Granada: The Spanish language as type design criteria

Halfway through 2016, as I was finishing my undergrad Graphic Design studies, I became very interested in the idea of researching the relationship between language and type. Fortunately, I stumbled upon Bianca’s dissertation, which helped me greatly as I could build upon her thoughts, draw my own conclusions and hopefully design a typeface based on language as criteria.

Continue reading

First/early female typeface designers

Every other month the question about who was the first female typeface designer comes up. From my armchair research, for up to the 1950s, so far we know of

  • Hildegard Henning, Belladonna, Julius Klinkhardt, 1912
  • Elizabeth Colwell, Colwell Handletter, ATF, 1916
  • Maria Ballé, Ballé Initials, Bauersche Gießerei, date unknown, 1920s?
  • Elizabeth Friedländer*, Elizabeth, Bauer, ±1937
  • Ilse Schüle, Rhapsodie, Ludwig & Mayer, 1951
  • Gudrun Zapf von Hesse, Diotima, Stempel AG, 1952–54 (Ariadne ’53, Smaragd ’54 …)
  • Anna Maria Schildbach, Montan, Stempel AG, 1954
  • (That is women credited with a typeface’s design. Many have worked in drawing offices and type production but remained unknown. And post-metal type design is another blog post.)

    I have been talking a lot about this with Dan Reynolds, who is researching 19th century type making in Germany for his Phd (this is such a brief generalization of his topic that he will probably kill me). After the war, West German type foundries published a couple of typefaces designed by women, but of pre-war typefaces Dan could so far not find more than the two mentioned above — Belladonna and the Elizabeth types. (It’s debatable whether the Ballé initials count since they were “not actually cast as foundry type, but rather electrotypes mounted on metal”, as some sources state.) While the idea that Anna Simons might have designed some of the Bremer Presse types is intriguing, it seems that this was just a 1980s American speculation, not actually a fact.

    Last weekend, Dan visited the printing museum im Leipzig and writes:
    “I finally made it to the exhibition from Jerusalem, which exhibited work from Moshe Spitzer, Franziska Baruch, and Henri Friedlaender. That exhibition included Stam, a Hebrew typeface designed by Franziska Baruch for Berthold in the 1920s. Baruch left Germany for Palestine and died in Israel in 1989. She had a career as a designer in Germany in the 1920s and ’30s, and then in Palestine and Israel after that. Much of her graphic design for the State of Israel and for her Israeli clients was significant; however, she never wrote about her work.

    While it was not mentioned in the exhibition, I suspect that Baruch was commissioned to design Stam by Oscar Jolles, who was Berthold’s director in the 1920s. Jolles was a prominent figure in the Berlin Jewish community, and Berthold’s publication of Hebrew type specimen took place during his tenure. Jolles died in 1929, but like Baruch’s mother and sister, his wife and daughter were all murdered in 1943, albeit in different death camps.”

    I believe Liron worked on this exhibition and its original catalog? Does any of you type history or Hebrew researchers have more info on Franziska Baruch and her typeface Stam? I had never heard of her. Glad we can add another name to our Olden Type list.

    * There is a documentary about Elizabeth Friedlander that just came out and will be shown in London on October 20. If you are in the area, this is worth watching.
    Continue reading

    Facing Our Fears: Teaching Type on the Web

    This article is based on the presentation, “Web typography is just typography, sort of,” part of the Type@Cooper West Lecture Series at the San Francisco Public Library, on July 18, 2017. Watch a video of the talk or keep reading.

    web design and typography exist in parallel

    In many design programs, web design and typography courses exist in parallel universes. If 95% of the web is typography, then why aren’t we teaching this?

    Continue reading

    Lost and found
    (and lost again)

    Exploring the first multi-style Hebrew typeface family

    Lost
    Hebrew was the language of the Israelite and Judean people for over 1,300 years when around 200 BCE, it died as an everyday language and was confined to religious use.1 This affected the Hebrew script heavily, since it only developed those attributes that were necessary to present specific religious texts. Therefore, Hebrew is lacking the typographic tools that would have evolved and developed from an ongoing secular use. Moreover, the Hebrew script was considered sacred. The scribes that were permitted to write manuscripts were concerned with preserving the letterform appearance, even at the expense of the ease and speed in which they could be read.2
    Hebrew was reintroduced as a spoken language in the 1880s. Since then, it experienced an accelerated process of revival. The shift from the written form to movable type was a hastened and interrupted one and did not allow for refinement and distillation of the letterforms.

    Setting type in the Hebrew script was and still is a frustrating experience. Not only there is a shortage in typefaces which sufficiently address specific Hebrew script issues, but the few that are available mostly consist of a single regular style, accompanied by a small number of weight variations. So, what is a Hebrew typesetter to do when trying to create differentiation within a text? I remember how pleased I was when I found a book published in 1905 in Minsk. In it I spotted one spread that seemed tailor-made to answer my question. The typesetter used different typefaces, different sizes, increased letter spacing and underlining. These were amongst the popular typographic solutions throughout the 20th century.


    A spread from the book printed in 1905 in Minsk showing the various ways to handle word differentiation and emphasis without a typeface family: 1. Underlining a word. 2. A different typeface, in a different size. 3. Increased letter spacing.

    Continue reading

    Japanese typography & Motogi

    In the context of writing a master dissertation about Japanese culture at the Inalco (Paris), I dived into the history of Japanese typography, focusing on the figure of Motogi Shōzō. As there are only few sources in English about the development of Japanese typography, I want to share here some of the elements I discovered. (This article was first published on the blog of Émilie’s type foundry, www.aisforapple.fr)

    In Europe, we learn at school that printing has been invented by Gutenberg, in Germany, in 1460. Johannes Gutenberg, thanks to his strong will and by dint of mysterious research, is believed to have invented from scratch the way of making books on a large scale, and to be at the origin of the democratization of knowledge in Europe. Whereas the city of Mainz keeps the printing technique a secret, it is ransacked in 1462 and printers spread out all over Europe. This is how other printing centers are created, starting with Rome (1465), Venice (1468) and Paris (about 1470). 1
    When we say “printing”, it is a shortcut that means in reality “typographic printing”, that is to say printing pages of text using metal letters. This technique is divided in different successive steps : engraving one sample of each letter in metal, reproducing identically these samples dozens of time, setting text using these signs made of metal, et then finally printing the typographic composition on paper.

    In 1460 in Germany, the technique of engraving metal was already in use for the making of medals, and the printing press was well known : images were engraved in wood and printed using a press. Gutenberg, pictured in history textbooks as a brilliant inventor, based his invention on existing techniques. His creation has been to bring these techniques together and to finalize the production of metal letters thanks to a specific mould. Furthermore, he did not work alone, but had business partners. 2

    In the same way that we turned Gutenberg into a symbol, Japan considers that the “father of Japanese typography” is Motogi Shōzō (本木昌造, 1824-1875). Magata Shigeri 3 paid tribute to this man in a short biography in English, published 18 years after Motogi’s death : “After years of toil and experiment, [Motogi] invented types for Japanese characters and for the first time made printing a business. We owe, indeed, to him alone the success and prosperity of Japanese typography in modern times. He is therefore most deserving of our esteem, as the Father of Japanese Typography.” 4
    This idea then spread out.

    Continue reading

    My 2¢: Two Typefaces, Vanished

    I do promise there is more than one influential Hebrew type designer, but after a long research process, my mind is filled with stories that were covered in boxes until now.
    I am referring to Henri Friedlaender. Last time, I wrote about his design process, and today I wanted to share two typefaces that were simultaneously designed by him for the Bank of Israel in the 70’s: One serif style to be used for banknotes and one (semi-) sans, for coins. Those two were supposed to act as a family, and indeed, Friedlaender based them both on similar skeletal forms.

    the banknotes typeface

    the banknotes typeface

    Continue reading

    Buginese Script

    Detail of page 109 of the Lettergieterij “Amsterdam” voorheen N. Tetterode type specimen, 1910.

    “Wait! What is this? Is this an alien script or something?”

    That was me looking at the book Non-Latin typefaces at St Bride Library, which displayed a page from the Lettergieterij “Amsterdam” specimen with the Buginese script.

    “People can read this?! What the…” (5 seconds later…) “That’s it, this is the project for my typeface/dissertation!”

    Buginese, also known as Bugi, is the language of the population in the province of South Sulawesi, Indonesia. This language is often written using the Latin script but traditionally, the Buginese script, also know as Lontara, was the common writing system. That was until the 19th century, when the Dutch colonized Indonesia and the Buginese script (amongst others like Javanese and Balinese) was displaced.

    Continue reading

    Language as Design Criteria? Part III

    During the research for my dissertation, Language-specific type design, I came across some inventive ways to deal with a language’s idiosyncrasies. Excessive use of diacritics and the resulting jaggedness of written language is one of the challenges typeface designers face frequently. This is a small selection of ways designers tried to master it for some of the Slavic languages in the past.

    Preissig Antikva, Vojtěch Preissig, 1924

    Preissig Antikva, Vojtěch Preissig, 1924

    Continue reading

    Language as Design Criteria? Part II

    The lack of aesthetic compatibility between Latin uppercase and lowercase letters has long been a topic for discussion among type designers. The mismatch is particularly apparent in written German in which the first letter of all nouns is capitalised (see Part I for more background). In the 1920s and 1930s, experimental proposals to harmonise German were put forward. Attempts ranged from reformations of spelling and grammar, to designs for universal alphabets which tried to connect the various languages of the Latin writing system. This is a very brief introduction to some of those ideas.

    Bayer’s proposal for a universal alphabet

    Herbert Bayer’s proposal for a universal alphabet, published in Offset, no. 7 (1926)

    Continue reading

    Language as Design Criteria? Part I

    A recent conversation on TypeDrawers about cultural preferences in typography threw me right back to 2011 and the months before I submitted my dissertation for the MA in Typeface Design at the University of Reading. Back then I attempted to find out if there are typefaces that suit some languages better than others and whether or not we can draw conclusions from their designs.

    I was inspired by Ladislas Mandel who said that the designer ‘needs to analyse the characteristics of his supposed reader socially and culturally and choose shapes accordingly’ in order to achieve high legibility [1]. Richard Southall also touched on the topic in his article ‘A survey of type design techniques before 1978’ [2]. In his opinion, one makes different decisions on the fitting (spacing and kerning) of a typeface depending on the language the test document is set in.

    I was left wondering if, for example, condensed typefaces are especially suited to typeset languages with a high frequency of long words. Or, if languages which make heavy use of diacritics require a lowered x-height. Should language be design criteria?

    Antykwa Półtawskiego

    Antykwa Półtawskiego by Adam Jerzy Półtawski was designed for use in Polish

    Continue reading