Character Spotlight: Latin lowercase s

Every letter in the alphabet has its own history. They change with time, and it is part of the type designer’s job to give shape to those changes. We set out to celebrate a letter that most designers would agree to be one of the most challenging forms to design in the Latin alphabet, the lowercase s.

The origins of this letter led us to the Phoenicians (1500–300 B.C.), who used three different forms: shin, shade and samekh. The shapes of the letters were simplified drawings of their names, for instance shin means teeth. This letterform is the predecessor of the Greek sigma, which evolved into the Etruscan S, and later on into the Latin form.

s_com1

Inscriptions of Phoenician shin, Greek sigma, Archaic Etruscan s, and Latin uppercase s

Continue reading

Snobs, Nerds and Maniacs

Have you ever been called a type snob? Font nerd? Typomaniac?

If you use, make or draw type / letters, it’s your job to care. I’m personally guilty of using this kind of language. However, when we act like our work is somehow above the mental capacity of typographic plebeians, are we giving ourselves a bad rap?

Continue reading

Creating a Future Free of Type Piracy

It starts with working with what you’ve got.

A couple of years ago, one of my graphic design students handed in a project that used the typeface Gotham. As soon as she handed it to me, I looked at her skeptically.

“You have a license for Gotham?” I asked, knowing that the least expensive license runs close to $200—which is not typically the kind of cash students in New York City, or even in the United States, tend to have to spend on school projects.

“Yes!” she declared triumphantly. She, like all my students, knew that I do not accept projects using pirated fonts; it’s stated clearly in my syllabus, and I assertively read this aloud on Day 1 each semester. She continued, “Professor ___ gave us all a CD of it!”

Continue reading

Turn That Frown Upside Down? The Project Faces Debate.

The typographic twitterverse is aflutter today. The subject? Project Faces, an iPad app by Adobe that allows users to customize the skeleton of a typeface and watch it magically change from flat to fabulous in a matter of seconds. Well, not exactly. At least, that’s not the consensus on Twitter. The application itself, demoed at Adobe Max last week, is perhaps less interesting than the ensuing discussions. Here are a few collected tweets worth sharing. Continue reading

A Lovely Night Out with the Ladies

Over the long Labor Day weekend, I had a lovely evening meeting several ladies in type. In some respects, it was one of those moments where you suddenly realize that you’re not quite alone in the world anymore as both a woman and creative individual. Sadly, it’s not often that you meet so many women in the creative field in one place. That being said, there should definitely be more opportunities to make it so.

In my early days after graduating college, I remember how shocked I was upon jumping into the corporate world of Typography and Design. Contrary to the gender-neutral classroom environment, the studios, agencies, and companies I worked for were overwhelmingly male-oriented. Could it be that women didn’t want to work at these places for specific reasons that I wasn’t seeing? If not, where did all these educated women go after they earned their diplomas?

Continue reading

In the Middle of Nowhere

L1040374_wp

In the middle of nowhere – an encounter First published in 2008 at SLANTED

I’m now on my way to Roquefort, after a halfway sleepless thundery night in a tent on the French Atlantic coast. I couldn’t tell if this is the place where the famous French cheese by the same name originates, but I do know that it is the place, central in the southwest of France where I will soon meet the man whose works I have studied, and come to appreciate, for some time now: his name is Jack Usine.

Continue reading

Choosing from Plenty

A Monday morning 7:30 am contemplation about fonts: I think, for the past two or three years, we (finally) see a shift towards choosing a fitting typeface from all offers out there, and not just the fonts we have already licensed previously. The latter was the prevailing situation in analog type days and whenever we had to work with typesetting studios or printers before PDFs. But it was also common in digital desktop publishing for a long time that you would use what you have rather than getting a new typeface for every job (because, amortization, familiarity, etc.).

My stance has changed when I started working more with fonts on the web, or more specifically, renting them from services. No point in licensing those in advance and then using them for everything for years (you can do that with self-hosting webfonts and one-time licenses though). Similar with all the rentable desktop fonts available now. Think what you want about the trend towards renting — incremental licensing vs. one-off licensing — but I’d be happy if we see more variety and more fittingly chosen typefaces this way. Of course, font renting models are not guaranteeing the perfect type decisions, maybe they even promote clumsy choices by people who don’t yet have a good grasp of how-to. But at least they don’t foster the lazy use of much seen staples because of cost, when the cost relates to time, and not just the number of typefaces.