Overbold: Ignoring Eric Gill's Advice

So this illustration from Eric Gill's Essay on Typography recently showed up on my Twitter stream. In it, Gill shows that there is a limit to the boldness of classical serif typeface, since making the stems too heavy will lead the architecture of the letters ad absurdum. He calls this overbold, and obviously means to discourage the reader from inflicting it on an actual typeface.
So of course, I did it anyway. :grimace: 

Is this worth pursuing? I know Gill's answer, but I'd like to get a second opinion...


  • I think this is quite charming (especially the "B").

    The core flaw of Gill's sentiment arises from something most type designers misguidedly cling to: chirography as letterform architecture.

    That said, when it comes to a text face, the useful range of weight is quite limited; far more limited than virtually all contemporary designers want to admit (and arguably stemming from the overly–screen-dependent comically dark Bold styles of the MS Core Fonts). In contrast (pardon the pun) Aicher had it right (which I've emulated in my Patria). Make all the crazy-dark weights you want. Just put them in the display cut, don't bundle them in the text cut. But I digress...
  • Rob BarbaRob Barba Posts: 86
    "A work of art doesn't have to be explained." - Louise Bourgoise
  • Damn lucky type isn't art.
  • It is precisely the "B" that could be shaped much more consistently.
  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 1,086
    I remember that there was one major typeface - Futura? Bodoni? - that had a "black" version that didn't really look like it was a member of the family. So I think a valid concern is raised. Although it's the wrong kind of concern, in a way.

    To say that after the weight of a typeface is raised beyond a certain point, the result no longer looks like a weight variant of the original typeface... may mean that the result is merely named wrong, without being a bad typeface, not having been worth drawing.

    So the concern can be valid while what it implies is invalid.
  • You've reminded me of Gill's own Kayo, which was meant for use in the advertising industry, and he himself famously described as "an ugly typeface for an ugly profession"...
  • I remember that there was one major typeface - Futura? Bodoni? - that had a "black" version that didn't really look like it was a member of the family.
    That would be Futura.
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 2,703
    Both Futura Black and Gill Kayo seem to be members of ~ entirely different families, with only a nominal relationship.

    Although arguably less extreme, highly compressed or condensed family members often also have some design shifts, particularly straight sides—a phenomenon discussed in the recent thread Hrant linked to, above: http://typedrawers.com/discussion/3088/ultra-compressed-flat-siders
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 2,940
    edited March 2019
    Gill's 'overbold' illustration seems to me deliberately freakish, employing forms and techniques that don't follow from the models of extreme heavy types that were developed in the 19th Century, e.g. those from A.W. Kinsley & Co., whose 1829 specimen should be studied by anyone interested in really heavy types.

    [ @James Puckett's Sybarite is a really nice revival of one of the Kinsley types, but not the heaviest, which I think was the twenty-line pica.]
  • That's only true of his #12.
    BTW deliberately freakish is trending...
  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 1,086
    Damn lucky type isn't art.

    It seems that this thread is the better place, then, to reply to your statement "Presumably desiring a freedom that is anti-user. Art." in the related thread.

    Type, by and large, is indeed a tool for practical use. And so type designers should keep the ultimate use of what they produce in mind. That makes sense, I'm not inclined to argue against it at all.

    But do I see signs that Monotype Imaging, or Bitstream, or any of the other major foundries are about to let their type designers forget this for a minute? Nope.

    What I do see is bazillions of type designers, some struggling to actually sell some of their fonts through MyFonts and the like so they can make a living despite rampant piracy, and others who just do it as a hobby and upload their stuff to Google Fonts, hoping it might actually get noticed.

    Do I feel threatened that some of those type designers maybe think they're Vincent van Gogh, and design typefaces to satisfy their own creative urges instead of some practical need?

    Also no.

    A typeface is a collection of graphical images. So type design is a field within the graphic arts. A typeface can be a work of art and a practical tool at the same time, and there is really nothing in the nature of type itself that forces its creator to choose one of those alternatives instead of the other. Type can be an art, it can be a craft. Nothing is making the choice for the type designer - except, possibly, the need to pay his rent.
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 2,940
    edited March 2019
    That's only true of his #12.
    Also his overbold serif (No.8), I think. Type designers and sign painters had figured out more than a hundred years previously that the way to make a really heavy A and still have reasonably sized counters is to make give it a flat top, i.e. to add proportionally more weight on the outside than the inside.
  • Craig EliasonCraig Eliason Posts: 1,396
    Some letters are normal and some are funny-looking but charming--only the /R/ is really not working for me.

    I wonder if instead of just thick and thin you could introduce a third medium-width stroke used judiciously to solve the trickiest letters like /R/ and maybe /B/. I have in mind the way that some bold eights cheat at top right and bottom left:

  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,458
    This is already normal practice.  The eye is more important than the ruler.

  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 2,128
    Further to Craig’s comment, you could make the R more like the B, that would be better, in my opinion.
  • Christian ThalmannChristian Thalmann Posts: 1,936
    edited March 2019
    Good point about the /R/. Meanwhile, I've started on the lowercase.
    Funny: This is a sort of typeface I normally can't stand, but it's ironic enough that I can like it that way. :wink: 

    Yes, the /e/ is ugly; I'll have to change it.
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 2,703
    Nice treatments of lc descender on the g and j.

  • the lowercase g is really nice
  • Craig EliasonCraig Eliason Posts: 1,396
    edited March 2019
    Yes, fun /g/, looks like a satisfied pet laying down on its tail.
    Did you try small tittles, in the vein of the /a/ teardrop or /Q/ tail?
    Radius on the rounded tops of ascenders seems too wide to me.
  • Thanks! Yeah, /g/ was tricky. It's probably the lowercase letter that best picks up the «big body, small face» principle of the seminal /A/. I'm wondering whether I can make a few other letters weirder in the same way. I've been wondering whether I could get away with an /e/ with only one heavy stem, like /c/, and a tiny face on the right side.
    Capital /J/ originally had the same tail as /j/, but I simplified it because no other cap echoed that drop terminal (other than Q, I now realize). Maybe I should bring that back.
  • Added missing lowercase letters and made some changes to /J/Germandbls/c/e/. I also sharpened the tops of the ascenders and related step tops in /n/ etc.

  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 2,128
    Oswald Cooper explored this area:

  • Interesting! He's definitely preserving the «sane» shape of the letters, though; the only deformation seems to be some strangely informal-looking bulging at the detailing level.
    (Oh, and I can't parse that /f/ as anything other than /i/ unless I look very closely. It's a deiinite ilop!)
  • First draft of figures. Still pretty chaotic.

  • Your zero's taking a nap... Nice.

  • I've always loved the logo of De Volkskrant (a major Dutch newspaper), which has a similar, albeit less comical, style.

  • Kent LewKent Lew Posts: 905
    Cooper Fullface was later renamed Cooper Modern when picked up by ATF and a new 'f' was designed, due to criticism of the original shown in Nick’s scan.
    When I get a spare moment I can make a scan from the Book of Oz, if you’re curious.
  • Nice catch, Jasper! Actually, the Volkskrant reminds me more of my Maestrale than of Overbold, what with the tall ascenders.
    BTW, I redesigned the /t/, I think this works much better:

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