Centi, a very light Blackletter-Roman hybrid

mja's picture

My first post to Typophile.

The Centi font is based on Swedish black-letter tradition (rather different then, say, German black-letter tradition), but also inspired by modern day Roman linears, I've consciously borrowed elements from Akzidenz-Grotesk, Univers, URW Gothic Light (a free (as in freedom) Avant Garde substitute, that is actually (in my opinion) much more useful then the original) and Microgramma (my font actually started as "Centigramma" and was intended to be a better Microgramma with lower case letters, but I got some new bright (hopefully) ideas after drawing half of the upper case letters and two of the lower case letters, and decided to do something more original).

The font is constructed primarily for use with Swedish and secondarily for use with Norse (Bokmål, Nynorsk) and Danish.

Font Specimen
Glyph list

The font is planned to be released under the GPL version 3 license, with a font embedding exception (advice on choice of web communities where I can put it up to be downloaded, or for development collaboration, is appreciated).

Be aware that the font is still in alpha-version, but hopefully a beta will be available soon.

Give me good advice and criticism. Don't forget to mention if there is something you really like, that will make it more likely that I will keep that feature in future versions.

I have already noticed that something is wrong with J Ð Þ 2 and 3, they just don't fit in, but I don't know what to do about it.

Another annoyance is that g set in a small sizes, get a "blob" in the middle on low resolution/quality devices (a.k.a. LCD screens). I have no idea how to fix this. Is it possible, in an OpenType CFF font, to switch to another letter form at a certain resolution threshold? All the other glyphs work with small sizes on low resolution devices, so I feel that bitmapping is overkill.

I would also like to make p and q, n and u, and possibly i and j, more legible for people with dyslexia caused by rotating and mirroring. n and u are almost identical in shape (but I did draw them separately) and I'm unsure if the differences is large enough for p and q, and i and j. It would possibly improve readability to people without dyslexia as well.

There are some problem with line widths ever since I converted the font to a larger em-unit. Since fixing this require a large overhaul, I will try to discover all rounding errors before I correct this problem.

(I hope my Norwegian and Danish spelling is correct in the picture, I have never seen the words in writing and I have no Danes or Norwegians at hand to consult.)

Since I'm an ethnic Geat/Goth living in Geatland/Gothia, this is one of few modern typefaces that can be claimed to be a true Gothic typeface ;-)

mja's picture

[Update] The files seem to have been uploaded to typophile, but is not listed, neither in the post or when I reedit the post (I have no idea on how to remove them, if needed). I manually added two lints to my post. I hope my uploaded files don't get automatically deleted by typophile, because they lack references. The rest of this post still apply.

How the f-k do you get attachments to work. I get one empty attachment for every file I try to upload (and they stay after I delete a file), typophile rearrange the order of attachment randomly and change the content of check boxes every time I preview (the checkboxes don't effect what attachments is listed by the preview anyway), and most important, no attachment is listed in the post, whatever the preview show.

When I mark a file for deletion, typophile deletes a random file, not yet the file actually marked for deletion. And it leaves both attachments fields the file created, but now without content.

I've tried with three different browsers and the page behave equally maddening in each of them.

At least my preview image show (knock on wood!).

kentlew's picture

First, your initial post got put in a moderation queue. It has been published now.

Second, there seems to be some problem with attaching PDFs lately. The folks at Punchcut who manage the site have not yet resolved the issue.

Until they do, manual linking is the best workaround, as you have done.

Frode Bo Helland's picture

When you refer to the “Swedish black-letter” tradition, are you talking about Dalakunst?

For screen use at small and medium sizes you’ll need some Truetype hinting. You might also need some outline adjustments to busy spots like the middle of g. I certainly wouldn’t buy in to the dyslexia font myths without some serious research. Those waters are murky. If you only want to play with the g, perhaps a simpler g by default is a good idea? There is a titling feature in Opentype you can advice the end user to turn on for headlines.

Vet ikke helt hvordan man skulle oversatt det til norsk, men kanskje “jordbærkrembursdagskake”. Man ville aldri skrevet noe slikt i ett ord uansett.

mja's picture

When you refer to the “Swedish black-letter” tradition, are you talking about Dalakunst?

Not at all. In periods, I spend a lot of time reading old Swedish books in blackletter. Blackletter was dominating the Swedish printing scene until the 1730's, it was still used to print religious literature and some books for the lower class, as late as the end of the 19th century. (Latin languages, like Latin and French was of course printed in Roman letters, even when used within the same books.)

Sweden have most of its book publishing-history, been dependent on foreign printers (if I remember correct, most Swedish language literature (in the very popular genre of "rövarrromaner", I don't know what that genre is called in English) was printed in Oslo during some period in the late 18th century ;-), mainly Dutch, Deutsch, Baltic and, somewhat later, English and French printshops. At the beginning the Swedish customers (mostly the government) simply accepted whatever the printer gave them, so the style varied by where the printshop was situated, or in the case of an ambulating printers that was recruited to do the job inside Sweden, by the nationality of the printer. This would change with the publications of Johannes Bureus, a Swedish scholar, that constructed some really unique typefaces for his publications. One of his styles (a Kurrent Fraktur) become an instant hit in 1611-15 (he had the Royal patent on printing ABC-books for kids), and if his original types wasn't available at the printshop, then some other typeface that looked similar was used, a very distinctive Swedish blackletter tradition was born.

One edition of his ABC book
Another edition of his ABC book (warning, user-unfriendly flash application, but Typophiles are used to that aren't they?).

The man who broke the blackletter tradition was no other then Carl Linnaeus. As he used a lot of Latin and foreign loan words in his scientific publications, he thought it would be silly to have pages with just a few blackletter words tucked in, in odd places, and he decided to print everything, even the Swedish parts, in Roman letter. He also published some books that became best-sellers, not only within the scientific community but within the general Swedish population, and the rest is as you say history. Once printers and publishers realised they could use the cheaper, more space conserving (= using less paper and ink) Roman types, in books intended for ordinary people, they immediately followed in his footsteps. Most Swedish printshops (at that time Sweden was mostly independent when it came to printing, even if the general quality level was rather poor (fading ink)) already had some Roman founts, because most books published used some Latin language loan words.

It is kind of a shame though, because Swedish-style blackletter is actually easier and faster to read then Roman letters, the characters and word-shapes is more unique and easier to scan.

For screen use at small and medium sizes you’ll need some Truetype hinting. You might also need some outline adjustments to busy spots like the middle of g. I certainly wouldn’t buy in to the dyslexia font myths without some serious research. Those waters are murky. If you only want to play with the g, perhaps a simpler g by default is a good idea? There is a titling feature in Opentype you can advice the end user to turn on for headlines.

I don't want to depend on the irregularities of TrueType hints. I sometimes cut and past from a Type 1 font directly into PostScript-code when I write my documents, using a simple text-editor, or generate PS-code with simple scripts, and then send it directly to a PostScript-printer. I was planning of using the titling feature for, well, titles, not for switching from screen to print quality.

Vet ikke helt hvordan man skulle oversatt det til norsk, men kanskje “jordbærkrembursdagskake”. Man ville aldri skrevet noe slikt i ett ord uansett.

I've always heard that Norwegian have an easier grammar, as well as is easier to spell then Swedish. If a simple composite-word like "jordgubbsfödelsedagstårta" is hard to get right, then that must be untrue (just teasing, I don't even know if Norwegian is your native language).

On a more serious matter, do you think the font can be made to work with Norwegian, I don't read that much in Norwegian, so I honestly don't know what I'm doing, or why I thought it would be a good idea to try to support Norwegian with all its pesky diacritics. Also, feel free to suggest another word in Swedish/Norse/Danish, that covers ÅÄÖÆØ, if the Danes also use "creme" for "grädde", and "bursdag" for "födelsedag", then I have lost my last Ø (but we all know, that however they spell it, it will sound exactly like the same guttural sound they use for every word ;-).

Frode Bo Helland's picture

I'm a Norwegian yes.

On a more serious matter, do you think the font can be made to work with Norwegian?
Yes obviously, I think it can, but you have to ask yourself if you really add anything valuable here. There are many fonts that support the Scandinavian languages, although few care about more rare stuff like for example the Saami language. Your æ and å are poorly shaped IMO, and I'm no Iceland or Old Norse reader but that thorn might be a stretch. Why did you include the ij diagraph?

This design is in my opinion not very refined. I think the execution is poor, both technically and visually. I'm also not sure if your base idea is strong enough: Some single letters looks promising (I love that eszett!), but the rest is not coherent enough.

mja's picture

In response to frode frank:

The design is not very refined because it took 5 days to create, it is an early alpha version. I put it up for review, because I know that I have easy to get carried away by ideas that in hindsight wasn't that bright. If some idea is really bad, I prefer that someone stop me, before I waste years on trying to implement it. I also hope that it will become a good typeface for reading (especially in sizes 3-8pt). That it will be pretty to look at is also a goal, but high readability is priority number one. The most important thing is that it doesn't look so ugly and/or weird that people never start reading (hopefully, no-one will ever think of it as a blackletter font, unless someone point it out). Also, I didn't use a refined typesetter to produce the samples (I used OpenOffice.org, a word-processor that produce as ugly typography as MS Word, if not worse), because I wanted to expose any weaknesses of the font, it looks much more "refined", set with TeX or a DTP application.

There are many fonts that (in a very broad sense of the word) support Scandinavian languages, but I have never seen a digital typeface that fit the Swedish language well, not even one. All Swedish language publications made since the 1990's look like total crap to me, and they are unnecessary hard to read. This is of course a matter of personal taste and what kind of letters you are used to read.

The thorn isn't Icelandic, it is Swedish, that's why it looks "wrong". I've also dabbled with a Geatish style eth (a small bowl with a long steam that go straight up and is crossed by a very prominent stroke), but it looked to weird outside handwriting/carving. There were still a few old people living who used runes for scribbling and as craftmans marks when I was a kid. I have no intention of supporting Icelandic, as I wouldn't know how; in all my life I have read less then 20 books in modern Icelandic and even though I occasionally visit news-sites, blogs and other Icelandic language sites, you can't really absorb the typographic tradition of a region on the web, all web-sites use English style typography, it is a consequence of the limitations built into the web-browsers and available digital fonts. Anyway, you saw that it was a thorn, for the occasional need of thorns in Swedish, Danish and Norse typography, that might be sufficient, the important thing is that it fits with the text in those languages and that it isn't hard to distinguish from p d o or b for someone with reading problems.

IJ is simply fun to make. I don't know if it looks even remotely Dutch, but there are enough IJ-ligatures in Swedish blackletter for me to play with.

The ß was done in, literally, seconds. It is just long-s an z put together, I haven't put any thought into it (the glyph is based on my first designs of long-s and z, that's why the long s in the font doesn't look like that in ß). Funny that you would like it.

I'm very interested in why you think å and æ is bad. The ring on å ĺooks like it does because originally the O was open at the bottom and it kind of stuck. An open ring also make it less likely that the ring and the A will look like they cling together in small sizes, a pet peevee of mine. I also used the same ring in % to make it easier to identify as a ligature, if I ever implement an ring-diacritic, I will use a closed ring. The æ is outside my area of expertise, so I'm not really surprised if someone using it natively doesn't like it, to be told about stuff like that is why I put the font up for criticism.

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