similar typefaces were used with care. To me, the character of the piece is in the arrangement of the type, rather than the specific design traits of the individual typefaces.
  • Chris Lozos
    Chris Lozos Posts: 1,458
    Concrete poetry was always more visual than verbal to me.
  • Dave Crossland
    Dave Crossland Posts: 1,411
    4) Commission font(s) and opt for modification rights, and design for flexibility of form

    5) Commission modifications to libre font(s) and adapt for flexibility of form

    I'd see if 5 is viable and if not then 4 :)
  • Nick Shinn
    Nick Shinn Posts: 2,169
    I would try to create what a contemporary translation and setting would have looked like.
    For instance, you can adapt digital fonts by turning off the kerning, and by adding minute amounts of stroke weight to simulate press gain. 
    Distress is also possible.

    I might consider resetting the original so that the typography of both language treatments is consistent, because it is extremely pertinent whether both languages are to be shown side-by-side?

  • KP Mawhood
    KP Mawhood Posts: 295
    @Dave Crossland: although I can dream, there is no budget for commissioning fonts. 

    @Nick Shinn  It's intended to be a monolingual English translation, but I like the idea of setting the original with the English side-by-side for reference/comparison in different fonts. @Marc Oxborrow Agreed, I think it was a general "feeling" rather than a very specific choice of fonts. 

    In the same way that it would be considered bad practice to revitalize breaks of metal-type in joined scripts, it makes sense for a modern translation to capitalize on modern techniques. I guess this is why I was toying with the option of a super-family: precise imitation vs. modern interpretation. 

    Thanks everyone, several hours of font comparison seems to be the favored verdict. I'm very happy with that. <span>:smile:</span>