Sculptural Beauty: an invitation to participate

While working on type I sometimes take screenshots because I am intrigued by the image on the monitor. The layout of windows, details in the Bézier curves, the combination of colors, or even the file structure can –unintentionally– produce beautiful pictures. Most of these pictures are not saved and therefore evaporate: after all, one cannot capture everything. Consequently, quite a bit of the beauty of the type-sculpting process will only be for the sculptor’s eye and will remain unseen by third parties.

Sculptural Beauty

Although this is just speculation, one can imagine that illustrious punchcutters such as Nicolas Jenson, Francesco Griffo, Robert Granjon, Claude Garamont, and Johann Michael Fleischmann –to name just a few– must have known familiar moments when they were satisfied, enthusiastic, or even proud of what they saw through their magnifying glass as they worked on type. Unfortunately it was not possible to make ‘screenshots’ to share and document this. That would have resulted in a kind of kaleidoscopic overview with patterns and series of elements from the past.
Nowadays, type designers and font producers can use many different font tools/editors and add their own functionality through scripting. If we would put all the screens together, we would see an abundance of shapes, structures, and colors. This would result in a more or less overall picture of our time. If we saved and collected these snapshots, that would give a unique insight into the production processes of fonts from the early 21st century. Moreover, it would also result in an æsthetically attractive coffee-table book, for example with the title Sculptural Beauty.
Today’s increasing environmental problems are hard to ignore. The type designer and font producer’s business is more successful than ever before, thanks to innovative computer and printing technology and, of course, globalization. The increasing exchange of information forms the basis for the success of the graphic design profession with typedesign in its wake. Unfortunately, the reasons for the success cannot be viewed separately from the pollution of the earth.
The aforementioned coffee-table book could not only save snapshots of the digital font production processes, but could also be used to somewhat counteract the environmental problems. Undoubtedly, not printing the book would not put extra pressure on the environment. However, the revenues from the book can be used to support an organization or institute that, for example, tries to clean the oceans, or helps to preserve or save forests such as in Australia.
My suggestion is that together we create the book by making screenshots of our font-production processes. The total number of images, i.e., pages, must be between 300 and 400. The format would be something like A4 landscape with a hardcover. The production costs of the book must be borne by the participants, who have to pay around $ 25 per page. A maximum number of pages per participant may need to be set based on the offers. I think it would be appropriate to print the book digitally. This also offers the possibility to produce it in small quantities, depending on demand, at different locations in the world. After all, the closer it is produced to customers, the lower the transport pressure on the environment.
Apart from the images, the book must contain a foreword and a mention at the back of the participants, the font tools, and hardware that they used when the screenshots were made. I would rather see the overall design and the associated organization handled by graphic-design students. Maybe an ad-hoc publishing company should be established for the occasion. How the project, including distribution and necessary administration, must be organized, remains to be seen. If it were supported by a few major players in the profession, that would, of course, be great.
Because the production costs are borne by the participants, the profit per book can be considerable. A retail price around $ 30 should make it attractive for a relatively large audience. It would be a great gift for Christmas 2020, I reckon. Perhaps as an incentive, we should think about making a kaleidoscope using digital-type based scripting.

Comments

  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 1,774
    While I've often pondered the best way to document digital font development — and make a point of saving copies of my font sources at significant moments along the way —, I think you might be overestimating the interestingness of such visuals.
  • Undoubtedly, not all screenshots taken during the production of digital fonts will be visually interesting. Moreover, we can of course disagree about what is interesting or attractive in this case.

    IKARUS for UNIX

    For example, I find the screens of the old IKARUS for UNIX, which we occasionally still use on macOS, quite attractive and I often like the DTL GPOSMaster screens. Another type designer / font producer may find these boring. However, Sculptural Beauty will be aimed at a larger audience than just our direct colleagues. People who are interested in (graphic) design, may consider our profession, our tools, and associated screenshots as quite exotic.

    DTL GPOSMaster
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 1,774
    I can imagine a website showing the user interfaces and working procedures of lots of different tools, including historical ones, would be of interest to a lot of type designers. Still not convinced there's enough interest for a book, but would happily be proven wrong.
  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,675
    If the book is a Kickstarter project it’s easy to find out if there are enough interested buyers.
  • > The increasing exchange of information forms the basis for the success of the graphic design profession with typedesign in its wake. Unfortunately, the reasons for the success cannot be viewed separately from the pollution of the earth.

    I’m sorry, but I miss the point here.

  • The ever increasing consumption and the success of graphic design are inextricably linked. Whether it is about designing books, magazines, posters, or the texts on packaging, the growing production has increased the global market for graphic design. Printing has always been polluting, but the burden on the environment due to the unlimited distribution of information on the web should also not be underestimated: the data centers are already pumping huge amounts of electricity.
  • Vasil StanevVasil Stanev Posts: 501
    edited January 21
    I don't often screenshoot my work, but than and again I take inspiration from letter combinations to do some artwork. Looking at black and white characters the whole day screams for some quality time drawing comic ones.




  • and here's a ninja:
  • Adam JagoszAdam Jagosz Posts: 587
    edited January 22
    @Vasil Stanev I'm loving your take on TypeDrawers :smiley:
    I mostly take screenshots when I see weird interpolation errors and other amusing accidents, or while drawing and achieving an interesting but otherwise unintended result. But I do this so inconsistently that I couldn't retrieve anything more interesting than this (/zero overlaid with /equals):
  • Apparently I should have made it clearer that the proposed book is meant to show screenshots of the environment in which the digital type is being made (see above). Not so much what is made, but how it is made should be the subject (en passant inevitably showing what is made, of course). As I wrote: ‘If we saved and collected these snapshots, that would give a unique insight into the production processes of fonts from the early 21st century.’
  • You seem to blame typedesign for damaging the world, on one side, and yet propose a book which heralds the attractiveness of typedesign, on the other side …  to me this is completely incredible. What do you want? If you feel typedesign is doing harm to someone (or to all, if it comes to that), than you are free to just stop working on type altogether. But I don’t expect you convincing anyone of the idea that the charm of your inhouse screenshots have anything to do with the environmental issues of the world.
    Just my 2 ct.s

  • Adam JagoszAdam Jagosz Posts: 587
    edited January 22
    @Andreas Stötzner I think Frank meant type design as a silent accomplice to the actual criminal that is consumption.
    @LeMo aka PatternMan aka Frank E Blokland I got you the first time around. I think though that a more interesting approach would be to use the video format rather than image format, let alone print, and make a documentary with a hint of tutorial. Otherwise, it's just a bunch of more or less ugly GUIs.
    Edit: There are pretty things in this area like anchor clouds and curvature visualisation, and maybe kerning tables or feature code. So maybe something could be carved out of that.
  • Hello Andreas, in principle you are absolutely right IMHO. However, I love my profession too much to stop and tried to soothe my conscience by suggesting: ‘The aforementioned coffee-table book could not only save snapshots of the digital font production processes, but could also be used to somewhat counteract the environmental problems. Undoubtedly, not printing the book would not put extra pressure on the environment. However, the revenues from the book can be used to support an organization or institute that, for example, tries to clean the oceans, or helps to preserve or save forests such as in Australia.’ The participants in the book will have to pay for its production, as mentioned.
  • Hi Adam, although a video would be especially interesting and educational for colleagues, as well as a special website, my idea is that a coffee-table book could reach a larger audience. Moreover, we may not share the same ideas about what is visually appealing when it comes to the screenshots in question. As David Hume wrote in Of the Standard of Taste (London, 1757): ‘Beauty is no quality in things themselves: It exists merely in the mind which contemplates them; and each mind perceives a different beauty.’
  • Vasil StanevVasil Stanev Posts: 501
    edited January 24
    All I can find on the topic is a screenshot of a green-eyed j.

    I was sure I had a well-synchronized @ somewhere (for interpolating), but it must have just been in my mind. :)
  • I'm often entranced, or as in this case, mystified by what I'm seeing on the screen and from time to time I take photos, screen caps and recordings. (This was two overlapping points in Glyphs... plus the moire pattern from the pixel grid.) 

  • Here are pictures of my process : the first one shows Gustine ligatures in FontForge, the second one is an explanation I gave on FaceBook about the third one which was an exemple of the memory aids I published there too before as an humoristic image.


  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 1,774
    Ivan, consider using contextual variant ligating forms of letters instead of ligature glyphs. You'll be able to cover the same kind of typographic refinements with far fewer glyphs.
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 1,825
    Yes, that ^

    For example, a variant ff ligature that goes before all those accented letters, you can use that in place of about 7-8 of those glyphs.
  • @John Hudson and @Thomas Phinney Thanks for your replies ! Of course you are right ! The only problem is that at the moment I am not able to understand the tricky part of FontForge about contextual substitution. I never found any effective enough step by step tutorial about it. And outside drawing sometimes I am somewhat lost ;-)
  • Adam JagoszAdam Jagosz Posts: 587
    edited January 28
    To me FontForge's GUI for OT is unacceptable. You need to create lookups manually instead of writing code. So to avoid this, I always created my code in a text file by hand and merged it in (File menu) before export or for testing, then reverted the file or removed the lookups so that I could merge the next revision. (Oops. Sorry for continuing off-topic.)
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