The LeMo Method



  • John Savard
    John Savard Posts: 1,100
    edited May 2023
    Below you'll find the download addresses of the new DTL LetterModeller (code name ‘LeMousine’ ;-) edition.
    Initially, I found this confusing. I saw that the application was available for free download, but it depended on the use of "skeleton fonts". It noted that those fonts could be edited using the application IkarusMaster, but one could use its "light" edition for the task.
    Searching the Dutch Type Library site, though, I only found a PDF manual for IkarusMaster, and nothing else about it.
    However, after I started to read the manual, the matter cleared up: IkarusMaster is a module within FontMaster, and FontMaster is available on the site.

    EDIT: Oh, no, that's not quite right. OTMaster is available on the site; FoundryMaster apparently is not yet available, but will become available someday. Perhaps "FontMaster" is really OTMaster, or FontMaster is a generic name for the set of tools all these belong to.
    Never mind, I have now sorted it out.
    If one goes to the "Purchase" page, only for the Windows operating system, and not for MacOS or Linux, FontMaster appears as an option. If that is selected, one is able to select for purchase any of the FontMaster utilities, including, as one of them, IkarusMaster.
    There is, however, no "light" version of IkarusMaster there, there is an academic license, and an upgrade option, both for the full version.
    It certainly makes sense that a less expensive or even free "light" version, if viewed as a promotional item, would be discontinued if FontMaster is now regarded as obsolete, and superseded by OTMaster (FoundryMaster, apparently, is not yet available). But it could also be that I still need to navigate the site a bit more to gain a more complete understanding.

  • George Thomas
    George Thomas Posts: 638
    edited May 2023
    From the DTL site:
    FoundryMaster (fm2) is the advanced successor for macOS, Windows, and Linux of the dtl FontMaster (fm) suite, which was released back in 2001.
    FoundryMaster has not been released yet.
  • John Savard
    John Savard Posts: 1,100
    edited May 2023
    First, a web search turned up a third-party site supposedly offering the light version of FontMaster for free download. Naturally, I did not trust that!
    The WaybackMachine pointed me to an earlier version of the site, which offered the light version of FontMaster 2.7, with a limitation to 256 character fonts. Interestingly enough, on the page was also a "Wine wrapped" version of FontMaster Light which could be used on a Macintosh.
    I suppose the change from Intel to Apple Silicon has meant that this won't work any longer.

    Well, this little adventure had one good result. On my web page, at
    I discuss the history of the microcomputer from the predecessors of the Macintosh onwards, at at one point in this, I note that support for the TrueType format was one of the things that made Windows 3.1 particularly successful.
    I mention the predecessors of TrueType, such as Adobe Type 1, Ikarus, and the apparently in-house one done at Linotype that used the Archimedian spiral, which I had confused with Ikarus.
    And I noted that Ikarus is still supported by the Font Master program from DTL.
    That has now been corrected. Now I note that it is still supported by the program IkarusMaster within the package of utilities FontMaster, from Dutch Type Library (DTL).
  • LeMo aka PatternMan aka Frank E Blokland
    Hi John, I am sorry for any confusion. The IKARUS format is also supported by DTL FoundryMaster, as George mentions, the successor to DTL FontMaster. I will be happy to send you the macOS, Windows, or Linux version if you would like to try it out. You can contact me directly at <fm2[at]>. More information about the DTL tools, including their history, can be found here.
  • John Savard
    John Savard Posts: 1,100
    edited May 2023
    More information about the DTL tools, including their history, can be found here.

    Thank you very much. Incidentally, I hope one of your collaborators, rather than yourself, wrote that page on the site. (It's just a matter of fact that you are a software developer, Research Fellow, and Senior Lecturer, but since that you are a renowned type designer is subjective, it would fall to someone else to write such a thing. Although, I wonder: shouldn't an exception be made to that rule for, say, Hermann Zapf or Frederic Goudy, since they are so well known, that they are renowned is in the sphere of objective fact?
    Actually, for all I know, you might fall into the same category, as my finger is not that closely on the pulse of the typographical world...)

    The light version of IkarusMaster would fully meet my needs when I end up trying out LetterModeller, so at this point the only thing I would need to know is if this version is still licensed for use, since it is no longer made available from the DTL site (and I presume 2.7 is the latest version).
    It's not as if I am a professional type designer, so not being in the market for any but the least expensive font software, it would seem unfitting to trouble you to "test drive" something like that. (Also, while I paid attention to the fact that the FontMaster tools were only available for Windows, that's what I use, so this wasn't a problem for me.)

    In any case, the cause of the confusion - that might be experienced by other people who look at LetterModeller, and then start looking for IkarusMaster (light) is, clearly, that the site was modified to reflect the fact that FontMaster is on the way out, and OTMaster is the current featured product, with FoundryMaster on the way in.
    So to correct the confusion, what I would recommend is to add a bit more in the way of reference to FontMaster on the site. Making FontMaster light available on the page again would, of course, be the ideal, because then people downloading LetterModeller would be able to edit the skeleton fonts in the manner described.
    But there may well have been excellent business reasons for removing that software from your site, so that is, of course, a decision that would have to be made after careful thought.

    EDIT: On revisiting the current DTL site, I followed a link to download a PDF which would give me more information about the Ikarus system. What I downloaded was a volume issued in connection with presenting an award to Donald Knuth for his typographical contributions, TeX and METAFONT.
    Although it would seem hardly possible, in that volume at one point, it seems you give Dr. Knuth too much credit:
    "The first time, students could write their theses without the help of secretaries, typewriters, glues, scissors and copies."
    This is not quite true. Before there was TeX, there were tools such as troff for Unix systems, which is the most well known tool of this type, and the ones I am personally familiar with, FMT and TEXTFORM for the Michigan Terminal System, as well as similar tools for other operating systems. (FMT, like nroff, or TEXT/360, though, did not support proportionally-spaced typefaces at all; troff and TEXTFORM did.)
    My search also turned up TSSD, which was used in 1976 on an IBM 370/158 at Harwell. It even did mathematical formulas! Of course, though, it was not nearly as sophisticated as TeX, but my point is that TeX was not the very first text formatting program, only one that was far more advanced than the much simpler ones previously available.
    So I wrote my thesis, back in 1980, without manual paste-up, without the help of TeX. However, admittedly, it did not need any equations, with which these earlier tools were not able to cope.

    I have now found a web page that notes that RUNOFF, from November of 1964, for the CTSS time-sharing system that ran at MIT on a modified IBM 7090 and later a modified IBM 7094, was the grand-daddy of nroff and the like.

    So it was Jerome Salzer who first made it possible for theses to be written without glue, even if Donald Knuth later did it better.

  • John Savard
    John Savard Posts: 1,100
    Back before TypeDrawers existed, and it was Typophile that served as the forum for many of those now here, shortly after I began participating on Typophile, it was "exposed" that I was obviously not a professional type designer myself...
    because I made an injudicious comment that it seemed to me that it would be better to design typefaces using pen or pencil - and paper - rather than trying to design them on a computer screen with a mouse.

    Thus, it was with some interest that I noticed, in the history of the software associated with the Ikarus font format, that it was indeed designed with this production flow in mind. Apparently at least some real type designers do think it's better to design a typeface that way.
    Maybe mice have improved since then?
  • elliott
    elliott Posts: 8
    I recognize that this is an old thread, nevertheless: with respect to the blue outline templates above, I have the impression that they are produced directly in LeMo... but I cannot for the life of me figure out where the command to do that particular thing is....

    Am I mistaken about this? Having come up with some metrics, I am interested in producing 6mm pen templates so that I can experiment with designs....

    Any help would be appreciated!
    I'd also like to know the answer to this – how was the template generated?
  • Mark Simonson
    Mark Simonson Posts: 1,678
    @John Savard said,
    it seemed to me that it would be better to design typefaces using pen or pencil - and paper - rather than trying to design them on a computer screen with a mouse. ... Maybe mice have improved since then?
    Nothing to do with improvements in mice. Type designers have adapted to building outlines with Bézier tools. It's not the same as drawing with a pencil or pen, even though it's usually called a "pen" tool. It's more like 2D sculpting. But it still requires a hand/eye coordination analogous to drawing. I find it's much faster and efficient than drawing once you get the hang of it. Unless you want something that simulates a hand-drawn, gestural appearance.
  • John Hudson
    John Hudson Posts: 3,043
    edited May 2023
    You can spend ages drawing and redrawing a letter on paper, and at the end of the day you still have something that you need to digitise in order to be useful. Designing type directly in the digital medium involves the same kind of judicious decision making and iterative revision, but means you don’t have to think about the extra step of translating an analogue artwork into its digital form, which involves its own set of decision making about interpretation (as I can attest, having had the job of digitising a design from drawings). Rough sketching on paper is a great way of developing initial ideas, and sometimes of resolving a shape, especially for a beginner who may struggle to express ideas with bezier curves, but drawing a typeface on paper or Mylar as part of a font manufacturing process is largely an obsolete process. Yes, Ikarus was designed around digitising designs from artwork, but it is also more than fifty years old and very few people use it any more. Further, the Ikarus outline format needed to be converted into PS or TT beziers for output of final fonts, and I have seen plenty of bad examples of that, due either to poor conversion processes or to messy Ikarus outlines. One of the reasons I describe myself more often as font maker than as a type designer is that I do not engage in a design stage or process that is independent of manufacturing; in this respect, typical digital type design methods are more like pre-industrial font making, more like punchcutting than like drafting.
  • There is currently no option in LeMo to generate templates for writing. The ‘Proofing Tool’ in FoundryMaster could be used for this, but it is not (yet) integrated in LeMo. As for the relevant templates, I generated font data in LeMo. Subsequently I used the ‘Contouring’ tool in the editor and exported an OpenType font that I applied in InDesign.
  • LeMo aka PatternMan aka Frank E Blokland
    At DTL we still draw a lot on paper and we use IKARUS for the conversion to digital contours. For example, the many years of development of DTL Fell, started with such drawings. However, I am well aware of the fact that the Dutch Type Library with its proprietary non-mainstream font-production software is a kind of Galápagos Island in the métier. In addition, we produce typefaces with the speed of a giant tortoise, resulting in what we we call slow fonts. The development of DTL Fell, for example, ultimately took 25 years. I briefly described the reasoning behind the analog approach in Reflections on Type and Typography [Related Matters]; I take the liberty of quoting myself below.

    Times are undoubtedly changing and new technologies make other design and production methods possible. Whereas before the rise of desktop publishing (but after the times of the punchcutter) typefaces were drawn completely on paper first, today most type designers work directly on screen in Bézier format. Whether this is a deliberate choice or is simply dictated by the digital font editors, remains the question. After all, workflows are in general adapted to the structure of the tools and not vice versa. However, I still tend to believe that there is no better way to learn the tension of curves, the (relation between the) quality of contours and counters, and to understand that a speedy process is not always the best way to preserve the highest quality, than drawing with pencil, pen, and brush.

    Wacom digitizer and DTL VandenKeere

    The fact that in the métier of the type designer drawing on paper has become less and less common, might be the result of a lack of training and accordingly of the specific skills needed for analog drawing. The requirements for a type-design job should define what the best tool for digitizing is, however. In some cases drawing on paper can be more appropriate than sculpting contours on the screen. It is quite easy and therefore tempting, to copy letter parts in Bézier format, but less easy to draw tiny and delicate differences on the screen. For making revivals this could result in the loss of details. For the conversion of analogue drawings into digital contours the IKARUS system, which marked the start of digital typography in the 1970s, can still be used. The famous type collections of the major companies in the type market, for example, Monotype, Linotype, Berthold, and ITC, were manually (‘hand’) digitized in this format using a lens cursor in combination with a tablet.

    In my opinion, in today’s formal type education, the IKARUS system should be demonstrated still and students should have the opportunity to play around with it. If the students decide not to use it and consequently to sculpture directly on the screen, that would be a decision based on experience and knowledge. It also makes sense to show the IKARUS system if one wants to place the current digital font technology in a historical context, and to adapt one’s tools to the specific requirements for a type-design job.
    Drawings based on a Guyot italic
    The drawings above are based on an italic by the sixteenth-century French punchcutter François Guyot (†1570). More than 25 years ago I created these for DTL VandenKeere in the evening hours. They were made with pencil, pen, and occasionally brush (one can see traces of white paint) and consequently manually digitized in the IKARUS format, utilizing a lens cursor. The latter has in contrast with a mouse an absolute position in relation to the accompanying tablet.