Dear Alphabettes:
Air Quote Gestures

Dear Alphabettes,
I always wondered why people go up and down twice when there is just one quote mark.
Indra

 
Dear Indra,

Air quotes are the visual equivalent of scare quotes, used to show doubt, question the validity of, or demonstrate irony in a written text. This 1989 Spy magazine article, “The Ironic Epidemic,” discusses the history of air quotes and their significance as a reflection of jaded, contemporary culture.

When Bob and Betty describe themselves in these ways, they raise the middle and forefinger of both hands, momentarily forming twitching bunny ears–air quotes, the quintessential contemporary gesture that says, We're not serious.

Read the full article. (Thanks for the tip, Quora.)

Beyond pop culture and casual conversation, air quotes are not beneath politicians, elected officials, or repulsive human beings who managed to become elected officials. The current White House press secretary-weasel utilized the double motion air quotes as a way to somehow justify the abhorrent use of scare quotes by a certain fearless leader.

A bevy of internet gifs guarantees that air quotes will weather the future of post-language communication, but this one is quite possibly my favorite:

I’ll see you in my “nightmares.”

I will answer your question by suggesting that although right and left quotations are singular characters, the gestural convention for moving one’s fingers up and down multiple times occurs because verbal language, unlike a written text (at least for the previous couple thousand years or so), exists in time. If a gesture, like air quotes, does not coincide with the duration of the word or phrase found within said air quotes, it does not conform as easily to speech patterns. So, here’s my guess, as originally hypothesized on Twitter: maybe the double motion visually signifies more than one word or a multisyllabic word within the quotation?

Let’s take the beloved SNL character, Matt Foley, as an example.

In this skit, Matt Foley uses the double “up + down” method of air quotes you refer to in your question. It’s hilarious because he’s aligned the movement of his air quotes with his over-emphasized speech pattern. The air quotes almost make his tragically desperate intonation sound even more tragically desperate.

Then there’s Dr. Evil’s generous use of air quotes.

At first, Dr. Evil employs single gesture air quotes for the word “laser.” But as the plan gets more absurd, he uses the double motion air quotes for “ozone layer.” It’s the slow lead up that makes the joke stick.

As you can see, Indra, the multi-gesture air quotes may have more to do with the need for hand gestures to synchronize with speech, rather than the actual typographic mark. Still, it’s so fun when written and spoken language meets like this. How might the air quote gesture change with local quotation mark conventions? And what about the victory/air quote emoji (✌️), which effectively turns a gesture back into a typographic symbol? Those are questions for another day.

“✌️Amy✌️”

 
Do you also have a question about quotation marks, the universe, or everything else? Tweet at us @alphabettes_org and if the answer doesn’t fit into a tweet, we may reply here.

Dear Alphabettes:
webfont versus web font

Dear Caren,

Is it webfont or web font?

Thanks, Bianca

 

Dear Bianca,

As you pointed out to me recently, there’s a certain logic to web font:

Logically it should probably be web font, just like it is web developer. Besides, desktopfont would be unacceptable, so why isn’t webfont?

Fair, but maybe things like syllable count and simplicity come into play here. After all, common usage has closed up words like email, website, and ebook.

Chicago recommends minimal hyphenation, except in cases where confusion seems likely. Webfont presents no confusion. For A Book Apart, I’m currently editing a brief on, uh, webfonts; ABA’s house style guide recommends “web fonts,” but I’m lobbying hard for a change! The arc of usage bends toward simplicity. And anecdotally, people seem to prefer webfont. So anyway, yeah. I vote for webfonts. Besides, “I don’t think it will be long before people start calling what we call ‘webfonts’ fonts.1

¯\_( 🔠 )_/¯

Kind regards,
Caren

1. Nick Sherman, Typekit Roundtable at the White Rabbit Bar, NYC, April 20, 2011 (00:23:40)

 
Do you also have a question about webfonts, the universe, or everything else? Tweet at us @alphabettes_org and if the answer doesn’t fit into a tweet, we may reply here.

Dear Alphabettes:
Slanting emoji

Dear Bianca,
Why do some emoji slant with the text when you italicize it while others do not?
Thanks, Indra

 
Dear Indra,

Why would you italicize emoji to begin with? To convey speed? To emphasise emotion? To not have them clash with text?

In any case, I think it’s down to OS and application you use. A quick test showed that faux italic emoji are generally available and I couldn’t find exceptions to the rule apart from Slack’s menu which gladly slants fire but not couches for no apparent reason.


As we all know faux styles happen because the chosen variation of a font is not (or not yet) available. In this case, there’s simply no italic version of your emoji (type)face. Instead of falling back onto a different font family in which this style exists (not that there is one), it pretends there is an italic by brute slanting the glyphs. The other option would be to just keep displaying the upright emoji.

Curiously, faux bold didn’t work in all my testing environments and resulted in very odd behaviour in some. Tells you a lot about faux bold algorithms.

I’m guessing it’s only a matter of time until we see the first true italic and bold emoji fonts. For better or for worse.

The future is bright.
Bianca

 

Do you also have a question about font fallback issues, the universe, or everything else? Tweet at us @alphabettes_org and if the answer doesn’t fit into a tweet, we may reply here.

Dear Alphabettes:
Good Arabic system fonts

Dear Sahar,
I have some stupid, noob Arabic questions. I’m trying to set a short text for Syrians. What style of Arabic do they usually use? Naskh? Or can everyone read all the different styles (not like in India)?
I’m looking for a typeface that goes reasonably well with a grotesque. From those that come with Mac OS X or other apps, which one would you recommend or do most Arabic readers regard the best?
Thanks, Indra

 
Hello Indra,
it’s not like with Indic scripts, so no worries there. All the different styles are readable to whoever knows the script. I try to avoid all those simplified looking styles. Adobe Arabic is my favourite go-to system font. It’s very clear and legible and seems to be equally liked by people from different regions.
Best, Sahar

 

Do you also have a question about Arabic type, the universe, or everything else? Tweet at us @alphabettes_org and if the answer doesn’t fit into a tweet, we may reply here.

Takeaways on Teaching Type

Left: The organizers! Dan Wong, Doug Clouse, Liz DeLuna, and Aaris Sherin, photo courtesy of Liz DeLuna; Right: The panelists! Juliette Cezzar, John Gambell, Amy Papaelias, Thomas Jockin, photo courtesy of Nina Stössinger

This past weekend, I had the pleasure to participate in Teaching Type: A Panel Conversation on Typography Education, organized by Design Incubation, and hosted at the Type Directors Club in New York. The event attracted a range of attendees: educators, typographers, type designers and even a few students and recent graduates. Armed with only the most comfortable of metal chairs, we set out on a 3-hour journey to explore best practices of typography curricula today.

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Type Days Ljubljana 2017

We are Alja Herlah and Krista Likar, enthusiastic and passionate type designers from Slovenia. As members of the TipoBrda society, we got the opportunity to organize a type design workshop. Type Days 2017 – a one week long workshop – was already the 31th type design workshop organized by Tipo Brda in Slovenia. It took place in Ljubljana in the House of Reading and Writing, Vodnikova domačija Šiška. This year, we invited a guest mentor Adam Katyi, Hungarumlaut, who shared a lot of valuable tips and guidelines he learned while studying at the Type and Media program in The Hague.

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News—January 2017

“The Women’s March on Washington. Photo courtesy of Nina Stössinger.
The Women’s March on Washington. Photo courtesy of Nina Stössinger.

Our fellow Alphabettes continued to make the world a better place in the first month of 2017.* Here are a few of their good deeds.

Christine Bateup is the director of business and licensing at Frere-Jones Type. She’s also a lawyer. As part of a team of lawyers working pro bono on behalf of the New York chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, she helped free an Iraqi green card holder from detention at Kennedy airport.

With partner Noel Pretorius, María Ramos released Kinetic, a sans serif partly inspired by the mobile designs of Alexander Calder.

After filling in for Tobias Frere-Jones during the fall semester, Nina Stössinger returned to Yale for the spring semester to teach her own type design class in the graphic design MFA program. Nina’s typeface Nordvest received Communication ArtsAward of Excellence, and Fontshop named the face one of the best of 2016.

Lila Symons was also recognized by Communication Arts, and Maria Montes, Marta Cerdà, and Nina shared some of their treasured finds with the magazine.

Ksenya Samarskaya talked to Print.

Adobe invited Martina Flor to take part in a live lettering session in Paris; she also gave a lettering workshop in Berlin.

Hoefler & Co. released Ringside, a sprawling grotesque sans serif family for which Sara Soskolne served as the lead designer. First client? The Obamas.

Laura Meseguer and Nadine Chahine explored public lettering in Barcelona and London, respectively, for the French documentary series Safari Typo.

ATypI posted a series of interviews Liron Lavi Turkenich conducted at the conference in Warsaw.

Alice Savoie served as a judge for the TDC 63/Typography 38 competitions and spoke at the Type Directors Club with Janine Vangool.

Colvert, designed by Natalia Chuvatin, Jonathan Fabreguettes, Kristyan Sarkis, and Irene Vlachou, has been added to the permanent collection of the French National Center for Visual Arts (CNAP).

Veronika Burian and Mary Kate McDevitt served on the jury of Print’s 2016 Typography & Lettering Awards. Ferran Milan and Pilar Cano’s Aurélie took Best in Class for typeface design; Krista Radoeva and Jason Smith’s FS Siena won a merit award; and Maria Doreuli and Katerina Kochkina of Contrast Foundry won a merit award for handlettering.

Louisa Fröhlich released Lisbeth with TypeTogether.

Several Alphabettes made signs and marched in Washington, DC and around the world on January 21 to register their dissent from the new American regime. ✊

* Yes, January. We’ll be back with February’s news before you know it. We’ve been busy!

Mayakovsky: ROSTA windows

ROSTA windows were Agitprop posters created by artists and poets like Cheremnykh, Mayakovsky, Moor, Nuremberg, and Volpin for the Russian Telegraph Agency (ROSTA). They were usually displayed in windows and often painted with cardboard stencils rather than printed.

This is a selection of Vladimir Vladimirovich Mayakovsky’s posters designed for ROSTA from the book:
Duwakin, W. (1967). Rostafenster. Majakowski als Dichter und bildender Künstler. Dresden: VEB Verlag der Kunst


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Just Getting Started

What a day! We marched throughout the world and the outpouring of homemade messages of solidarity, resistance, love, and strength has been overwhelming. Here are a few of our efforts and some amazing signs we witnessed.

Some signs by Bettes:

Briar

Victoria

Nina

Dyana

Theresa

Isabel

Marisol

Nicole

Lila

Jen

Mary

Taylor

Jessica

Dirty Bandits

Indra (after ECS)

Tânia

Caren

ECS and Naomi

Our Washington DC correspondents ECS and Naomi found some amazing signs at the big march:
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