New Fell Types and new iKern site.

iginomarini's picture

To all the typophiles. I would like to let you know that a new extended version of the Fell Types is available from my site www.iginomarini.com. The fonts have new metrics data reflecting the progress of my iKern tool.
Now iKern has its own site at www.ikern.com.
Thanks to Jos Buivenga who forced me to do it because he said he wanted to talk about the positive experience of reworking his Anivers family and I didn't want to show a dead link anymore.

Regards

Igino Marini

rubenDmarkes's picture

Oh goody! :D
Thanks for the heads up, Igino! Just downloaded the opentype versions. :)

Let me take this opportunity to tell you something: I have to say I LOVE these. I've loved them since I first layed eyes on them in 2006, according to the date on the folder where I religiously kept them. In fact, I have no religion, so this might be exactly what I mean, literally; type is probably the closest thing I have to a religion. :P
Anyway, I cannot thank you enough for sharing this amazing work freely. The Fell types really were one of the reasons why I started loving type and wanting to create type in the first place. You rock!

Ruben

SuperUltraFabulous's picture

DITTO!!!

YOU ROCK INDEED!!!!!!!!!!!

Nick Shinn's picture

Igino, what is your rationale for kerning a facsimile-style revival of an old metal type?

William Berkson's picture

Is IKern a program you sell?

How does it compare with KernMaster from DTL?

ebensorkin's picture

Nick: He says on his page

"First of all: Love. Love for beauty of this typefaces I'm still not tired to look at. I begun to learn how to build a typeface just after having seen them because I just wanted to use them. And after having digitized them I begun to think about a way to space them (it was so difficult): the seminal thoughts about iKern, the autospacing and autokerning tool I've developed since 2002. I can certainly say that without the Fell Types iKern wouldn't exist: Their typographic “errors” (variable serifs from letter to letter, even inside the same letter, inconsistent heights and slant angles, different weights and many other amenities and lovely strangeties) have pushed me to a deep generalization of the mathemathical model avoiding shortcuts and suggesting paths I wouldn't thought otherwise.

For this reason I decided to license the fonts for free. I've received enough. And more: designing typefaces is not my job and, in the end, I didn't design the Fell Types. Peter de Walpergen, Claude Garamond, Robert Granjon did."

That said: I would like to hear more about why if he has more to say. Also, you could voice your critique of the idea.

kris's picture

How does it compare to kerning by a human?

I've come to the conclusion that spacing and kerning are absolutely not a matter of Art. They're just a Tecnique.

You could say that about anything! Like playing the guitar, acting, cooking, painting…

—K

ebensorkin's picture

I am in Kris' camp on this. Doing things by machine is fine - only as long as a person comes through afterwards. And then only if they actually look at it quite carefully.

k.l.'s picture

Not everybody who plays the guitar can play the guitar.

For the beginner it may be unbelievable how someone has achieved good spacing. It takes considerable time and a lot of attempts and mistakes to get an idea of how to do it, and maybe master it. Still this is more or less "intuitive", unconscious: being good in doing something is not the same as understanding what one does. The next step is to analyze what the master does and formulate a method. In so far, being creative and creating a machine that does what a creative does is not completely unrelated. And of course once a task is automated, this raises the question, was this task creative at all?

From a practical point of view, I do not see why someone should spend days on a task which can as well and with virtually same results be performed by a machine. Would there be a loss if spacing were done by a machine rather by a human being? I cannot tell you a single typeface of which I could say that its spacing exhibits its designer's creativity. Rather, some typefaces work, some don't. (In terms of spacing.) The question is not: is spacing/kerning art or technique? but rather: is the applied method ok? It is there that different type designers may have different preferences -- provided that they would ever transform what they merely do into a clear conception!

And we should always keep in mind that Gutenberg's one-letter-per-block, one-block-next-to-another paradigm of typography (which implies that the space between two letters is defined by the remaining side bearings) was more or less a necessary evil of this very physical approach to letters/type. Letters an sich do not know side bearings nor kerning, they only know the space inbetween. The real scandal is that digital typography never even dared free itself from merely imitating the one-letter-per-block paradigm. Despite the fact that the digital domain knows no physical constrains. The work of Mr Marini and others could finally free it from outdated paradigms. (Why output sidebearing and kerning tables at all?) Again, what is to be discussed are method and result, but not man vs machine ...

crossgrove's picture

To put an even finer point on it, many discussions have arisen here about the role of "white space", which is exactly what Inigo's program is concerned with. Evading the crucial lessons of spacing sounds initially like a terrible loss in a field where visual discernment has always been crucial. However, this program is not the first attempt to automate the process of spacing and kerning. Though the focus was different, the h-z algorithm Zapf helped develop was intended to produce ideal spacing and kerning of text blocks without direct human manipulation. Though the spacing of a typeface is ideally done by a careful, perceptive human, the presence of a human designer does not guarantee ideal spacing. We've all wished for modules to help us through boring and repetitive tasks in type design, and our software and workflows reflect this. Type design is as much technology as it is art.

I also think Inigo has learned some very interesting things in his experience with the Fell types, things we ought not brush off. Many of us have not had the experience of dealing with highly un-systematic types, though we all appreciate variations and irregularities. The fact is that it is easier than ever for typefaces to be sterile, modular, regular and coldly rhythmic. Cut-and-paste has become a Modus Operandi for too many. I would be very interested to know what the algorithms in iKern are doing and what variables they consider. It might be instructive; might help us remember what to look for.

iginomarini's picture

To William:

> Is IKern a program you sell?

Not anymore.

>How does it compare with KernMaster from DTL?

I don't know. Never had the chance to try it! Anyway iKern does autospacing and autokerning at the same time allowing a straight and productive workflow from the design to the font. About the quality I'm confident the output is, at least, adequate. But everyone can judge it by himself. The autokerning stuff rely sometimes upon informations extracted during the autospacing phase. That's why I tend to consider the “only autokerning” a nonsense and I've abandoned three years ago an “only autokerning” iKern version .

To Kris:

> How does it compare to kerning by a human?

>> I’ve come to the conclusion that spacing and kerning are
>> absolutely not a matter of Art. They’re just a Tecnique.

> You could say that about anything! Like playing the
> guitar, acting, cooking, painting…

How, I'm very glad you give me the real occasion to say many things. First of all I've to say that for years I have surgically examinated supposedly professional fonts. My conclusion is that only few humans actually are able ro really kern (and space). I'd have to come to the conclusion that a tool like iKern should have suited the needs of the rest of the World. But I've been told that the font industry survive even selling fonts without kerning (and the customers don't even notice!). That said for six years I've tried to analyse the essence of this job and I think that what the few humans do is, in very short terms:
fully understand the underlying rules of fitting;
have the capacity, the strength, the time and the will to apply in a coherent and complete manner these rules through all the fonts.
I tend to consider this second part of the action more as food for computer. That's why I always heard from anyone involved that kerning and spacing is not, at least, funny. It's normal. We hate repetitive tasks. We tend to be distracted. We like open air. We like many other things.
I tend to consider the “full understanding of the rules of fitting” a common quality in many people and not the exclusive gift of a religious caste. And this is the real core question. I don't know at which level the full understanding is. Certainly not in a formal, I would say conscious, level. Otherwise a real usable fitting theory would explicity exist today and we wouldn't here to discuss. What I'm saying talking about iKern is that I think to have found a mathematical model that describes those “underlying rules of fitting”. Am I right? Am I wrong? I'm confident to be right when I'm satisfated with the output iKern produces. I'm not confident when I see something I dislike. But I'm there to make it better. Consider I've sometimes re-elaborated the model just to change a kerning value of two points (I admit it. I'm a geek). But first of all I am confident when other people tell me the output is good, sometimes very good, for some enthusiast perfect. And, as the font industry man would say, I'm confident when I find people willing to pay for this service.
To finally answer I would say that there is no difference between what a human does and what iKern does. But to use myself a metaphor: I'm able to walk. I like it. But I'm often use a car. And a GPS too. And more: the model is not strict. Since autospacing has to be done the whole rhythm has to be reconstructed. And the man (me) says how.

Let's now discuss the “Tecnique” side. I'm actually a good guitar player. I had the fortune to have parents that forced me to study music. The piano seemed to me too much demanding so I fell back on the guitar (girls like guitarists. You know). But I don't consider myself a real guitarist. Because I don't have the music in my heart. I can only mimic. I think that spacing and kerning is like playing the notes written in the outlines. Nothing else. No composition here. Just execution.
I'm a decent cook too. But I don't think that nutrition would require Ferran Adrià. My “cuisine” mot is: a cook only needs gram scales (possibly digital).

iginomarini's picture

To Karsten:

we have written at the same time. But you better. Totally.

To Carl:

about the white space I copy myself and what I've written in a private mail:

I can say that iKern produces good results from 2005-2006. But I'm still working on it nearly every day and even now not only I have a to do list but I'm going forward. As a side effect of me being an engineer iKern functions. But the most important thing is the model. As my logo cryptically try to express the very core aspect of fitting is not the letter but the white space or, as I tend to think, the void. From this point of view my research is just the description of the many wonderful things that happen in a void space.

ebensorkin's picture

Igino, I sent you a private email about a use I put your Fell Type ornaments to. Did you get it?

Also, when I wrote what I did above it was as an idealist. But obviously it may be possible to do a great deal with a formula. I look forward to trying what you have made, and I thank you for it!

I agree with what you, Carl and Karsten have been saying. But I also think that saying that spacing is an art overstates things a bit while similarly saying it is simply a technique is to over simplify.

William Berkson's picture

Igino: So this is still a work in progress?

Personally I love drawing type, but I hate kerning, which I am in the throes of doing thousands and thousands of right now. For me it is very exacting and excruciatingly boring at the same time. I don't see why it can't be largely automated, with some variables to be set by the person using the program.

The next time I do this, I hope I don't have to.

Nick Shinn's picture

What I meant is, why smooth out the spacing with 21st century techniques, but leave other characteristics of the typeface in their original form?

The typeface was originally designed to not be kerned.
~


For instance, compare (what I assume to be) the original spacing, above, with the new spacing, below.

Isn't the shape of the W, with its angle of slant greater than the norm of the typeface, designed to address the spacing criteria of the available technology? By kerning after the W and T, a cramped effect is created, at odds with the letterforms.

ebensorkin's picture

You make a good point here Nick.

On the other hand, do you think the 1st spacing instance was really ideal even given the forms*?

*Which I agree were designed for their context.

I don’t see why it can’t be largely automated

It seems to me like it depends on what kind of color/notan/balance you get - and perfectionistic you are. If you make those things really integral to your idea/design I think you can probably end up keeping you hands dirty because the shapes and white space have to be designed together - no? But I suppose it does come down to if you approve of the results, and if you have to fortitude to fix what might be just okay. It might be that having "a leg up" let's you finish that race. Or that it enables a designer to walk away from an undone job too easily satisfied. In either event it is not the tool to blame or to be praised.

William Berkson's picture

Yes, it is critically important to design glyphs in context to space well. But once they space well there is still kerning to do. At the very least, letters like WVTY in many combinations benefit from kerning, as well as punctuation. And adjustment of many others will result in more even color, no matter how well designed they are.

But I agree with Igino that the ideal kerning is so extensive, delicate, and boring that a good program is likely to save you from blunders. Certainly, one should proof and adjust. But hopefully the program would have enough variables that are adjustable that you could also some batch adjustments, as well as individual ones.

I believe Karsten mentioned somewhere that Lucas de Groot did kerning of triples somehow, which is actually a benefit also, but the whole thing gets quickly out of hand. I know Lucas also has lists of kerning pairs for every language, to reduce the burden.

Any tool that helps reduce the drudgery of this, and make it accurate, I would certainly praise.

innovati's picture

there's a difference between mechanically centered and optically centered.

You could in theory, teach a machine to behave according the quirks of the human eye, and I imagine you could teach a machine to kern how we like things to look optically.

But, at the same time, you're teaching a machine to create art, not demoting art to simply a practice.

aszszelp's picture

Igino,

that's amazing.

"What I’m saying talking about iKern is that I think to have found a mathematical model that describes those “underlying rules of fitting”."

Would you mind describing the algorithm somewhat more in depth, given you don't feel it violates your interests by giving away trade secrets?

I do believe you can give us more info on the mathematical background without losing out (I'm not asking for the complete code, not even for the exact algorithm :-) ).

Actually, do you use sequences of several letters, "words" when looking at the optimal whitespace, or just pairs, triplets of letters? Do you use Fourier-techniques to find the "rythm"?

Szabolcs

blank's picture

Just wondering, how many of the type designers in the audience run their fonts through Fontlab’s auto-spacing process before proceeding to space by eye?

Nick Shinn's picture

Never have, never will.
Hand-crafted, dude!
However, I have always made considerable use of class kerning.

will powers's picture

>>> kerning of triples

Wasn't David Kindersley doing some work on kerning triples? I recall hearing him talk about that about 1976. & did he not write about it somewhere?

I wish I could be more specific, but it is all recollection at this remove.

powers

iginomarini's picture

To William:

> Certainly, one should proof and adjust.

To Nick:

Without kerning I would obtain the third line in the example. Honestly I dislike it and that's why I kerned the font.
You pointed out that the fitting of the “We” couple in Western is too tight. Probably. And I explain why. The first parameter iKern uses is “width”. It's defined for four cases: small vs small (s/s), Capital vs Small (C/s), Capital vs Capital (C/C) and Not Letter. At the time I compiled the Fell Types I was theoretically convincted that a “C/s couple” should have the same width of a “s/s couple”. And I set the input accordingly. Today I've changed my mind and I think that a good starting point for a “C/s width” could be the average of the “s/s width” and the “C/C width” (like I did in the examples in my site). But I say more: I can understand that in the present case with Capitals and smalls so different in weight could be accettable to set "C/s width" = "C/C width2 to let the Capitals more detached (like they where in the metal era). The first line in the example is from the font as is now. The second line follows the last indication. I've made this lesson to show, in practice, that:
iKern uses (needs) the human factor;
the effort of definition is minimum: there is the possibility to make global choices that are inherited through the font (it's class kerning at the maximum extent);
a feedback can be part (essential) of the workflow. For this please follow the thread where Jos Buivenga describes a little our mutual positive experience working on Anivers. http://www.typophile.com/node/46268

> However, I have always made considerable use of class kerning.
But the exceptions ...

To Eben:

> I agree with what you, Carl and Karsten have been saying. > But I also think that saying that
> spacing is an art overstates things a bit while similarly > saying it is simply a technique is to over
> simplify.

I can be provocative. But from my point of view the discriminant is the complexity (meaning richness) of the model.

To Szabolcs

> Actually, do you use sequences of several >letters, “words” when looking at the optimal
> whitespace, or just pairs, triplets of letters?

I can type a word to see the output, I can use text files for a sort of slide show, I can load in memory the modified font and use it in any other application.

Nick Shinn's picture

Igino, you may be able to refine the tool, and make it more responsive to the discretion of the user, but you haven't addressed my fundamental critique of applying automated spacing to pre-designed types, especially those that are historic.

The shape of letter forms is intricately related to the media for which they are designed, and its quality of spacing.
In fact, the shape of the letters and the space between them are part of the same gestalt, notan, or whatever you call it, at any point in time. The design process is not a unidirectional "(1) glyph, (2) sidebearings, (3) kerning".

Therefore, to apply 21st century spacing to facsimile 17th century type forms is inappropriate.
Of course, the unspaced Fell italic all-cap setting looks wrong, but it would have looked wrong back in the day, too, and would have been generously letterspaced then, and with discretion, wouldn't it?

iginomarini's picture

Nick, I've understood your point of view but it's a bit too radical to me. Let's suppose I had the possibility to copy the original spacing from the original punches and realized a font this way. I would have been in error even in this case because it would turned out to be a digital font to be laser printed or inkjet printed without the feeling of the real spreading ink, the pressure, the right paper, the words, the reader ... Maybe I extend too much but I should think you think that the idea of a facsimile is unaccetable at first. Anyway I made them to use them myself and not for a culural operation. That why I think I'm freed from the boundaries of fitting. And for what I know they've been effectively used by others in modern contexts too. I sometimes use the ornaments in my professional documents.

[But the sad truth is that during last Christmas holidays I've tried to refinish the Fell Types to clean shapes. But AFTER HAVING SPENT FOUR HOURS for a single letter I stopped. Destroyed. It seemed to me a prison prospective. So the fonts will remain rough].

kris's picture

Just wondering, how many of the type designers in the audience run their fonts through Fontlab’s auto-spacing process before proceeding to space by eye?

You've got to be kidding, right?

So, Igino, how much does the iKern service cost? Does it output kerning as a .fea? Does it group similar shapes (aáäàetc) and provide execptions (Ta Tä)?

—K

k.l.'s picture

Hello Nick, I think your question is good: Should a revival pay tribute to the technology for which it was originally designed, and thus mimick flaws or pecularities resulting from this technology? But this question belongs to one realm (revival ethics), and the question which asks if iKern does a good job belongs to quite a different one (spacing models). It would be odd to criticise iKern because it was applied to the wrong kind of typeface.

I feel reminded of a previous discussions about the goods and bads of DecoType/WinSoft's InDesign plug-in Tasmeem, a layout engine for typesetting Arabic which uses a special font format. Thomas Milo usually presents its capabilities with help of a high-end typeface of a special style. (By the analysis of this style he arrived at the technology, but in the end the technology is suited for any other style too.) To my amusement or regret (depends on my mood) this provoked some critics to blame him for propagating this particular style which they consider outdated -- and disregard the layout engine because of the style of the typeface used for presentations! A layout engine of course is "mere" technology and is ignorant of anything like designers' sentiments.
Same is true for iKern. If you object to a Fell being kerned at all, then I had preferred if there were no "automated" in "applying automated spacing to pre-designed types".  ;-)

Nick Shinn's picture

It would be odd to criticise iKern because it was applied to the wrong kind of typeface.

Yes, quite right.
But if the use of Ikern on pre-designed faces is questionable, would it not be better to consider its merits, as a 21st century design tool, in the context of an original 21st century type design? Was there mention of it being used in a face by Jos?

iginomarini's picture

> So, Igino, how much does the iKern service cost?
You can email me privately.

>Does it output kerning as a .fea? Does it group similar >shapes (aáäàetc) and provide execptions (Ta Tä)?
Certainly. In my site there are some examples with the features file too.

>Was there mention of it being used in a face by Jos?
Yes. http://www.typophile.com/node/46268

SuperUltraFabulous's picture

I just want to reiterate that I appreciate the your new Fell Types release— I hope you don’t find this ‘lively’ discussion repellent.

Mikey :-)

William Berkson's picture

James, FontLab's autokern is not regarded even by them as very good, and I don't know of anyone who uses it. I haven't tried it.

Miguel de Sousa wrote here in Typophile that he was quite impressed with DTL's Kernmaster, as a first pass to save work. I haven't tried that either.

I am using Matrix Machine, but that is just supposed to be good as far as ease of use and class kerning. All the decisions are made by the designer.

Jos is the first designer I've heard of using Igino's service, and he is evidently happy with it. I am uneasy about it being a service rather than a program that is under the control of the designer.

Bert Vanderveen's picture

The real scandal is that digital typography never even dared free itself from merely imitating the one-letter-per-block paradigm.

Hm, Gutenberg did use around 150 special ligatures (multiple letter combinations!) to emulate te contemporary look of manuscripts. So there goes your argument, k.l.
I guess that practice was thrown out when efficiency and mechanisation took precedence (Monotype, Linotype — matrices).

. . .
Bert Vanderveen BNO

iginomarini's picture

To William:

I am uneasy about it being a service rather than a program that is under the control of the designer.

I've tried to explain the control that can be obtained from the designer side too. In the end the choices to be made are not that much has my lack of details can have suggested to somebody. I say that the vast majority of the parameters iKern internally uses is extrapolated from the glyphs' shapes that's why I talk about a "Tecnique". It's true that if someone wants to override the "glyph's nature" he can but I found it rarely opportune myself to be honest.
Anyway for what I've understood it seems to me that "services" are always existed and exist today. It seems to me that is easier to control a machine than a man.

k.l.'s picture

k.l. -- The real scandal is that digital typography never even dared free itself from merely imitating the one-letter-per-block paradigm.

Bert Vanderveen -- Hm, Gutenberg did use around 150 special ligatures (multiple letter combinations!) to emulate te contemporary look of manuscripts. So there goes your argument, k.l.

Very good. Actually your example supports my argument:
Ligatures were nothing but a workaround to deal with what I consider the core idea and limitation of the Gutenberg paradigm: that each letter is regarded as a unit, cast on its own block. (For illustration, contrast this with writing which by its very nature is ligated and "fluid" as regards black as well as white -- there are no ligatures because everything is potentially ligated.)
What Gutenberg did was trying to emulate the image of writing, so himself he wasn't aware of what I call Gutenberg paradigm. That Gutenberg's numerous ligatures and abbreviations were finally abandoned from the case however is just a logical consequence, and clarified what this paradigm is about. In so far, from a strict Gutenberg paradigm point of view, ligatures are a reminiscence to writing, a very artificial one, alien to this paradigm.

I am sorry that I was and am not able to make my point more clear. For me it is evident but I admit it took years to arrive there. (And from there, current font technologies are just a subset of what they could be.) As long as you think of type design as filling your preferred font editor's glyph slots with nice outlines, some of them representing single letters, some of them ligatures, some of them diacritic letters, etc, and as long as this works well for you, there is no need to try or adopt an alternative paradigm.

But this now is really off the topic which was iKern and the Fell type.

Karsten Luecke, KLTF

dezcom's picture

Tracking

ChrisL

William Berkson's picture

Correction of typo: In my above post it should read "Metrics Machine" not "Matrix Machine".

bieler's picture

Very engaging thread. I note that some assumptions about handset type may be incorrect however.

There are many stellar examples of composition and spacing from the past, right from the beginning, Schoeffer's work on the Gutenberg Bible is an amazing tour de force.

The transition from Latin based text is largely responsible for the abandonment of ligatures and abbreviations. I worked with a special Latin version of Carter's Miller Text, that included all the characters and ligatures that would have been used in the Aldine work, and it was like being in composition heaven.

Though many historical examples of commercial printing are quite bad, particularly in the 19th century, and that may be the perceived norm, one does need to remember that there were no compositional strategies in place until Tschichold's standardization of typesetting practices.

Metal foundry type in the second quarter of the 20th century (and into the 1960s), especially that produced by the more renown European foundries, was extremely well thought out in the settings. And many foundry fonts did come with alternative kerned capitals, such as a W that did fit tight to the following lowercase letter. Or an A and V that could be adjusted.

Kerning was practiced for some long time. Moxon, in 1683, describes a device for shaving letters to fit. Many high-end contemporary letterpress shops routinely kern their type with mortisers and/or glider saws.

Gerald

ebensorkin's picture

Karsten said: is just a logical consequence

I am not sure this is right. It was a practical consequence to be sure. But where does the logic come in apart from that?

And ...ligatures are a reminiscence to writing, a very artificial one, alien to this paradigm.

This makes compelling reading but again I am not sure. At a certain point in history it seems to me ligatures become very typographic in their form. And their justification for existence stops being a harkening back to writing so much as a harkening back to previous type. So while I don't disagree on some level - this kind of statement strikes me as maybe too absolute.

And As long as you think of type design as filling your preferred font editor’s glyph slots with nice outlines

Here I am with you all the way.

BTW don't think that this is completely off topic because the existence of iKern in many ways provokes questions about what Kerning or letterspacing is about/for and how it relates to letter design ( if it aught to be integral or not ) etc.

Igino, I want to ask you about the scheme that iKern uses in more detail but I need to re-read what you have written to better frame my questions. Thanks again.

k.l.'s picture

Hello Eben, indeed I mean logical consequence, and as such it is absolute. The Gutenberg principle means one-letter-per-block placed next to each other, and has some implications of economy, e.g.:
-- as few blocks as possible  [ligatures to be shaved off with Ockham's razor],
-- avoid kerning where possible  [because spacing of letters is, in this principle, defined by left and right side bearings; nicely expressed by Erik Spiekermann],
-- space all letters by about the same amount  [since each letter/block only has one left and one right side (bearing); an effect of this is that uppercase letters usually are spaced too narrow, with A L T V W Y causing gaps, can be seen in about any font at hand].
During one of the next conferences, have a chat about Arabic and ligatures with Thomas Milo.  :)

bieler's picture

Ockham's razor!!! You have got to be kidding here. You are freely mixing "philosophics" with "mechanics". The Gutenberg paradigm? Do you really think J.G. worked out the letters*/spacing of B42? Based on what? B42 is inscrutable. No one knows for sure. There is speculation the letterforms are composites, where the hell does that put your one letter per block?

*type didn't exist, as a term, until 1713.

Gerald

bieler's picture

As a further addition to my previous post. You are assuming the existence of spacing material. Metal pieces used between words or letters. There is no proof of this in very early printed material. We simply do not know. It is assumed in some circles that B42 had none. Which means letterform "blocks" likely included the spacing. Hey, movable type.

If you are looking for standardization upon which to base you model (which I don't disagree with—just your terminology/historical placements), you have to look not at early Incunabula but rather with the Aldine, which is where the mechanization of letterforms clearly turns on its head and, agreeing with Eben, the influence of the organically prescribed letterform wanes.

Gerald

ebensorkin's picture

When Carl wrote "To put an even finer point on it, many discussions have arisen here about the role of “white space”, which is exactly what Inigo’s program is concerned with. Evading the crucial lessons of spacing sounds initially like a terrible loss in a field where visual discernment has always been crucial. " I think he hit the nail on the head as he often does.

This is the question that a user of Igino's sytem has to consider. My interpretation of what he has said so far is something like "you can use my system to skip ahead and make refinements afterwards if they are neeeded". This is a tempting idea. But again, if you believe that kerning is not a chore to be dispensed with but a core aspect of type design it is still hard to think of iKern as something to bring into an ideal process. On the other hand, not all typefaces or process' need to be ideal I will admit! Nevertheless, the question remains.

Ockham’s razor seems like an odd tool to consider in concert with Gutenburg model of printing which had so very many special versions of letters and so very many ligatures! But this question of fitness of a reference aside, the thing that strikes me is that while your idea may be sound in some respects - that a robust design capable of fitting well with a minimum of fuss has deep utility, ( correct? ); the idea that this is the logical absolute and inevitable model we must consider is something that I ( of course ) am pretty skeptical of. I can sort of see the idea that the Gutenberg process might have an inbuilt tendency towards simplicity over time. That idea is a I think far from being either proved or disproved. In it's favor would be the idea that printed books must have taken on their own validity outside of the context of the written book over time and that once that context was established that the power of economic need would dictate a move to simpler and faster methods.

Part of the reason I object is that I think this idea is what Americans would call "monday morning quarterbacking", meaning coming up with explanations and justifications after the fact. It's quality of being "Ex post facto" might lead you to the word "absolute" in the sense that this model does indeed dominate at the moment. But will that status last? Does it have to? Is it actually best? I am not at all sure about any of these things.

When I read Morrison on type design and on Incanumbula and especially on Jenson I get that same feeling. Like I am not reading an incisive theory that explains something in a deep manner but rather that an explanation or story that has the lone virtue of fitting the existing data is being conjured up. Get a bit more data and that story could be tipped over...

Reading Van Krimpen give me again, the same feeling.

Similarly, if iKern is based on fitting certain kinds of forms and has assumptions built into it about what letterforms are probably like ( the story) rather than having a way of sensing them directly, like the Kindersley system did, then it is not going to be a very robust kerning tool.

Unfortunately I still don't quite understand the mechanism of iKern.

Maybe I will eat my words. But that's how it looks to me now.

.00's picture

I don't know about the rest of you, but I view the spacing and kerning of a font to be part of the design. Muling over the spacing gives me an insight into how it all fits, and more importantly where it does not fit. Countless times I have redrawn glyphs because of some spacing issue. So I don't understand the approach of drawing the glyphs and then applying the spacing.

Drawing and spacing are one action, not two.

I also think that given the class kerning tools available in FontLab kerning is not such a tedious process, generally (there are those exceptions!)

JamesM

Jongseong's picture

I do agree that spacing and kerning are part of the design. James has an important point about it often being necessary to redraw glyphs to take fit into consideration. However, once the basic design is set, spacing and kerning still remains a repetitive chore that can benefit from being systematized and automated.

I don't have a detailed knowledge about how iKern works, but if it's anything like my fantasy spacing/kerning tool, it will allow me to control several parameters related to spacing and kerning with something like sliders, and have those parameters applied systematically throughout the font.

I'm really curious about the points Eben raised though about how much iKern relies on assumptions about letterforms. Has it been used to space and kern non-Latin fonts, for example?

k.l.'s picture

Mr Bieler, I think there was a fundamental misunderstanding.

In my previous post I wrote "[Gutenberg] wasn't aware of what I call Gutenberg paradigm" which says:
(1) "Gutenberg paradigm" is my conception/abstraction, not Gutenberg's.
(2) "Paradigm" should indicate that I am speaking from a logical/philosophical point of view, not from a historical point of view.

Again, I am not attempting to give a historical account of what Gutenberg did or thought, but am talking about a paradigm (as the sum total of principles or ideas or conceptions or however you call them) that current digital font formats have adopted from an earlier technology.
(Eben, by their nature, paradigm, principles, ideas, conceptions are not tangible objects that I could "prove" by simply pointing at them.)

An even earlier post's "Gutenberg’s one-letter-per-block" was indeed a lapsus.

* * *

Re: Which means letterform "blocks" likely included the spacing.

This is what I wrote in an earlier post, "that each letter is regarded as a unit, cast on its own block" and in the previous post referred to this as "one-letter-per-block", abbreviated as "letter/block". We don't disagree. And there was no mention of spacing material in any of my posts.

William Berkson's picture

What I would be hoping for in an extended auto-assist in kerning such as Ikern would be an extension in what we now have in class kerning. It would have identify further categories, under the control of the designer. That way the drudgery would be reduced, while leaving decisions in the hands of the designer.

Jos Buivenga's picture

My first question to Igino was if I could license iKern, but because that wasn't possible, I decided to have a go with Anivers to see how iKern could stand out, because I did see the app perform very good on the Fell Types (apart from the discussion on *how* this should be done). Igino did some tests based on an earlier release of Anivers and was able to capture the look and feel of that release with spacing beautifully and consistently translated to all glyphs (family wide).

Everything should be under control by the designer, I'll be the first to agree with that, but while I didn't push the buttons and let my laptop crunch the calculations for two hours, I never had the feeling I wasn't in control. The same goes for the whole kerning process. I did request for an early (spacing) test run on the other styles and weight so I could change certain glyphs if needed.

I regard the whole process and collaboration with Igino as a joy and that is why I asked him if I could mention this, because I thought this time saver could benefit more typophiles.

To see a result of this project you can download Anivers Regular *here* for free @ MyFonts.com.

Nick Shinn's picture


Why is there kerning between W and T, but not between L and A?

Jos Buivenga's picture

Maybe Igino can explain the technicalities of that when he chimes in. I did numerous tests and ran more than twice through every kerning pair. It looks good to me. What do you think needs adjusting?

ebensorkin's picture

What William and James are saying makes good sense to to me generally. But I think the ultimate kern/side bearings assist would either

• offer the designer a series of combinations to be spaced and then take those responses and create the side bearings and kerns needed to achieve the specified optical result. I recall somebody wrote a really lovely request for fontlab that described something like this.

or

• Examine the letterforms in being drawn a quasi-optical manner and suggest common pairs and a possible spacing given variables like optical size which the designer would then override on a case by case basis. Again letting the designer design, and sorting out the most efficient ( least kerns and least extreme kerns) code based on those design decisions.

Karsten wrote: ...by their nature, paradigm, principles, ideas, conceptions are not tangible objects that I could “prove” by simply pointing at them. And he is of course correct. "Prove" is the wrong word.

But instead maybe I can say something like "make a case for". I think if you are going to use words like absolute then you have to build a strong case at least. Also, I may not be getting the thrust of your argument. Were you saying that a Gutenberg paradigm was one that leads "logically" and "absolutely" (I might say inevitably), to simpler shapes? If that is right, then that's a pretty strong statement worthy of some examination and critique, and needing, in turn, support and reasoning before it could be accepted.

BTW From what I can tell ( which is less than I would like) Gutenberg's special sorts existed more to allow perfect spacing of the line than as optically driven variants for the fit of letters except when they modeled a ligature which may or may not have existed for better fit.

bieler's picture

Probably because you can't plug in just any ole typeface and expect it to magically work.

The Gutenberg paradigm is brilliant and how can one not love the line ligatures were shaved off with Occam's razor but I think this may be a case of the cart before the horse.

The common liturgical hand of Gutenberg's period WAS mathematically simple. The textura has three basic strokes. Letterform fitting to the mechanical bounding block with such a typeface is, relatively, an easy process to work out. In fact, this simplicity is considered, in some circles, the rationale that allowed for mechanical writing to have developed.

With the evolution to roman based faces during the period of Incunabula, the process became much more complex as the letterforms were more complex, and the mathematics of fitting were more complex.

The transition from Latin to the vernacular likely plays a greater role in the disappearance of the multiplicity of sorts (ligatures, abbreviations) than a movement toward mechanical simplicity.

That the printing process was early on considered mechanical writing lends credence to Eben's "the idea that printed books must have taken on their own validity outside of the context of the written book over time and that once that context was established that the power of economic need would dictate a move to simpler and faster methods." Finding the phase where the mechanical emulated the mechanical isn't all that historically precise but it would be at this point rather than earlier development where the concerns here become more valid. The period of Incunabula is separated out uniquely in printing history for a number of very good reasons, it is an arbitrary distinction, but it helps to look at the development of printing as having a birthing stage, larvae, that is unique from all that follows. When the pupae emerged full grown is where these considerations are best developed, not prior.

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