reaching an asymptote
01 FF Angie
06 FF Celeste
08 Mrs Eaves
09 FF Meta
10 FF Eureka
15 FF Super Grotesk
16 ITC Bodoni
helvetica and her vinyl boots
pas de blog
three canonical responses...
well, what do you talk about?
© Jon Coltz, 2006
Slowly, steadily, I am overcoming my trouble with nervousness at these conferences. I can deliver the introductions with relatively few butterflies. I can meet, and can hold some modicum of intelligent conversation with, recognized legends in the field. My hands are drier, my voice is steadier, and I no longer feel – when such isolated moments of anxiety approach – as though I must choose from among the incommodious alternatives of running like hell, vomiting, or shitting in my pants.
People tell me that I never appear to be anxious, and I am invariably relieved to hear this; to paraphrase Fernando, it is far preferable to look calm than to feel calm. And even on those increasingly rare days when tension trumps reason, I can still manage to fake my way through and create an impression of confidence. But every once in a great while – say, one day in a thousand – the facade crumbles, and no amount of acting can conceal the neurosis within. Today was one of those days.
During a midafternoon session break, I inadvertently brushed the shoulder of a fellow conference attendee. As I turned to apologize, I was astonished to find myself vis-à-vis one of my typographic heroes, Veronika Burian; I just hadn’t expected to see her here. Foolishly and impulsively, I attempted to speak, and although I cannot now recall it word for word, I said something quite like: “‘Scusum, buh Maiola ... um, great! So, hee hee (sigh) ... uhhh, you’re ... um ... (clear throat, swallow, sigh, grin) here!? Yeeeaaahh ... er, um, duuuuuhhhhhhhhh ... .” And thus my how-do-you-do was a lamentable, inscrutable amalgam of primitive vocalizations, so wholly bereft of syntax and diction that Ms. Burian could only have concluded I was crapulent, profoundly mentally retarded, or perhaps both.
Much to my credit, however, I remained stationary and upright. Though I was at this point functionally mute, essentially paralytic, and completely dumbfounded, I had no inclination whatsoever either to keck or to eliminate. And much to Ms. Burian’s, she endured the idolatry all very graciously, and she even engaged in a minute or two of what must certainly have been rather one-sided repartee.
If you lack the context to comprehend either my enthusiastic admiration for Ms. Burian, or my stupefaction upon my unexpected meeting with her, then by all means get hold of her scholarly, fascinating 94-page M.A. thesis on Oldřich Menhart; read it for pleasure and then read it again for knowledge and inspiration. Follow that by licensing her vivacious, calligraphic, Menhart-inspired FF Maiola – quite possibly the most beautiful and important typeface of the last two years, and certainly one of the most complete with respect to language support – also crafted toward fulfillment of her M.A. degree, and in which her thesis is set. Work such as Ms. Burian’s lends further depth and complexity to the field of typography, and it leaves one with an overwhelming sense of confidence in its future.
As for me, I’ll undoubtedly continue my hero worship unabated; one has to have something to believe in, after all. But I’ll continue to work on my composure, such that the next time I meet Ms. Burian, I just might be able to offer “congratulations” in English, using all five syllables.
Allan, Carol, and Gillian...
Deb and Ray...
Rachael, Angeline, and Shu...
Harry and John...
Gary and Amy...
Paul and Thomas...
Tamye and Sibylle...
Piper and Bob...
Robb and Samantha...
If, on every Wednesday preceding the annual type conference, we define x to represent time, and y to denote our perceptual correlate of it, then the relation y = e^x holds as we move through the day. For it all comes down to Wednesday: The workshops, the type galleries, the registration desk, the computer network, the evening presentation, and all the little details like having enough pens and tape and power strips and goodie bags and t-shirts and and and and and. If God truly is in the details, just as Mies Van der Rohe claimed he was, then why do the details perennially plague us so?
For me, well, it’s a matter of me and Tiffany getting the marketplace going: It’s the unpacking, the inventory, the vendors, the commerce, and the display. But I’m distracted – I’m thinking about Frutiger in an obsessive way, for today is Wednesday, and I’ve got a Saturday deadline. Tiffany and I will be on that stage at 5:00, and we just cannot fuck this up. We have to say something perceptive, sensitive, and intelligent; we’ve got to get the speakers on and off smoothly; we’ve got to be polished and professional, because we’re representing SOTA, and because everyone will be there, and did I mention already that we just cannot fuck this up?
As I sit here alone tonight, and as I mull over Frutiger’s place in the pantheon of 20th century type designers, I realize I’ve got a problem – to be specfic, a problem of context. Where, exactly, do I put him? I feel as if I’m reaching an impasse, for this mathematician, symbologist, morphologist, sculptor, semiotician, and typeface designer just doesn’t seem to fit.
I’m thinking that the Greek philosophers might have had a problem classifying Frutiger as well. (N.B. I am neither Greek, nor am I a philosopher, but my wife is a classicist, and sometimes she lets me look at her books.) One of the fundamental distinctions in Greek philosophy is that of epistêmê vs. technê, or of theory vs. practice, or knowledge vs. craft. I read that Plotinus was pretty harsh on the idea of mere technê, or craft – it had no soul. I also read that Plato was more forgiving of the concept of craft and of the role of the craftsman. It was lower in the hierarchy, but at least it was part of it. And what about Aristotle? Didn’t he draw some kind of distinction, too? Problem is, Adrian Frutiger operates in the dual realms of epistêmê and technê, of knowledge and craft. His type is imbued with the skill of the consummate craftsman, and his scholarship is infused with a profound understanding of form, language, and meaning.
I’m worrying that this has nothing whatsoever to do with anything pertinent to the objective; but if it does, how will I link it to Bach, and to Frutiger, and do such links even make sense? In the end, I’m concerned that no matter how appropriate our analogies are, and how perceptive and polished and professional we may seem, we still just might fuck this up.
I’ve been mulling over Adrian Frutiger a fair amount over the past several days; not least because Tiffany and I are to emcee a celebration of his life and work, which happens to be scheduled for Saturday night, but also because I feel as though I am just now beginning to understand his typefaces, whose subtleties and complexities have, until quite recently, simply eluded me. And so I’ve been reading; hence the books, which, since the cessation of the turbulence, have been gathered together once more, read, and subjected to a premature attempt at synthesis. I confess to an early misstep in this work, for I struggled in vein to place Frutiger and his oeuvre somewhere firmly within the nexus of twentieth-century designers and designs. I might have realized that the proper context was perhaps not typography, but rather music, or more specifically, musical composition.
The composer to whom I am able to draw the closest comparison with Frutiger is not Kreisler, as might be suggested by the cheeky title of this post, nor is it Mozart, whose music opens Saturday evening’s program; rather, it is Johann Sebastian Bach, whose consideration of notes and their nuances, coupled with his acute, highly developed numeracy, suggest an apt analogue between one artist and the other, despite the gaps of medium and time.
First, Bach emphasized the dynamic of positive-negative contrast in music, much as Frutiger did with respect to type design. Bach famously declared that while just about anyone could play the notes, it was the treatment of the spaces in-between that fleshed out the real musicians. The great Bach interpreter, Ralph Kirkpatrick, lent further shape to this idea, saying, “Great playing plays the right notes, but it also plays what connects those notes, what gives those notes meaning.” In similar fashon, Frutiger, in his introduction to Signs and Symbols, Their Design and Meaning, wrote:
The white surface of the paper is taken to be ‘empty,’ an inactive surface, despite the visible structures that are present. With the first appearance of a dot, a line, the empty surface is activated. A part, if only a small part, of the surface is thereby covered. With this procedure, the emptiness becomes white, or light, providing a contrast to the appearance of black. Light is recognizable only in comparison with shadow. The actual procedure in drawing or writing is basically not the addition of black but the removal of light.
Second, Bach clearly appreciated much more than the binary contrast of notes and the absence thereof in music; his interest in, and exploitation of, musical subtleties, was epochal. In particular, his use of tonicizations – short-lived references to other keys – served to add color to his textures. In a similar vein, Frutiger’s exquisite nuances lend a beautiful complexity to several of his typefaces, particularly to his sans serifs, which, to the untrained eye, may otherwise appear to approximate Platonic forms, if such things could be said to exist. Charles Bigelow described it like this:
Most readers understand at least a small set of graphic meanings based on variations within a typeface family or between families: Italic versus roman; bold versus normal weight; seriffed versus sans serif; but Frutiger leads us further into a realm of varied half-tones, delicate patterns, and subtle textures, all built up from simple form elements. His work is an exploration of a realm where one thinks not about forms but with forms, and his typeface designs are philosophies expressed not in a language of words but in a language of images. The look of a type in text is a complex graphic expression that is not the content of the text; rather it is an ephemeral yet necessary accompaniament, a visual sensation that is forgotten once the text has been read, as a wrapping is discarded after the gift has been opened or a glass set aside after the wine has been drunk.
Finally, it is well established that Bach was as mathematical a musician as existed at the time. He had keen interests in the golden section, in the Fibonacci sequence, and in the relationship between numbers and letters, all of which underlay a systematic and quantitative approach to composition. Likewise, Frutiger, himself a student of mathematics, pioneered in 1957 a calculated means by which his Univers (which, incidentally, Stanley Morison at the time dubbed the “least worst” of the new sans serifs, evidently missing the point) could be classed. To anyone familiar with the row × column notation employed in matrix algebra, this coding mechanism appears entirely logical and sensible.
So much for Frutiger, at least for now; I have a few days yet. Certainly time enough for an epiphany, should one be required. But while we’re on the topic of introductions, a few of you have kindly written over the past year to inquire whether I could pass on the one that Tiffany and I provided during TypeCon2005 for Matthew Carter. I’d be very glad to do so; here it is:
Good afternoon everyone. Two years ago, at TypeCon 2003 in Minneapolis, we had the very special privilege of introducing Matthew Carter at the Walker Art Center in what was for him, a sort of homecoming. For he had not returned to the city in the eight years since he completed his designs for the now legendary Walker typeface, a font that the Walker continues to use well, and in ever-innovative ways, even as the Walker has reinvented itself in the face of its 2004 expansion.
That evening, Matthew spoke to a capacity crowd of 370 people; there were 75 more outside who, unfortunately for them, could not get in. We hope that everyone who wanted to be here today has a seat in this auditorium, for this afternoon, we – on behalf of the Society of Typographic Aficionados and the Type Directors Club – hear about, and hear from, Matthew Carter in the context of what is nothing less than a celebration: A celebration of fifty years of contributions to the typographic arts in such various guises as designer, professor, mentor, corporate honcho, and always as a friend – a friend to experienced type designers, budding lettering artists, and enthusiasts alike.
When faced with the task of describing what Matthew means to the field of typography, the usual glowing adjectives and substantives naturally flow into one’s mind. One of the best of these comes, we confess, not from the two of us, but from one of those aficionados of whom we speak. You see, after the Minneapolis conference, a survey was sent to all of the attendees, to which one of whom responded in the general comments section, in large caps, MATTHEW CARTER IS THE SHIZNIT!!! Upon reading this comment, we apprehended immediately that this was an expression of considerable appreciation and awe, but we admit that we did not quite know at the time just what SHIZNIT meant.
So we did a bit of research, and we found that SHIZNIT has a dual etymological path. The first, Yiddish: provenance otherwise unknown, but meaning “the best.” This survey respondent clearly meant to tell us that Matthew Carter is the best, and we couldn’t agree more. Interestingly, the second etymological path has a markedly shorter, but much more recent, and complete, history. Date of inception: 1993. The originator? An entertainer who is likely known to many of us: One Snoop Doggy Dogg. Translation: The Shit. Truly, Matthew Carter is the shit. And we mean this, of course, with all the admiration and respect in the world. His contributions to the typographic arts are unparalleled, and his legacy will endure forever.
Thanks for reading. For now, it’s back to the praeludium; the Typophile Film Festival is tomorrow night, and the allegro is hot on its heels.
It is painfully clear to me that the methods of modern travel effectively reduce us – or at least our behavior – to pathetic, primeval forms. However self-actualized we may ordinarily be, once we board the airliner, we lose our balance atop Maslow’s hierarchy, and plunge right past ego, social, and security, and crash headfirst into physical. Distilled down to our essentials, we eat, sleep, and eliminate, with a few stabs at reading in-between. And even then, these simple acts are debased. We pick through so-called snack boxes, eating garbage we never touch on terra firma; we endeavor to snooze sitting straight in seats ill-designed for any imaginable purpose; we pee into pitiful pots: low, metal, human waste vacuums that undoubtedly stir feelings of envy in James Dyson himself. It breaks my humanistic little heart to see us do this to ourselves.
A thick layer of turbulence, such as the one I experienced this morning, turns the pathetic into the truly pitiable, particularly where airborne egestation is concerned. If only I’d been readied for this exigency early in life; if only one day Mr. Grady, my fourth-grade gym teacher had said something like:
Okay boys, we’re gonna take a break from floor hockey to practice peeing into airplane toilets. So everybody get up on the balance beam, unzip ‘em, and pee like there’s no tomorrow. Now, while you’re whizzin’ away, I’m gonna shake the beam a little bit this way and that. Just do your best.
Alas, this lesson escaped the curriculum of my elementary education, and so midstream, as it were, today’s turbulance jerked me forward, yawed me into the sink, and lurched me back, halfway out the door, where flight attendant Corrinne was eating what appeared to be a tortellini salad. Only by the grace of God did said door hold; for more than a fleeting moment I imagined myself awkwardly (to say the least) planted in Corinne’s lap, pants open and willie skyward. Perhaps on the flight home I’ll sit rather than stand.
While I was jostling about back in the lavatory, my books up in 17-C were suffering similar insult: Lawson, McLean, Carter (Sebastian), Bigelow, and Frutiger all ended up underfoot, underseat, or in the aisle, affording my confreres, however briefly and unexpectedly, their first taste of fine typography. I had Kinross with me as well; I felt as though I needed a dose of Unjustified Texts for solace and scholarship. Now there are some who speculate openly on the length of the stick that ostensibly protrudes from Kinross’s ass; not knowing the man personally, I cannot say for certain, but I find no evidence in his prose for a stick of any dimension whatsoever. He is an exceedingly thoughtful and well-informed writer, and were I ever to possess half his talent I should be very proud indeed. Kinross, I might add, was the only volume amongst the half-dozen that lay impervious; it remained square on the seat, precisely where I had left it. Perhaps it’s symbolic.
From the letterforms to the loo and back again; such is the journey of a typographic aficionado. Welcome to TypeCon2006, day one; see you tomorrow.
Though they were published roughly half a century ago, the translations into English of the tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, by David Grene and Richmond Lattimore, are arguably the truest, and most flowing and rhythmic; they remain classroom standards for studies of Greek tragedy in translation.
These Complete Greek Tragedies are set largely in metal Monotype Bembo, although phototype Bembo appears to have been used for the later translations. Bembo throughout, then, except for that decidedly non-Bembo, roman f that foists itself upon Aeschylus’ Agammenon, The Libation Bearers, and Eumenides, and that trespasses as well on Sophocles’ Oedipus the King. The effect is more than anachronistic; it is a collision on the page of culture, mood, and style something akin to seeing Neville Chamberlain leading the Bravio delle Botti through the narrow streets of Montepulciano.
What might have been the cause of this disharmonious juxtaposition? Gerald Lange kindly told me that it may have been the result of a necessary supplantment due to a damaged or burned out f-matrice, or was less likely the result of a mistaken substitution. Whatever the case, to the extent that such catawampus windows provide us with a glimpse of antiquated, yet awe-inspiring technologies and practices, we’ll search for answers; yet in this particular instance, we’ll probably never know. Nonetheless, the typographic fossil record remains for those few of us interested in such matters.
So I like walked into the lab the other day and there it was just staring me in the face ...
... and I said to my co-workers – like do you see what I see? And they’re all like – what? And I’m like – my gawd how can you NOT see what I see – it’s right there. And they’re like okay you’re starting to freak me out here – just calm down and tell me what the hell is going on. And I’m like look-at-that-f-ligature. FUCKINGLOOKATIT! And they’re like okaaay, like I don’t even know what the fucking hell an f-liga-whatever is. And then I’m like screaming at them THAT’S LIKE NOTHING LESS THAN THE FINEST, FUCKINGEST, INTERLOPINGEST F-LIGATURE EVER TO APPEAR ON AN INSTITUTIONAL WAREWASHING DETERGENT BOX!!! And they like actually fucking sent me home and told me to get a good night’s sleep.
What has long been a topic of speculation among many of his readers now seems to be confirmed: Jon Coltz, proprietor of the type blog daidala, is suffering from a protracted and indeed severe case of writer’s block.
When pressed for comment, Coltz had only this to say: “I’d like to post on why I haven’t been writing, but I just can’t seem to find the words.”
While some readers are confident that Coltz’s hiatus is temporary, others are less hopeful – and less patient. Gladys Torkanainnen of Ontonagon, MI – an admitted financial supporter and self-described “former” reader of the daidala site – lashed out: “He coulda gestated a fuckin’ baby in the time he’s taken to do jack shit nada.”
Coltz countered, “Ms. Torkanainnen has a god-awful understanding of human reproduction. As far
as I know, I got no volvos, uvulas, hors d’oeuvres, or any of that plumbing that’s pretty much
required to keep a baby goin’ inside o’ there. I do have a really fine pair of nipples, though.
Why men have nipples, I’ve no idea; I guess that is and always will be one of the great mysteries
of the universe.” Coltz continued, “Did you guys know that, when I was in the 10th grade, I had
the largest jugs in my class – 36DD’s, to be exact. Larry Dykstra hit me in the head with a shotput
during gym class, and the doctor said that’s why my testo- um, tetra- uh, that’s why my ‘mojo’
went away. After six months or so, the honkers started gettin’ smaller, but I still got a good
Dr. Irving Rosenbloom, Chief of Neurosurgery at Boston General Hospital – and erstwhile novelist – examined Coltz last month using a battery of psychological measures. He commented: “While Coltz probably has the most severe case of verbal logorrhea I’ve seen in my 34-year career, he is extremely reluctant to put anything down on paper. I can certainly empathize; I’m having some trouble of my own right now with my latest all-family feelgood romantic suspense-thriller, tentatively titled ‘A night at the drive-in with my forceps, my retractors, and you.’” Rosenbloom continued, “Anyway, MRI work done on the patient revealed a startling lack of brain cells in area 81b – or in layman’s terms, the ‘motivation center.’ It’s as though nothing was ever there. To be honest, it’s a medical miracle that he ever posted anything on his site at all.”
It may sound like “weird science,” but Rosenbloom and his team of doctors are poised to proceed with the first-ever cerebral replacement in a human. “We have utmost confidence in a new outpatient procedure in which Coltz’s left hemisphere will be replaced with that of a gecko lizard, and his right with an HGH [growth-hormone] fed chicken.” Rosenbloom explained, “After it became clear that a mammalian surrogate was infeasible, we began to compare Coltz’s brain to those of a host of avian and reptilian species. In the end, we flipped a coin to decide between the gecko and the hen, and wouldn’t you know, the coin landed on its edge! Darnedest thing. So we decided to do a little mixin’ ‘n matchin’, and we’re now confident that we have a close analogue to Coltz’s native but defective brain in size, shape, and neurological activity. We basically have nothing to lose at this point, and clearly so much to gain.”
While it’s anyone’s guess what effect the residual growth hormone might have on Coltz’s breast size, which Rosenbloom describes as “alarming, but not altogether unattractive, in a 38 year-old male,” the predicted increase in Coltz’s motivation is more certain. “He’ll awaken each day and immediately begin working.”
Coltz agreed, “It’s true – I’m gonna get up real early in the morning, go onto the World Wide Web, and read the news, the weather, the sports ... and then I’m just gonna Google the hell outta all kinds of shit. Learn about stuff I never even realized I had to know. Like about Paris Hilton.” Coltz’s wife was quick to add, “Needless to say, we’re pretty desperate at this point in time. I mean, the chicken’s not even free-range.”
But Torkanainnen was skeptical upon learning of the upcoming surgical procedure: “I’ve PayPal’ed that sonofabitch over 51 grand since Christmas – all the money I used to send to Jim and Tammy Faye. What I feel like is I got shafted ... is what I feel like.”
Coltz would like to thank Torkanainnen personally for indirectly covering the costs of his operation, but once again, he claims he simply cannot find the words. As for daidala, which Coltz has let lapse since August of last year, only time will tell.
MINNEAPOLIS: AUGUST 3, 2004
FOR IMMEDIATE WORLDWIDE RELEASE
A redesign of the seventh most popular “blog” on typography has the font world abuzz this morning, but reaction to the addition of a third text column is mixed.
Fans of Jon Coltz’s daidala site such as Paula Nordquist of Missoula, MT hailed the change. “That third column makes my life soooo much easier. Jon is a visionary. He’s like what could happen if like, Fred Durst and Nicole Richie did it and made a baby.” And Ben Smith of Columbus, OH added: “Fuckin’ A, I logged on and just about dumped a load in my Carhartts.”
But critics – among them, computer usability expert Julie Emmett of Vancouver – urged caution in navigating the updated daidala: “[It’s] an important achievement, but now I have to go to the other side of the page just to read his copyright statement. It was negligent of him not to study the potential effects of this change on users before doing something so extreme.”
Others are shifting attention away from the redesign and are focusing instead on the recent addition of a PayPal link to Coltz’s site, where readers are now invited to make donations via a credit card transaction. Danny McCoy of Far Rockaway, NY lambasted Coltz: “I hope you’re reading this, you little prick. You string us along for two whole years, bullshitting us into thinking you’re doing this out of the goodness of your heart, and then out of the blue you start begging for money. Well waaah-waaah. My violin’s about this fuckin’ big [makes gesture approximating thumb to index finger], and it’s playing all for you, you asshole.”
We caught up with Coltz earlier today, and he had this to say about the recent redesign as well as readers’ reactions to it.
“That third column’s been vexin’ me for darn near a year – I’d just been pissin’ in the wind tryin’ to figure it out. Shit, I had columns movin’ all over the fuckin’ place, and they was everywhere ’cept where I wanted ’em. And then it dawned on me – I swear to the Lord Jesus Christ it was a bona fide fuckin’ miracle – I says to myself, ‘Don’t be tryin’ to write your own goddamn CSS file, ya stupid git – just copy someone else’s.’ But how do you do that, y’know? I mean, how the hell d’you actually find one and once y’do, how d’you make any sense of it? Jesus, that’s like crackin’ the fuckin’ Mohenjodaro seals!”
To complete the work, Coltz retreated to the woods of Northern Minnesota, isolating himself from family and friends for a lengthy code-copying session.
“Next thing I thought was, ‘Well shoot, just whose CSS do I copy, anyhow?’ Cogitatin’ on that alone took most of a week. And then it just hits me. I says to myself, ‘That Dean Allen’s got three columns on his Frenchy-Canuck blog – an’ he’s one smart fella, too. Y’know he moves over there to France and gets himself a pretty, booklearnin’ ladyfriend and some hounds – set up right nice he is. Anyways, I copy his whole deal, lock, stock, and barrel – float left to left, right to right, and smack most of that sonofabitch right there in the middle. Changed ’round a few things an’ put all kinds o’ neat shit in that new third column, too – links an’ shit. Looks real nice now, it does. I’m fixin’ to move up to fifth or sixth place in them type blog rankings next year. An’ maybe now that uppity crybaby Heller’ll open up his peepers an’ take notice o’ my blog.”
Responding to the criticism that he is now implicitly “charging” users to read daidala, Coltz said, “Hey, that’s the American way, you know, fightin’ communism and promotin’ capitalism. Ben Franklin wasn’t out flyin’ kites in thunderstorms for shits and giggles. ’Sides, I made 25 bucks so far – that’s enough for two deep dish Meat Lover’s – uh, I mean, that’ll really help out with them server space issues I been havin.”
Coltz says he actually plans to give the $25 to Mr Allen.
During a happy, chance meeting just off the corner of Mason and Ellis, daidala’s Jon Coltz and The Assistant’s Andy Dick discuss the similarities between Today Sans and Cronos, debate whether FF Unit is better described as FF Meta’s “strict sister” or “strict daughter” (the young woman at left casts her vote for the latter), and pause in the conversation to pose together for this handsome photograph.
Part 2: Some ontogeny and phylogeny
Optical scaling in digital type design – that is, the production of distinct masters at each of several different point sizes – is a subtle and rare thing. When applied, the various point masters are often near clones of one another, spanning a narrow continuum of width and weight. And notwithstanding the pioneering work of Knuth , and later of Hoefler , Slimbach , and Stone et al. , as well as a few others (e.g., Burke, Kobayashi) who appear to approach optical scaling as simply part and parcel of constructing a quality typeface, most designers of digital type have adopted a “one size fits all” modus operandi. But this was certainly not the case in the days of metal type. Of pre-digital optical scaling – and with particular regard to the Stempel Janson types – Jack Stauffacher wrote:
When these early letters were hand cut, the punch-makers made their different sizes according to a natural optical scale. Their very limited tools created a style that expressed an intuitive sense for good proportion. The artists clearly retain this kind of spirit in contrast to an incongruous letter that is contrived, having no dignity or beauty. You will notice that each size (font) bears a slight variation in mood for both the romans and italics. These varieties in the fonts are the unique signature of a hand punch-makers skill. This is not found in the modern pantographic methods of adapting the letter design into type. The modern method creates its own kind of simplicity in the exactness for each size [ref. 7 below, p6].
It may well be folly, then, to attempt to compare the Stempel Janson types to their direct descendants in metal, for although each of the Stempel sizes is a familial variant, each is just as much a different cut – different, to underscore Stauffacher, in both point size and mood. And even within the same point size, there are variants; in the 12-point size, for example, there are two distinctly different cuts, labelled 12a and 12b [i, j], the latter being the cut in which Stauffacher’s monograph is set. An examination of the roman reveals that the most apparent differences between these variants may lie in the absolute size and in the x-height, the ‘a’ cut being somewhat smaller and lower than the ‘b’ cut. The lower case also reveals marked differences in the letters f and a. In the 12a cut, the shoulder of the letter f is generous and round, and the terminal extends far to the right of the bar. The shoulder of the f in the 12b cut is much more modest and angular, and the terminal, which is somewhat bulbous, lies closer in. The lower case a in the 12a variant looks nearly out of place; it appears to me to be more Van Dijck than Kis. Not so, however, with the lower case a in the 12b specimen; today’s digital versions of Kis – predominantly, Linotype Janson Text, Monotype Janson, and Monotype Ehrhardt – have retained its more angular shoulder and low-sitting bowl.
Stempel Janson roman in the 14-point size [k] has the look of a stylistic interpolation between the flow of the 12a cut and the stout angularity of the 12b cut. With a few exceptions, perhaps most notably in the tail of the upper case Q, it has all the fatherly markings of Monotype Janson in metal [l]. Its italic progeny, however, are not like Monotype Janson at all in appearance; the overall angularity of the Stempel italic was retained instead in the text sizes of the Linotype issues [m]. Most particularly, the squarish up-over-down shoulders of the lower case m and n in the Stempel 14-point italic [n] are mirrored in its Linotype digital descendant; these constitute a nearly unique hallmark of Linotype Janson Text italic. The relative smoothness of the Monotype italic appears to owe much more, rather, to the Stempel 12a and 12b italics [o, p].
But now I realize that I am getting a bit ahead of myself, for although I’ve mentioned and have shown the Linotype and Monotype descendants of the Stempel types as points of comparison, I’ve left out all specifics; here again, Lawson fills in much of the necessary detail [ref. 2 below, p168]:
Linotype Janson was first produced in the United States in 1937 under the guidance of C.H. Griffith, the typographic director of Mergenthaler; he used the Stempel original as the model for this cutting. In the same year, Sol Hess undertook for the American Monotype firm a modification of the face, using as a pattern a version in a seventeenth-century book. Both of these revivals found immediate favor with the American printers, even though the types lack some of the crispness of the Stempel foundry version, a factor that is most noticeable in the display sizes. [See, for example, the Groot Canon Romein and Clein Canon Romein in this specimen [q], prepared by Stauffacher and used by Heiderhoff ].
In the Linotype lineage, then, we proceed from Kis to Griffith, and then from Griffith to Zapf, who, in 1951, retooled the font’s 6, 8, 9, and 10-point cuts (and still later, as shall be mentioned, from Zapf to Frutiger). It should be noted that, retooling and refinement aside, the faithfulness of the Linotype interpretation was necessarily compromised by the Linotype machine itself. Robert Bringhurst puts it succinctly [ref. 1 below, p137]:
Typeface design for the Linotype was restricted by three basic factors. First, kerning is impossible without special compound matrices. (The basic italic f in a Linotype font therefore always has a stunted head and tail.) Second, the em is divided into only 18 units, which discourages subtlety of proportion. Third, the italic and roman matrices are usually paired. In most faces, each italic letter must therefore have the same width as its counterpart in roman.
Reexamine the Linotype sample [m] from above; it is indeed the lower case italic f that stands dramatically apart from the rest of the lower case italics. You will see the result of the handicapped kern in the lower case roman ff ligature as well, in the form of a truncated terminal in the second f (spot, as an example, the word “indifferent” in this [r] sample).
If you pick up, at random, an American book printed in the mid-twentieth century, you may well find that it is printed in Linotype Janson; for a couple of decades at least, this type appeared to be used with nearly the frequency of Caledonia. As it is today in its digital incarnation, Monotype Janson in metal was used far less frequently than its Linotype counterpart. With regard to the genesis and subsequent history of the Monotype cut, I unfortunately know relatively little. Nevertheless, something of an aside to the very early history of Monotype Janson is recounted, in part, in Bruce Rogers’s Paragraphs on Printing :
In planning the Limited Editions Club Shakespeare [s, t] the first consideration was of the type, which needed to be bold and vigorous enough to convey to the reader’s eye something of the rugged Elizabethan quality of the text. A large format was necessary to allow for the illustrations and therefore a correspondingly large type was indicated. The first experiments were made at the Oxford University Press with great-primer Fell types; but when for various reasons it became necessary to print the volumes on this side of the Atlantic, the use of Fell types had to be abandoned and search made for something else comparable in effect.
For so extensive an undertaking hand-setting in this country was out of the question. After experiments with several of the type faces made by the machine companies it was felt that none of them was as suitable as the reproduction of a type cut by a Hollander, Anton Janson, between 1660 and 1687 – less than a hundred years after Shakespeare’s time.
The Lanston Monotype Machine Company undertook to cut the 18-point size in close facsimile of the original, preserving all the slight irregularities of design and alignment which help to give it life and vigor. The 18-point italic of the original Janson appears distinctly inferior to the other sizes; perhaps an odd fount that has been introduced into the series.
James Hendrickson, the interviewer of Rogers and the editor of Paragraphs on Printing went on to add, “The brief description of this partial re-cutting of the Janson type sounds quite simple here, but it was anything but that. To accomplish it B.R. had to conduct a detailed and almost daily correspondence with Mr. Sol. Hess, Art Director for the Monotype Company, for some weeks, a reading of which would be an eye-opener for anyone who may fancy that fine printing is principally a pleasant pastime.”
Now up to this point, I have focused principally on the Linotype and American Monotype interpretations of Kis; what of that of the British Monotype firm? Well, in the mid-to-late 1930’s, Stanley Morison was, as ever, doing double duty as both historian and businessman, at once attempting to determine the origin of the Kis types and directing the production of a Kis of his own. Nearly concomitant, then, with the Linotype and American Monotype releases of Kis revivals, Morison issued a Kis of a slightly different kind, not so closely based on the Stempel types but rather more similar in spirit to the original Groot Canon Romein type shown earlier [q], yet retaining Morison’s indelible imprint – most notably, perhaps, the color and compactness he considered necessary for good book types. And so Monotype Ehrhardt [u, v] would become a sort of bastard child whose parentage appears to owe as much to Morison as it does to Kis. Particularly illuminating in this regard is Morison’s early direction of the Ehrhardt face. From Barker [ref 4 below, pp 345–346]:
...Morison took up the idea of recutting [the Janson], and – uniquely – his instructions for it survive. On 26 January 1937, armed with photographs of Mori’s original Ehrhardt specimens, he wrote to Mr Steltzer in the Type Drawing Office.
Last Spring we put you in hand with you the initial work of re-creating the old Dutch Face for which more than one of our customers were asking.
Through paucity of material however, we were unable to satisfy them and the several characters in Series 453 were abandoned.
We are now sending you:–
A. A photograph of the Ehrhardt Series, which amongst other sizes shows a portion in Tertia, both Roman and Italic.
B. Five photographic prints showing the same fount with a small amount of Italic.
We now ask you to put in hand the work of a few Roman and italic characters.
The ultimate completion of the Roman alphabet would not seem to be a matter of much difficulty but in the matter of the Italic, some obstacles may be encountered as in the capitals several are missing.
We think, however, that for the present the accompanying photographs will supply you with sufficient data for the making of the specimen characters.
We should like the Face to be as big on the body as the 14pt. in Series 101 [Imprint].
We imagine that the weight will be between Series 101 and Series 110 [Plantin].
Finally, we shall be glad if you will regularise the fount as regards alignment.
For the time being, the Face should be called ‘Ehrhardt’.
By 20 February, he already had proofs.
I am very interested in the proof of the Ehrhardt series 453 14pt. roman and italic, but I am prevented from making up my mind definitely in favour of these specimen characters owing to the fact that the set appears to me to be so wide. I should like to see a specimen on a narrower set if you could have this made.
At first glance the fount appears to me to be a little more condensed than I expected. Also I do not recognize the capitals. Having no copy of the photographs of the Ehrhardt specimen, I do not dogmatise, by my distinct impression is that the capital G. though correct in colour, proportions and general form, is not correctly seriffed at the top or at the bottom. There is a serif, I think, at the bottom of the capital G. where the thin curve joins the thick perpendicular. I should have said, too, that the horizontal at the foot is a trifle too short. I am speaking now only from memory, but I feel sufficiently confident to ask you to look into it.
The lower case roman letters appear to me to be sound.
With the italic I am not quite so pleased. I should have imagined, for example (and here again I am now only speaking from memory) that the italic lower-case g. would have had much more sweep to it.
After that, all went smoothly; the design was approved in August, and matrices were made available in November 1937. There was a full showing in the Summer 1938 Monotype Recorder, and Morison himself set out the history of the type in the March 1939 issue of Signature...
More than thirty years after Ehrhardt’s release, Harry Carter described the face in the Appendix to Morison’s A Tally of Types :
The letters of Monotype Ehrhardt are like those of the Janson, but the appearance of a page set in it is different. The Janson is more rotund and has greater contrast of thick and thin. It exemplifies the qualities that Joseph Moxon so admired in the ‘late made Dutch letters’ when he wrote in 1683, ‘the commodious Fatness they have beyond other letters,...As also the true placing their Fats and their Leans, with the sweet driving them into one another.’ In ‘Ehrhardt’ these qualities have been to some extent sacrificed to economy of space: it belongs to a late phase in Morison’s thinking where he was less interested in the reproduction of an old type than in the production of one that gave good value in legibility.
We might conclude, then, that Morison was even more businessman at that point than historian. Indeed, he wrote in Signature shortly after Ehrhardt was produced [ref. 5 below, as reprinted in Carter’s article in A Tally of Types]:
But the justification for printing is not primarily stylistic; first and foremost its justification is economic. It follows, therefore that appreciation of the art of lettering as applied by punch-cutters to the service of the printing trade must reckon with the element of economy. Indeed it seems to the present writer not too much to say, regarding book typography in the period after Garamond and Granjon, that it is in the exploitation of the available space, rather than in conspicuous details such as serifs and stresses, there lies the secret of successful type design.
What was good for business was good for Ehrhardt. Carter concluded “It is a successful type-face. I think Kis would have liked this series. He would certainly have liked the smooth finish given to it by the industrial process. The grace of his alphabets is not lost by any means.” Smooth, yes; but somewhat sterile, too. Reconsider the sample [v] above. It is strange to see a pre-digital typeface that is optically scaled with the constancy of stroke and proportion that we are accustomed to seeing in our digital age. There is very little variation, among the seven point sizes, in what Stauffacher described as mood; and within each size, there is remarkable inertia with little hint of ostentation or eccentricity. A perfect crystalline goblet face, then – never quite in or out of fashion – but always deserving to be put to good use.
Today’s digital version of Monotype Ehrhardt is a largely faithful interpretation of its metal forebear. Can the same be said for Monotype Janson and Linotype Janson Text? How have the three main Kis revivals evolved; what characteristics do they share, and how do they differ? In what aspects do I feel they excel, and where are they lacking? In the last part of this series, I’ll compare and contrast the three main digital versions of Kis to one another. And over the rest of the summer, I plan to post a little on the journal Grand Street, on various pieces in the short-lived The Imprint, on some relatively recent books on design, and on semiotics and typography. Thank you for reading!
9. Knuth, Donald E. (1999) Digital Typography. Stanford: CSLI.
10. Hoefler, Jonathan (1992) HTF Didot. See Muse No. 1 and Hoefler’s article in Serif (5), pp 58–61.
11. Slimbach, Robert (1990–present) The Brioso, Cronos, Adobe Jenson, Kepler, Minion, Sanvito, Utopia, and Warnock type families. See the Adobe Type Library Reference Book.
12. Stone, Sumner et al. (1994) ITC Bodoni. See, inter alia, “You say Bodoni, I say Bodoni...”, by Dave Farey in the online journal, x-height.
13. Heiderhoff, Horst (1989) “The Rediscovery of a Type Designer: MiklÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ³s Kis” in Fine Print on Type. San Francisco: Bedford Arts.
14. Rogers, Bruce (1979) Paragraphs on Printing. New York: Dover.
15. Carter, Harry (1999) “Ehrhardt” in A Tally of Types, by Stanley Morison, pp 118, 120–121. Jaffrey, NH: Godine.
Part 1: Some context
Gentle reader, I must confess to you that in all honesty the entry – upon my first few readings at least – rubbed me entirely the wrong way. “Commerce knows no conscience...” he whined (1). Exactly who did this smug, self-righteous contrarian think he was, anyhow? After all, there was no font called Kis in my opus opusculorum.
In a feeble attempt at defending my ignorance, I should reveal that the year was 1999, and at that point in my study I knew next to nothing. Indeed, buying a second book on typography helped me in so many ways. Imagine! And so I embarked on my post-Bringhurstian journey; I started with Chapter 14, and I began to understand. To me, the tone was certainly more approachable and the story far more complete (2):
It is scarcely surprising, then, that when both the Mergenthaler Linotype Company and the Lanston Monotype machine Company announced their revivals of Janson in 1937, most American printers had no choice but to accept the historic information that was disseminated by these firms ... neither firm could offer many facts to accompany the first specimens of the recuttings ... both companies, it may be noted, perpetuated the erroneous impression that the types now named Janson had been designed by him ... as of 1939, however, Morison had become sufficiently curious about the true origin of the type and its designer to take the time to make a more thorough investigation than had heretofore been attempted ... Morison proposed that it was the Stempel foundry that had initiated the misconception by attributing to Anton Janson the types that it had acquired from the Drugulin foundry of Leipzig in 1919 ... the answer ... was finally supplied by Harry Carter and George Buday in England. Equipped with a photograph of a type-specimen sheet located in the National Library in Budapest (provided by Professor G.W. Ovink of Amsterdam), Carter discovered that the types shown here [a] were the same ones that had reached Leipzig and finally arrived at the Stempel foundry in Frankfurt. The designer of the so-called Janson types, it turned out, was a Hungarian punchcutter named Nicholas [Miklos] Kis (pronounced kish).
And so there, with Lawson, I really ought to have begun. He whet my appetite to be sure; I consulted his references and began to piece it together for myself, and some of what I learned on my Kis-quest follows...
Anyway, as Lawson stated, Carter and Buday built upon the work of others, and in doing so, they solved the conundrum. Writers and scholars who preceded them simply hadn’t made all the necessary connections; but nor were they sanguine about the font’s origin. Updike, for example, was uncertain (3):
Dutch types were also in vogue in Germany at the end of the seventeenth century, and were imported in large quantities. Some roman and italic Dutch types of this date were shown in connection with Breitkopf’s specimen in Gessner’s Buchdruckerkunst und Schriftgiesserey, Leipsic, 1740. These came from a Leipsic foundry which Fournier considered second only to Breitkopf’s – that of Hr. Ehrhardt. A head-line (omitted in our reproduction [b, c]) reads: “Real Dutch types, and a great number of other characters, which are to be found in the Erhardt foundry here.” These fonts resemble those given by Fell to the Oxford Press, and in cut belong to the seventeenth century. Their provenance I do not know.
And as Lawson pointed out, Morison too was curious, and it appears he nearly sleuthed his way to the answer. From a letter written by Morison to Van Krimpen, as quoted in Barker (4), and followed by Barker’s commentary:
A question about the Janson type. I think I told you that some German customers have been agitating the Monotype Corporation to cut all the sizes of roman and italic, and that we have agreed to cut them if we can get hold of the original material. I said this because I was under the impression that some of the sizes in Stempel’s list are modern re-cuttings, and by no means facsimiles ... Following up the matter, I discovered that Haag-Drugulin seems to have lent the original punches or matrices to Updike, and, for some reason or another, are unable to secure their return. Updike is a very tight-fisted little bantam, and I may have to get on to him, but, before doing so, I want to ask whether there is any foundation for the statement made to me that the successors of Anton Janson sold the material to Amsterdam about the year 1700; if so, whether any trace remains?
The consequence was that Morison was led to explore again the winding paths of late seventeenth-century typographic history that he had first set foot in twelve years earlier. He thought to borrow Francis Meynell’s fount of the Stempel Janson, and to make a start with that; but the Stempel cutting was too heavy, and he had not enough to go on. In May 1936, Morison dropped the idea and the punches so far cut were destroyed. But he did not stop work, and with the help of Gustav Mori he traced the types to the Ehrhardt foundry at Leipzig, c. 1710. There was no connection with Janson, whose name Stempel had given to the type, a mis-ascription followed by Morison in On Type Faces in 1923.
Truly, Morison did not stop. In two articles (5, 6) published in as many years in Signature, Morison first compared the Stempel types to those of Anton Janson and concluded that they could not have been produced by the same artist; he then proceeded to provide some details on, as well as a translated biography of, the Dutch typefounder Janson. Finally and perhaps most interestingly, although he did not yet know the origin of the Stempel types, he suggested that the misattribution be rectified – a suggestion that, 64 years hence, has gone mostly unheeded:
So little, indeed, is the sum of what was known of Janson at the time of the publication of the [first] article in Signature. In the latter portion of that article, it was demonstrated that the specimens of the romans and the italics that Janson sold had nothing, as regards their design, in common with the faces now sold by the Stempel Foundry and the American Linotype and Monotype Companies. Not one of the so-called ‘Janson’ types appears before 1691, i.e., four years after the artist’s death; none of them appears on a single specimen designed by him. Finally, the designs unquestionably engraved by him, as exhibited on signed and dated proofs, are, technically and calligraphically, very inferior to the Drugulin-Stempel series
[d, e]. It cannot be believed that both series come from the same foundry; still less from the same artist. We may have that certainty, at least, about the design ... the Drugulin-Stempel designs, as I have pointed out in my previous article, are from the hand of an engraver whose endowment nearly ranks him with Garamond or Granjon. The attribution of the undoubted Janson material to one and the same hand can hardly be sustained, and now that the identity of Anton Janson is at last settled it would be well if the Stempel Foundry of Frankfurt, the Mergenthaler Linotype Company of Brooklyn, and the Lanston Monotype Machine Company of Philadelphia, reverted to some such general but authentic description as ‘Dutch Old Face’.
The Stempel types, then, form the pseudo-Jansonian bridge – albeit a necessarily narrow one when considering the scope of the work that Kis produced – spanning the 17th through the 20th centuries. Jack Stauffacher, in Janson: A Definitive Collection, traced some of the early history (7):
The exact origin of the Janson type is surrounded with much mystery & confusion, but we do, however, know that Anton Janson in 1674 at Leipzig brought out a specimen sheet exhibiting a roman in two sizes ... and another larger, more complete specimen in 1678. Janson was born in 1620 at Wauden in Vriesland, & at an early age was apprenticed in Amsterdam to a typefoundry. From there he went to Frankfurt in 1651, staying until 1656 when he moved to Leipzig, organizing his own foundry. He died there in 1687, a worthy tradesman but no great artist ... after his death, Johann Karl Edling purchased Janson’s foundry, and issued a specimen in 1689. From there his punches were sold to Wolfgang Dietrich Ehrhardt, and later superseded and finally discarded. In 1720 a specimen was brought out by Johann Christoph Ehrhardt of Leipzig, that clearly indicates a more refined and successful cutting than the earlier Janson specimens. The Ehrhardt specimen is titled, «Verzeichniss derer HollÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ¤ndischen Schrifften» (Real Dutch Types), which lends a very unique insight into the origins of the types used in Leipzig in the half century 1670–1720. It seems without doubt that the Ehrhardt specimen was cut from mixed sources. Of this material collected by Johann Ehrhardt certain matrices have survived to this day ... The printing firm of W. Druglin of Leipzig issued in 1868 a specimen of their types which shows the Old Dutch Face under the title «Renaissance - HollÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ¤ndisch.» In 1919 the firm sold the matrices to the David Stempel Foundry in Frankfurt, where they were erroneously renamed «Janson.» These are the types which, in the 12 point size, are before the reader [f]. They have since been copied for machine composition by the American linotype & monotype companies.
Fifty years ago, just as Stauffacher was publishing his beautiful monograph, Harry Carter was solving the mystery; together with George Buday, he published his findings first in Linotype Matrix and later in Gutenberg Jahrbuch [scans from this article here: g (note: caption should read “...in 1695.”), h]. Carter was a scholar of the first rank, and he was a gifted writer as well; the second article begins – and ends – in enviable prose (8):
The barrier of language has separated MisztÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ³tfalusi Kis MiklÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ³s from the western world; and it is a curious historical accident that the types that he cut are on one side of the barrier, and the memories of their author on the other. The Janson series of types, a range of Romans and Italics from 36-point to 6-point, now the property of the Schriftgiesserei D. Stempel, of Frankfurt a.M., are among the few surviving traces of this Hungarian from Transylvania in the part of Europe where he sojourned from 1680 until 1689 ... To the people of Hungary, who honour Kis as a patriot, a reformer of their grammar and spelling, as a writer and the most famous of their printers, it should be a satisfaction to know that his types still exist and to see them used for fine printing in western Europe and America. The versions of his design made for the Linotype and Monotype machines are a proof that his work is held in high regard by typographers. With the recognition of their author the Dacian Phoenix has risen once more from his ashes and belongs now to the whole of the civilized world.
Alas, the “author” has not been recognized nearly to the extent he should be. Perhaps, then, Bringhurst isn’t being so self-righteously antagonistic after all. Indeed, he is simply reinforcing what type historians before him either implied or explicitly stated: that the type be called what it is; in this case, Kis.
So what of the Kis types in the 20th – and 21st – centuries? How do the early Linotype and Monotype machine versions compare to their Stempel antecedent? And in turn, how faithful are today’s digital progeny – Linotype Janson Text, Monotype Janson, and Monotype Ehrhardt – to their metal forebears; and how do these digital interpretations of Kis’s types compare to each other?
Stay tuned: In a few days, Part 2, Some ontogeny and phylogeny; and Part 3, Some comparative anatomy.
1. Bringhurst, Robert. (2002) The Elements of Typographic Style, version 2.5, p. 223. Vancouver: Hartley & Marks.
2. Lawson, Alexander. (1990) Anatomy of a Typeface, Ch. 14, pp. 158–168. Jaffrey, NH: David R. Godine.
3. Updike, D. B. (1962) Printing Types: Their History, Forms, and Use, (Third Edition), v. 2, p. 44. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
4. Barker, Nicolas. (1972) Stanley Morison. p. 345. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
5. Morison, Stanley. (1939) Leipzig as a Centre of Typefounding. Signature, No. 11.
6. Morison, Stanley. (1940) Anton Janson Identified. Signature, No. 15.
7. Stauffacher, Jack. (1954) Janson: A Definitive Collection. San Francisco: The Greenwood Press.
8. Carter, Harry and George Buday. (1957) Nicolas Kis and the Janson Types. Gutenberg Jahrbuch.
To begin with, Minneapolis Institute of Arts Director Evan Maurer didn’t even write the letter; and to add insult to injury, he spelled my name wrong. But on the bright side, he taught me a new word: deaccession, which apparently serves double-duty as verb and noun. In my language, this euphemism translates simply to hock, as in “Despite your opposition, we’ve decided to hock the Bouguereau.” And so, the letter stated in no uncertain terms what I knew would come to pass: The Bohemian would be auctioned off at Christie’s, and there would be no turning back.
If we consolidate all that has appeared in the local press on the sale of this painting, we begin to learn – at least from the points of view of Maurer and Painting Curator Patrick Noon – why the decision was made to sell. First of all, the Museum owns another, superior, work by Bouguereau (this somehow makes The Bohemian superfluous). Second, Bouguereau added elements to The Bohemian a year after it was originally painted in order to make it more saleable (this suggests that Bouguereau was pandering to his buying public, and therefore, that the painting has been artistically debased). Third, selling The Bohemian was part of the plan from the beginning (and apparently, plans such as these can’t be changed). And fourth, the Museum needs money (the current, elephantine endowment just isn’t enough). Sadly, these claims don’t add up, leaving us wondering why The Bohemian was really sold.
That people overwhelmingly liked the painting – that The Bohemian simply made us happy – was not enough, in the end, to save it. Apparently, pleasing the public is not the Museum’s primary aim (although “enjoy” does appear in the Museum’s mission statement). And indeed, the case can rightly be made that the Museum’s goals should be first and foremost to inform and educate its patrons, not to please them. But consideration of this issue leads us to wonder whom the MIA is really for and to whom it is accountable. What does the Museum owe us, if anything, and how much control can we, members of the Museum as the general public, assert over its operations?
As an initial attempt at an answer, I should begin by saying that, at least in theory, the Museum’s patrons are represented by its Board of Trustees, a 40-plus member group whose purpose is to guide and provide focus to the Museum’s varied operations; a board that, one assumes, acts in its patrons’ best interests. Curiously, an examination of the Board’s list of members reveals that their presence is highly correlated with their monetary contributions to the Museum. Names like Dayton, George, Pohlad, Sit, and Ulrich constitute the group, which is headed by Ford Bell. But do generous contributions on the behalf of CEOs and estate inheritors confer expertise in artistic matters? I sincerely hope so, but I have my doubts. Really, how can you expect a group like this to actually appreciate The Bohemian – indeed, any bohemian? I may infer that, at my current rate of giving ($125 annually – the best I can do, given my income), I shall likely never have a seat on the Board, and despite my weekly visits to the Museum, I can assume I’ll never quite know what’s best for it.
But I don’t disagree with the decision to sell The Bohemian as much as I do with the underhanded manner in which the decision was made and subsequently communicated. Last December, the Board of Trustees unanimously approved the sale. But this information was never communicated to me as a member or to the general public. The thing was essentially done in secret; in effect, the Board said, “You don’t really know what’s best for you, but we do.” What if, instead, the Board had approached its members (at all levels) as well as the public with something like this: “We don’t feel that The Bohemian is a great painting, but we do know that we could make close to a million dollars (it was auctioned for $650,000) by selling it. What are your thoughts?” That would have made all the difference, but it didn’t happen; on the contrary.
Trustees, not just those of the MIA, but of any organization, are literally people in whom a fair degree of faith and confidence are placed. Given the sale of The Bohemian, can we trust the MIA Board to do what is right for us, or are they acting solely for their (and the Museum’s) benefit? Had they cared enough to ask, to listen, and to reflect on what the Museum’s patrons have had to say about the sale, they might have given it a second thought. But they didn’t, and so here we are, continuing to put our trust in a board that has, ironically and inexplicably, deceived us. Or are we? Has the bond of trust, and all that goes with it, been materially damaged?
So what now – and what next? If the sale of The Bohemian is symptomatic of what lies ahead for the MIA, we should all be very concerned. We must call for a change in the way the Museum is run and in the manner in which important items of business are decided upon and communicated; in short, in whom governance of the Museum should be entrusted. What if the Board should decide to sell one of the Matisse works a year from now (we do have 20, after all)? What if they should choose to hock the Doryphoros or the Lucretia? Now there’s some money to be made! Then they could fund what they know we really need to see. It sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? But perhaps it’s not as preposterous as we might think.
If they continue down their current path, Mssrs. Maurer and Noon, along with Mr. Bell and the Board, will further erode the bond of trust that exists between the Museum and its patrons. Truly, all who are charged with the administration of the MIA would do well to remember that the Museum – more than its buildings, its staff, and its art – comprises its patrons, the visitors who give the art its life and delight in its presence. A museum whose relationship with its patrons has become compromised, as the MIA’s has, loses members, patrons, and ultimately, relevance.
There are so many compelling reasons to sit down and write. People in our world are starving, soldiers are fighting and dying; there is widespread corruption and injustice. And here I am, writing because a museum happens to have sold a painting. But it’s not just a museum, and it’s certainly not an ordinary painting. The Bohemian was the headline piece in Christie’s auction of 19th century paintings last Thursday, a masterwork by one of the most brilliant romantic realists who ever applied paint to canvas. And the MIA is a wonderful, incredible museum whose scope and presentation are unparalleled in our part of the world.
The next time you visit the MIA – or indeed, any museum – treasure each piece as though you’re seeing it for the last time, because it might actually be. As we have learned from the sale of The Bohemian, even the Museum’s most beloved works can be secretly sold off. If you’re a MIA member like I am, question the value of your membership; you are giving, but what are you getting? Question also the governance of the Museum; is it acting in your best interests, or just in its own? Perhaps if we ask enough questions, we shall start to receive some answers, and eventually, the trust that has been eroded will be restored.
He has posted to Typophile 5,707 times (in a moment, that number will increase) and is at once designer and aficionado, teacher and student, critic and commentator, provocateur and pundit. Even so, I haven’t a clue about who he really is. I do, however, know that even among a cadre of artists, Hrant H Papazian is just different. Amazingly different. I can’t think why I didn’t interview him sooner, but far better late than never.
JC: Why type (i.e., when did you get interested; what maintains your interest)?
HHP: I started on the bitmap side, in the early 80s. I wanted to type in Armenian on my Commodore-64, so I hacked a font on its 8×8 grid. Then I figured it might be fun to do Arabic as well, although in truth it became the sort of thing only a peculiar minority of people would call “fun”...
I actually managed to sell some of this very first work, but that doesn’t seem to have been the central reason that I continued making fonts (mostly Armenian ones) when I got my Amiga in the late 80s. Then thanks to the Mac emulator on AmigaDOS* I started using Fontographer, and shortly afterwards I was commissioned to make my first serious outline type, for the launch of a high-gloss magazine that was to be published (in separate issues) in English and Armenian, using the same layout/illustrations in each. From that experience I realized how deep and dark the world of type really is, and it was like a tractor beam.
*I have a funny story of how a Fontographer tech support guy hung up on me when he found out, but not before sputtering: “You’re not supposed to be doing that!”
For a while I had a nice niche retail market, but when that dried up I still had the essential reason I like type design: discovery. And one thing I’m grateful for is the UCLA Research Library: they have an incredible collection of typographic books, and can get anything through ILL; it’s hard to estimate how useful this has been to me in terms of education/exploration.
Although I work more on outline than bitmap fonts now, it’s possible to see my continued – in fact increased – fascination with type as being more purely expressed in the bitmap field, since the compromises (what I consider to be the meat of any sort of Design) are more literal.
I think there are two things that are required to be a good type designer in this age: one thing that’s old – the pure love of shape, the frisson you can get just looking at an abstract black/white form (this is something Goudy pointed out); and one thing that’s pretty new – the ability to think analytically. This is important for things like good spacing, and that’s one reason why this wasn’t a central requirement in the past: you could just draw the glyphs and get somebody at the foundry to do the – supposedly – menial technical tasks. But in truth there is no Black without White. And that might in fact allude to another appeal that type has for me: the impossibility of perfection. I don’t know if that makes [enough] sense.
JC: What are some of the more important questions in type design today? What are some of type design’s more pressing problems?
HHP: I enjoy seeing room for improvement in anything, all the time, so it’s easy for me to point out problems in virtually any of the many aspects of type – and sometimes I actually do something about it besides complain. For example I see a huge gulf between the onscreen type we have versus what’s possible, and that’s why I made Mana (originally in 16 but now available in 13 pixel size as well). Mana is a pixelfont that uses shades of gray – carefully painted by hand – to try to achieve an optimal balance between letterform fidelity, even color, and crispness of rendering – instead of the two extremes we’ve been stuck with for a while: full-fuzz rendering like in MacOS where too much reliance on fidelity ruins crispness; or totally crisp but uncomfortable 1-bit (black & white) type. The reason grayscale fonts have to be done by hand is simply that there’s no algorithm (yet) which can achieve good automatic grayscale rendering from a font’s outlines, at least not under about 22 PPEM.
But virtually everything I complain about in type (even the stuff I take action on) is essentially trivial in the context of the needs of the world. Except for one thing: increasingly I become more worried about Latinization – the imposition of Latin alphabetic ideals on other scripts. It’s really nothing short of cultural imperialism, even cultural genocide. To me Latinization is a henchman of globalization, and anybody who feels that cultural variety is a central pillar of life being worth living needs to fight it.
JC: We’ve known about two of your more recent Latin faces – Patria and Harrier – for some time now. How are they progressing, and how do you envision them eventually being used?
HHP: A soap opera. Patria comes from Harrier, and Harrier comes from Nour, an Armenian font I drew in Yerevan (on paper) during the summer of 2000, motivated by two things: a wish to apply my understanding of readability to Armenian; and a desire to forestall the rampant Latinization of Armenian.
A curious thing happened though when I took the idea of Nour with me to the ATypI conference in Leipzig: I realized that this would be a great opportunity to give Nour a subordinate Latin “slave”. It would look as Armenian as possible. Payback for all the times it had been the other way around. Sweet revenge. And I drew it. And I liked it, and called it Harrier, after the dog breed – not as a slight – I really love hounds, they’re the newspaper fonts of the dog world. I think Harrier would make for a very interesting book face, with its rigid slant and generous extenders. In a way, Harrier is actually a slanted-Roman, but not the stubborn ideological stuff Morison was preaching.
But then I realized that made me just as bad as the Latinizers. And furthermore I suddenly saw the opportunity to take multiscript type design to the next level, overcoming the one-dimensional, us-against-them formula that’s been in place for ages. I do much of my best thinking while walking my beagle (Garmir, which means “red” in Armenian – yeah, he’s a bourgeois commie like me), and during successive walks I nailed down something I’m pretty proud of: a network of fonts that supports both hierarchic and parallel setting under one stylistic umbrella. A “master” design for each script, each with a “subordinate” in the other script. The two masters can be set in parallel and/or each can have some embedded text in the other script. The [admitted] complexity of this system is a feature, not a bug; it reflects the complexity of cultural relationships.
JC: Have your ideas about boumas changed or evolved at all since you first wrote about them? If so, how?
HHP: They do evolve, but slower now – the model of reading has been converging in my head for years; the “bumps” that cause shifts are decreasing in frequency, although you could say they’re also increasing in relative amplitude – if you get my drift. One big bump recently was Kevin Larson’s talk at the ATypI Vancouver conference: although I wasn’t there, the follow-up research I did based on his rejection of the bouma model helped clarify a gray area I had (specifically what happens in the fovea). So although his insight didn’t derail my model (it has accumulated way too much “weight” for that to happen easily – there are in fact many ways I can show that Larson is essentially wrong), it helped refine it in an important way. In evolving a model like this in your head, you can’t reject others’ findings outright – you have to keep assimilating everything and making your model larger and deeper. It’s tiring.
One thing I’ve had to constantly maintain is the pragmatism necessary to prevent a fall into the chasm of formal science, always keeping an eye on the big picture, the whole point of improving readability/functionality. My approach is not conformant to contemporary science, and narrow-minded formalists effectively use this to counter my conclusions, although I have to hope that clear thinkers see through this. My way is what you could call the “ancient” way of science, where introspection and wisdom (or at least attempts at these) are just as important as the data. Data can be very easy to come by – but it’s the interpretation that’s tricky; and when the data is missing that’s still not an excuse to avoid plain old thought, and the resultant action. We need to apply what we do know, even lacking “hard proof”. Proof can be seen as another form of Opinion anyway.
I’m ranting (easy to do for me: just take away the “h”). Here’s maybe a better angle: you have to try to interpret the empirical data in the context of the anecdotal evidence. Anecdotal evidence is never totally reliable, but it’s “real”. For example we know that serifs aid readability. If you happen to believe this enough (irrespective of empirical evidence) you then have to figure out how to interpret the existing empirical data – but logically – to support this. If you happen to find too much data that counters the anecdotal evidence, you can then break from it and go further towards the source of the issue to see what might really be going on. It’s a fuzzy and highly iterative process – but to me it’s the only way forward. Taking the empirical data too seriously can only spin you in circles. You need faith to make real progress.
JC: How do your ideas about boumas translate to your non-Latin type designs?
HHP: I guess the main way is that it helps me see the different ways in which different scripts need to use the Cartesian area. For example Arabic has a tiny “x-height”, and the “information” it conveys is greatly spread out over the vertical span of a line, while it uses less horizontal space. In comparison, Hebrew (even though it’s also a Semitic script) is mostly in very tight horizontal blocks. Latin is somewhere in between. These differences partly determine the inherent readability of a script. Even so, the Cartesian usage of a script shouldn’t be normalized with respect to another – that would just be naïve Modernism; the Cartesian tradition is part of the functionality. So for example I think the descending “f” in the conventional Latin italics is bad. This is also why each of the fonts in Nour&Patria has its own vertical proportions.
JC: In your article, Improving the Tool, you concluded that, “In the end, we have to abandon the idea of making the Latin script much more horizontally economical.” But what role do you see for particularly narrow faces (e.g., Octavian and Kinesis) or for condensed/compressed variants?
HHP: A nice technical question. The role of narrowness (virtually in any horizontally-set script) is interesting. In terms of readability, it generally helps boumas fit the shape of the retina better: since visual acuity drops off in a circular pattern, boumas that are as tall as they are wide are more efficient. But there’s also a lower limit to the narrowness, and not just because the letters become distorted beyond easy decipherability: the most important attribute of a bouma is its width, and boumas are differentiated by their absolute width; when boumas are narrower overall they enjoy less of a difference in absolute width, and this makes them more confusable. But it’s hard to tell where the cutoff is.
The other thing to consider about width is economy. We might think that narrowness is economical – and that’s obviously true at the level of single lines – but a paragraph is not a bunch of single lines, it’s a series of lines; a wider font can be set smaller, maintaining apparent size, and gaining vertical space in a paragraph. Furthermore, a wide & small font is less susceptible to the “wasting” effect of linebreaks: a narrow font that accumulates small amounts of gain per line can have all its savings trashed by a linebreak; while a smaller font will save space per line no matter the linebreaks. On the other hand, a wider font causes more hyphens (in inverse proportion to the column measure), reducing both readability and economy. So it depends on a number of factors; but it’s important to remember that narrowness isn’t necessarily more economical.
Yet another thing to consider about narrowness is its “atmospheric” value: elegance. Narrow fonts appear more classy and refined, while wide fonts are more rustic and friendly*. And sometimes this “emotional” factor needs to override issues of economy, which can go either way anyway.
*When the LA Times replaced its somewhat narrow Century derivative with a notably wider face, readers complained that it started looking like a provincial newspaper.
In terms of specific fonts, it’s worth considering Octavian, which contains much typographic maturity; and Adobe Kinesis, to me the best font in that house’s collection – no exceptions. It’s also worth considering Sumner Stone’s Print, which seems maybe a hair too narrow for comfort.
JC: Your reformed face that appears in that article – will it ever be available for license?
HHP: I’m still suffering for that wishful thinking I did back in '98! What I showed was not a font. It was an instance-set of structures. An idea made visible. But I learned that you simply can’t do that – when people see forms they can’t help thinking it’s an end-result. My reformed alphabet is a concept, a set of formalized but intangible structures. But for better or worse, you can never really show structures/concepts; you can only explain them.
That said, a font based on my reformed alphabet is not only possible, but in fact the whole point! This effort isn’t about academic masturbation, it’s about helping the reader. But first I need to re- stabilize my understanding of the model of reading: it’s become a bit hazy again, and the reformed alphabet might need some more tweaking first. On the other hand, what I do consider pretty firm does get used in my fonts, for example the lower case “d” in Patria.
JC: Bold and italic variants of typefaces attact attention and convey emphasis, and in that sense, communicate some meaning. Your Daam typeface goes one step further; along with Twin, it might be one of the first “semiotypes” – types whose varying letterforms themselves introduce a glyph-based semantics, and can therefore accentuate, soften, or conflict with word- or sentence-based syntax and context. Are these faces novelties, or do you see them as more important in the years ahead?
HHP: Yet another lustrous virgin forest in the world of type! If you believe that a typeface carries emotional associations in its forms*, then you have to conclude that the conventional practice of having only italics for emphasis is one-dimensional. There can be many kinds of emphasis, many nuances a discerning typographer might want to give snippets of text. So what would be nice is a system of fonts than can nest into each other and convey various emotions, such as stress, sensuality, whatever. What do italics convey? Mostly informality and motion – not necessarily what the text being marked is about.
*And if you don’t, how do you justify making yet more fonts?
There have been some efforts (like Twin and Daam) which try to do this on the display level, but that’s just kid’s play. The real gold is in the subconscious, in the potential for affecting the mood of the reader through text fonts, with no explicit realization by the reader; triggering conscious appreciation of the typography is sure to dilute the full effect of subliminal textual moods. So we have to find ways of “flying under the radar” of the reader, so to speak.
I’ve actually been collecting samples of typography where the designer has mixed off-the-shelf fonts in this way, hoping (without any real “proof”, but much faith) that the fonts help amplify the message, even if (because?) the reader doesn’t realize the “trick”. I’ve found a few (not many) in some “famous” works (like Baudolino by Umberto Eco), but curisouly the best one I’ve found was in a cheap paperback novel called The Interior Life by Katherine Blake (a pen name).
JC: You’re a prolific contributor to the type lists and forums. How do you balance your writing with your type design – and oh yeah – with your day job and family?
HHP: I think the worst thing I could do to anybody who might actually be interested in this question would be to truncate their stimulating guesswork. An exposition of the reality – in fact merely my perception of such – would certainly be less motivational than what the average imagination can create.
JC: What’s next? Any long-range goals in typography/type design?
HHP: Yes. I want to have a private jet that I’d use to fly to the four corners of the world and instruct people on how to make the type in their newspapers and on their websites more culturally authentic and more readable. For payment I would only request good food, decent lodging, and invitations to the local social scene. Oh, and more fuel for the plane. I know that’s not a goal in tune with this century (and maybe not even with my abilities), but it’s really the only thing I can think of – sorry.
Most of all though I feel like I’m seriously behind, no matter what I decide my goals should be. I’m going to be 36 soon (that’s 3 cycles) and still have nothing notable to show for it.
I hate Robert Slimbach – I really do.
Never met him, mind you; he’s probably a very nice guy. But I hate him just the same. It’s the irrationally contentious side of me, competing in arenas wherein I don’t even play at all, that fuels such misguided enmity. I hate Tiger Woods, Johnny Depp, and Michael Dell, too.
In Slimbach’s case, it’s the multiplicative product of perfection and prolificacy that enrages me; his supreme skill and prodigious output are astonishing almost to the point of absurdity. Indeed, my antipathy toward him has been tempered only slightly of late by an indulgence in the prospect that he may not actually exist. After all, I’ve never seen him. Have you? The photo on the website: Digital deceit. This leads me to posit that Slimbach is nothing more than a façade fabricated by the marketing masterminds at Adobe and to assert, therefore, that he is, in all likelihood, a whole team of font designers. In short, the Nicolas Bourbaki of type. We’ve seen it before: Homer, Shakespeare, Betty Crocker – and now a so-called Robert Slimbach.
That said, the Slimbach Society’s Kepler is not nearly as ubiquitous as their Garamond or Minion, but it is arguably just as well crafted and versatile. Far more fluid than its romantic counterparts, it is nevertheless commonly categorized as a “modern” face. I’d prefer to call it another kind of transitional – an 18th century design that could not have been produced without the heavy dose of humanism that only the 20th century could have provided. A font, therefore, that could have been drawn only by a team of accomplished artists who share a deep understanding of history, a love for the letterform, and an unrivaled ability.
Truly, over the last 17 years, the fabled font-hydra has influenced book typography more than any other living entity: At least seven of the Society’s designs have become near-instant archetypes. I choose, use, and champion their typefaces on a continual basis. Alas, the acknowledgement of Robert Slimbach as a cabbalistic collective does little to dilute my dispassion. For as much as I wish I could play their game, I likely never shall.
And so I hate the Slimbachians with every fiber of my being. No, I’ve never met them, mind you; they’re probably very nice people. But I hate them just the same.
Young neo-Mia Farrows fold and straighten to the beats of Saint Etienne; overpriced, antique writing desks display overpriced, faux-antique journals, inks, and pens; and blouses, bras, and panties lie alongside smiling, yet somewhat scary images of Nigella Lawson (apparently she bites). This is Anthropologie: much more than a retail store, it is a lifestyle created just for you, the SWF, 28–34, size 2–8, median income 150K. Just how many of you are there, I wonder?
The timing of Anthpologie’s emergence and rapid expansion couldn’t be better; the tsunami of its chic seems to have been generated by an undercurrent of Amelie-induced nostalgia for something American women never even knew: That little Montmartre apartment where candles burn 24-7 in ballet-themed boudoirs; where the part-time job in a cafÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ© pays the rent and much more; where plaster and lead paint continuously chip off of the walls yet all somehow looks, feels, and smells right. Indeed, pausing in front of the store’s dressing room, you almost expect Audrey Tautou herself to stumble out, land at your feet, and exclaim through a nervous whisper, “Je suis dÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ©solÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ©.” A fool’s paradise, then, courtesy of your local, upscale shopping district.
But Anthropologie is just American enough so as not to risk appearing too terribly foreign (read: French). A more forced sexuality, or perhaps sensuality (I admit I don’t fully understand the difference), as opposed to an entirely natural form, pervades. Lingerie, far from being hidden away, dangles at eye level and faces you squarely as if to say, “Take me home, slip me on; I’ll make you feel oh so sexy while you’re surfing the Drudge Report at 2 am.” Barthes would be worried: Signifier? The clothing, jewelry, knick-knacks, and furniture of a certain kind of well-to-do woman. Signified? Buy and belong, even though you may be one of the younger women who can’t quite afford it, and even if you’re an older woman who can afford it and simply want to be younger. Paglia, never one to miss the finer (read: sexual) details, might be a touch more understanding: A place – perhaps the only public venue – where a particular psychographic segment of liberated women can be entirely comfortable in their sexuality; a fully contained communalism of female hyperreality where, ironically, men – at least explicitly – do not figure in, nor do they need to.
Literary theoretic invocations aside, the amalgam of the wares – knee-length skirts alongside light switch covers – seems accidental; yet the “design by happy accident” motif is clearly just as intentional as, say, the deliberate blueprint of Design Within Reach. Whereas the Anthropologie lifestyle is a joyous, synesthetic clutter, that of DWR is peacefully stark and one-dimensional. At first blush, the stores may appear to be polar opposites; but I assure you they are not, if only because DWR actually looks as if it is moving in Anthropologie’s direction. Witness the latest DWR catalog: “Oh I just moved into a quaint little cottage in the south of France, and how my Leggero Bed fits in so perfectly!” Yeah, gag me.
I’ve nothing against Anthropologie chic; truly, I wish I’d been smart enough to create it. But I am concerned about what may lie ahead; at 53 stores and rapidly counting, this phenomenon could well be the sequel to the Pottery Barn-ification of America. But just how many artificially weathered signs that read “Kitchen” and “Coffee” will we be able to manufacture and consume? And just how long will we be compelled to purchase design sensibilities and sexual identities, rather than conceiving of them on our own?
In a sense, however, I am less troubled by the Anthropologie customer than I am by that of DWR: The varied stock, planned obsolescence, and continually rotating inventory that characterize Anthropologie ensure a certain diversity in dÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ©cor; the combinatorial possibilities are enormous. With regard to DWR; well, there are only so many Eames Lounge Chairs and Le Corbusier Sofas. Do you really want your living room to look like that of 100,000 other people?
Perhaps there’s a broader precedent lying just around the corner: One not of consumerism, but rather of sweeping individualism; and consequently, one that will simply let even the young, sexually comfortable, and rich, women be. But I have my doubts.
An incredibly inspired take on Sibylle Hagmann’s Cholla graced the penultimate City Pages cover of 2003; suggesting musical notation, the mutated face underscored (no pun intended) the issue’s theme. Art Director Nick Vlcek: “It’s not modified too much, just a little playing with the ascenders and descenders. I do nearly all of my typographic work in Illustrator, and use that as my compositing tool for photos and art. Earlier versions had a music staff graphic element in the background, and the varied length of the letters suggested running up and down a scale to me. An accent mark, instead of a circle, seemed to complement the space created by the horizontal bar at the top of the ‘i’.”
Vlcek – a treasure of the Twin Cities design scene – spoils us yet again.
February 1, 2004: 7:39
Hi everybody – this list is awesome! It’s my first post – I’m soooo excited (oooh, I love the song on the radio right now – Hey Y'all, by Outburst)! Anyways, why is a font called a font? I mean – why?
I’m pretty sure “font” comes from fountain, because fountains are like the sources of everything, and fonts are like the sources of the alphabet. I heard that some English people actually spell it “fount,” like in mount, only with an f. Can you believe it?
My three year-old daughter calls fountains “mountains.” Har! LOL!
Speaking of the English people, I heard their going to ban the Canadian Mounties, or at least take away there horses, or something. I mean, that’s like a European institution – or do I have this backwards?
Somebody should really do a George Washington Mount Vernon font – I have no idea what it would look like, but it’s so historical, him being the forefather of all of us. Well, my real question is: Does anyone on this list know where MT Walbaum is?
February 2, 2004: 2:06
I just found out that George Washington didn’t really have wooden teeth!!! Isn’t it pathetic that they would lie to us about a president who was called “Honest George?” Especially after the cherry tree incident and all, which proved how honest he was.
Actually, scientists now postulate that George Washington’s dentures were constructed of a sort of proto-plaster, and that the rumours about the nasty tongue splinters were exactly that – rumours! Which clearly has to do with the fact that if you rush into something, you will rue it even more. As the great man said, “A penny saved is a penny earned.”
Was Venus de Milo made of plaster, or marble, or what? And was she really from Milo, and if so, where is that? Anyway, I always felt kinda sorry for her, having no arms or legs or anything. Why can’t the museum just make her some, like they do with dinosaurs? She would look so much better if she were complete.
What are your 50 favorite fonts? And who are your 10 favorite font designers? And if there were 5 fonts you couldn’t live without, what would they be? And if you were forced to take 5 fonts with you on a shipwreck to a deserted island, what would they be? Also, are there any fonts I should know about but don’t yet know about? Let’s get some discussion going on this ASAP.
As long as we’re on the topic of German sculpture, is anyone going to the conference in Berlin? If I go, will I have to learn to drive down the left side of the road in a car that has a steering wheel on the right side? Cause I heard Ferris Bueller killed someone this way, and I just don’t want it to happen to me.
I believe it’s common knowledge that Venus de Milo was made entirely of plaster of Paris, which (as is implied) is from Paris.
I need help with a font I.D. I’m dying to know the name of this font! I saw it in a book on fonts. Thanks in advance for your font help!
I’ve begun working on my first font. Thus far, I’ve only completed the en-dash and the em-dash, but all in all, I think it’s coming along quite nicely. I’ve included a sample, and I’d really appreciate any opinions on it. As should be clear to you, I’m going for something with a Baroque sort of feel; Futura is obviously a huge inspiration. Thanks!
Great start, Jeremy! My only advice is to just keep plugging along. (Remember, if it ain’t Baroque, don’t fix it!) Font design is a tedious, painstaking process, but you’re clearly well on your way – keep the positive momentum going. And welcome to the discussion forum! I think you’ll find it to be a nurturing, focused meeting place for all matters typographic. There’s no shortage of bright, well-informed people here!
I don’t mean to be gross or anything, but I have planter warts and I CANNOT FUCKING GET RID OF THEM! My friend used a cigerette lighter on hers, but then shes had two kids twice with no epiderals and has a huge pain tollerence. Of course, she burned her big toe off right down to the first nuckle, but on the posative side, the wart is gone.
Do toes really have knuckles? I’m of the opinion that they don’t, unless you're like an ape who has hands in place of feet. I’m really sorry about your friend.
FONT JOKE ALERT! First monkey to second monkey: “What’s your favorite font?” Second monkey: “Why, Ape-x Sans, of course!”
Bust a gut on that great font joke! Got any more? Anyways guys, thanks for all your help with my font question! I’m sure gonna learn a lot about fonts on this list!