Archive through March 05, 2003

momo's picture

would like to get some comments on how anybody think of the topic above. does anybody believe in it yourself ? logic and intuition plays an important role in how you use typography in your design. this is of quite a difference in how you choose typefaces <- this is not what i m saying.thx

hrant's picture

Logic and intuition are largely opposed, but they're both important. Few people have both, and if they do, one tends to be suppressed due to social circumstances.

Dwiggins had great intuition, but a lack of logic caused him never to make a better font than his first (Electra). Some people make very good revivals, but couldn't make an original design (which requires intuition) if their life depended on it.

hhp

kentlew's picture

Hrant, correction: Electra was Dwiggins's second font.

What do you mean by "lack of logic"? Besides the quote about ascenders (which I think you take out of context) -- And is that really a *lack of logic* or merely reaching a wrong conclusion?

And how do you think this *caused* him to never make a better font than Electra?

-- K.

hrant's picture

> Electra was Dwiggins's second font.

I meant text font. It was his first there, right?

> I think you take out of context

How so? He said something like "it's interesting what little role extenders play in legibility", and he certainly wasn't advanced enough (in that realm) to even differentiate between legibility and readability. Pure blasphemy.

> merely reaching a wrong conclusion?

Any type designer (after Javal) isn't taking things seriously when he thinks x-height is all that matters. Conclusions derive directly from understanding, and not having understanding is largely one's own fault. But since Dwiggins didn't seem to have the mettle for it, maybe it was excusable? The problem in his case was that:

> how do you think this *caused*

Because intuition is a fragile thing, very easily crushed by the more tangible formal logic. Logic has to respect intuition; even when the logic is sound, it can end up subverting intuition to the point of sterility; and when it's flawed logic (like WAD's), the result is gradual degradation, like Caledonia. He needed more time - like Gill.

hhp

kentlew's picture

>I meant text font. It was his first there, right?

Yes, you're right about that.

>How so?

Because he was talking about increasing legibility in a 7-point design ("I am just cuckoo enough to be intrigued by this problem of getting a thundering big character on a 7-point body"). Would you not agree that larger x-heights and shorter extenders become more important in sub-reading sizes, below 8 point? Dwiggins said, "It is surprising how little descenders and ascenders have to do with *legibility* as such." [WAD's emphasis]. That "as such," I think, is an important qualifier in this context. In Gerard Unger's Quaerendo article, noting differences of opinion on this matter, he said, "Personally, I go along with Dwiggins." Will you now declare Unger to be also lacking in logic?

I'm not arguing here that extenders don't play an important role. I think Dwiggins may indeed have underestimated this. But you seem to consistently overplay the importance of this one statement, taking it out of the context of small sizes and parading it out as if it summarized Dwiggins's whole theory of readability, or some such, and then declaring that therefore he must not have taken type design seriously.

(As I re-read WAD's original letter, I do see that he makes some connection between this observation of the newsface and his interest with uncial forms. And I will concede that I think this latter obsession was misguided and distracting.)

Nevertheless, I do not think that it is fair to say that Dwiggins didn't think extenders played an important role and *therefore*, ipso facto, he was not logical. That's a big leap. It seems to me like saying that Newton was lacking in logic because he insisted that light was a particle.

>Any type designer (after Javal) isn't taking things seriously when he
>thinks x-height is all that matters. Conclusions derive directly from
>understanding, and not having understanding is largely one's own
>fault. But since Dwiggins didn't seem to have the mettle for it, maybe
>it was excusable?

*Sigh*. Hrant, this seems unnecessarily defamatory. Why must you always be so polemical? So you disagree with some of Dwiggins's thoughts; so you don't think he ever designed anything to best his first text typeface -- can't you just leave it at that? Why must you attack his character?

It seems to me that Dwiggins was one of the more *thinking* type designers of his era, exploring ideas, examining and analyzing. The fact that he did not always draw the same conclusions as you should not mean that he lacked logic or the "mettle" for understanding.

The fact that he was not able to embody some of his theories about type into a successful design should not necessarily diminish the value of his thinking about type. (Beware, lest the same charge be levelled at you.;-)

-- K.

hrant's picture

> Will you now declare Unger to be also lacking in logic?

No - in fact he's a beacon of good type design.
He's just a little soft on WAD. Et tu, Kentus? ;-)

> ipso facto, he was not logical.

I'm not basing my view of him on that one statement. And there's no such thing as "illogical" (except in the formal realm, of which humans don't partake), just more or less logical.

> like saying that Newton was lacking in logic because he insisted that light was a particle.

The qualitative difference is that Newton didn't have the information to see his mistake (or half-mistake). Dwiggins had Javal. And we have Bouma. No more excuses.

> Why must you attack his character?

Because it's educational. As long as an attack is not motivated by ill will, it's OK - it's constructive. The attacked simply needs to have the maturity to withstand it.

> Dwiggins was one of the more *thinking* type designers of his era

With this I agree. That's one reason I like him. The other reason is his staggering intuition, of which I can only be envious. The M-Formula is nothing short of real genius.

hhp

John Hudson's picture

What does the M-Formula have to do with intuition? It was based on observation and experience in his work with marionettes.


Kent, I think Hrant always insists on attacking peoples' character because he is a deeply insecure individual who needs to make himself feel superior to others. Perhaps because his own flaws are so deeply embedded in his personality, he's become convinced that all flaws are flaws of personality; so if someone disagrees with him it must be because that person is 'psychologically weak' or has some similar fault of character. This is why his hermeneutics are always so wide of the mark: he never considers that the other person might not be pathological, let alone that the other person might be at least partly correct, or correct within the context that Hrant ignores to impose his own context. Note that none of this is intended as an attack on Hrant's own character. Even if it were, I hope he has 'the maturity to withstand it'.

matha_standun's picture

I know, why don't we have a maturity contest! I wouldn't win but I'm sure I'd enjoy myself.

I don't think logic Vs intuition is the real question. I'm sure you'll all agree that each one can lead to exactly the same results.

What's important is the transmission of the technique afterwards. If your product is based on pure intuition, you're probably going to have to take on a very bright apprentice and show him/her how you work. With a lot of observation and experience they might pick it up, if they've got the mettle. With a product based on purely logical reasoning, you should be able to write it all down and teach it to 500 kids in an amphitheatre.
In my very humble opinion, I think good type design (like most things) is a healthy combination of both intuition and logic. Who cares about the ratio.

Matha

Miss Tiffany's picture

I agree with Matha. I'd also bet that Dwiggins would agree with Matha as well. I think any attempt to force any situation into a black and white scenario is dangerous. Especially when it has anything to do with creativity. I also think that if we all submitted ourselves to the same dogma the world would be an incredibly boring place.

matha_standun's picture

It wouldn't be that boring. We'd have a hell of a lot of wars to keep us occupied.

M.

hrant's picture

> What does the M-Formula have to do with intuition?

Making the connection from wooden figurines to subvisible type is all about intuition.

> he is a deeply insecure individual

I'm pretty sure that's not correct. If anything I have too much self-confidence.

> if someone disagrees with him it must be because that person is 'psychologically weak'

Not at all. I've told you this before, but I guess you weren't paying attention: I believe that by far the biggest factor in the opinions people have is not The Truth, or even their intellectual capacity, but their environmental circumstances. In Bush "evil", or a moron? Well, he might not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but he's essentially a product of his environment. So am I, and you.

I argue not because I'm right, but because I enjoy it.

> I hope he has 'the maturity to withstand it'

I don't know if it's maturity or hubris in my case, but rest
assured that this attack was like a mosquito to a blue whale.

--

And Tiffany is right.

hhp

matha_standun's picture

I love it. Bush and wooden figurines in the same post.

M

matha_standun's picture

Kent,

I'm not that well-read in Dwiggins. What can you tell me about him and uncial?

Matha

Miss Tiffany's picture

Matha -- Dwiggins had his own theories based on the idea that it might be more readable. Wacky really. His proposed typeface was odd, but being that it was Dwiggins, there was something interesting about it too.

matha_standun's picture

Tiffany,

Well, not 100% wacky. Uncial is pretty readable at small sizes. Mind you, if 'Dwiggins Uncial' (just found it through google) corresponds to his design, then, you're right, it is a bit odd.

Matha

matha_standun's picture

Having looked at it from all sorts of angles for 20 minutes, I'm not sure that it is odd. Maybe it's just crap. And there isn't much about it that I'd call uncial either. Why would anyone digitise a failed experiment and try to sell it?

Matha

Miss Tiffany's picture

Matha -- Where is this sample that has you interested? It never really was completed. Can't remember the details, but I do know I saw at least one book(let) using it at St. Bride's.

Miss Tiffany's picture

If you are looking at the Identifont (IHOF) version ... I'm sure I'll be sticking my foot in it for saying this ... doesn't look to be a perfect copy.

matha_standun's picture

Tiffany,

Oh dear. I hope I haven't been talking through my
backside. What's this:

http://www.identifont.com/show?57R

?????

Whatever it is, it looks like a failed experiment

M.

matha_standun's picture

Apparently it's based, very closely I'd say, on the Dwiggins original. There's a bit of an explanation here:

http://www.p22.com/ihof/dwigginsuncial.html

That 'h' is a total disgrace.

Matha

hrant's picture

I think Kent might be talking about the uncialesque type that WAD designed, not his calligraphy. What was it called, Falcon? Or something else.

> That 'h' is a total disgrace.

Which is half the Irish language right there. ;-)

hhp

matha_standun's picture

I'll say it again, Hrant. You're just jealous. You'd love to have 5 syllable words with a dozen 'h's in them. Who wouldn't.

M.

Miss Tiffany's picture

Because I'm such a softie, and because I'd love to hear what you (all) have to say without my biased opinion...I share the following information from my notes taken at the Boston Public Library while research my dissertation. As my dissertation ended up focusing on other typefaces and not Experimental 287 (Winchester)...
. . . . . . . . . .
Printed Sample of Dwiggins' Uncial, Winchester.
. . . . . . . . . .
Undated Galley Proof [Looks like his treatise of the

matha_standun's picture

Juicy is not the word for it. Hold on till I read it again. Any chance of a close up of the text?

Matha

matha_standun's picture

I love it. WAD is my new hero. He should have tried out his ideas in Ireland. It would have been a wonderful compromise between the traditional Gaelic and the Roman and in the 1940s he would have had a fair chance of acceptance.

M.

Miss Tiffany's picture

This can be found in "Postscripts on Dwiggins". Sorry, not in much of a mood for finding the proper bibliography.

Miss Tiffany's picture

I think that for anyone (person Z) to say that anyone (person A) else is not being logical is to feign an ability to read and thus understand someone else's thoughts completely. Even if this person (Z) has articulated onto paper their thoughts person (A) cannot possible say that person (Z) is being illogical.

Person Z says tomato, Person A says tomatoe. They are both talking about the same fruit (vegetable?), they only choose to label it differently.

matha_standun's picture

Tiffany,

Now you're my new hero

M.

matha_standun's picture

I say potato. But then I'm biased.

Matha

kentlew's picture

I do not think much of the P22 font, much as I generally admire Rich's work. I would not have chosen the model that he did. Paul Shaw, who has spent twenty years studying Dwiggins's work -- especially his lettering (from which this font derives) -- feels that it lacks the quality of the original calligraphy.

Tiffany has kindly provided a rather thorough (if a bit hard to decipher -- on the Mac anyway) brief on the Winchester "half-uncial". And a lovely close-up.

I will add that Dwiggins designed a more conventional uncial, Experimental No. 264, and a half-uncial companion to the first Falcon design, before the Winchester. Neither of these was completed. The Winchester was completed, along with a conventional roman and italic, but never released to the trade. Fonts of Winchester were cast for hand-setting and used by Dwiggins and Dorothy Abbe at their Püterschein-Hingham press for several books, mostly of Dwiggins's stories (which I believe is what is shown in the first image Tiffany posted above).

The uncial experiments have not been a focus of my research (yet), so I can't say much more about them with any real authority. Personally, I do think it was an essentially futile attempt at "alphabet reform" and a distraction in the latter part of Dwiggins's career. But Tiffany's right, there are some interesting aspects to the letterforms themselves, from what I've seen.

Here's an interesting tidbit: "Such a letter should not break too sharply with the roman we are used to: it should take our reading habit as a starting point, and make use of as many of the familiar shapes as possible." If I didn't know better, I'd say that sounded like another zealous alphabet reformer I know. ;-)

-- K.

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