Monomania: No curves

Sindre's picture

I couldn't sleep Thursday night, so I got up and drew some glyphs. I've decided to take a break before I finish Mondegreen's italics, to gain some perspective, so I had to do something else: A monospaced typeface, intended for screen viewing at small sizes. I always use monospace for coding and writing, preferably bitmap fonts. So this is an attempt to make an outline font that behaves like a bitmap at small sizes. I've eliminated all curves, and all angles are (as exactly as technically possible) 30, 45 or 60 degrees.

I've tried it in the text editor NoteTab, and so far, it looks like my theory works. There's almost no blurring at size ten (with ClearType on), and it's actually perfectly readable at size five, much better than Courier New. I'll upload some screen captures later, if anyone's interested.

EDIT: For some reason, the .png posted here gets blurred on upload, probably some image enhancement routine. The small type at the bottom looks sharp on my original .png. Bummer.

AttachmentSize
monomania.pdf34.25 KB
Nick Job's picture

Don't you owe it to yourself to have 15 and 75 degrees also? Otherwise I would be getting rid of the 45 degree angles but that's just me. (Then you wouldn't need a crazy 67.5 degree anomaly for ink traps. You could just use 75 degrees.

Like it a lot. z is a problem for me.

hrant's picture

You might check out the work of John Downer,
who does lines-only fonts with some success.

hhp

Sindre's picture

Thanks for commenting!

Hrant, I knew of John Downer's Paperback, but thanks to you, I now have his Vendetta very high on my purchase list. That's a Venetian to my liking! I'd very much like to know more of the rationale of his lineal approach, not having found much on the net, though.

Nick, yes, those zeds were horrible, I admit that. I can only blame them on sleep deprivation. I've made new and better ones, and I've also taken some weight off and done some fiddling on the exes, the "f", the kays and the "t".

Don’t you owe it to yourself to have 15 and 75 degrees also?

I think they're both to close to the horizontal and the vertical to be of much use, really. And then I'd be tempted to make the "curves" much smoother, with four lines where I now have two. Too much work.

[...] a crazy 67.5 degree anomaly

That's three sixteenths of a circle, isn't it? I now use circle sections of 1/16 (22.5°), 2/16 (45°) and 3/16 (67,5°), and 1/12 (30°) and 2/12 (60°). I'd say that is pretty uncrazy geometry.

hrant's picture

> That’s a Venetian to my liking!

There are indeed a lot of good things about Vendetta - an æon ago I wrote a pretty detailed and essentially positive review of it for the original TypeReview.com. FYI there are others to look at too, like Brothers and the elusive Simona.

The rationale for only using straights? I've heard a few things, something related to Dwiggins (a bit fishy, considering how it's applied), something related to "honesty" (which I do actually buy to some extent) and a third angle that I forget.

hhp

Sindre's picture

[...] something related to Dwiggins (a bit fishy, considering how it’s applied)

I have not studied Dwiggins' work in any detail, but he uses sharp points, hard edges and straight lines to contrast with curves and softness, to create some tension to the smoothness, right? (This make me think of the counterpoint of polyphonic music.) I suppose this can be said to be true also for Vendetta, but not for Brothers, where the straight lines are used to define all curves, the same approach as in my experiment here.

[...] the elusive Simona

Elusive indeed, I have not been able to find a single specimen online. Can you help?

hrant's picture

I remember I had a lot of trouble too, and that was some years ago, so sorry, I won't be able to find anything for you. I do remember seeing a coarse online specimen once, and it was reminiscent of Vendetta, but more "progressive". BTW, it was co-designed with a woman designer, but I forget the name.

hhp

Sindre's picture

That would be Jane Patterson.

Sindre's picture

[...] an æon ago I wrote a pretty detailed and essentially positive review of it

Is that review available still, Hrant? I'd really like to read it.

hrant's picture

The thing is 10 years old... It doesn't look like I've saved the HTML files
(which I hadn't made) but I did find the Word file and the eight images
I had used in the review. If you email me* I'll send them to you.

* hpapazian at gmail dot com

BTW, considering the chronology of Simona and Vendetta, I
seem to have used "reminiscent" incorrectly. Had to say it. :-)

hhp

Sindre's picture

Thanks for digging them up, that's very kind. I've e-mailed you.

Sindre's picture

Thank you very much for mailing me your review of Vendetta, Hrant. I've read it twice, and I just want to say that this is one of the most qualified type reviews I've seen -- it's a pity that this isn't available to the general public anymore. Your focus on readability, based on (what seems to me as) factual knowledge on the matter, is very valuable to a wannabe type designer as myself -- and indeed to potential users of typefaces. I'm not sure that I entirely share your viewpoint that "geometry is anathema to readability", but as a starting point for a review of Vendetta, which on first eyesight can be conceived as some kind of "geometric Venetian", it is very fruitful. Thanks again for a good read.

Er, this thread is getting highly off topic. I guess that's okay, since I started it -- but I just want to say that criticism of my attempt at a Downer-style monospace is welcome.

hrant's picture

Glad you liked it. Actually I re-read it myself, and I can immodestly say that it's better than I remembered (although there are 2-3 things I would tweak). So I'd like to find a new home for it (and not use my own site). Although it's not "fresh", it might have some archival merit. So if anybody can think of where it might get re-published please let me know.

hhp

hrant's picture

BTW, one [formerly] practical reason people have used straight lines in the outlines (I mean without being forced to by the encoding system itself) is to save memory (and/or increase speed). Charter was designed like that, as were some of the early Emigre fonts IIRC.

hhp

nina's picture

Maybe also interesting in this context:
http://typophile.com/battle12/#comment-125505

Sindre's picture

Thanks, Nina. Darn, that Randy guy was quick. One hour? I thought I was pretty quick doing it in one night. It's actually great fun drawing something at breakneck speed, you should try it.

Many of those early Emigre fonts were even "translated" from earlier bitmap fonts, weren't they? By the way, I just had a look at Emigre's Triplex Italic by John Downer, that must be one of few typefaces were the italic is vastly superior to the roman.

hrant's picture

In fact Triplex Italic (or at least its prototype) was
an unrelated, stand-alone design that was spliced
into the Triplex family after the fact.

hhp

riccard0's picture

I’d like to find a new home for it (and not use my own site).

So, why not your blog here on Typophile?

hrant's picture

1) If I start a blog I have to maintain it... There are so many other things that would get dibs on any extra time that I might find (including participating in Typophile).
2) It would be nice to house it somewhere moderately prestigious, and my own blog on Typophile would be even less prestigious than my own site. :-/

hhp

eliason's picture

Interesting. Reminds me of doodles I often make on graph paper, and of plotter lettering.

I'd be interested to know if the idea would hold together if you introduced some contrast into the face. I also wonder if some of the counters could "skip" an angle on their way around - could you get a kind of "cut and then curved" effect? (speaking of Vendetta...) These are different directions than where you're going so far, of course.

Some interesting subtle touches here, like having the chamfering on the terminals of s much smaller than, say, the top of t, so that those terminals have more solidity.

Your 'f' has problems. it starts to curve over too low, but I imagine it's because you're trying to fill the monowidth slot with that hood. Even still, the letter sits too far left in its slot ("handcraf ted"). Could you somehow give more responsibility for its width to the crossbar instead of the hood? (Or does anybody ever give 'f' a baseline serif in a monowidth font, as you've done with the 'l'?)

Did you try a more (pseudo-)curved-top A?

Randy's picture

I couldn't agree more, breakneck fonting is good fun. Straight lines are great for roughing out letters and swashes. I often draw this way and then use the line->curve tool in fontlab to clean up afterward. Though I like the charm of rough letters at text size. A particular favorite of mine: Journal. Part of what made my quick project doable was that it was an italic, so copy and paste worked well. It'd be fun to try again and see if 2.5 years has sped me up or slowed me down. Hmmm... I'm envisioning a fast-forward screencast with clock.

Regarding your project, looks nice! I've never wrestled with the particulars of a monospace so take the following with a grain of salt:
• t: crossbar too far left? Shift it all to the right?
• r: maybe deploy a small head serif, shift the stem right, and shorten the arm.
• I wonder if a gif would similarly blur?
• why do the angles matter? Seems like the shapes are what matter... am I missing something?

BTW Mondegreen is also very nice. Century needed to be brought into this century. After geometric sans and slab serifs play out, Century will be king again. Haha probably not, but oh well. Cheers!

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