Cut and then curved

ebensorkin's picture

I am looking for examples of typefaces that that use the curve & cut interior shapes shown here. Urbana is one.

This sample is from Malaga by Xavier Dupré

It looks a little like a calligraphic interior married to a typographic exterior to me. What do you think?

kentlew's picture

Eben -- Well, since the deadline for those reviews was yesterday, I presume you found what you were looking for.

Carl draws out a point that I was thinking about (and which was sort of underlying my query as to your interests). When it comes to features like we've been discussing here, there are a variety of motives and precedents. It put me in mind of some things I said in a Typophile thread from many years ago. So, for what it's worth, I'll direct your attention to

http://www.typophile.com/node/5303

Not surprisingly, that thread is wide-ranging and it takes a little work to follow the sub thread that pertains to our current topic. So, I'm taking the liberty of quoting some of my own [extensive] comments here. I hope you all will bear with me.

----------

23 June 2004

I think that what A. Scott was referring to is what I have called a "digital vernacular" -- a quality of simplified and often unexpected geometry being applied in otherwise traditional forms. From my perspective this trend traces back through faces like Downer's Vendetta (1997) and Majoor's Scala (1991) to van Blokland's Proforma (1988) and Carter's Charter (1987) and ultimately to Unger's Swift (1985). Pre-digital influences include Dwiggins's experiments on the one hand and the Czech "school" (Menhart, Preissig foremost, Tyfa also) on the other.

It strikes me that there are two threads of motivation in these precedents -- one technical and the other aesthetic. The early digital faces I cited were, as Nick pointed out, to a large extent confronting technical constraints, and their simplified geometry comes from efforts to create robustness in the face of coarse resolutions, as well as to conserve memory. The character that comes through is influenced strongly by the problems set before the designers.

The other thread is an aesthetic one. The Czech designers were essentially operating within the general "expressionist" zeitgeist. The willfully coarse finish of Menhart and Preissig comes from a desire to infuse energy into traditional letterforms while at the same time stripping them of any excess typographic baggage.

Dwiggins, in his own way, was also motivated primarily by aesthetic concerns. His experiments in what he called the "M-formula" were foremost an attempt to infuse a certain "snap" and "action" to the letterforms. His newsface efforts also professed to combat certain optical/technical constraints as well. But I think primarily he was exploring a type aesthetic that was influenced by his own cultural milieu -- Art Deco and Cubism, among others. This aesthetic is seen more overtly in his stencilled ornament and illustration.

Nowadays, the technical constraints facing Unger and Carter are largely overcome (at least in print), and yet Swift and Charter still seem fresh and vital. The continued exploration of this formal territory in contemporary designs seems primarily for aesthetic effect.

Speaking for myself, there is a fascination with taking seemingly inexpressive, reductive elements -- straight lines and simple curve segments -- and carefully combining them to create an unexpected grace or an organic tension. The yin/yang of the geometric vs. the organic is an ages-old formal dichotomy that can be found interspersed throughout the history of visual culture. The trend that we see in some contemporary type designs is just another expression of that exploration.

I use the term "digital vernacular" because this kind of expression seems to embody an inherently digital aesthetic: there is a sense of "truth to the material" that is appealing. I say "seems to" because strictly speaking, of course, this isn't true at all -- there is nothing about beziers that lends them more to straight lines or simple curves; in fact, the wonderful inventiveness of bezier curves is exactly the opposite, that they can be so complex and supple.

Similarly, there is nothing inherent in the woodcut medium that demands the rough, coarse cuts of the Expressionist work of Kirchner as opposed to the fine detail of engravings by Bewick, for example. And yet the raw woodcuts seem to evince a greater "truth to the material."

----------

26 June 2004

> @addison: And Kent, I really am interested by your take on the "truth in materials" because it's usually associated with an "unfinished" quality (coarse cuts in a wood print, visible strokes in a painting, loose lines in a drawing...). I use the word "unfinished" for lack of a better word--I would never call a Van Gogh unfinished. But could this same quality be applied to type?

Well, I think this is part of the current appeal of the "digital vernacular." There is a sense of immediacy in the forms, a sense of seeing the "raw materials" or being closer to the process, in some cases.

This notion was part of the philosophical underpinnings of many modern movements in visual art, beginning perhaps with the Impressionists and culminating in the Abstract Expressionists (think Pollock and DeKooning) and Color-Field painters (Morris Louis, Helen Frankenthaler, Paul Jenkins).

The Bauhaus had a strong "materials" ethic, which had a profound influence on architecture and graphic design. I am not surprised to see this theme appear in contemporary type design.

But, as I alluded to earlier, in many cases this is really a charade. In a digital medium, "truth to material" becomes a nebulous thing. When Bezier curves can easily be made to represent smooth, supple, and complex forms, why should simple geometric forms seem more "true" to the medium?

I'm not sure why coarseness and unrefined characteristics are viewed as somehow more integral to the nature of a material. But there it is. And the modern era has often explored the dichotomy between the coarse and the refined, between the raw material and the conceptual idea.

It seems to be a perennial fascination.

----------

-- Kent.

eliason's picture

Cut and then curved architecture:

dezcom's picture

Great photo, Craig!

ChrisL

dezcom's picture

I think we can get in to a dilemma if we apply too much of the philosophical reasoning of past design eras to working today. Modernist "true to material" philosophy perhaps was behind the visual outcome of much of their work historically but, as Kent points out, does not have to apply today. That is to say the reasoning does not ring true but does not mean some of the visual outcome (such as the cut look being discussed) cannot be used for whatever other reason contemporary designers may have for it. It does not even need a philosophy in vogue today as a rationalization.
In my case, I just used it as a means to solve a visual problem--how do I make a join that does not have much room (as in a bold counter) but not make it look too soft for the rest of the face. There was no philosophical meaning or pen logic or truth to the medium. It was just trial-and-error problem solving.
Dwiggins may have had his own reasoning and it may have fit his own philosophical thought but I will leave it to the real Dwiggists to comment on that. I do think techniques used in the past are still open to use in the present regardless of past practitioners reasoning. There have always been and are sure to in the future, coincidental rediscoveries of techniques often even without awareness of the older usage. We will never know how many times the wheel was invented or how it came about. Perhaps one time was philosophically mimicking the round Sun as a deity and another, more pragmatic time, a eureka while watching a rolling stone gathering no moss.
My point is that it is not so much an issue of what was or is in vogue as it is what problem does a given technique solve for the designer. Necessity can always be the mother of invention where philosophy requires buying in to its principles before you act on them.

ChrisL

piccic's picture

It's a super-interesting issue, but we should devote a separate thread to it, similar to what happened when John Hudson tried to underline the equivocal meaning of the word "visual communication".
Without getting lost in pointless "philosophy per-se", I think these discussions could prove really interesting tom underline what's of value (and what is not) in working with a computer… :=)

piccic's picture

Paul Shaw recently wrote an article for the Italian bibliophile journal Bibliologia about one of Dwiggins’s book designs.

Wow! Super-cool. I am a big fan of Paul, and I met him in person in 2002, when he was in Italy (he dined at my home).
I will surely ask him… :=)

ebensorkin's picture

Kent thank you very much for connecting the thread back to those ideas. And thanks too for the references as well!

I am not sure that this set of philosophy questions is completely outside of the thread. But I agree it would form the basis of a viable thread itself.

Thinking about the intent and context of this kind of micro typographical feature is interesting. Although the feature I have dubbed 'cut & curved' may be recognizable in all the stuff we are looking at here in this thread, there is as Carl has pointed out the break between the feature rising out a chirographic urge and one which is more Dwiggins like. There is also the feature of the cut being used in a ways that may be dubious or successful but not derived from the Dwiggins approach. And it is possible for a person to reinvent "Dwiggins wheel" as well as Chris points out. I hope that I am developing my ability to discern each one.

Bert Vanderveen's picture

Chris is totally right about the consequences of making choices — one could start out designing a typeface with the premisse of just using straight segments, amd presto: Journal!

But more OT: Cut and Curved is more Zeitgeist. Like rounded was last years’ hip thing. (And I am talking about the left part of the Bell Curve).

. . .
Bert Vanderveen BNO

Scalfin's picture

For some reason, some of these fonts remind me of Runic MP Condensed.

Quincunx's picture

> one could start out designing a typeface with the premisse of just using straight segments, amd presto: Journal!

I agree. The typeface I've been working on (to which I've linked earlier in this thread) also has no real philosophy persé behind it. I must have seen the cut and curve feature somewhere, since I wanted to make a typeface with it for over a year before I started it. The reason behind it basically is; I liked it, and wanted to see if I could incorporate it myself with succes. Since I was fiddling around with it for quite some time, I don't think I was influenced by what now seems to be a rage.
I understood that there is a chirographic rationale behind the shapes, but I had no idea there was so much information about it (like the Dwiggins stuff). Great. :)

ebensorkin's picture

Bert you might have something there. But what about all these Reading faces? They have been making that flavor of stuff for years now - no?

piccic's picture

I would like to understand once for all what "chirographic" means (and what means to you).
To me the features coming out of a certain handwriting style and historical period represent a technology as much as building a letter out of modules or studying alternation of elements aside from handwriting, like Dwiggins did.
I have never studied typography or graphic design, and the M theory of Dwiggins is something I probably assimilated indirectly through different designs, but I have to say it always came quite natural to me to introduce alternations of different elements in letters or in any other graphics.

And ultimately I never give too much attention to fashionable "trends", because they drown all my interest in the things they pick up… :=(

ebensorkin's picture

To me “chirographic” in the context of fonts means having features that are derived from the action of a pen. If you search Typophile via google you will see many answers to your question. You could also look at the wiki here:

http://typophile.com/node/21163?

dezcom's picture

"...the M theory of Dwiggins is something I probably assimilated indirectly through different designs, but I have to say it always came quite natural to me to introduce alternations of different elements in letters or in any other graphics."

That is exactly what I was referring to above. You just did it naturally as a part of your intuative working process without first looking at either current trends or past successes of others.

ChrisL

k.l.'s picture

Spontaneous reaction to the image posted [paul d hunt 6.Feb.2008 12.41pm]: Very nice!

piccic's picture

Eben, do you know when the word was invented [chirographic]?
I mean, is that a recent coin, or is just me that I don't know it?
As I have a minute I will comment about the idea of "derivation" you talk about, related to letters.
I never understood Hrant's use of that word…

ebensorkin's picture

I think he was interested in making a distinction between font designs whose shapes were completely (or nearly so ) determined by the logic offered by pen strokes and those shapes were not. This distinction is not his. The term was not invented by him either. Take a look here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chirography

In contrast, if decide what shapes to use based only on what you thought would help the design to work that could be called a-chirographic. This does not imply a specific solution or a specific alternative visual model but an approach to font making. That kind of design might be called Typographic in it's orientation although the term itself doesn't carry that specificity in it's meaning yet.

Hrant is keen on the work of Blosema, and Fleischman and has held them up as contrasting examples. Look at the Dwiggin examples here on this thread. I think They meet Hrant's criteria too. As does Kent's design. See also the Carl Crossgrove's post above. It is excellent.

But you associate him with the term and the reason is constant use. My impression is that he has been the most vocal champion of the idea that type designers - especially of text faces - should avoid excessive reliance on Chirographic logic. Hence his repeated use of the word. For him it is a kind of derogatory epithet.

kentlew's picture

Yes, Bert, this kind of thing is part of the current Zeitgeist -- and by that I mean much more than just the last year or two (which would indicate merely a trend). This is what I mean to imply by my use of the term "digital vernacular." It has become part of the current vocabulary.

And like language, this evolves subconsciously. You see something that seems to express part of yourself, it resonates with you, and you try it on for yourself.

I don't think that the prevalence of this characteristic in a lot of current designs is just because it's the latest "hip" thing (although there is undoubtedly an element of that in some cases).

Chris -- You know the nature of historical theorizing is to draw parallels and trace possible paths of development to create a context for understanding contemporary expressions. Sometimes it's just an overlay. It doesn't always necessarily prove direct or conscious cause & effect.

But hey -- as you know, "the old guys stole all our best ideas," right?

-- K.

kentlew's picture

BTW Eben, if I'm not mistaken, it was John Hudson who initially introduced the word "chirography" (during some long-ago debate on either the Typo-L or ATypI list, I think), which Hrant then took up for his own purposes.

John can correct me if I'm mis-remembering my history.

-- K.

ebensorkin's picture

I don’t think that the prevalence of this characteristic in a lot of current designs is just because it’s the latest “hip” thing I agree. I think it has real potential for utility.

paul d hunt's picture

what about all these Reading faces?

this comment is a bit sad really. i don't think that you can really just lump everything that comes out of Reading into one category.

I agree with Kent that this is simply just another tool available to typeface designers. It can be exploited for design purposes or employed as a solution to different problems. the latter was what pushed my work so far in this direction.

ebensorkin's picture

RE: John & Chirography; Hmm maybe so. Maybe an OED search is in order. :-)

ebensorkin's picture

i don’t think that you can really just lump everything that comes out of Reading into one category.

You are quite right. If that's impression my comment gave then I apologize. I meant nothing disparaging. The potential utility of the feature would be reason enough for it to show up a great deal and particularly if students were emphasizing text font design which seems to be the case.

dezcom's picture

Doesn't chirography cover more than the calligraphic tools? I took it to mean any writing by human hand.

ChrisL

ebensorkin's picture

I have an OED query in. I'll let you know.

ebensorkin's picture

The OED says

"chiro{sm}graphic a., -{sm}graphical a., of, pertaining to, or in handwriting;"

first recorded use 1885.

This doesn't mean that John was not the first to use it as a description of a font design. The OED records no use in that context. So it it's probably safe to say that used in this way it amounts to specialist speech, typo-argot or jargon.

kentlew's picture

Okay, having dragged poor unwitting John into this, I feel compelled to set the record straight.

On 4 Nov 2002, John Hudson did indeed introduce the term "chirographic" in an e-mail list discussion about the works of Gerrit Noordzij (which grew out of the ATypI list). He was attempting to construct an analytic framework for understanding Noordzij ideas in Letterletter.

"Writing" is a key concept in Noordzij's essays. John was scrutinizing the use of the two terms "writing" and "calligraphy," which he felt were used in an ambiguous relationship. He noted that "calligraphy" had some underlying stylistic connotations which he felt led to misinterpretations of what Noordzij might have been saying. He introduced the broader (and less heavily laden) term "chirography" in the context of trying to map some of Noordzij's interrelated concepts of typography and writing:

"A less common English word is chirography, literally 'hand writing', which
has its own adjective, chirographic, although the latter usually refers
simply to the fact that something has been written by hand, rather than to
any aesthetic or structural qualities of the writing."

[I hope John will forgive me for this direct quote without permission.]

Later, in mid December 2002, Hrant used "chirography" in a different discussion on the same list, and essentially as a slightly broader substitute for "calligraphy," meaning an approach to letter formation that relies upon the logic of the hand. He added a footnote and said: "* Thanks, John. This is what I've decided to use from now on."

The typo-argot meaning of the term that we now encounter in Typophile discussions grows directly out of Hrant's constant employment of the term for his purposes (somewhat like "bouma").

There you go: lexicography happening right here in our very midst.

-- K.

ebensorkin's picture

Thanks Kent! And thanks to John as well. It really is a good choice.

piccic's picture

Many thanks to you all!
It's really a good thing to read yor reflections: far from being uselessly "intellectual", they help me to understand and work more consciously. I'm sorry I missed an Eben Sorkin and a Kent Lew for such a long time… :=)

Yes, I was tricked by Hrant's use of the world, which as I recall was often deprecatory.
[…] Hrant used “chirography” in a different discussion on the same list, and essentially as a slightly broader substitute for “calligraphy,” meaning an approach to letter formation that relies upon the logic of the hand.
If we use "chirography" to indicate the inherent features of a writing instrument, it's clear that, as we stylize more the alphabet, we get past those.
But, (as I do not see typography as something "basically" different than "handwriting"), we should recall that letters, stylized as much as they can be in their "flesh", are forms with "skeletons" defined by the hand.

I have looked into an Italian etimologic dictionary, and I have found the word "chirògrafo", which means:
"document written by hand (XIV century, volgarized by St. Gregory the Great)".
The etimology is indicated as coming from the Greek "chéirógraphon" ("manuscript"), composed by "chéir" ("hand") and -graphon.

Since we are still using mouses with our hand, I find the word as in this "jargon" use, still not so suitable to underline what Hrant deprecated in typefaces. :=)

Bert Vanderveen's picture

Cutting glyphs out of slices of potato with a small sharp knife will lead to a certain type of font.
Doing the same with hardgrained wood and a chisel to something else.
Building a font with Lego-like parts id ib.

My point: the tools define the result. Using basic forms to construct type has been around for a while (see Ungers experiments a la Decoder and his subsequent fonts, also Fred Smeijers’ insightful Counterpunch).

Fooling around with a selection of interesting shapes is very easy on a computer. But if this leads to better typefaces? I wonder…

One prediction: real blurry fonts are the next hip thing. Especially ones that morph realtime.

. . .
Bert Vanderveen BNO

crossgrove's picture

"”...the M theory of Dwiggins is something I probably assimilated indirectly through different designs, but I have to say it always came quite natural to me to introduce alternations of different elements in letters or in any other graphics.”

That is exactly what I was referring to above. You just did it naturally as a part of your intuative working process without first looking at either current trends or past successes of others."

Hmmm..... Tiff, Kent, someone, can you post [a link to] the text of Dwiggins' Marionette theory? It's not long or technical, and I have a feeling some of us need a refresher. That would be more useful right now than more definitions of "chirography".

dezcom's picture

In Kents own words:
"For now I can summarize. The M-formula document was a letter written by WAD to C.H. Griffith at Mergenthaler Linotype on July 3, 1937. It consists of four short "memoranda" -- brief observations that all orbit around an idea for treating type letters in a new fashion.

The first of these is a hunch that advertising printers are interested in a type letter that "will carry a good charge of ink . . . and still look crisp and finished instead of blobby and squz-out."

The second is a reference to an article by R. Hopper in Printing Art Quarterly, March 4, 1936, entitled "What Will Be Tomorrow's Types" which predicts a return to classical forms, but with less imitation of hand-lettering and with a new crispness and refinement influenced by precision machines.

The third memorandum is the famous observation which gives the concept its handle "M-formula" -- M for marionette. This is Dwiggins's observation while cutting marionette faces that in order to really get the head of a young girl to "read" from the back seats, he needed to cut otherwise soft features as sharp planes -- "These sharp-cut planes, when viewed on the stage, by some magic transformed themselves into delicately rounded curves and subtle modellings; and the faces looked like young girls from clear across the room, as well as from the front benches."

The final memorandum refers to his stencil ornaments -- which he jokingly called "geometric spinach" -- and observes how curves and lines go together to create a dynamic grace. I quoted from this passage in my earlier message.

Dwiggins pulls these all together, saying "I have been cogitating the matters touched upon in Memoranda 3 & 4, with a view to discovering from them a method for modelling type-letters in some other than the traditional way -- to produce in the printed words the quite astonishing results I get with marionette heads and with geometrical spinach." He also includes some illustrations of his points and some trial letters for Griffith to consider.

The practical essence of the M-formula was summarized by Dwiggins a year later as "a method to trick the eye (in viewing objects much reduced) into seeing curves that aren't there."

Although the image of Dwiggins having some grand epiphany while carving wooden marionettes has some romantic appeal, I think far too much is sometimes made of this "M" aspect of the M-formula. It's a catchy handle, no doubt, but the letter of July 1937 is really a culmination of ideas that Dwiggins had been formulating for at least a year before. In fact, about five months earlier, WAD had written another letter to CHG which laid out most of these exact same points -- referring to the Hopper article and talking about applying aspects of his ornaments ("junctions sharp and square") to type letters -- without any mention of the whole marionette thing.

Also, one quibble that I have with Unger's article is that it gives the impression (unintentionally, no doubt) that the M-formula was developed specifically in the context of newspaper type design, which, in my opinion, is not true. It is not until a year later that he applies the idea to a newspaper typeface in development. And even then, it is only one of five possible directions he presented.

The M-formula document is filed in the Griffith archives with the dossier on the newspaper type Hingham. And Hingham is unquestionably one of the fuller explorations of these ideas. But, in my opinion, the original letter was conceived more closely in connection with the Falcon design where, as I've said, Dwiggins also poured many of these ideas in search of a sharp-finished oldstyle, only to abandon it in the end.

Again, sorry for the lengthy and slightly academic tome. I hope it has proved at least somewhat interesting to some on the list.

-- Kent.
"

ChrisL

dezcom's picture

Here is the text of the famous RR letter:

" WAD to RR
a letter about designing =type=

Harvard College Library
Department of Printing and Graphic Arts
1940 Cambridge, Massachusetts

Copyright 1940 by Harvard College Library
Department of Printing and Graphic Arts

=printed under the supervision of gehman taylor gordon-taylor inc. cambridge=

[This text is a slightly expanded version of a letter written on July 21 1937 to a friend who wanted to know how one went about designing a typeface.]

=Dear RR:
The= way I work at present
is to draw an alphabet 10 times 12 point size, with a pen or brush, the letters carefully finished. I start with the lower-case, and let its characters settle the style of the capitals. Ten times twelve point is a convenient size to work; and I have a diminishing glass that reduces the letters to something like 12 point size when I put the drawing on the floor and squint at it through the glass held belt high. This gives a rough idea of what the reduction does to curves and things.
Having got a start on what I want by this means I turn the drawing over to G.~ and he puts a few of the characters through -possibly lower-case _h_ and _p_. He makes his large pattern drawings (64 times 12 point) cuts, casts and proves the trial characters; and sends me his large drawings, my 10 times drawings, & proofs on smooth and rough paper.
By looking at all these for two or three days I get an idea of how to go forward -or, if the result is a dud, how to start over again. From the large pattern-sheets I can see just how details behave when they get down to size, and can change the weights of serifs, thin lines, etc., etc., accordingly. _Curves_ do all kinds of queer things when reduced; and the way lines running together make spots is a thing that will surprise you -but one or two tries on these points give you the information you need. I am beginning to get the drift of it and to foresee from the large drawings what will happen in the type. I can _modify_ in the large outline drawings, but so far I can't _originate_ in that medium.
In making the Falcon I tried another scheme for arriving at the characteristics of the first-run experimental letters. I cut stencils in celluloid -a long and a short stem, the _n_ arch, and a loop -_twice_ the size of 12 point -pretty small! -and constructed letters from these elements by stencilling. When I had achieved a line of these little 24 point characters that looked good Griffith ran them up with his `shadowgraph' projector to the pattern drawing size in pencil outline. From these enlargements I again cut stencils, or, more properly, templets in cardboard, for stems, the _n_ arch, and the _b_ loop, in the 64 times size -and made my hard-pencil outline patterns through these, a` la French curves. You allow for the `set-off' of the pencil-point in cutting the templets. I used the templet method in order to keep as close as I could to the `action' of the 24 point originals.

I'd say: make an alphabet, carefully finished, 10 "*" 12 point; getting these lines accurately placed: {
|
top of ascenders -------------------------o--
|
--o----------------------|--
| |
`z height' putting this line |
where you will |
|
-------------------------o--
established alignment |
bottom of descenders -------------------------o--
}

Then have Griff.~ cut and cast two letters -the ones that will tell you the most. I like _n_, and _p_, _d_, or _b_, a straight one and a looped one. Maybe _hp_ would be best. Then, with the `actual size' proofs from the type, your 10 times drawings, and G's large-size patterns in outline, you can see what you are doing; you can thicken or thin your stems or modify curves for another trial if needed, or go ahead with the rest of the letters on the original scheme. I adopted `ten times' because it was easy to work with a 0.01 inch scale -but of course you could work any size you liked so long as it was some exact multiple of 12 point or what ever size you are shooting for.
When G and I have settled dimensions, etc., to our liking, I go ahead with the alphabet on thin bond-paper in pencil outline, in the working drawing size -ruling off the horizontal bounding lines accurately, and then drawing the letters quite freely at first, in the `positive' position -passing the outline back and forth from one side of the paper to the other, erasing the previous outline as soon as I have established its child on the other side -modifying toward `the idea' at each change -until I get a `positive' that is good enough to mark down on the other side of the paper as a precise `negative' in thin pencil line -=6h=. The patterns are all negative: back side to. This negative is the guide for the foundry staff's French curves and straight-edges. My drawing is free-hand (except in such cases as the Falcon templets.) I haven't any complaint to make about the staff's French curves -they do a surprisingly faithful job. Just what happens in the next step -the reduction to the brass-pattern size (the patterns that guide the engraving-tool in cutting the ultimate 12 point punch) I don't know. I haven't compared working-drawing with brass yet; not easy to do. But so far as I can observe from the final proof they keep the original touch here too.

Up to this point the affair has been pretty much under your control. You have made your individual lettershapes good according to your lights, and have got them through to metal type.... Will they behave decently _when they are combined into words_? You can't tell yet. All you can do about this question, in your _drawing_ stage, is to lean hard on the hunches you have picked up as to what letters do to each other when they are fitted together.
=Fitting= is the process of working out the exactly right amount of space to go between letters.
Each type-letter, wherever it goes, carries along with it two _fixed_ blank spaces, one on each side. And of course, each one of the 26 is likely to be placed alongside any one of the other 25 with _their_ fixed blank spaces. So the odds against you in the fitting game would seem to be 2704 to 1. (Would it be that, or 2500 to 1?)
But it isnt quite so bad -the letter-shapes occur in groups of similars: when you have solved for _n_ alongside of _n_ you are close to a workout for _h i j l m_ and for the stem sides of _b d k p q_ -a proper fitting for _o_ gives you a line on the round shapes, etc., etc. _a, c, e,_ on their open sides, and _f g r t_ are hard to fit.....
Griffith steps in here, with his experience, and takes a first crack: establishes the `side-bearings' and sets up a trial page. If the result is not satisfactory you go on from there by experiment. Usually he makes it in one.
There isn't any fitting formula worked out yet. G.~ says there can't be any: that it is a job for the eye alone. I have a hunch that a `course' formula could be worked out; because there is certainly a `right' interval for a given weight and height of stem, varying as these dimensions vary. To find out and establish these right intervals of emptiness between occupied regions is one of the prime jobs of design -`voids & masses.'
WAD

This is the third publication by the
Department of Printing and Graphic Arts in the Harvard College Library Cambridge
HCL

........

ChrisL

John Hudson's picture

I certainly didn't invent the word 'chirography', which has been around for a good while. But I was the first to suggest it to Hrant as an aesthetically neutral term meaning simply hand-writing (as distinct from 'calligraphy', which he had been using, which implies a specific class of writing as art). Why say chirography instead of simply handwriting? Chirography adapts to an adjective, chirographic, that may be considered more abstract than 'handwritten', so one can apply it more easily to describe qualities of things that are not, in fact, written by hand.

piccic's picture

so one can apply it more easily to describe qualities of things that are not, in fact, written by hand.
Yes, but typefaces are never "written by hand", so I don't see why I should consider basically better or worse what is more or less influenced by handwriting instruments.
Surely typefaces require complex geometry, but referring heavily to devices related to writing instruments does not automatically make a typeface worse, as it seems to be partially implied by the use Hrant made of the word.

@Carl, you wrote:
«Hmmm..... Tiff, Kent, someone, can you post [a link to] the text of Dwiggins’ Marionette theory? It’s not long or technical, and I have a feeling some of us need a refresher. That would be more useful right now than more definitions of “chirography”.»
For which reason do you say that?

dezcom's picture

More WAD 'M' text. From the memorandums Kent spoke about above:

"Memorandum 1. My spies report that he-blooded advertising printers over the country want a type that will carry a good charge of ink on coated stock, and that on coated stock will look crisp and finished instead of blobby and squz-out. They want it, too, for newspaper ads., to get relatively strong color and at the same time a look of finish and snap.

Memorandum 2. I lift these quotes from the article by Raymond Hopper you sent me: “What will be tomorrow’s types?”

“I am convinced that the next step will be… some modification of the beauty that once was Greece and Rome” (I hope so.)

“The classical forms we shall soon begin to return to – even now are returning to – will not be simply the familiar old Caslon.”

“… Whatever… that may follow will have… less to owe to the traditional imitation of hand-lettering… It is cast in metal, cut by precision machines, printed, not painted… The hard, clean lines of gravure processes; the printing of dull inks on even glossy papers; familiarity with and innate love for engraving; the crisp note struck by so-called modernistic furniture, all tend to foster the urge for something brilliant, scintillating. There will be a refinement, a finesse, that was lacking utterly in Caslon and Cloister, however lovely their forms may have been.”

Memorandum 3. In cutting marionette heads in wood I came up against the problem of projecting the face of a girl – so that the doll would really look like a girl of 18 – subtly modelled features, delicate, springlike, young – to the people in the back row. (Aged folk like us are easy to carve, and project) I started by making delicately modelled heads. [Exhibit A] These were charming at arm’s length, but the girl quality did not carry to the back benches. Then I made a discovery. Instead of soft curves for the cheeks, etc., I cut flat planes with sharp edges. [Exhibit B] These sharp-cut planes, when viewed on the stage, by some magic transformed themselves into delicately rounded curves and subtle modellings; and the faces looked like young girls from clear across the room, as well as from the front benches.

The Experimental Type Designs of William Addison Dwiggins

Memorandum 4. In the kind of geometrical spinach I have been growing for printers’ ornament, I note that straight-line forms and shapes of geometric curves properly put together achieve more effect of grace of line and curve and motion that do combinations of free flowing curves and shapes. The “grace” quality is somehow augmented – stepped up to a higher level by the sharp angular quality of the elements. Also, a new kind of tingle and life is added to the brew.

[Exhibit C] is not the best specimen to illustrate the point, but compare, re "vitality" (and projection of the “grace” quality – come right out with it), with Frederick’s [Goudy] carefully constructed curves. [Exhibit D]

I have been cogitating the matters touched upon in Memorandum 3 and 4, with a view to discovering from them a method for modelling type-letters in some other than the traditional way – to produce in the printed words the quite astonishing results I get with marionette heads and with geometrical spinach.

I have tried various schemes, and come out with one set of letters* that, under the reducing glass, shows a good portion of the kind of thing I have been aiming at. You can’t see “it” except in the reduction. The reducing lens I use puts the drawings down to close to 12 point where the copy is on the floor and you are standing up.

These letters are “classical” anatomy processed àla marionette. You will see the method in the drawings. It is more evident in the lowercase than in the capitals, but that is OK because most of the character of any font is in the l.c. [lowercase].

One can’t be dead sure, of course, [but] I have the hunch that these letters do not parallel any existing face. They may be worth trying out via the photo-reduction stunt. I think there is something good close along this line.

W.A.D."

-----
ChrisL

kentlew's picture

Chris -- You must have cut this out of Tiffany's paper: The line "The Experimental Type Designs of William Addison Dwiggins" right before Memorandum 4 looks like her footer element. It is not part of WAD's original letter.

-- K.

Rob O. Font's picture

Kent, have you explored WAD's unexplored newspaper heading design? Is that all there is?

Cheers!

dezcom's picture

Probably so, Kent. Now if I go back and edit it, the whole thing will be out of order.

ChrisL

crossgrove's picture

"For which reason do you say that?"

Claudio, on Typophile for years it seems to me we have been asking, and re-answering, the question "What is chirography?". Shouldn't this just be a wiki node? In contrast, I think the origin, application and results of this M-theory of Dwiggins, are very important for type designers to understand, and I think the original explanation of it is best, but somehow this information is not so easy to find. So many type designers now are happily mimicking forms they see without necessarily understanding their origins or purposes. This kind of surface appreciation could allow one to see mechanical pen artifacts as interchangeable with intentional optical tricks. Especially now that so few have familiarity with any hand-written techniques, I feel it's important to keep these ideas illuminated.

William Berkson's picture

On the term 'chirographic', my impression is that Hrant turned it into a kind of swear word that he has used against stuff he doesn't like that shows influence of the hand. The stuff that is geometric that he doesn't like he calls subservience to 'das grid' or something like that.

Since almost all our letter forms have an origin in hand writing, I asked Hrant what was specifically chirographic in the evil sense he has in his head. But I didn't get any answer.

Personally, I think that the influence of the hand can be good or bad, and it's up to the designer which way it goes.

kentlew's picture

David --

Yes, there's more, most of it not related to the image shown. Robb should have copies on that CD from our BPL adventures a couple years back. Plus, there's a little bit of related material from Kentucky.

No, I've not explored the direction shown here. I've tinkered with a different one, but nothing's come of it (been too busy with all that custom Whitman stuff ;-)

-- K.

John Hudson's picture

piccic but referring heavily to devices related to writing instruments does not automatically make a typeface worse, as it seems to be partially implied by the use Hrant made of the word.

Hrant loads the terms with his ideological prejudices*, but that doesn't invalidate the usefulness of the term. For me, the term is simply descriptive of particular qualities that may be present in type design in greater or lesser degree. The argument about whether those qualities are desirable or not is another matter.

* Since ideology and prejudice are commonly taken as having negative connotations, I should point out that, in respect to Hrant's opinions, I do not intend them as such. Hrant takes ideology seriously.

William Berkson's picture

>I do not intend them as such

Yeah, sure John :)

Rob O. Font's picture

" (been too busy with all that custom Whitman stuff ;-)"
Very sorry. Will not disturb again. ;)

Cheers!

Chris Rugen's picture

been too busy with all that custom Whitman stuff ;-)

::ears perk up::

As a type consumer, it was Kent and Xavier Dupré's type designs that made me aware of this type design convention. It also crops up in some of my favorite contemporary brush script-influenced faces. It quickly became something I sought out, when the opportunity presented itself. Not sure why, I just love the contrast and the forms it creates.

kentlew's picture

Heh heh. Don't get me wrong, David. I don't mind being busy. Also, I don't really mind being "disturbed" by you ;-) I'll send you some stuff when I get a chance.

(And if I spent less time on these forums, I'd get more work done.)

-- K.

ebensorkin's picture

I’d get more work done.

But we would not learn nearly as much.

piccic's picture

@Carl: You are surely right, I think there is an enormous lack of good written material considering the important steps of work in history (especially our work, especially when book design enters the industrial revolution and the split between "graphic design" and "fine typograpjhy" begins…). In Italy we have probably the worst situation. Me and Antonio are trying to map it out a little… :=)
However, I thought you were talking in general, not about that term [chirography].
Since I have been here very rarely in the past 2 years, I saw it employed mostly by Hrant, and so I asked, because I consider the reflection upon the meaning of the words a very important thing. I am always delighted when I understand a word more properly.

@John: OK, but "chiro-" is "the hand", while the "cut and curved" systematized in the M-theory is not simply a thing "borrowed" from calligraphy but — from what I have read in Tiffany's PDF about Dwiggins — is beyond that, it's a reflection upon the variability between different elemets in order to create tension and features that makes things more attractive and more functional as well (I dare saying "more wholesome"?).
Of course, as Carl Crossgrove pointed out, being conscious of what has been done and laid down, makes new work more fruitful. Why don't you write a book on these things? [Not only Dwiggins, but also other great professionals with different approaches…]

@Eben: «But we would not learn nearly as much.»
Yes, Kent should find a good balance… :=)

Rob O. Font's picture

Kent: "The willfully coarse finish of Menhart and Preissig comes from a desire to infuse energy into traditional letterforms while [...] stripping them of any excess typographic baggage."

I think the infusion of energy fonr the course finish, uploaded so much baggage, they had few places to go.;)

"The yin/yang of the geometric vs. the organic is an ages-old formal dichotomy that can be found interspersed throughout the history of visual culture"
I think the real cool thing is not geometric VS.. the organic, but geometric AS organic. That is to say, when something of organic origin, moves to being represented in a geometric construction, without becoming ying/yan-ed, so to speak.

John H.: "I certainly didn’t invent the word ’chirography’[...] But [...] as an aesthetically neutral term meaning simply hand-writing (as distinct from ’calligraphy’, which he had been using, which implies a specific class of writing as art)."

I liked this part. Because it asks one to specify language, script and style, or make no sense.

"Chirography adapts to an adjective, chirographic, that may be considered more abstract than ’handwritten’, so one can apply it more easily to describe qualities of things that are not, in fact, written by hand."

But I want terms for three kinds of type:
1. represents a style of writing that could be written, with a single tool from a single position. (Zapf Chancery Italic)
2. represents a style of type not completely written, but made with a single tool from a few positions. (Times)
3. represents a style of type that requires multiple tools and positions, and writing is not being represented. (Eurostyle).

Is that Calligraphy, Chirography, and Construgraphy?

"(And if I spent less time on these forums, I’d get more work done.)"
Maybe, maybe not. I'm hardly one to talk, and it's hard to tell. I have a bell that rings every 15 minutes and so i almost have to go.

"But we would not learn nearly as much."
Yeah, you'd have to buy the fonts otherwise. ;)

As Carl points out, a funny thing about this trend is that printing is good. The M-theory's main usefulness now is to add something, sparkle, that previous generations didn't want at large sizes, and couldn't get at small sizes, without writing it. . .

Cheers!

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