Elemaints - A Serif Family with Optical Sizes



  • I am suitably astonished that this typeface was crafted using METAFONT. After seeing Computer Modern, I had leaped to the mistaken conclusion that the tool had severe limitations that prevented it from being used to design "real" typefaces, unlike TrueType and Adobe's Type 1.
  • Linus RomerLinus Romer Posts: 109
    edited November 2020
    @Christian Thalmann Yes, the second part of the /ff seemed to be too much to the left at the lower arc (altough the stems were mathematically parallel). I have tried to fix this optical offset:
    The italic /Germandbls is particular tricky in combination with the /S as it occurs at "GROẞSTADT" or "GAUẞSCHE". I have not yet found a satisfactory solution (should I slant the /S more instead?):

    @John Savard Well technically spoken, METAFONT does not miss anything for the production of Type1 outlines, because you have full control over the generated paths (and many cool things like automatic solutions of constraints, nice automatic choice of bezier controls, nice automatic choice of angles). However, when it comes to creation processes where one has to do a lot of trial-and-error, a wysiwig solution like a modern font editor is preferable, imho. Upright uppercase letters are relatively easy to program in METAFONT but italic lowercase is a pain, because the "metaness" (the property, that the sources work for different faces) is difficult to gain. Here are some examples of my METAFONT sources for regular and bold at optical size 10:

    And here is an example, how the italic looked at optical size 72:
    You may notice that the bulbs (teardrops) look okay at size 72 but strange at size 10. But believe me, even getting to this point needed terribly much effort. Then there are things like angle corrections in italic faces which make all the calculations much more complicate. The letter /e was the reason why I gave up investing more time in the METAFONT sources. It seemed nearly impossible to reach a solution that would work for all faces. While my METAFONT sources are still needed as a base for the capital letters (and therefore are sometimes updated slightly), the lowercase italic letters have been drawn from scratch...
  • This might be insightful... The Monotype Modern No. 8A (which was the font that Donald E. Knuth has used in his books before Computer Modern) in comparison to Computer Modern (which is much lighter because the digitization of the METAFONT sources did only use the raw paths without any ink protrusion):

    In my opinion it is no coincidence that the italic /S, /s, /f and /$ look rather different in Computer Modern.
  • The new /f_f/ might be overcompensated just a bit? Certainly much better than before.
    As for the /Germandbls/, I feel there's much room for improvement. Luckily, I know just the infographic to help you! :grimace: 

  • The new /f_f/ might be overcompensated just a bit?
    Well, yes. Nobody shall say I didn't give more than 100 % :) New try:

    My inspiration for the /Germandbls came from http://std.dkuug.dk/jtc1/sc2/wg2/docs/n2888.pdf
    But from there I seemed to walk in the wrong direction... Now (after consulting your infographic and Cormorant) this is the new version:

  • The new /f_f/ looks very fetching. Either the right sidebearing or the kerning seem to be a bit off in «different», though.
    As for /Germandbls/: I don't oppose Andreas' design with the heavy diagonal, per se. Your original rendition was unbalanced and pinched, though. I do tend to favor a thin diagonal in typefaces with strong humanist vibes, such as yours.
    Your new rendition does look much better to me. It could still be a tad wider, the interior serif could be reduced a bit, and perhaps the top right corner and the belly could align a bit more vertically? I could also imagine raising the roof to be more horizontal on the right-hand side could work, though I'd have to see it to know.
    BTW, disclaimer: I may have strong opinions on the design of /Germandbls/, but that doesn't necessarily make me an expert. :grimace: My views are not shared universally among the German type design community — perhaps get a second opinion and draw your own conclusions...
  • @Christian Thalmann The spacing/kerning of the italics will be optimized later (when the shapes are more or less settled), but yes: The space between /ff and /e is too wide, I will try to fix this later.

    Regarding the /Germandbls: Raising the roof is an improvement and I have made it wider. The more aligned belly (see picture below right) seems too crowded to me, I'd prefer the version below left (which still has a reduced belly). I have reduced the inner stem serif to strengthen the impression of two separate letters but did you really mean the stem serif - or did you mean the bowl serif?

  • Christian ThalmannChristian Thalmann Posts: 1,597
    edited November 2020
    Yes, the right version has perhaps a bit too prominent a nose. Something between the two might be ideal.
    It's a good idea to reduce the interior stem serif, but I did mean the bowl serif primarily. I'd shorten and thicken it.
    Bowl shape is nicer on the left.
    BTW, to judge the width and the solidity of the roof, it's imperative to put it into context. I used BROẞSEE from my infographic because it allows comparison with B and S and is long enough to establish the stride of the caps. (I don't know whether there is an actual lake by that name; I got the word from typographie.info.)

  • Here are new versions of the /Germandbls. I used BROẞSEE as well (BUẞSTRAFE may be an alternative that really exists):

  • Here is how /ae has developped:
    The first two versions were not easy to distinct from /oe. Therefore I took the /a from the roman /ae, slanted it and added the italic /e. With some adjustions it became the version to the very right.

  • Christian ThalmannChristian Thalmann Posts: 1,597
    edited December 2020
    Those /Germandbls/ are certainly not bad! Not quite perfect either, I suspect.
    First, the different grades are quite inconsistent with each other. The Display is too narrow in my opinion, the Bold a bit too wide even for my tastes (although it might just be too light). And the Italic looks like it's leaning more than the rest of the letters?
    I also worry that my recommendation of a heavy roof and thin diagonal might have been misleading. My first impression was, «What's Cormorant's /Germandbls/ doing in this typeface?» It might be that Elemaints is a bit more transitional than Cormorant, at least in the capitals, and that the striking triangular roof looks too calligraphic in comparison.
    If you plan to stick with the concept, maybe try a less tapered roof, maybe even raise it to be fully horizontal on the right side, and maybe make the joint between diagonal and belly a bit less acute? (For the last part, perhaps look to /S/ for inspiration?)
    Otherwise, I'm wondering whether the Stötzner model of thin roof and thick diagonal might serve you better after all. Do keep your new and improved proportions, though!
  • Linus RomerLinus Romer Posts: 109
    edited December 2020
    I have tried some variants (upper left is the "original" from my last post):
    The upper /Germandbls have all the "Dresdner Form". The lower left form seems strange to me, but the "Duden-ß Form" (the three ẞ to the lower right) is quite okay for me.
    I already know, that Andreas Stötzner in "Zur Formfrage des versalen ẞ" says:
    In diese unglückliche Kategorie gehört z.B. das berühmte Duden-ß. Abgesehen davon, daß es als Muster zum Schreiben viel zu verwickelt ist, taugt es nicht wirklich als Versal, da es durch eine asymmetrische Verteilung dreier Binnenräume komplett aus der Art schlägt:
    The first argument is not important for the font (that it is difficult to write by hand) and the other (asymmetric counters) is an argument that could hold for the other shapes as well.
  • Christian ThalmannChristian Thalmann Posts: 1,597
    edited December 2020
    Numbers 2 and 4 look good to me (the difference is only weight?). The thin monolinear corner in 3 is unacceptable in my opinion.
    There are proponents for the form 5 (Frankfurt), but I'm not one of them. It looks like /TZ/ to me, and I avoid it.
    I wouldn't call the last form the Duden-ß, since that has a full circular dome leaning on a lowercase s. Strangely enough, the Duden pulls it off quite convincingly, but yeah, I wouldn't recommend it for a text face.
    What you have in 6–8 is simply the Leipzig Form. I tend to find it a bit too decorative for a text font, but the German government's house typeface famously pulls it off (the Zehlendorf subtype). I think all your solutions are too light and too prominent in the top right, though.
    Can you show 1, 2, and 4 in context?
  • Here are 1, 2 and 4 in context:
    I would prefer the variant '2' of these three. What do you mean by "too prominent in the top right": Too dark in the top right?
  • Christian ThalmannChristian Thalmann Posts: 1,597
    edited December 2020
    They all work quite well, but I tend to agree that 2 is best. The spacing might be a bit off, though? Too much white on the right side?
    The flat roof works better than the sloping one (even if I still find myself wondering what 1 would look like if you raised the roof to horizontal). I do like the openness of the counter in 1. I wonder whether 2 could still be improved by pushing the inner corner outward a bit, making the right-hand structure a bit more vertical (as per the Zürich design).
    At this point, it's Jammern auf hohem Niveau, though. It's certainly much prettier than most ẞ out there in the wild already! :grimace:
  • Yes, the spacing is not yet optimized. I have tried to improve the spacing slightly and have followed your advice:

  • Christian ThalmannChristian Thalmann Posts: 1,597
    edited December 2020
    Both very nice. The top one’s probably a better stylistic fit. Good job! 👍
    You might want to write out a few more such words to get a feel for it.
  • @Christian Thalmann Thanks for your advice and patience. Here is a bit more context (please excuse the yet suboptimal spacing).

    Bold Caption:
    Italic Caption:

  • To my eye, top left feels light in all of these and diagonal feels heavy in romans esp. lighter weights. 

    Also, this never occurred to me before, but I wonder if giving cap eszett a little overshoot would be appropriate. 
  • Hmmmmm...
    In context, that top right shark tooth catches my eye a lot, and the drawn-out yielding curve on the top left enables the impression. It's most evident in the Caption Regular. I also note that the effect fades upon longer inspection, so maybe it's not a problem...?
    I wonder whether Craig's weight suggestion might already solve the issue. Otherwise, maybe taking the tooth back a bit might help, or horizontally compressing the right-hand structure a bit more, or allowing the left shoulder to reach the horizontal earlier...?
    Could you show the same words with the calligraphic version (thin diagonal)?
    Craig's idea of overshoot could also help, if applied to the shoulder on the left but not the horizontal roof on the right.
    As for the other cuts: The display is nice, but a tad narrow for my tastes (even accounting for the general narrowness of the display cut). In the caption bold, the bowl serif crowds the gap too much.
  • Considering the comments of Christian and Craig I tend to go back to "thin diagonal" variant, which I tried now to improve (e.g. less curvature at the upper right corner, more inside space in the display face, slightly narrower bold face). I am not sure if it solves Craig's issue about "too light upper left corner", though. I think the upper left corner should have approximately the stroke width of the \S,\O,\C,\G,... at the top.
    Bold Caption:

    Italic Caption (this is still terribly ill-spaced):

  • Hmm, honestly I preferred the previous version. The roof looks triangular and downward-pointing here. The former is almost impossible to avoid if you want a light top left curve and a heavy roof, and the latter is a consequence of the former (and the fact that you don't want the top outline of the roof to slope upwards). If you prefer this kind of contrast distribution, I'd probably go with a round rather than straight roof so that the downward motion is at least intentional.
    I do think the light roof and heavy diagonal are a better match for your typeface, though. Just make the top left curve heavier (like the bottom left of /U/?) and the diagonal a bit lighter, as Craig suggested.
  • The problem I had with the heavy diagonal was the overshoot. This looked strange to me at first glance but now I am becoming used to it:

    I have already made the upper left darker but it seems not to show much effect without making the top stroke heavier, which would like this:

  • Christian ThalmannChristian Thalmann Posts: 1,597
    edited December 2020
    Sorry to keep dragging this on, but... Could the diagonal now be a tad too light now...? And the bowl possibly just a bit too heavy? (The latter might be moot if you make the diagonal heavier.)
    And I can't believe I'm saying this, but... it might be a bit too wide. As you might know, my taste is on the extreme end of the width spectrum for this letter, but in the recent discussions on my own designs (Ysabeau and Cormorant), I've gotten enough community pressure to try out some slightly narrower designs, and I see the point. (Don't worry, I'm still on the far end of the width spectrum, and still think most current designs are too narrow...)
    I've made a quick mockup of what I mean for the diagonal and the width, hope you don't mind:

    From up close, I prefer the lighter of your two roofs. I'd probably have to see more text at smaller sizes to know for sure.

  • I carried over your mockup:

    Applied to the other faces and with more context:


    Bold Caption

    Italic Caption

  • Looking pretty good. Diagonal in Italic Caption strikes me as yet too light.
  • Yes, I believe we have a winner! :#
    Is the Bold perhaps still a hair too wide? And maybe the bottom gap is a tad too closed in Bold and Italic Caption?
  • I have made the diagonal in Italic Caption darker, made the Bold slightly narrower and opened the gap in Bold and Italic Caption a bit. Additionally I had to make some adjustions for the interpolations (e.g. the miter cut at the upper right shark tooth and the curves left of it):

  • Love it! I believe you're done. :grimace:
  • Thanks for all your advice, Christian and Craig!

    Parallelly I have been working on Greek Italic Caption. One challenge was to get /nu and /v distinct:
    Making the Italic /nu and /v distinct also meant to change the Regular /nu (before: below left, after: below right):

Sign In or Register to comment.