A question for William Berkson

Ryan Maelhorn's picture

I watched the video you took part in at Cooper Union http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z2hhkfUzZtw (a great video and worthy of watching) and took note of how you described your Williams Caslon Text. If I can paraphrase, how you believe the weight of individual glyphs need to dance around, how you don't want it too look even, but not predictably uneven either. You talk about this at about the 20 minute mark in the video.

I wonder if the is any text out there describing this that you know of, I am very interested in this and would like to learn more.

etahchen's picture

thank you for posting this. awesome video.

William Berkson's picture

Hi Ryan. Thanks for your appreciate comments. Could you correct the spelling on my name? :) I did write a similar essay Reviving Caslon, Part 2 over at ilovetypography.com .

You'll see in the ilovetypography essay some of the visuals that illustrate my point about the need for both even rhythm and for variation or 'dance' (as Hrant has put it) that both gives a 'signal' to the eye of what letter it is, and keeps the face lively. I re-used some of those visuals in my slides in the talk.

But I'd be happy to go further into it, if you have further questions.

oldnick's picture

Well, Ryan—

If you know anything about British slang, you are a Berk if ever there was one.

BTW, any thoughts on this?

http://www.typophile.com/node/98032

William Berkson's picture

Oldnick, please refrain from name-calling, at least on this thread. Thanks.

oldnick's picture

William—

As you wish, Milord. Sheesh: can’t anyone tale a joke anymore?

Like this one… http://www.typophile.com/node/98032

Ryan Maelhorn's picture

Apologies for getting your name wrong, I don't know why I thought I read it that way.

Unfortunately we can't edit original posts anymore.

If any mods see this and have the power to make it so please change the name in the thread title to William Berkson.

Ryan Maelhorn's picture

William, do you think this can only be found in serif fonts?

William Berkson's picture

You can get the even rhythm with sans, but the 'dance' part of it seems me to be more difficult. With seriffed fonts you have both the serifs and the thick-thin contrast to play with. This gives you a lot of scope to 'cheat' this way and that to give more variety to the characters, so they have even color, but are quite varied. That seems to me more difficult with a sans. My feeling is that sans in general do not do so well in extended text, and this may be why. There are other issues, but that's a start. But not having done a sans yet, I'm not the best one to say.

etahchen's picture

i just listened to the part about curving the middle of the stems in a little to avoid the picket fence effect. very happy to have learned that tonight.

Ryan Maelhorn's picture

Thing is though, because sans are often so geometrical and have such straight lines and less polymorphism between glyphs, sans fonts could use this effect a lot more than serif fonts do. In fact I'm working on a face right now that is made up of all straight lines, and not straight lines so short that a sequence of them may be mistaken for curves, but straight lines that are meant to be seen as straight. I find making the bottom of the O for example, slightly thicker than the top seems to take on this effect.

I was hoping perhaps you came across this idea not from studying other typefaces, but perhaps read about it in some book somewhere.

Ryan Maelhorn's picture

Still waiting for a mod to kindly correct the spelling of William's name in the thread title. Dean, you around?

William Berkson's picture

I've learned about type first from reading my Uncle Ben Lieberman's old book, Types of Typefaces, which sparked my interest in it. Then from Tracy's Letters of Credit. Most of all by opening and comparing typefaces in FontLab, and then by drawing, drawing and comparing the effects of different variations of Caslon. And then from the folks at Font Bureau, especially David Berlow and Jill Pichotta.

I think there's no way to really learn type design other than by drawing, looking and comparing over and over and over again.

Ryan Maelhorn's picture

A face which does this to the max is Serapion. Very interesting. You look at the individual glyphs and the weight distribution seems too much, but then you look at some text set in it and you realize, "wow, this is brilliant!"

William Berkson's picture

Well, I don't think Serapion is a good text face, because it's color is too uneven. You can get variety by doing uneven color, easily. To get variety while also getting even color to me is the challenge. Storm is a good designer, but to me this one is not a success. Large it's ugly as well, if you ask me. To me it's visually incoherent.

Ryan Maelhorn's picture

Well I'm really a display face maker, so I suppose we automatically look at faces differently from eachother to begin with. However, have you ever actually read anything printed at text size in Serapion? I haven't printed anything out with a laser printer or anything but when looking at it at 10 pt in Coreldraw, it's eccentricities seem to fade away a lot, and it actually seems quite comfortable to read, IMO, anyway. I don't know how in the world Storm made that way off center counter in the g work, but to me, somehow, it seems to.

Ryan Maelhorn's picture

William, what do you think about Storm's Farao?

William Berkson's picture

I like it better, as I could see it used successfully in display, even though it's not my cup of tea. I like much better Maple, which gets that extreme variation in stress, but achieves balance.

Damn, you should get rid of that avatar, which makes you look like a bigot.

Ryan Maelhorn's picture

"Damn, you should get rid of that avatar, which makes you look like a bigot."

You must not have seen my new one, which only makes me look like I wanna F#@K myself. Which I do. every morning.

Actually your measured and fair post to that other thread was a big part of what made me change it.

***

Yeah Maple is nice. I like pretty much everything Process does. They seem like nice humble midwesterners too, which is where I hail from originally.

***

Thanks for changing the thread title, Chris.

William Berkson's picture

Thanks, I cleared my cache and see the new one. Now I'm tempted to say you should have a healthier attitude toward yourself, but because usually nobody listens to me, I don't want to push my luck!

When it comes to display type, subjective taste plays an even bigger role than text type, which is more constrained by readability demands. For example, I recognize the Victorian stuff, which tends to extremes, can be good, but I tend to like more classical taste. But I do like art deco. Whatever the style, though, I think visual coherence of the design is important. Any style is better than no style.

Ryan Maelhorn's picture

Here is a some text set in Serapion at 10 point. A4 paper size.

(apologies for the loading time)

http://www.fileden.com/files/2012/10/30/3362016/Searpion_Proof.pdf

Would love to get your opinion

Typogruffer's picture

4.2 mb for a single page pdf? That's huge!

William Berkson's picture

Ryan, checking out Storm's site, your design looks a lot like Storm's Lexon. Biblion, which is his earlier and similar design was innovative in the way it succeeded in remaining legible at very small sizes, as I remember. Lexon is a bit less weird but still intended for reading at small sizes. Anselm is a design of his that is dialed back still further, and more traditional.

I don't see any of these as good display faces, which you say is your goal, but this is a matter of personal taste. To me their quirkiness doesn't have the charm of a Cooper Black or much of Goudy's stuff.

In the case of your design, I don't think it's as well executed as in Storm, as, for example, the terminal on your r is too light in comparison with the a s c and the design of your m and n are not as harmonious with the rest of the design as in Storm's Lexon.

I think your design here is too close to Lexon for comfort. I think you should take what you've learned on this and try to get a new design idea that is less close to Lexon. Also I'm sure there are others who like these Storm designs for their aesthetic, and those who like them can probably give you better guidance on executing it well. Generally speaking, if you are going for quirky in a display—and that can be very successful—it should have cuteness or scariness or some other mood going for it.

hrant's picture

Yes, don't be an idol butterfly.

hhp

Ryan Maelhorn's picture

Ummm, William, "my design" here is Storm's Serapion. Was trying to see if you still hated it when it was printed out at text size in a body copy setting.

William Berkson's picture

Well I figured it looked like Storm, but I didn't see Serapion when I checked the Storm site, and forgot about your earlier post. And I wrote the above before looking at the print out, because you said you wanted to do a display type, and I thought this was yours. I did look at the print-out later and was going to write that it is readable small, but looks kind of clunky and clotted also. I do still think it's worse than the other designs I mentioned. I'm impressed at how Biblion works very, very small, but aside from that I don't see the use of it. But I don't like any of these related designs aesthetically. Yes, I think the whole lot of them are ugly.

Ryan Maelhorn's picture

OK. Well anyway I wasn't trying to trick anybody. I wrote "Here is a some text set in Serapion at 10 point. A4 paper size." right above the link. Not trying to pick on you or anything, but geez, man.

William Berkson's picture

Sorry Ryan, you got me before I corrected my text (now corrected, we cross posted). My bad I didn't remember your earlier post. You were being straightforward.

Ryan Maelhorn's picture

No apologies necessary.

If you still feel like giving me a well thought out critique, I'd love for you to take a look at http://typophile.com/node/94928 . No tricks! I promise!

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