Calligraphy Funny?

hrant's picture

This piece was done in 1975. Does anybody see anything strange about it?

And Eben, don't ask me to spill the beans, OK? :-)
The beans will spill when it's time to make the burrito.

hhp

hrant's picture

Kent, it might not have been referred to as left-handed (we can speculate why...) but if it's more easily writable by left-handers than right-handers, then that label does make sense.

> it simply implies that Byzantine scribes, the majority of
> whom we can assume to have been right-handed, wrote in a
> manner similar to Sanskrit scribers, with the wrist bent
> in and/or with the page rotated 30-45 degrees.

1) How solid is this implication? What are the known links between Byzantium and India? I'm not doubting, just checking.
2) Of course the important question here is: Why? In the Latin "historical model" the reason seems pretty clear: comfort. Is the Sanksrit/Greek way as comfortable? If not, did they use it because they simply couldn't figure out a better way (hard to imagine) or maybe there's something about the structure of Devanagari (maybe that characteristic "bar" - I can't see anything in Greek*) that makes the Latin way not work well?

* Except maybe the greater degree of variance? But I can't see how that would make it more comfortable than the Latin way.

hhp

John Hudson's picture

Hrant: I think with a “special” nib and enough facilitation of pushing, it might be possible [for a lefty to write the 'normal' styles without hooking the arm or rotating the page]

This certainly isn't possible with the kind of nibs one usually finds marketed for lefties. I have a few because they are useful for writing Devanagari. The tip of the broad nib is cut on an angle, so that the writer does not have to hook his arm too far, but hooking or page rotation is still very much necessary. If the goal were for the lefty's writing position to be the lateral mirror image of the typical righty's (forearm extending before the body) then I can imagine a more extreme special nib with a turned head, but since the letter construction would rely on a lot of pushing I'm not sure whether such a nib would give enough control. One shouldn't underestimate the difficulty of pushing the pen, certainly not if one is going to give lefties the same kind of tools and writing surfaces that right-handed writers use. Islamic calligraphers probably devote more time to sizing their paper than any other scribes in the world; the smoothness of that paper, and the continued use of the reed pen instead of steel nibs, is what makes pushing possible.

Again, all this presumes the lefty is trying to write styles developed by and for right-handed scribes. If I were a lefty interested in beautiful writing, I would be working with split nibs and developing styles following the contrast pattern of the English roundhand, which is ideally suited to left-handed righting.

hrant's picture

> One shouldn’t underestimate the difficulty of pushing the pen

Indeed, during the class I took I couldn't pull it off once.

> If I were a lefty interested in beautiful writing ...

1) What about a horizontal mirror of the "standard Roman"?
2) What about right-to-left scripts?

hhp

John Hudson's picture

Hrant: How solid is this implication? What are the known links between Byzantium and India? I’m not doubting, just checking.

I wasn't implying a link (although trade between the Middle East and India was considerable). We know what the Byzantine writing implement was, because it is described by authors, and we can determine the angle relative to the page from looking at the writing. So from this we can determine that either the wrist was turned inward or that the page was rotated, or both. And the same thing can be concluded about Sanskrit writing from the same information.

Now, this leads one to a conclusion that should be obvious: there is no 'normal' way to write that is independent of the particular script and style of writing. We look at lefties trying to write e.g. Johnstonian foundational hand and we say that the writing position with the hooked arm and in-turned wrist is contorted, and contrasted with the normal, typical or majority way of writing that script it is contorted and it may, in fact, produce artefacts in the writing. But if we saw a Hindi or Bengali scribe, right-handed, writing his native script with an in-turned wrist, we wouldn't say it was contorted because that is the normal way to write those scripts.

Is the Sanksrit/Greek way as comfortable?

Yes, I think it probably is -- not for me because I'm not used to it, and I would need to practice a lot more to get comfortable. Possibly it is actually more comfortable, as a default position, than the typical Latin writing position, because the tendency in the latter is for the wrist to be flexed backwards, whereas the Devanagari position is more relaxed and closer to a neutral alignment.

hrant's picture

> ... the same thing can be concluded about
> Sanskrit writing from the same information.

OK. But if there's no "borrowing", then we
have to look for two answers to that "Why"...

> there is no ’normal’ way to write that is
> independent of the particular script and
> style of writing.

Agreed. However I would not class script and style equally; the latter is much more intertwined with the "normality", while the former is much more (although not entirely) inherited, more of a fixture that one has to adapt to.

> we wouldn’t say it was contorted because
> that is the normal way to write those scripts.

I don't see it like that. I think the human body has parameters of comfort, and just because a way of writing a script is accepted doesn't mean it's "normal". So I would like to see the body (particularly that of left-handers) be given more respect, if only in calligraphy; in type it's a different story, but the calligraphic precedent is still useful to discuss.

> it is actually more comfortable, as a default position, than the typical
> Latin writing position, because the tendency in the latter is for the wrist
> to be flexed backwards, whereas the Devanagari position is more relaxed
> and closer to a neutral alignment.

Interesting. Then I would propose somebody try
to write Latin like that, and share the results.

hhp

John Hudson's picture

1) What about a horizontal mirror of the “standard Roman”?

What about the reader? Writing and reading are social activities, not idiosyncratic ones, so there is a certain tyranny of the majority in determining the norms of those activities. While I might, if a lefty, find some personal satisfaction in writing such mirrored shapes, I would be very much aware of how they would appear simply freakish to most readers. Perhaps worse, such letters look like a pastiche of Devanagari.

Have you tried writing Latin letters with a mirrored ductus? I have, and one runs into problems with

2) What about right-to-left scripts?

Arabic or Syriac maybe. Not Hebrew, because in Hebrew the horizontal strokes are mostly written from left-to-right, so the direction of reading isn't any advantage to the lefty writer. But in Arabic and Syriac most of the horizontal strokes are written from right-to-left, so there some advantage in terms of being able to pull the pen. Also, because the typical ductus of these scripts is very steep the arm does not need to be hooked so much as it would to write Latin.

What might be ideal for a lefty would be a script with a normative ductus similar to that of Devanagari but written from right-to-left. I'd say that being able to pull the pen is probably the most important element of ease and control in writing.

John Hudson's picture

Hrant:However I would not class script and style equally; the latter is much more intertwined with the “normality”, while the former is much more (although not entirely) inherited, more of a fixture that one has to adapt to.

But inherited from what? We should be careful not to 'Platonise' script. All writing has form and form implies style, with greater or lesser degree of consciousness on the part of the writer. So what we think of as the 'shapes' of a script are in fact the result of historical evolution involving people writing with particular tools on particular surfaces, i.e. of styles of writing. This is the argument of my ATypI Prague presentation: the normative shapes of letters are the products of writing.

hrant's picture

> they would appear simply freakish to most readers.

Maybe. Let's try it.

Also, it might appear freakish for a while, and then usefully novel (especially in some contexts, like maybe a book about left-handers) after a while, and then ho-hum after a while later. I don't think it's smart to assume it's useless; it tends to mean that there's something Wrong with left-handers. Do you believe that?

Now, if we discover that there's nothing Wrong with such a rendering, the
right-hand broad-nib basis of type surely becomes quite suspect.

> Have you tried writing Latin letters with a mirrored ductus?

No. I would love to see the results.

> I have, and one runs into problems with

John, you didn't finish that sentence.

> I’d say that being able to pull the pen is probably
> the most important element of ease and control in writing.

Makes sense.

> inherited from what?

Nothing Platonic. Inherited from a different medium, like stonecarving, or etching bamboo, etc. When a culture switches a medium, there's still a strong desire/need to emulate the precedent, leading to unnaturalness. This is where I would distinguish script from style: the former is seen as the firm basis while the latter is seen as much more malleable.

> the normative shapes of letters are the products of writing.

Of course. But the role of letters is not (since the spread of printing) so their shapes need a different control.

hhp

John Hudson's picture

Hrant: Then I would propose somebody try to write Latin like that, and share the results.

Wrist position and stress is something I think about a lot these days, since I started to experience symptoms of carpal tunnel injury. I recently switched to a vertical mouse, which pretty much instantly stopped the symptoms.

I tried writing, with a large broad nib (it had to be large in order to have reasonable control in the unfamiliar position), holding my wrist in a perfectly neutral position aligned with my forearm, meaning that my fingers are extended to the left. This results in a steep natural ductus just past vertical. I wonder if the very fine verticals are a problem for reading? I suspect this is why all normal writing ducti are less steep than this, why the Devanagari scribe hooks his wrist more and why the Latin scribe flexes his back more: both are mechanisms to reduce the contrast.

PS. I am no calligrapher, regardless of how I hold my pen!

david h's picture

> This seems to reinforce the view that Arabic and Hebrew are more friendly to left-handers.

Hrant -- I'm not sure about that.

hrant's picture

John, thank you very much for doing that! So if I imagine a low-contrast version of that, the question that pops into my head is: are Olive and Balance "freakish"?

> vertical mouse

I'd never heard about those, but now that I looked it up it seems interesting.

David, you don't think not smearing is helpful?

hhp

david h's picture

> David, you don’t think not smearing is helpful?

Hrant -- if you don't mind to wait till shabbat is over (in case I want to post an image....)

kentlew's picture

> Kent, it might not have been referred to as left-handed (we can speculate why...) but if it’s more easily writable by left-handers than right-handers, then that label does make sense.

I don't know if it's easier for left-handers, since I'm right-handed and don't know any left-handers who can write Devanagari. I find it fairly comfortable. The thing is that my grip on the pen is more akin to the grip I learned for holding a brush for oriental calligraphy, not the sort of grip that is used for western calligraphy. So my hand isn't hooked quite as much as John's description suggests. (I have to point out that I don't ordinarily grip my pen for even just casual handwriting quite like other people I know.)

I've also never used a steel nib for writing Devanagari. I don't know if people do that. Being a dilettante and a modern westerner, I just use a felt tip pen. If I use a graphic art marker -- you know, with the chisel end tip, instead of a traditional calligraphy shape -- then that's the easiest, and the hand position is closest to my normal. A traditional calligraphy shaped nib, square cut, requires a more hooked position, and I find I use more push strokes. I don't know how any of this would relate to what would be considered traditional.

Writing Latin letters with these same orientations makes for weird-looking letters. Some of the characteristic shapes of the Latin alphabet are just not very accommodating of this approach -- for instance, the arching of h n etc.

F W I W

-- K.

enne_son's picture

I'm only part way through a close reading of this thread, although I've browsed through it several times.

Here's what I see in the title line of the calligraphic sample.

The line is entirely consistent with writing using — by Gerrit Noordzij's definition — downstrokes only. The right-handed writer can do this piece using a vertical orientation of his paper; the left-handed writer can do this piece by rotating his sheet clockwise by 90 degrees. The construction scheme is interrupted construction throughout — again, by Gerrit Noordzij's definition.

Mostly we are seeing strict translation, with notable exceptions in 1) the swash on the first h that forms the roof of the initial T, and 2) the cross-bar of the A of Art.

The Th swash is made with 3 strokes and 2 pen-lifts.
[stroke 1] — the loop coming off the stem of the h and going down to about 5 o'clock;
[stroke 2] — the left-to-right horizontal ‘downstroke’ above the stem of the T;
[stroke 3] — the vertical downstroke starting from the beginning of [stroke 2].
Note that [stroke 2] uses clock-wise rotation as it proceeds to the join with [stroke 1] (almost as if anticipating the need to avoid making a slight upstroke where this join occurs!)

The A cross-bar swash uses two strokes, the first one mimicing [stroke 2] above and the second substituting an extended curve for [stroke 3] which is then mirrored in the h-swash of the second ‘the’ in the third line.

hrant's picture

> Writing Latin letters with these same
> orientations makes for weird-looking letters.

Can I see, can I see?! :-)

> Some of the characteristic shapes of the Latin alphabet are just not very
> accommodating of this approach — for instance, the arching of h n etc.

And this is the type of situation I was talking about: changes in medium cause changes in structure, although the resistance of the precedent typically causes the results to be hybrid. Would you mind looking for (and showing) a solution in the case of the "h"?

> the left-handed writer can do this piece
> by rotating his sheet clockwise by 90 degrees.

Which is unnatural, or at the very least non-ideal.

hhp

enne_son's picture

Hrant, I felt the conclusion that there's something funny about the piece relating to left-handedness needed to be put to rest. It seemed to me ideas about how the swashes were constructed needed correction. You tried to use this to launch your critique. Do I have this wrong?

I might have something more to say about what the visual cortex needs, and how that relates to handedly-biased formal grammers and the hybridizing of grammers once I am out of the work crunch I'm currently in.

AzizMostafa's picture

Complementary Comments with Best Compliments
http://www.typophile.com/node/5151

hrant's picture

I tried to use that example to launch an exploration*, without being qualified to see anything "funny" in that example. I do now believe that that example doesn't have enough artefacts of the downtrodden 15%, but the results of this discussion (not least the peppering of inconsistencies) do give me hope that even if one believes that calligraphy** (specifically broad-nib calligraphy, not matter how strange I for one think a particularly shaped piece of metal can have such metaphysical centrality) has a Righteous place in type, there's something unacceptable about limiting it to what right-handers feel more comfortable executing. And I hope that more people will realize this - through discussion triggered by exploration.

* Actually just a side-exploration on this new continent, one unreachable by hand.

** I haven't been using "chirography" in consideration of certain others here. I'm not a terminological crusader; even if a word is more accurate, sometimes you must not use it, because there's a higher goal.

hhp

Nick Job's picture

I don't think, unless I have misread this thread, that Hrant is venturing to criticize the handwriting at the top of this thread because it exhibits traits of left-handedness. Surely this is not a critique at all but rather a 'proof', as it were, of the fact that left handed writing looks different to right handed writing. It obviously does or no-one would ever have suggested so.

Doesn't the argument go something like this:

(i) The 'age-old forms' of handwriting are the way they are because they are easier to execute with the right hand, and more people (4:1, 5:1 whatever the correct proportion) are right-handed so more of these forms are said to be 'correct'. That's democracy for you. (Lefty calligraphers were unkindly bullied into contorting themselves or rotating the paper or whatever to achieve these forms faithfully - who said the right-handers were right?)

(ii) The reason current 'right-handed' calligraphic Latin forms are commonplace and customary is that more people are/were right-handed and therefore, through repeated usage, we became thoroughly accustomed to reading letters (the Latin alphabet at least) which are 'right-handed' so to speak.

(iii) Next, the vast majority of printing text faces are, because of ease of recognition through customary usage, heavily wedded to the forms of the hand that belonged to their 'right-handed' predecessors.

(iv) Nobody has ever said that right-looking (as opposed to left-looking lettering) is better looking aesthetically or even functionally, apart from the arguments in (i), (ii) and (iii) to do with what we have become used to. I don't know about you but what we hav e become used to is often utter garbage, we're just too lazy to do anything about it.

(v) Now, suppose more people were left-handed than right, then everything would look completely different (maybe mirrored - who knows?) There would definitely be different ideas about what right and wrong were when it came to the 'age-old forms'.

(vi) The predisposition to closely link the forms of text faced to their right-hand-rendered forerunners may be unhelpful at best, massively detrimental at worst, to the establishment of letterforms that make reading easier which, if I'm not mistaken, is one of the thing's that makes Hrant tick.

I know this is impossible, but I wonder what text faces would look like if the punch-cutting process had pre-emptend the cutting of the first pen-nib. Maybe the challenge is to imagine what letters would look like had the pen never been invented???

Maybe I'm totally ignorant but I get fed up with people championing a text face because it is 'faithful' to those age-old forms (after all, even though they might look very beautiful, who said they were right or worth copying?) What I'd like to see is something that functions better than lettering that was done with pen and ink.

I guess I like new and some people like old. Otherwise why would some people 'waste' so much time doing revivals.

John Hudson's picture

Hrant: Can I see, can I see?!

Can't you imagine, can't you imagine? :)

My angle wobbled a bit, and the e is a mess, but this is the sort of effect one gets.

John Hudson's picture

Hrant: Now, if we discover that there’s nothing Wrong with such a rendering, the
right-hand broad-nib basis of type surely becomes quite suspect.

I don't think it becomes 'suspect', I think it becomes recognised as what it always was: a cultural phenomenon, a set of conventions arising from particular tools and practices during the maturation of our writing system. When we design type, we interpret that writing system and, to borrow a concept from Gadamerian hermeneutics, all interpretations happen relative to a tradition (even if it is in opposition to that tradition).

Where the tradition has considerable internal force -- as distinct from cultural conservatism, financial caution, etc. -- is in the influence of the particular tools and practices on the basic shape of letters, such that these shapes are either difficult to make or present design problems when written with other tools and/or different practices (e.g. a different ductus).

In principle, I'm not wedded to the idea that typography should endlessly follow the patterns established by particular models of right-handed chirography (and note that there are multiple patterns, which is evidence that the tools and practices are not deterministic but enable invention). My main concern is that a typeface needs to be internally consistent, not that it needs to follow a particular model.

shawkash's picture

Mr.Papazian said:

.BTW, I managed to dig up that “Left-Handed Calligraphy” book (Vance Studley*, a 1991 Dover facsimile of the 1979 edition) and the inconsistencies I see here are reflected there as well. By turns you read things like “With a little effort, you can learn to letter with the broad-edged pen as well as the right-hander".

Do You mean they have to read from right to left like Arabic language speakers?
A question came to my mind: Do the Arabic and English calligraphers or even normal people write the single letter from right to left or from left to write?

Same Question should be asked for a Chinese calligrapher too?
and BTW, How the left handers Chinese calligraphers are dealing with this problem.

If I am not wrong, we all starts from right to left.. even the left hander starts right to left too? then reading from different directions would not make any different.

But it may make a different then with the whole text .. as any way left hander should fill the page from left to write in Latin languages. I will here copy and paste a part from Wikipedia that strongly supports Mr.Papazian point of view about directions:

"It can be difficult for left-handed children to learn to write if the teacher does not take the student's left-handedness into account. In fact, even in the later 20th century, some UK schools were discouraging children from writing with their left hand, often seriously affecting the child's development (Hansard 1998). When properly done, left-handed writing is a mirror image to that of the right-hander, making the teaching process confusing for the right-handed teacher of a left-handed student. The result is that many left-handed children learn to write with their hand curled around the pen so that it can meet the paper at the same angle as the right-hander, rather than simply tilt the paper the opposite way.[citation needed] Once this habit is formed, it is difficult to break.[citation needed] This curling of the hand results in the heel of the palm being placed behind the writing, forcing the writer to lift it off the paper and making the grip even more awkward. In addition, constantly lifting and replacing the hand over fresh ink often causes smudging, causing problems for many left-handed students, especially in exam situations. Ink is also rubbed on to the hand, causing an inky hand. When the left hand is held correctly, it is below the writing, as is typical for right-handers.

However, left-handed people who speak Arabic, Persian, Urdu and Hebrew or any other right to left language, do not have the same difficulties with writing. The right to left nature of these languages prevents left-handers from running their hand on the ink as happens with left to right languages. Still, due to these alphabets being developed for right-handed people, the characters are still often more easily matched to a right-handed profile." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Left-handed

The other only point which I disagree with You about is the point of the girl..

Every now and then, You keep saying when a left hander needs to make the same quality with his right hand, he has to change his brain structure.. because it is linked to brain? I see yes they can without going to anything related to change brain structure.. Why do I need to change my brain structure to train my hand to bring specific quality of art work.. it is just a matter of training.

Do You know people with long-term impairment of the right hand are more likely to become left-handed, even after their right hand heals. Such long-term impairment is defined as eight months or more. Even without touching their brain by their thumb.

I am not sure why I need to know what the girl who has no arms could do if she got them! I have told this example to prove that human can do anything could be trained to do. It is not about the examples You have mentioned.. have time and watch the national geography about the shawling temple, if You didn't yet. I am sure You will be surprised how some normal people by training can break rocks and their bodies get some resistance to sharp tools to not even injure them.. aside from walking by some strange ways that normal one can't do. It has nothing to do with a disabilities.. because they are normal people, it just proves man limitations are possible to control.

Nothing is impossible, the fact is since 3000 years egyptians used to write by their hands and walk by their feet, oh and it happened to be the same even back in history that when there were no writings at all, and man used to draw his drawings on rocks by his hands and walk by his feet.. when a woman can challenge that and use her feet to write, draw and produce art forms without changing her brain structure, then a left hander can do the same like a right hander even better in many cases in Arabic calligraphy at least, which is pretty hard and complicated. Yes, I agree we are never sure if the name I told were to produce better quality if they were right handers, but at least I know they produced better quality than those who has a right hand, it is possible the left handers has a different way in thinking according to what I have read, but it is possible too it is based on the person him self! Actually both cases are possible for logic and the more logical to me is the fact it depends on the person. But the question which I think You even ask: Do we need really the left hander to use his left hand and right hand the same way? or do we need to improve the skills that his left hand gave him.. which are described in this thread or even to be described.

And btw, I am not trying to jump to conclusions, I am just showing the ideas I have to discuss with You.

Actually to be honest with You typophilers, if this thread should take us any where, it should in my opinion be about advancing our educational system to deal with left handers , exactly like how Michel does .. it is very true one should ask the class firstly if there is any left hander .. I see the thread is going some where to the fact what as easier for a left hander may be harder for right hander, and vice versa.. and that may lead the left handers to create some different fonts, etc. I am happy we reached this phase of discussion, and I am sorry if I didn't follow part of it, because I was away for long time and just came back lately and I keep reading some old posts.. but any way I want to say before we think about that, we should think how left handers are getting help at first place. Do the education systems have a full understanding for what left-handed can do to improve it, and what they can't? Does the educational systems give them the chance to create new fonts or even a new visuals of the current fonts, and to be explained by them. Because left handers are smart too, according to some research the proportion of left-handers is rising and left-handed people as a group have historically produced an above-average quota of high achievers. Left-handers brains are structured differently in a way that widens their range of abilities, and the genes that determine left-handedness also govern development of the language centers of the brain.

However, the problem of left handers is not just about calligraphy according to wikipedia to I see the industry doesn't consider them enough, most mouses are done for right handers, same for scissors, and knifes. "The lack of left-handed tools and machines in many workplaces is not only a nuisance to many left-handers, but has actually placed them at peril. In fact, some factories have installed left-handed equipment after successful class-action lawsuits on behalf of left-handed employees." Which makes me ask how comfortable are them with the industries pens, in case I told already those left handed Arabic calligraphers are normally crafting their pens at the angle that works better for them.

Mort to be told later about this part when I hope.

enne_son's picture

Hrant, I am part of the downtrodden 15 percent, yet I don't feel like dirt.

As an exploration try the following.
1) divide your students into lefties and righties
2) give both an identical catalogue of basic shapes — this could be circle / rectangle / triangle or bird / giraffe / tree.
3) subdivide both the lefties and the righties into five groups — group one gets a ball point pen or pencil; group two gets a set of chisels and a hammer; group three gets a broad-nibbed pen; group four gets a flexible straight-pen; group five gets a set of chinese calligraphy brushes.
4) sequester the various groups and set each group the task of writing the basic catalogue of shapes on a daily basis for the entire semester with attention to maximizing speed, maximizing articulation, enhancing cohesivenes as a group, and consolidating the wholistic integrity of the unit made by placing them in combinations.
5) take what emerges from this process and translate the products a) into metal punches and b)directly into a digital font.
6) the next semester, using a different set of groups have them review what the others are doing on a weekly basis.
7) the next semester go directly to punch-cutting or digital form-giving from the catalogue of basic shapes.

Further points:
1) the centrality of the broad-nibbed pen in Western writing is circumstantial, as John suggests, not metaphysical.
2) there is nothing righteous about calliigaphy, but the durability of the products of a hand in combination with a proper tool comes from it's ability to give shapes a stable construction and a consistent volume, and — related to this — it's ability to facilitate effective co-ordination of the whites between and inside letters. This latter is tantamount to optimizing notan.
3) the reader (what the body as visual cortex needs in reading) has always been an integral (or dialogic) part of the equation — what survives in writing or the evolution of a script are the things that 1) optimize perceptual distances between individual letter forms and 2) optimize the visual integrity and optical-grammatical distinctiveness as a unit of the word-wholes they form.
4) the essence of punch cutting is feature manipulation inside a parametrically hyper-malleable domain; each novel feature manipulation is also a norm-violation in relation to what has previously occurred within the domain; feature manipulation is susceptable to cultural pressures, personal preferences, and external shape-modelling paradigms; it should be hyper-explored; what survives will be things that 1) optimize perceptual distances between individual letter forms and 2) optimize the visual integrity as a unit of the word-wholes they form..
5) on your criteria the products of left-handed dominance might be as problematic as the existing alternative, especially as it also 'privileges the black.'
6) hybridization puts at risks the cohesivenes as a group, and consolidating the wholistic integrity of the unit made by placing the members of the group in combinations.

hrant's picture

Nick, I'm largely in agreement with you. The one thing that I like to clarify in such discussions is that I think novelty for its own sake is no better than blind conservatism.

John, I can imagine, but: it's not the same; this way, others benefit. So thank you, twice.

Your result is very interesting. Besides being even less freakish to me than the left-hand one (for both we would reduce the contrast) there's that fascinating split, like in the top-left of the bowl of the "d", a result of avoiding pushing the pen. I can see that becoming a full-fledged -if preferably subtly applied- feature of a typeface, sort of like the abrupt shift on the insides of calligraphic strokes.

> I think it becomes recognised as what it always was: a cultural
> phenomenon, a set of conventions arising from particular tools
> and practices during the maturation of our writing system.

I'm very glad to hear you (and Peter) say that, but you should know that there are many people (such as Gary Munch) who have expressed a very deep and necessary human link between writing (and often specifically right-hand broad-nib writing) and reading.* Tellingly, these tend to be the people -unlike you and Peter- who make a lot of calligraphic type... This is very disturbing to me, and all of us are responsible for purging this delusion.

* And I have to suspect that certain people in this discussion feel the same way, even though at this point they may opt to keep that in the closet...

The questions between people like me and people like you & Peter are:
1) What are the advantages of totally breaking the link to writing?
2) How quickly do people adapt to new structures?

To me both questions have firm -if not assured- answers: the advantages are greater readability and the opening of a new dimension of style; and the speed of adaptation is very fast, on the order of hours at most (with for example Gary himself once pointing out that a "g" he had trouble with* stopped bothering him after a few pages).

* Nevermind that most laymen certainly don't even get that far, at least not consciously.

> a typeface needs to be internally consistent

This I've always had trouble with. A typeface needs to work, not be some sort of creative exercise. Also, what's "internally consistent" about the thin diagonal of the "Z" in your fonts?

Ahmad, I'm not grasping the connection between reading direction and writing direction. If you're referring to my comment that doing calligraphy vertically (in order to maintain the historical model) prevents the writer from comfortably reading his writing, that's true because we read laterally irrespective of script. We can talk about Chinese, although these days they do their stuff mostly laterally too I think.

> Do the Arabic and English calligraphers or even normal people
> write the single letter from right to left or from left to write?

In Latin, people tend to write the letters left-to-right (some people going back to dot "i"s, cross "t"s, etc.) while in Arabic at least* people tend to make the entire body of the letter cluster segment leftward without lifting the pen. No?

* John says it's different in Hebrew, which makes sense because unlike Arabic the letters are detached.

Concerning brain structure:
It matters because the brain does have a structure, and it affects the way we perform things, including which hand we're more comfortable writing with. It's well-known for example that the left and right halves of the brain are better at different things, and some of this propagates throughout the body. Furthermore, after puberty changing brain structure is not known, or at least not fully revealed. This is why for example when a person learns a foreign language as an adult he will almost certainly never lose his accent. The point is, as an adult, no matter how hard one tries, the handedness will remain.

> human can do anything could be trained to do.

I can't believe this. For example, we cannot fly. More modestly, something from a closer sphere: we cannot move our eyes in a smooth motion unless we're looking at something that's moving; we can only saccade. The brain is structured in this way.

> Do we need really the left hander to use his left hand and right hand
> the same way? or do we need to improve the skills that his left hand
> gave him.. which are described in this thread or even to be described.

Thinking about society and not the individual, I would say that
we need to learn from the left-hander to benefit more people.

> according to some research the proportion of left-handers is rising

Very interesting! Do you have a reference?

> I don’t feel like dirt.

"Downtrodden" was a bit much, sorry. It's not like I even think calligraphy has any place at all in the topic at hand: type.

> As an exploration try the following.
> ....

Elaborate experiments are wonderful.
Common sense is even better.

> This latter is tantamount to optimizing notan.

It's better than ignoring notan, but it's still non-ideal. Since we know of a higher ideal (treating the border between the white and black as the focus of design), continuing to leverage calligraphy is a waste of time.

> the products of left-handed dominance might
> be as problematic as the existing alternative

Of course. I'm simply using the utter dominance of the right hand as further proof that calligraphy cannot be a serious foundation for type (because 15% of the population cannot be Wrong). That said, if one insists on using calligraphy as a foundation, one must make left-handed calligraphic type (not to mention Indian-style calligraphic type, since by some accounts it's more comfortable) on occasion; one must stop promulgating the right-hand model with such oppressive conviction.

> hybridization puts at risks the cohesivenes as a group

Hybridization is the future, always.

hhp

hrant's picture

I just wrote:
> I can see that becoming a full-fledged
> -if preferably subtly applied- feature
> of a typeface

For example if somebody were making a Devanagari+Latin typeface system this scheme would make the Latin nicely integrated (at least if the Devanagari needs to be dominant).

hhp

John Hudson's picture

Hrant: For example if somebody were making a Devanagari+Latin typeface system this scheme would make the Latin nicely integrated...

Other than making a post-colonial socio-political gesture, in what way is that any less objectionable than 'Latinising' Devangari or any other script with its own history and distinctive cultural identity? To me, the typical ductus is such an inherent quality in the identity of a script that I see it as an impervious barrier, in terms of harmonising type designs for different writing systems. [I came to this conclusion after designing the Constantia Greek in 2003, which was the last time I tried to adapt Greek letters to a (hybridised) Latin ductus.] Note that this doesn't mean that I consider the typical ductus an impervious barrier in the design of new types within a single script -- on the contrary, this is one of the ways in which new styles are developed, as any history of writing will illustrate (and historically writing has been much more dynamic in this regard than typography) --, but I don't think it is mechanism that should be employed to forcibly integrate two different scripts, subjecting one to the other. Taking your Noor+Patria types as an example, my inclination -- as a typographer, setting bilingual text -- would be to use the two 'dominant' fonts together and ignore the subjugated ones altogether. For me, multilingual typography should be about allowing the individual voices to speak: to borrow musical terminology, it is about polyphony not homophony.

In cases where styles with variant ductus or other characteristics that might suggest themselves as harmonious with other scripts have developed organically within the individual traditions, then interesting possibilities arise [cf. Nyala.] But even then, it can be a mistake to leap to a combination based on similarity of forms without considering the associations those forms have within their individual traditions, consciously or unconsciously held by the reader.

enne_son's picture

Hrant, I'm disappointed that you swept away my exploration so summararily in your reply. I meant it in the spirit of your comment about wanting to launch an exploration. It should at least have been provocative enought to be thought of as an instructive thought-experiment.

As well, I might be accused of trying to leverage Gerrit Noordzij's analytic inventions for getting a handle on design, but I should not be accussed of trying to promote calligraphic styling in type design. My contention that all novel feature manipulation is a norm-violation should not be construed as implying it is bad. In my book the future lies with strategically norm-violating feature-manipulative play. This has got us where we are, Legato included. The positive role of norm-violation I have from Douglas Hafstadter's "Letter Spirit: Esthetic Perception and Creative Play in the Rich Microcosm of the Roman Alphabet."

hrant's picture

> in what way is that any less objectionable than ’Latinising’ Devangari or
> any other script with its own history and distinctive cultural identity?

I certainly know what you mean. It is highly objectionable if it mirrors the long-standing deplorable practice of making Latinized fonts for other scripts as a routine. The important distinction is that it's OK if the purpose is such; Latinized fonts work very well when the non-Latin setting is embedded in a block of Latin. The problem is such fonts are used to set whole books in that language, not least because counterparts going the other way are not provided. It's unilateral, instead of multilateral. So my contention isn't that Latinization is Evil, it's that it's simply out of control, and not understood.

You might use only the two masters in the Nour&Patria system*, but a font is a tool and not an ideology, and others might want to use the subordinates for setting snippets or even short passages within the dominant script**. In fact in Nour&Patria you can't do that with the two master designs.

* I myself would might use the Latin subordinate to the Armenian to set texts -even long texts- about an Armenian topic. Like maybe the captions for:
http://www.eastofbyzantium.com/

** This is what Emily Artinian did in her large-format artist's book, "From Ararat to Angeltown":

> I see it as an impervious barrier

I don't get it. If the structure in a given script is cultural and hence
changeable, how could there be such an absolute barrier between scripts?

> I’m disappointed that you swept away my exploration so summararily in your reply.

My drive for practical improvement can make me dismissive, I apologize.
Larson at MS is the only person who can put money to such use.
But in the past we've tried and failed to get such a thing going.

> I should not be accussed of trying to promote calligraphic styling in type design.

Remember, I've been using calligraphy to mean chirography in this thread.
Or para-chirography, as you've nicely coined it - same thing.

> This has got us where we are, Legato included.

Legato is anti-Noordzij. You are pro.
Para-chirography cannot make Legato.

hhp

hrant's picture

Trying again to post an image of the Artinian book:

hhp

enne_son's picture

Your dismissive stance to my proposed exploration makes me doubt your sincerity in launching this thread. My starting point was John's little samples, which you found useful.

As I understand it, chirography is paraphrastic of the pen. This is different than saying some type is para-paraphrastic. Etymologically para- is beside, alongside of, by, beyond. For me para-paraphrastic is not a program or stance, but a type-historical fact.

Legato is para-paraphrastic. It takes the product of contrast reduction on a template of expansion and twists the counters counter-clockwise to get a contrast or stress that ressembles that of the neo-humanistic sans serif Today. Today, ironically, is contrast reduction on a template of translation. The twisting in Legato is a norm-violating feature-manipulative action, which I am for. The interesting perceptual-psychological question is why should this enhance rapid automatic visual wordform resolution as Bloemsma thoguht it might. I think it is because co-ordinated tensivities inside bounded maps of visual information promote unitization of the form.

hrant's picture

I don't like to waste time with pipe-dreams that we can only afford to talk about and not actually carry out. This thread on the other hand costs very little and could have real results in the designs of people, hopefully with some benefit to users.

> It takes the product of contrast reduction on a template of expansion
> and twists the counters counter-clockwise to get a contrast or stress
> that ressembles that of the neo-humanistic sans serif Today.

Your twisted logic is quite reminiscent of a left-
hander trying to perform right-hand calligraphy.

Chirographic apologism is dismissed.

hhp

enne_son's picture

Disses missed. I intend to stay. My pipe dream is the kind of exploration Underware might try.

hrant's picture

Just make sure before you start that you won't have to change your
minds about anything important. The Father Figure must not be doubted.

hhp

John Hudson's picture

Hrant:Your result is very interesting. Besides being even less freakish to me than the left-hand one...

Neither of the quick example images I posted were 'left-hand': the first showed the result of the right hand in a neutral position aligned with the forearm, the second showed the result of the right hand hooked inward. I'm not surprised that you found the latter less freakish than the first, because it exhibits a more 'normal' (typical, average) contrast between thick and thin strokes. As I wrote above, flexing the wrist (out for Latin, in for Devanagari) is a means to reduce contrast. [Kent's comment about how he actuall holds his pen when writing Devanagari should not be ignored, by the way. What I'm doing is playing with variations on the European positioning, in which the hand is close to the paper; there are plenty of places in the world where people write with their hand further from the writing surface and, hence, more above the text and below or to the side.]

I’m very glad to hear you (and Peter) say that, but you should know that there are many people (such as Gary Munch) who have expressed a very deep and necessary human link between writing (and often specifically right-hand broad-nib writing) and reading.* Tellingly, these tend to be the people -unlike you and Peter- who make a lot of calligraphic type... This is very disturbing to me, and all of us are responsible for purging this delusion.

There are deep links between writing and reading, which I don't think should be thrown out with the delusional bathwater, but I agree that they are not per se necessary (they are circumstantial). The links have a common sense basis: no one invents a writing system that people can't read (ignoring some calligraphic modes which are really games not text). So of course writing is linked to reading; but that doesn't mean that reading is linked to writing (in the limited sense of chirography, not the wider sense of writing that includes 'typewriting' and other means of text manufacture).

The questions between people like me and people like you & Peter are:
1) What are the advantages of totally breaking the link to writing?
2) How quickly do people adapt to new structures?

Your number 1 is seriously begging the question.

I would phrase the questions slightly differently:
1) Are there advantages to breaking the link between reading and writing *more than it has already been broken*?
2) If so, what are these advantages?
3) Are there potential disadvantages?

I don't think your number 2 is really much of a question, at least between us. As you know, I think readerability is overwhelmingly the dominant factor in reading, so of course I think that -- physiologically and cognitively -- humans can quickly and easily adapt to new structures and the patterns they produce. But the pressures on the form of text are not physiological and cognitive, they are cultural and economic, and these forces encourage conservatism.

>

I’ve always had trouble with [the idea that a typeface needs to be internally consistent]. A typeface needs to work, not be some sort of creative exercise. Also, what’s “internally consistent” about the thin diagonal of the “Z” in your fonts?

I presume you mean the typical thick diagonal stroke of most serif types, which appears to contradict the typical ductus derived from the moving front. It is precisely for the sake of consistency that this feature was developed: in typical Latin letters all strokes connecting the x-height and baseline regions are heavy strokes not hairlines. The unique shape of the letter z breaks this pattern when written with the same ductus as the other letters, so the letter is written with a rotated pen in formal book hands to maintain consistency with the other letters.

I should clarify what I mean by 'internally consistent', and perhaps try to find a more precise term. I certainly don't mean that every part of every letter in a typeface must be consistent with a particular stroke model analysis, let alone with the results of a particular chirographic exemplar. What I mean is that a typeface should be analysable in its component parts so that the whole can be understood. A typeface is not a gathering of arbitrary shapes -- Rotis excepted! --, it is a system of shapes. If we look at a page of text and some shape seems wrong, seems not to fit in the system, we should -- as professionals, not necessarily as laymen -- be able to explain why that shape seems wrong. And that means we need to be able to understand what is happening within the system.

When I see examples of neophyte type design in the Typophile critique threads or elsewhere, what I see most often is arbitrariness (and this is true also of my own first attempts sixteen years ago). What is lacking are the analytical tools to understand the relationships that make up a system. The system itself does not need to have particular characteristics -- it doesn't need to be chirographic or based on a broad-nib translation stroke model, any more than it needs to be a revival of Jenson or a Modernist sans -- but it does need to have that internal consistency that identifies the system as a system and makes it work as such.

Now, a few other observations arise from this. One is that the system may be multifaceted and, hence, analysable in multiple ways. Another is that the same typeface may be analysed in different ways by different observers, and there is nothing wrong with that.

I think that Gerrit Noordzij's theory of the stroke provides one very strong analytical tool: one which I use every day when making decisions about shapes. Perhaps more importantly, I was instinctively looking at shapes in this way for many years before I read Noordzij's formulation of the theory. What Noordzij did was to expand my analysis, so that I saw and understood things that I had previously missed. Crucially, I think Noordzij has described the hermeneutic tradition within which type design exists, and has done so in a way that is independent of the lore, legend, personalities and advertising copy that make up much 'typographic history'. As I wrote earlier in this thread, a hermeneutic tradition is not something from which one can escape, and in some ways one is most deeply embedded in that tradition when one is critiquing it and finding reasons for rejecting it or extending it.

enne_son's picture

Hrant, I don't think my use of Noordzij is as much a sign of character weakness as it is an artifact of deep engagment with his texts.

The observation that punch cutting when applied to writing leads to a heightened level of feature-analytic engagement on the level of form, and new prospects for enhancement, is entirely my own, as is the corollary that this can lead to norm-violating feature-manipulative action, which, when strategically applied in text face situations, or creatively applied in display situations, is or can be positive or progressive. I think it can be progressive for many of the reasons that you think being antichirographic is. I just don't need to debunk writing to make my claim. Feature manipulative action is, I say, the domain of type design. As I said, I'm all for exploration.

Digital manipulation at the level of outlines is parasitical on the heightened level feature-analytic engagement on the level of form that punch-cutting encourages.

enne_son's picture

The edit function has timed out. I should not have said "entirely my own." The idea that punch-cutting offers new prospects for enhancement is part of the mythology of type design, and rightly so. What I try to sharpen is a sense of how this works, that is through the heightened level of optical-grammatical awareness gained in the feature-analytic engagemnt intrinsic to sculpting and because of the removal of select feature manipulative constraints also intrinsic to sculpting.

typerror's picture

Hrant

I spoke with Bob Boyajian Friday; got this today. He said have at it. Tell him how you can tell the difference. He is left handed!

By the way, he is of your heritage!

As to your subtle swipes of me in some of the posts while I was gone... FO. Diss intended!

I tried to correspond to you privately, and you wrote back, and in a cordial fashion we had a limited conversation, but now you seem to be agenda driven again.

What is your problem with calligraphy... your INABILITY to do it or understand it.?

Michael

crossgrove's picture

Hrant,

Just make the damn typeface already. Believe it or not, I agree that what you want to do is possible and may have benefits. You are obviously having a hard time conveying this concept, and why not? Words rarely suffice to describe a visual effect. Go ahead and make a typeface without a single pen artifact. I absolutely believe you can do it and it will be illuminating to many. One hopes you won't simply be reacting to what you see as an oppressive dominant paradigm like some resentful catholic. Maybe the reason you aren't getting a lot of traction is that these theories don't really hold much weight in their conceptual form. Make it happen! Show rather than tell.

hrant's picture

Some good points by everybody.
But most of all by Carl.

hhp

typerror's picture

Thank you Carl.

"make a typeface without a single pen artifact"

I agree. Hrant, go ahead! Manipulating people to your own end is one thing, but backing up babble (or BS) is another. You tell a client you know the solution, you gotta produce!

Michael

Nick Job's picture

Everyone chill.

Hrant, Good luck with that. I don't think you're crazy. I do think you have your work cut out, but then so does Michael, it's just different work. Wouldn't be much fun if we were all the same. The world needs pioneers as much as craftsmen.

Michael, we all have inabilities. I don't think the swipes were at you or even calligraphy per se but rather at calligraphy being the perennial driving force behind modern type design. If the left-handed stuff looked (even marginally) different at the start, but just as 'good', why is it so wrong to question right-handed forms as the only valid influencer on functional, readable type? This has nothing to do with a dislike of calligraphy... maybe ennui but not hatred.

Carl, is it not shrewd of Hrant to take counsel before embarking in a particular direction? He could have saved himself several thousand hours of fruitless labour if someone wise had made so much as a throw-away comment; I'm not sure if many have.

> Go ahead and make a typeface without a single pen artifact.

The minute one stroke is thicker than another, it will attract accusations of being 'pen-led'. There will also be letters involved. Surely every letter (I am talking basic shape, not individual stylistics) in its crudest and most embryonic form was written first before it was ever drawn/punched/described by mouse/whatever. Is what you are suggesting really possible? If you really think so, I'm surprised that you don't want to have a go too? Or has Beorcana (which, by the way, you already know I think is one of the most attractive faces ever) completely knackered you out? Hope not.

Nick

crossgrove's picture

"Is what you are suggesting really possible? If you really think so, I’m surprised that you don’t want to have a go too?"

Is it not shrewd of me to send Hrant on this diabolical fool's errand? Bwaaa-haaa-haaaa! ;D

I'm already working on something vexing and experimental. One of those at a time is plenty. Thanks for the appreciation, Nick.

I think we ought to stop talking about this because there are too many pitfalls to over-conceptualizing; for every Legato there's a Rotis. I also think we're closer to this abstract goal than we realize. And the results may not look all that radical.

hrant's picture

The readme for RTF Loxley* says:
"Loxley displays some of Jim's particular left handed calligraphy"

* http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1516705613/making-faces-metal-type-i...

Could somebody point to where exactly this is exhibited?

hhp

eliason's picture

Top right of /a/, maybe?

typerror's picture

A German affectation where the nib is pulled down and to the right... not the writing of a left hander!

Common in Linz work as well as others.

hrant's picture

If that "Loxley displays some of Jim's particular left handed calligraphy" is coming from Richard, I supposed it could indeed be flawed analysis. But I have a hunch Richard got it from Jim himself. In that case I'd have to think there's something there.

hhp

hrant's picture

Seb Lester, an avid calligrapher, believes that being left-handed is a disadvantage in calligraphy. When asked to elaborate, he writes: "Writing with broad nib pen involves less natural position for elbow. Avoiding ink smudge can involve writing at odd angles."

hhp

hrant's picture

A "real-world" application of John Hudson's above experiments of August 30 and 31, 2008:
https://m1.behance.net/rendition/modules/108396243/disp/5f8f9abaf6c7506d...

hhp

quadibloc's picture

Seb Lester, an avid calligrapher, believes that being left-handed is a disadvantage in calligraphy.

And of course it is, for the calligraphy of scripts written from left to right.

A naïve person might then ask why there are scripts written from right to left, for which being right-handed is a disadvantage. However, the historical reason is simple enough; these scripts arose before the invention of paper, and were written on things like clay tablets, where ink smear was not a problem. Without that problem, it was natural for a right-handed person to start with the right arm at rest, and then move it to more extended positions along the writing surface.

As to your example, it was much too difficult for my simple skills.

My first guess would be that since the thin parts disappeared in the alphabets around the edge, this was reminiscent of a certain style of Armenian typeface.

My second guess would be that the very long flourishes on two of the letters were added after the fact, cheating or no.

I wouldn't have thought "left-handed", since the letters don't have reversed ductus. But on reading the thread, I do note that they have exaggerated ductus, given the nib being inclined 45 degrees, and a left-handed person preparing the calligraphy using the same writing-sideways technique traditionally used by right-handed people to write Hebrew is as good an explanation of that as any.

That it's "not proof" isn't a reason to reject raising the possibility.

But since it's a poster about calligraphy, exaggerating the ductus to get its calligraphic nature noted is an obvious reason for it by itself.

hrant's picture

Sadly your opening "of course" remains a denial issue for many...

hhp

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