F I S H * E F F E C T (el efecto pescado)

degregorio2's picture

Hello mr. and mrs. typophiles
Sorry by start this thread in spanish, but my english is very poor.

Muchas veces ustedes se han preguntado por qu

Miguel Hernandez's picture

an English Translation..

Often you have wondered why a type that has the resistance of a text typography and its sober structure does not work well?
A variable exists that is not seen, but that it is very, but very important: the counterform.

The "fish effect" happens when the counterform commits of the round types is excessively greater compared to external (space between characters). This happens in the types that respond to geometric proportions of the type rather that to the optical proportions.

The "fish effect" is a disagreeable effect that causes that the words are longer (space) that what the brain would have to catch, translating this in sensations of early satiety of reading and precocious boredom. Perhaps, when we see the typography in great we did not notice the great differences between the counterforms, but when we began to drain these, the perceptual difference begins to grow radically, and the points more and more begin to be heavy that the lines.

In typeworkshops of underware they are explained some passages like avoiding the fish effect, occupying technical of optimization of the proportion.

They have felt that passes something similar when they read futura? Any doubt or commentary, the debate begins:

A. Scott Britton's picture

Almost seems like an issue exclusive to kerning; I mean, when you design a round object as round as some of those it seems like you'd just have to accept some aberrations. Again, seems like kerning is the culprit--can't the problem be fixed by pulling parallels farther from each other than the mathematical distance between curves?

degregorio2's picture

I don

hrant's picture

I think anybody would agree that the White (better than "counterform", for a number of reasons) is important. Balancing the weights of the white and black in a bouma is critical to reading - but there's also something else: the whites can be too modular. In fact, when they follow the black perfectly, and the black is too modular, then you get a huge loss of differentiation, and readability falls through the floor (since information comes from contrast). Set the word "tobacco" in Avant Garde and see what I mean.

But this is not limited to highly constructed fonts, like AG or Futura. In more covert way, chirographic fonts suffer from the same problem: because the two edges of the black are made harmonious, the white effectively follows the black.

That's why Legato is such a hugely important development: it breaks the anti-readability codependence.


dezcom's picture

Part of the problem is when you have fonts with nearly circular "o" glyphs like your example. The circle is very hard to escape; it has a bullseye effect. This stops the reading rythym abruptly. When you put it next to a bunch of tightly spaced verticals, you get a dark spot, particularly if there are lots of acenders (like "illi". Even if you letterspace a lot, the "o"s still grab your attention.

hrant's picture

I can't believe it: FontShop is giving away Legato SemiBold.
Go download the future, baby.


dezcom's picture

Thanks Hrant! I just got that puppy!

piccic's picture

Legato is a wonderfully balanced mixture of influences, and manages to get the best reading results from those I suppose. I see pieces of the previous Balance, and extremes from both sans-serifs and epigraphy, all melded uniquely. I never liked Avance, but a serif study on Legato would rock (and I suppose Bloemsma will do it).

But I still don't understand what you mean by "chirographic". Can you make actual examples?

hrant's picture

Claudio, although no design exists in a vacuum, I think you're seeing things maybe you want to see. Legato is based on a pretty progressive theory more than anything else - it's a constructed font* that aims to create bonding between glyphs, essentially by breaking the dominance of the Black.

* This is in fact it's only -but important- weakness. Bloemsma needs to break free of Modernism to get to the pinnacle. In this respect Bilak is on a better track.

Chirography: I don't know about giving examples (since almost all fonts have both chirography and typography in them), but I guess the best way to define it is that it exhibits the effects of wrtiting by hand, especially using a broad-nib pen. Jan Middendorp apparently sees chirography in Legato, but as far as I'm concerned it's an illusion: using stroke contrast as a feature is one thing, deriving it from the way a broad nib pen makes marks is another.


dezcom's picture

>But I still don't understand what you mean by "chirographic"<

Chirographic is like Caligraphic (more flat pen than pointed pen though). Broad nibbed pens were held at a constant angle (usually 30 or 45 degrees depending on the style). When a stroke was made--the "O" is the best example--the narrowest part of the stroke was off center of the vertical (to the left on the top and to the right on the bottom) causing a slight appearance of axis rotation (see Palatino). Garamond has the off vertical axis but it looks more "Typographic" than Palatino, which looks more "Chirographic". Zapf had a very strong calligraphy background. When he lectured to my sophomore year typography class, he would write quite beautiful Roman letters on a blackboard using the side of a piece of chalk held at an angle like a flat-pen.
What used to be called "Modern" type faces, like Bodoni, had the axis of the thinest part of the stroke at the vertical. Today the term "Modern" can be confusing. The term "Modernism" refered to by Hrant is certainly different. Ask him, but I think he is refering to the 1950-60s era and to fonts like Helvetica.

Another difference is in proportions. The classic Roman proportions were prominant in older letterforms where the "Modern" proportions try to give the illusion of most letters (not M, W, l, or i) being visually equal in width. The terms "appear" and "visually equal" are quite important since almost no glyphs from even "Modern" fonts are actually equal in width.


hrant's picture

I'm not the doyen of the term or anything (for one thing, I got it directly from John Hudson), but to me "chirographic" isn't necessarily related to the broad nib pen - it can be based on the ballpoint pen just as well - the important thing is the organic/physical_tool participation. And the reasons to differentiate it from "calligraphy" are that: the idea of "beauty" is not a requirement; and the term "calligraphy" has too much baggage, like the stuff people see on dipomas, etc. As an example, many of Zapf's fonts are calligraphic, while Gerrit Noordzij's are not, but they're still strongly chirographic. That's why GN bags on Zapf for producing artsy stuff only fit for hanging on a wall, while I think they're both just playing at different ends of the same sandbox. And Licko and Crouwel are playing on the other end of the same playground (Modernism). The real world is outside.

As for "Modernism", I have a pretty unorthodox meaning for it. For one thing, I see the Ancient Romans as having planted the seed, and the Enlightenment as having made it acceptable, and the 20th century is merely when it entered the mainstream in a formal manner. I don't feel too guilty using a somewhat "custom" meaning since -as you imply- the term is heavily overloaded anyway.


dezcom's picture

Thanks for the clarification. The "beauty" or lack of it then is the telling distinction. Of course many can argue what beauty is (other than anything to do with truth and roses :-)

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