Transforming Typeface Design: Moving Beyond Gutenberg and Roman Traditions

Options
Please read this post at LinkedIn:
https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:7201017969437491200/

and contribute to the topic.

Kind regards,
Tagged:

Comments

  • Thomas Phinney
    Thomas Phinney Posts: 2,785
    edited May 28
    Options
    Although I like LinkedIn better than most social media platforms, why would I use the post here to contribute to a discussion there?

    There are a few questionable things in the article. What on earth is “neuro-optical technology for fast reading”? Is that the so-called “bionic reading,” for which we have zero evidence that it actually works (and one study that suggests it does not)?

    Advanced rendering engines, such as ACE (an SVG graphics rendering engine), offer unlimited customization in character presentation without losing Unicode information.” Calling Decotype’s ACE “an SVG graphics rendering engine” is at least incredibly misleading. I think it is simply wrong, but even if ACE were to use SVG graphics under the hood somewhere, that is certainly not the point of it, and is almost irrelevant to what it is doing.
  • adamwhite
    adamwhite Posts: 8
    Options
    Hi Thomas, thank you for contributing. I didn't say that you need to contribute at LinkedIn, but to read it there. Contributing on LinkedIn would be beneficial for more reach, especially for the people who are not the part of typedrawers community.

    Yes it's the so called bionic reading. I mentioned it as example that is made with a whole new mindset of optical presentation, and not as something as proven or not. In such matter we can say that all classical typefaces (promoted as readable), are not proven except they were the only option offered as reading experience. (Even Gutenberg's pile of calligraphy misused as accessible readable text).

    ACE is not using SVG graphics under the hood somewhere, but it's rendering pure SVG paths compositions. SVG became a web standard so it's nice to mentioned it as that, but in the core of vector graphics it doesn't matter since it's just math calculations presented with shapes. Yes ACE has many more important functions, but understand that people don't know anything about it so I can't present it with any term without missing other descriptions.

    In the years of communicating with people about it, I didn't see that word "Advanced" men anything to a "hard wall".

    I am glad that you are aware of ACE, and this is the one of the main reasons I am starting this subject. It's a hard battle to present such tech to people, unless it's from a "tech giant". Actually it is, but people don't know it's a "giant".
  • Thomas Phinney
    Thomas Phinney Posts: 2,785
    edited May 29
    Options
    adamwhite said:
    Yes it's the so called bionic reading. I mentioned it as example that is made with a whole new mindset of optical presentation, and not as something as proven or not.
    It is not a whole new mindset. There have been many, many snake oil concepts in reading and fonts before. The problem is not a lack of ideas, it is a lack of proof. In this case, the ONLY evidence we have says “it does nothing.” The burden of proof lies on the people making the extraordinary claims. Repeating such claims uncritically is a disservice to the public.
    adamwhite said:

    In such matter we can say that all classical typefaces (promoted as readable), are not proven except they were the only option offered as reading experience.
    Nonsense. The question of whether some typefaces are easier to read, and for whom, and under what conditions, has been very extensively tested, for “classical” typefaces and many others. There are entire books on this subject (e.g. Reading Letters: Designing for Readability by Sofie Beier). There is even an entire book on how to do research in this area: https://www.nowpublishers.com/article/Details/HCI-089

    Not all “classical” typefaces are the most readable, of course. But in general, on average, typographers’ beliefs about what makes typefaces readable? They map reasonably well (albeit not perfectly!) to test results.

    There are some interesting and notable exceptions, like the bouma vs parallel letter recognition problem. In this area the typography community’s commonly-held belief was… just wrong. But again, research has shown the way. But that particular issue did not make much difference to actual design of letterforms, which may also have been why it was a challenge to test.

    Some well-known reading research results include these:
    • most of the performance differences between most typefaces are small in testing, but they do exist. More extreme/unusual typefaces can have stronger effects, however! (e.g. throw a blackletter typeface into your test and you will see a stronger effect of variation between typefaces)
    • difference effects are strongest under more difficult/marginal reading conditions
    • typeface performance differences are real and reproducible, and we know a fair bit about what factors differentiate more readable typefaces from less readable ones
    • other aspects of typesetting, besides the choice of typeface, have a large impact on reading
    • we do not “read word shapes” (boumas) but rather, at least primarily, recognize letter shapes in parallel
  • Ray Larabie
    Ray Larabie Posts: 1,387
    edited May 28
    Options
    Reading is an amazing process, maybe that's why people often resort to magical thinking and pseudoscientific ideas to explain it.

    @Thomas Phinney has there been any research on how the familiarity of a typeface affects reading? Conducting such a study might be challenging, as a new typeface would require a considerable amount of time to become familiar to readers. Perhaps this is why many new approaches fail to yield results. That familiarity might eclipse any marginal improvements in a novel design.

    @adamwhite Science has proven time and again that LinkedIn sucks.
  • adamwhite
    adamwhite Posts: 8
    Options
    @Thomas Phinney, you said:

    "It is not a whole new mindset. There have been many, many snake oil concepts in reading and fonts before."

    When I wrote about it in my post, I didn't speak from the side of point is it a working concept or not. I mentioned it as new mindset in the way it goes away from the "standard" text presentation. It goes beyond the adopted pattern (even it stays in it some part). So I meant in the way it's visually presented.

    "But in general, on average, typographers’ beliefs about what makes typefaces readable? They map reasonably well".

    Now you bring the point which is an argument against you (even I don't try to refute you, I just try to explain and detail on the topic). Typographers' beliefs even being confirmed later is just a belief. They didn't make a research and then produced characters.

    So in regards to this "bionic", did anyone made a research about it and proven it's not working? Again I emphasize, I don't claim that it is working or not. I don't know.

    In my personal experience I don't know is it helping me to read faster, but as I am hyperactive person it helps me to focus on some parts of the text and I see it as a technique to be used in that way. Similar to bluring some parts of the visual content and focusing the clear one. That is the dimension you need to think as well, that we all have different experience with accepting visual content and our minds work differently because of many reasons.

    Capitalization of the first letter in paragraph or a chapter doesn't make you read faster but to say it doesn't help you to visually index the content or focus faster on it would be at least irrensponsible.

    Based on this "are they right or not", we can open so many subjects, like why do we use typefaces as we do for centuries? Why do we insist on uppercase and lowercase letters. Why do we insist on keeping character forms of the medival people and not follow practices of those before. Why do we calculate typeface sizes based on em box even it has no sense. Why do we and why do we...

    That is the reason of my post, to open all subjects and bring many people to the "table" to discuss and open our views.

    As in any tech there are much factors which makes something readable or not as well.

    For an example, in primary school, for me it was quite easy to read handwriten text as we were daily engaged in writing and reading it. Years after when being exposed mostly to print letter forms it became much harder to recognize handwritten characters.

    As well for reading cyrillic which is less and less used in my enviroment.

    Media exposure plays a big role in reading experience.

    One more example is using written emojis like :), :D, :P etc. With the expansion of graphical emojis younger generations hardly recognize these "retro" forms.

    Thank you for sharing resources, I will read it and learn more about. I am not acting as any authority or claiming stances, I try to lead a discussion which will bring attention of many people as possible and bring some solutions.

    @Ray Larabie you said:

    "has there been any research on how the familiarity of a typeface affects reading? Conducting such a study might be challenging, as a new typeface would require a considerable amount of time to become familiar to readers."

    That us the one of the most important points. Getting familiar with certain visual content plays a big role in the speed of recognition. For an example if you see a man from the distance, if you already know him, only few features are enough to recognize him. If you see a new person it doesn't matter how "optimized" he/she is. It doesn't matter until you have certain timeframe of experience with him/her.

    @Ray Larabie I don't claim that LinkedIn is good or bad, or is it the number one platform to speak about this topic. My perception is that opening such subjects will stay gated if only happenes on specialized forums. If you don't have a community of aware users, what's the point of a high quality service. ACE is an excellent example of such. It's the best tech almost no one knows or cares about. It can bring benefit only when people are introduced to it and can recognize benefits.

    We can always say that most of the stuff related to typography is not necessary. In many areas as well. But as we want a variety of possibilites and to act as a modern progressive society, then it's shamefull to stay on some patterns which are chosen by few biased people.





  • John Hudson
    John Hudson Posts: 3,034
    Options
    Aside, re. ACE and SVG: my understanding is that this was specifically the mechanism developed to render ACE layout on the Web, essentially a ‘font’ consisting of a folder of SVG graphics of radicals from which to compose text. Part of the flexibility of the ACE rendering model is that it is not tied to a particular font format, or to fonts as commonly conceived at all.
  • Thomas Phinney
    Thomas Phinney Posts: 2,785
    Options
     Typographers' beliefs even being confirmed later is just a belief. They didn't make a research and then produced characters.”

    Not true. There have been many studies that worked exactly that way! Some done by psychologists, some by type designers. I literally cited entire books, which cite many such studies.

    So in regards to this "bionic", did anyone made a research about it and proven it's not working? Again I emphasize, I don't claim that it is working or not. I don't know.”

    Not only has there been that research (as I already said!); there has even been a second study, one that also finds no statistically meaningful effect. 
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/38723450/
    The first study is here: 
    https://blog.readwise.io/bionic-reading-results/

    (Note that the effect is actually negative, in both studies. But small and not statistically significant.)
  • adamwhite
    adamwhite Posts: 8
    Options
    Aside, re. ACE and SVG: my understanding is that this was specifically the mechanism developed to render ACE layout on the Web, essentially a ‘font’ consisting of a folder of SVG graphics of radicals from which to compose text. Part of the flexibility of the ACE rendering model is that it is not tied to a particular font format, or to fonts as commonly conceived at all.
    Yes I meant when rendering on the web, since Tasmeem plugin is deprecated. In any whey the final output can be whatever, it's the least problem.
  • adamwhite
    adamwhite Posts: 8
    Options
    “ Typographers' beliefs even being confirmed later is just a belief. They didn't make a research and then produced characters.”

    Not true. There have been many studies that worked exactly that way! Some done by psychologists, some by type designers. I literally cited entire books, which cite many such studies.

    “So in regards to this "bionic", did anyone made a research about it and proven it's not working? Again I emphasize, I don't claim that it is working or not. I don't know.”

    Not only has there been that research (as I already said!); there has even been a second study, one that also finds no statistically meaningful effect. 
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/38723450/
    The first study is here: https://blog.readwise.io/bionic-reading-results/

    (Note that the effect is actually negative, in both studies. But small and not statistically significant.)
    I just hardly noticed quote link below as an option. So much to say about UX at this site.

    I meant in early stage of typeface design developement. Not about later research. Typeface design historically is not based on research but on the timeframe practice.

    I could say as well for this "bionic" unless they make claims which are falsely presented as correct and not and pure belief or opinion.

    The first link you sent couldn't be open. It has some error, but I will read these other you sent. Thank you.
  • Thomas Phinney
    Thomas Phinney Posts: 2,785
    edited May 28
    Options
    Sorry that link does not work for you! Maybe it is geographic limitations? Snell’s article is also posted in many other places. Here are some of them (or just search on “Snell bionic”):
    I meant in early stage of typeface design developement. Not about later research. Typeface design historically is not based on research but on the timeframe practice.”

    Typeface design is often influenced by current understandings of legibility, and this in turn is influenced by research.

    I can even think of a case where a particular feature, in a particular (very popular and widely-used) typeface, is there because the type designer misunderstood a particular term/phrase in legibility research.
  • Craig Eliason
    Craig Eliason Posts: 1,412
    Options
    adamwhite said:
    The first link you sent couldn't be open. It has some error, but I will read these other you sent. Thank you.
    If you mean the nowpublishers link, it's because the URL picks up the close-parentheses at the end in Tom's post. Clicking the link then adjusting the url to omit the  ) worked for me. 
  • Thomas Phinney
    Thomas Phinney Posts: 2,785
    Options
    Ah, quite right. Perhaps some helpful admin can fix that in the original post.
  • adamwhite
    adamwhite Posts: 8
    Options
    @Thomas Phinney Yes @Craig Eliason was right it's because of the parentheses at the end.  Why admin, can't you just edit your comment and delete both parentheses?

    Thank you for all resources. As I mentioned stem width in my post. Can you share any resources about decission practices for a starting size of a stem width in typeface production throughout history?

    Frank E. Blokland writes many details at https://www.lettermodel.org/ about origins of character proportions and possible grid systems, but I didn't encouter any sources for stem width specially. 
  • adamwhite
    adamwhite Posts: 8
    Options
    adamwhite said:
    @Thomas Phinney Yes @Craig Eliason was right it's because of the parentheses at the end.  Why admin, can't you just edit your comment and delete both parentheses?

    Thank you for all resources. As I mentioned stem width in my post. Can you share any resources about decission practices for a starting size of a stem width in typeface production throughout history?

    Frank E. Blokland writes many details at https://www.lettermodel.org/ about origins of character proportions and possible grid systems, but I didn't encouter any sources for stem width specially. 
    I mean he has this article: https://www.lettermodel.org/stem_widths.html and a LeMo method, but I mean some other sources like books, articles, and researches.
  • Thomas Phinney
    Thomas Phinney Posts: 2,785
    Options
    (Ah, I can indeed just edit the post! But for most of the history of this website, they disallowed edits on posts that were more than 4 hours old. Once one has gotten used to the limitation, one stops trying. Perhaps this is new with the recent software update and redesign.)

    Blokland’s website is an introduction to his PhD dissertation, and it links to the dissertation online at https://openaccess.leidenuniv.nl/handle/1887/43556

    You can buy the printed book version online from websites such as this one: https://www.lulu.com/de/shop/frank-e-blokland/on-the-origin-of-patterning-in-movable-latin-type-bw-trade-edition/paperback/product-1erzj7j6.html?page=1&pageSize=4

  • John Savard
    John Savard Posts: 1,099
    Options
    It may well be true that designing typefaces with a mindset keyed to Roman characters and mediaeval penmanship limits their applicability to new media in the digital age. But I was amused when I read that statement none the less: because I remembered how one of the most notable typeface designs which attempted to break out of the traditional straitjacket, Hermann Zapf's Optima, ended up unsuitable for laser printers (at least at low resolutions near 300 dpi) never mind screens, because instead of serifs, it used a gentle tapering of the strokes that was hard to reproduce with discrete pixels.
    When Marshall McLuhan wrote "The Medium is the Message", he had something else in mind also; that even if old content fits a new medium without problem, its meaning is transformed by the fact that the new medium gets used differently.

    First, let's look at what my Optima example suggests. Letters aren't written on the screen of a computer with a quill pen. So this definitely does give great freedom in the shapes of letterforms. But this is not new. Think of Calypso or Bifur. Obviously phototypesetting gave a near-absolute freedom in designing the shapes of letterforms - although phototypesetting would normally be followed by lithography, and while it didn't have the same level of problems with ink traps that letterpress did, I'm sure it still imposed restrictions.
    And just look at a lot of 19th century specimen books, which often contained very ornate display typefaces.
    If the freedom to design radically different letterforms has already been around for a long time, might it not be reasonable to conclude that digital media, of themselves, will not change the habits and preferences of the human beings reading text on the other side of the screen?
    Perhaps the biggest change is that the screen glows of itself, instead of the white background of text simply supplying a matte reflection like paper... which makes eyestrain a greater concern in the digital age.
    With respect to technologies with greater destructive potential than the art of typefounding, "we must because we can" has often been a very bad idea.

    On Star Trek: The Next Generation, a computer screen in the background depicted the language of one alien race, consisting of characters which were animated spheres with colored patterns on them.
    Our technology now allows us to prepare documents for the use of such beings, should the need arise.
    But we are not such beings, whose psychology is such as to make that a more effective means of written communication for us than plain old letters.
    Our needs and wants are such that Parkinson's Law still works - we use new technologies to fulfill our needs and wants until their limits are reached and we need to deal with the consequences. Some new technologies do provoke new desires: computers let us play video games instead of just board games, for example. But the process doesn't need to be forced, especially for something as basic as reading - which works best if texts are in such a form as to be easy and quick to read.

    This response, of course, only presents one side of the question. I admit that new technology in media probably does open exciting new possibilities in typeface design. But what these possibilities are - what innovations which would be genuinely useful, instead of being different for the sake of being different, and hence being rejected - will be visible to people with rare levels of insight. Those without such inspiration are better off not wasting their time, I fear.
  • adamwhite
    adamwhite Posts: 8
    Options
    @Thomas Phinney Thank you.

    @John Savard Those are interesting examples. So many factors to think about.