Newbie design tips for Hebrew companions to latin fonts?

adiron's picture

So I'm starting on my first serious Hebrew companion to a font in the works. I'm far from professional or even good, I'd say. Either way, I found that resources about Hebrew text are very rare, and while I could fine plenty of resources about latin character design, I find myself doing mostly guesswork when it comes to Hebrew.

So I managed to figure out a lot of things by myself just from looking at how existing known fonts look: shin connects to the left side, samech is kind of like a lowercase sigma as opposed to final mem, and so forth. But still, I know virtually nothing besides.

The other thing is that (naturally) Hebrew letters are constructed somewhat differently from latin characters. I have a hard time really finding which components I should match up. There are certain things between different latin characters which are kept roughly the same throughout most characters (serifs, stems, etc) but I don't really know which ones I should match, really.

If you have any useful tips, tricks, resources and such about this subject, I'd love to know.

Also a more specific question now. Should my final nun reach all the way down to the same descender as the latin characters in the font? If so, wouldn't that be far too long?

Thanks
Adi

hrant's picture

I'm not an expert on Hebrew (I've only done highly imitative designs in that script) so hopefully you'll get some good replies from people with more specific experience, but from my long experience designing non-Latin type in general I will state one thing, and quite strongly: make sure you don't bend the Hebrew to the will of the Latin. Too many people who make non-Latin type value formal harmony between shapes so highly that they ignore what a script truly needs to function well. For example, serifs: don't do what Eric Gill did!
http://www.myfonts.com/fonts/lerfu/gill-hebrew/

I once wrote an article about this topic titled "Latinization: Prevent and Cure" - maybe you can find a copy of Spatium magazine (issue #4) or the Greek journal Hyphen (#5) where it was featured.

hhp

adiron's picture

You make a good point, actually. Thanks.

Michael Cunliffe Thompson's picture

Adi,

I have written a little on how I designed companion Latin fonts for my Hebrew Font Shuneet see "Matching Hebrew and Latin" on 15 Oct 2010. I would stress that in no way do the two fonts look alike! They are companions - they go together and coexist comfortably when displayed or printed on the same page. On my website http://hebrew-font-shuneet.com you will see many examples of Hebrew and English side-by-side.

If you look at the Introduction on my web site you will see that I have spent about forty years at this activity. I began with calligraphy and did not imagine that would lead to font design.

Your intention is to design a Hebrew font. I don't know what level of knowledge you have concerning the language ...but I can't imagine that a person who doesn't know some Hebrew could do this.

What I suggest is this. Find an existing Hebrew font that you can add to your own font and import the characters. You will need to find a font with a suitable license. I did this for my Hebrew font by importing the Latin characters of Tuffy.

Clearly Tuffy doesn't look like a Hebrew font in any way. I did not change my imported Tuffy to "look Hebrew" however I did change it to have some of the characteristics of the Hebrew Font Shuneet, for instance I modified it so that the stroke width was more constant, also I changed the stroke terminators to match, and so on...

You can copy the example texts from my web site, change the English to your font then look around for a free Hebrew font that will make a tolerable companion.

Good luck, Mike

hrant's picture

I can't imagine that a person who doesn't know some Hebrew could do this.

In my view it's entirely possible for a "non-native" to make an acceptable typeface, simply by carefully imitating precedent; it is however extremely unlikely that he can make an innovative design.

hhp

Karl Stange's picture

Find an existing Hebrew font that you can add to your own font and import the characters. You will need to find a font with a suitable license.

SBL Hebrew designed by John Hudson and SIL's Ezra might be a good places to start. However, SBL Hebrew is only "made available without cost to individual scholars for non-profit use." As such it may be good for a case study, looking at the design and engineering, but would not lend itself to modification or adaptation. Ezra SIL is subject to SIL's Open Font License (OFL).

Michael Cunliffe Thompson's picture

The Hebrew fonts that come with Ubuntu (a version of Unix) have a license that might give you what you want. I believe this is available in Israel.

Some licenses, for instance the one I use for the Hebrew Font Shuneet are for "free" fonts where "free" is to be interpreted as in 'free speech' rather than 'free beer'(!)

When you use font A as a source for another font B, the license of the new font B may not be more restrictive than the original license of A, which means that the license of font B must also be free (or even more free).

Mike

quadibloc's picture

@hrant:
In my view it's entirely possible for a "non-native" to make an acceptable typeface, simply by carefully imitating precedent; it is however extremely unlikely that he can make an innovative design.

That may be, but even that level of success may not always be achieved. Thus, the Unicode font "Caslon Roman" resembles the kind of Roman letters often found with Chinese or Japanese DBCS fonts, and I think they are failures... a non-native may not know what to look for when attempting to imitate precedent.

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