What is your favorite letter?

zeno333's picture

In the video here...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F691weEVpwc&feature=related

....Erik Spiekermann says his favorite letter is the "small a"...I totally agree....It is the most complex and has the most potential for variation as he says....That is one of the reasons I have always been fascinated with the "Galliard" typeface, it is revolutionary since it dares to "throw away" much of the potential variation of the small letter a and replace that with just a uniform width straight line!!!....INGENIOUS I say.....

zeno333's picture

PS...I know, that straight line in Galliard's small a is not exactly uniform width, it is slightly narrower at the upper right part etc, but at 12 or 14 point that detail is hard to tell and few notice it.

hrant's picture

The Armenian lowercase հ. It has so many stories to tell, not least about the future.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/istype/7605119742

hhp

Charles_borges_de_oliveira's picture

Some S's that I have made throughout my career. The S is my favorite letter. Some are fonts and others are lettering jobs. :)

zeno333's picture

Have you ever made the so called "archaic long s"?

Charles_borges_de_oliveira's picture

When I was practicing Spencerian years ago I made the long s. Not sure if that is the same thing you are talking about.

zeno333's picture

I am referring to the long s that looks like an f without the right side part of the f cross bar.

Té Rowan's picture

Sounds like a normal long s to me.

Charles_borges_de_oliveira's picture

The ones I did years ago just looked like an f without the crossbar.

daverowland's picture

My favourite glyph to make is the asterisk, and it's got to be five-pointed.

hrant's picture

And upside-down, or in certain styles slightly rotated.

hhp

Ryan Maelhorn's picture

Charles, wow, I'm surprised anyone likes the S! For me I spend about ten times the amount of time on the s then I have to on any other glyph.

Godless's picture

I would definitely pick capital R (apparently Erik Spiekermann's second favorite ^_^), I love when it isn't connected in the middle. It also has some sort of dynamism (maybe due to straight, curved and diagonal lines all in one letterform) and crispness to it that I like much.

Charles_borges_de_oliveira's picture

Ryan,
That is why I like the S so much. Once you have mastered the S the other letters are easy :)

quadibloc's picture

@Ryan Maelhorn:
For me I spend about ten times the amount of time on the s then I have to on any other glyph.

Then Donald Knuth's experience in the design of Computer Modern is not atypical.

hrant's picture

That's at least half a coincidence, since he was only doing about half type design...

hhp

Ryan Maelhorn's picture

Then Donald Knuth's experience in the design of Computer Modern is not atypical.

Seems there would be no better place to find that out than here.

What does everyone else say? Is the S the hardest latin glyph?

hrant's picture

To me it's the binocular "g", by a long shot. And I'm not speaking only from my own experience - it's quite common to see a font that works fine... except for the "g"; or a font where the "g" is lifted/modified from an accomplished typeface because the designer couldn't get it right.

hhp

dberlow's picture

S, yes. As for favorites, I like the i no dot the most. Vertical bar next. Then the back slash... Period and comma next... Then the stuff you can combine from that. Then the stuff you get to flip, so its two for one. Then then stuff you can just cut and paste from other stuff, all the way the down to... the S, no... the s is harder, less room. But the S is more filling, so it could be a toss up.;)

dezcom's picture

I also love drawing the "S" because it has more gain than pain. For the opposite reason, I hate drawing "W."

My favorite roman is the lower case "g"--here is one I am soon going to release (as a glyph) as part of my typeface Dez Petranian.

russellm's picture

Gazimough, from the zingauloonian carbon script. Impossible to render with technology available in this sector.

5star's picture

5ive.

n.

quadibloc's picture

@5star:
5ive.

Hmm. Inspired by this famous painting, were you?

http://www.wisdomportal.com/Christmas/Figure5InGold.html

5star's picture

@quadibloc , Demuth's for sure, and J.J.'s too (amongst others)!

www.graphicdeclaration.com/images/JasperJohns_5.jpg

n.

typerror's picture

Binocular, Hrant, seriously?

hrant's picture

I used to call it "bicameral", but Kent convinced me (via Bringhurst IIRC) that that's better reserved for describing writing systems with two cases (such as Latin and Armenian). One reason "binocular" works is that "eye" is an accepted term in type design. What's you preferred term? I hope it's not "two-story"...

BTW, in this entire thread is that the only thing you found worthy of discussion?

hhp

russellm's picture

I hate all letters. they're all so damn devilish. What's to like about ay of them?

R is OK, and being the initial letter of my first name may or may not be coincidental.

dezcom's picture

The letters are fine...then you have to fit them together!

typerror's picture

Binocular implies equal size. Two, or double, story seems descriptive enough.

riccard0's picture

Binocular implies equal size

Let’s call it the “Rollei g”, then ;-)

mjr's picture

I spend so much time with letters, that I am a bit jaded. So I have chosen ð (lowercase eth) as my favorite.

John Hudson's picture

Hrant: One reason "binocular" works is that "eye" is an accepted term in type design.

Which is why I have taken to calling it the ‘do chashmī g’, akin to the two-eyed ھ. Well, alright, I actually call it two-eyed most of the time, but it sounds better in Persian.

Nick Shinn's picture

I don’t really think of letters in terms of favorites, but there are certain Greek and Cyrillic characters which I often find remarkably difficult to draw, and not because I am a native Latin user.

I suspect it is because with Greek the letters are very “scripty”, and don’t adapt well to more rigid typographic conventions that stem from the Latin typographic tradition. With Cyrillic, it’s the other way around.

I wonder if native Cyrillic and Greek type designers have a similar experience.

dezcom's picture

I am only half-way into the "native" Greek category since my family is from Greece and I was born in the USA but I see what you are saying, Nick. I was taught both Greek and English from birth but my first few years of life were spent in my grandparents house (where only Greek was spoken) while my father was away at WWII. I attended Greek School up in to high school as well so I was quite familiar with the Greek script. I have no problem "seeing" and drawing the glyph forms of Greek because they seem quite normal to me. I don't think it is a question of being "scripty" as much as being familiar. The Greek theta is a glyph that is not particularly scripty but it is very strange looking to the non-Greek because it is so very tall and thin compared to any English letter. I would bet that the biggest problem a non-greek type designer would have was to actually be able to believe the theta was really that narrow.

hrant's picture

BTW, you can be native in more than one script.

hhp

dezcom's picture

Hrant, yes, you can be. I just don't know if I qualify as native in Greek or not. I spoke Greek as a child but rarely after my college years and I was not born in Greece so that is why I say I am only half-way native in Greek.

Ryan Maelhorn's picture

'Two story' seems to be the term most people know, if they know any at all. From a pragmatical pov I vote we keep 'two story.'

John Hudson's picture

There's only one story here, and it's two storey.

quadibloc's picture

Although I participated in this thread at the time, I did not try to name a favorite letter of my own. I use all 26 of the letters of the Latin alphabet to communicate with, and I just don't relate to them in a way that inspires me to single any one of them out.

However, just recently, I learned of a lonely orphan letter that needs a little help.

On my website, I have a page about various typewriter keyboard arrangements. Recently, I learned of the existence on the web of copies of a book I thought only existed in a lost manuscript. It was a Russian-language book from 1913.

And, thus, of course, it was in the old orthography, the new orthography only being decreed in 1918. This led to my becoming curious about how the change in orthography affected the Russian typewriter keyboard, and hence I made an addition to the page referenced above.

Even before this, I had run across claims that one of the letters eliminated from Russian, Ѣ or ѣ, "yat", was not actually identical in pronounciation to the letter currently used for it, at least in some dialects of Russian, and indeed distinguished words distinct in meaning.

So I think that I will adopt "yat" as my favorite letter, at least at the moment.

hrant's picture

Nice choice - always cool to side with an underdog.

Many years ago an academic requested that I add a letter to one of my Armenian fonts; he was writing a paper about pre-Mashtots Armenian and claimed that we used to have a sound like the Arabic ح (which I'm not sure how to properly describe) that got lost when our alphabet was implemented. According to his research the word for "lion" for example (առիւծ, which sounds like "arrouydz") originally started with that sound instead of an "a" sound (which actually makes sense if you know what ح sounds like :-).

hhp

John Hudson's picture

... a sound like the Arabic ح (which I'm not sure how to properly describe)...

Voiceless pharyngeal fricative, a sound produced by constricting the flow of air with the base of the tongue at the back of the throat.

quadibloc's picture

Unfortunately, such a technical term as "voiceless pharyngeal fricative" fails to have meaning to me; I will have to learn.

But a Google search got me to

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heth

and some other articles, where I see that it is symbolized by ḥ (Hmm.. the "ḥ" in Muḥammad!) or by ħ... and is at least one possible old pronounciation of the Hebrew letter ח .

If the sound was lost from Armenian before its alphabet was formed, then, unlike the case for the Brahmi family of abugidas, it may be hard to decide what the new letter for Armenian "should" look like.

Had Armenian been written with the Cyrillic script, then when there is no letter for a given sound in Greek, the practice of turning to Hebrew for inspiration already has a precedent: Ш. Unfortunately, that would imply the new letter would look like П, and that shape happens to already be taken.

hrant's picture

such a technical term as "voiceless pharyngeal fricative" fails to have meaning to me

Or most anybody else. Thinking about how it's vocalized (and hoping that nobody reading is about to have a meal...) I would say it sounds like the beginning of gradually trying to clear phlegm from your throat. :-/

it may be hard to decide what the new letter for Armenian "should" look like.

Mashtots's shoes are certainly very hard to fill... The academic in question simply wanted it to look like the Thorn. I wasn't thrilled by that, but he was firm on it.

Had Armenian been written with the Cyrillic script

Which, in contrast to their success with the Azeris, the Soviets had the sense not to attempt with us!

BTW your П derivation escapes me.

hhp

russellm's picture

Why, the very idea of a favorite letter is antithetical to a type designer.

(never mind me. I just like the sound of the word "antithetical" lately.)

dezcom's picture

My favorite letter is the one from Ed McMahon.

Iain Farnsworth's picture

It depends upon the typeface for me. I've always like the uppercase 'G' set in Univers 65. Don't know why.

Otherwise, I really like the eszett (ß). Again, don't know why.

quadibloc's picture

@hrant:
BTW your П derivation escapes me.

It was perhaps to trivial for you to notice. Since the Hebrew letter "Heth" was supposed to have this sound, a Latinized version of the shape would look like the Russian letter P, if we use the relationship between Shin and the Russian letter Sh as our guide.

@russellm:
Why, the very idea of a favorite letter is antithetical to a type designer.

No, no. The very idea of a favorite letter is antithetical to the craft of type design, and therefore the very idea of a favorite letter should be anathema to a type designer.

If we're going to toss around big words here, let's do it right, people.

hrant's picture

Pickeeee. :-)

hhp

John Hudson's picture

uch a technical term as "voiceless pharyngeal fricative" fails to have meaning to me

That is why I provided the simple description of how the sound is produced: 'a sound produced by constricting the flow of air with the base of the tongue at the back of the throat'.

The only way to accurately describe vocalisation is to describe how sounds are produced. The technical name is simply a shorthand for such description. Trying to describe what the sound sounds like isn't helpful, because different people will have a different sense of what is meant by e.g. 'it sounds like the beginning of gradually trying to clear phlegm from your throat'. So one needs to talk about the parts of the vocal system and what is happening to produce a given sound, which can then be reproduced by anyone with a (physiologically normal) vocal system, even if the sound isn't part of his or her language. So, in this case, concentrate on moving the back of the tongue towards the back of the throat to constrict the flow of air, then pick a vowel and try to make a sound. :)

John Hudson's picture

The very idea of a favorite letter is antithetical to the craft of type design, and therefore the very idea of a favorite letter should be anathema to a type designer. If we're going to toss around big words here, let's do it right, people.

Hmph! Well then...

You assume the common modern meaning of anathema, I presume, rather than its original meaning of something set aside as holy.

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