The M formula...

The M formula, William A. Dwiggins, Orphaned work, authorization by University of Kentucky Libraries

http://reader.lgru.net/texts/the-m-formula/

Interesting read... presented here for discussion.

Comments

  • One of the best things in typeface design, yet to be fully realized.
  • One of the best things in typeface design, yet to be fully realized.
    So realize it!
  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 461
    edited September 10
    What was not realized, I take it, is specifically the "Marionette formula" itself, a letter form that uses straight lines in place of curves, to give an illusion of curvature that is better than the curve itself.
    I think I have seen at least one typeface which is an example of that principle, although I don't recall its name offhand. I'm not sure it's even a useful idea any longer, seeing as we live in the days of laser printers instead of letterpress. Although it might anti-alias better on a screen...
    But what caught my eye on reading the article were instead the two quotes, about how the typeface of the future would echo the beauty of Greece and Rome without being a Caslon revival.
    That, I'd say, was quite handsomely realized in Times Roman.
  • «I don’t believe (and you do not either, of course) that you can make a type-letter by copying a pen-letter the way W. D. Orcutt did.»

    A reference to Sinibaldi?
  • But what caught my eye on reading the article were instead the two quotes, about how the typeface of the future would echo the beauty of Greece and Rome without being a Caslon revival.
    That, I'd say, was quite handsomely realized in Times Roman.
    All that Times evokes firsthand is not, to me, primarily, beauty. Rather an economy of means, rationalization. Also, where do you see the beauty of Greece in Times Roman? I suppose Dwiggins is talking about classical greece, so chiefly not calligraphy or print.
  • P.S. @Alex Kaczun thanks for posting this excerpt.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,444

    I’m not sure how much WAD’s theory has influenced me, but I have made the smaller optical sizes of typefaces more angular and chunky than the display cuts, as in Pratt Nova, above. (Put you smartphone on the floor for full effect.)

    Two text types that come to mind, with a possible M-theory quality (although one is sharp and the other soft), are Freight Micro and Quadraat. 

    **

    While the dimensional quality of WAD’s puppets relates to that of metal type, the principle he noted had been long established on stage, in theatrical make-up.
  • I like the text version of Pratt Nova, from the PDF it seems it works nicely on screen as well. I’d have kept the small caps a bit larger, ’though.
    Quadraat is complex… One of my favorite text typefaces, if not my favorite.
  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,157
    Thanks again, Tiffany! 

  • Nick Sherman has explored following Dwiggins sketches.

    https://hex.xyz/#Marionette
  • Kent LewKent Lew Posts: 892
    There was also this early homage of sorts by Christian Schwartz.
  • John Downer’s Paperback for House Industries creates its curves from straight lines, with fewer of them at small sizes. I have often debated in my head whether it is an exemplar of WAD’s M formula.
  • In addition to Sherman’s and Schwartz’s takes on Hingham (Experimental 223), don’t forget David Jonathan Ross’ Turnip, which was actually released for commercial use. We used it on Typographica for a while.
  • Hrant H. PapazianHrant H. Papazian Posts: 1,549
    edited September 12
    I would take the M Formula more broadly/deeply than using literal straight lines. Not least since it's really about illusion, not formalism. I've applied the concept directly on only one occasion myself: what I call the "cuspid serif", intended to give some subvisible bite :-) at smaller sizes, while appearing to be the fully adnate variety.


    But to me the deeper relevance of WAD's genius here concerns the white. The spirit of the negative space in Hingham's "g" is specifically what I alluded to above as being MIA, even in WAD's own work. It's saying –whispering– something rarefied but important.

    I get flak for this, but: I don't think even WAD realized its full relevance, arguably held back by his dedication to chirography (which paints the black, necessarily at the expense of a full elaboration of the white). One designer who has taken this up in earnest is Ben Mitchell:

  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 461
    edited September 12
    The original Monotype Times Roman, as I have seen it in some British books, indeed sometimes just looks depressing. Too dense, too black. Particularly in small point sizes, as some publishers seemed to be fond of using it.
    But Linotype's version, for example at 11 points, with some leading, does look to me like a typeface that is clean, modern, and beautiful. It only misses being the perfect typeface by being too "visible", and thus failing to tick off the crystal goblet checkbox.
    As for the excuse for Times Roman that comes out of today's laser printers, the less said the better.
  • FWIW Evert Bloemsma (as an aside who claimed "a straight line is a dead line") was a fan of TNR.
  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,157
    "a straight line is a dead line" unless it has to be straight.

  • The gayer the livelier!
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