Archive for November, 2006

Revival – the latest

November 30, 2006

revival-01.jpgMy Garamond effort

revival05.jpgStempel Garamond

Finaly I’ve digitized the lower cases from the tracings I talked about in my previous “revival” post. I’ve tried to remain as close as possible to the original drawings but there where some major mistakes in my drawings and I had to redraw some of the shapes from scratch. You can compare for yourself and tell me if you think this is a good revival. Don’t be too tough on me as this is my first ever attempt at type design and there is still loads to be done to improve it.



Appart from getting used to the slippery bezier curves I had the pleasure to find out all about the “metrics window”. The metrics window is where you tell every letter the exact space within which it will live. That means that at the same time you define the space between the letters. A good way is to start with the ‘n’s and the the ‘o’s. Make a line of ‘n’s (nnnnnnnnnnn) and space them so that there is opticaly the same amount of white between the letters and inside the letters. Then do the same with the ‘o’s. Now you can start spacing all the others by placing every letters between the ‘n’s and the ‘o’s. So if you start with ‘a’, you will look at: nananoaoao. Then you go to ‘b’ and: nbnbnbobobo. You must go through all the letters and you should get evenly spaced characters.


November 30, 2006



From the original drawing I did a couple of weeks ago of the word “andes” I had to create a high contrast and a low contrast version. Although most of the drawings form the whole class look more or less the same you can gather that everyone came up with it’s own definition of what low and high contrast means. Even the normal wheight is a completely subjective notion. I have the impression that almsot everyone found the high contrast the most difficult to make. On the photos the high contrasts examples are not as black as they could be.

To create a low contrast from the normal weight you must add more to the thin parts and to get the high contrast from the normal weight you must keep the thin parts and add more to the thick parts. With the low contrast the serifs become problematic. You must either get rid of them or turn them into slab serfis. With the high contrast the serifs get less important but the real problem is to remain true to the original shapes. By pushing in as much black as possible it becomes difficult to keep the letters consistant with the normal weight.


November 28, 2006

I am going to buy these fonts right now

With all this brohaha around the FREE FONT MANIFESTO I got an idea that could be a greater gift to humanity than improving typography. It’s the FONT FOR FREEDOM MANIFESTO! The idea is rather simple, if all the designers in the world bought at least one license for one of the hundreds of “illegal” fonts on their computer, the foundries could put all the money together to help pay the african debt. With that kind of gesture I am sure that typography will be in limelight for a while. I see a future when buying fonts will be super cool because Bono and Bob Geldoff do it too.

More sketching

November 19, 2006

At the Academy of The Hague Gerit Noordzij is a semi-god. Although most of us never heard of him before, the moment you set foot in the Academy you’re not suppose to ignore the almost mystical teachings of Noordzij. I wont go over his theory which you can easily find out about by reading his seminal book The Stroke but you should know that the whole course at t]m is based around his ideas and theories about writing.

This means that we are spending a substantial amount of our time practicing calligraphy and sketching type. The sketching technique that we learn is interesting because it doesn’t focus on the outlines but rather on the relation of black to white areas. Drawing the outlines first is less practical because you are defining the edges of black areas you wont be able to see until you have filled them up. This particular zigzag technique might seem clumsy at first but with a little bit of practice you quickly get some interesting results.

An important advantage of the zigzag technique is that by modulating the kind of zigzags you make you can imitate any other writing tool like a broad nib or a pointed nib pen. With this technique you are drawing the shape, the contrast and the optical balance of the typeface all at once. It’s surprising to see how the outlines play a very little role in the overall design of a typeface. It reminds me of my drawing classes at school where our teacher use to tell how things in nature didn’t have an outline and that we should instead think in terms of light and dark areas.



November 15, 2006

Early sketches for a “contrast” exercise.


Same drawing where I tried to improve the shapes with ink and tipex


Type Cooking

November 15, 2006

The type cooker generates lists of parameters you must follow to force yourself to draw typefaces with problems you would never otherwise consider.

  • construction — roman
  • ascender — longer than x-height
  • descebder — shorter than x-height
  • width — extended
  • contrast type — can’t be determined
  • contrast amount — low contrast
  • stems — some ductus
  • stroke endings — slab shaped serifs
  • stroke weight — very thin
  • inteded applicationmulti-purpose
  • intended sizedisplay sizes
  • special — must contain at least 1 ligature
  • typecooker-01.jpg

  • construction — capitals with roman
  • ascender — shorter than x-height
  • descebder — shorter than x-height
  • width — narrow
  • contrast type — broad nib
  • contrast amount — quite some contrast
  • stems — some ductus
  • stroke endings — slab shaped serifs
  • stroke weight — book
  • inteded applicationsmooth offset printing
  • intended sizevery large sizes
  • special — use only straight lines
  • typecooker-02.jpg


    November 14, 2006

    The project that is taking most of my time is the “revival” of the Stempel Garamond. I have scanned a few pages of the book and I’ve tried to quickly digitize the letters in Fontlab but the results were disappointing. I was for a long time confused as how to transfer the shapes from the printed pages into vectors in Fontlab. The shapes on the printed pages are very rough and I must somehow redefine the outlines of the typeface. This is rather difficult since most of the details of the glyphs have been completely lost by the effect of ink trapping and the porosity of the paper.


    I have blown up every letters to exactly 4 cm in height (x-height + ascender or descender) This I’ve read is the ideal size for sketching. I have done my own test and I have to admit that it’s a good size although it is quite hard to get sharp details at that size. I have traced all the lower cases quite roughly but I am already making some changes by ironing out the most prominent irregularities. I don’t know if at this stage I should perfect the drawings a little more or going straight for digitization? At this stage the glyphs are looking a little bold (or maybe semi-bold). Since I don’t know much about Fontlab I don’t know if it’s easier to thin the glyphs down in the program or on paper.


    One might wonder why I am tracing all the letters and not just the ones from which I could generate the others such as the “o” and the “n”. If I traced the “o” and the “n” I could easily generate “p”, “d”, “,b”, “i”, “j”, “h”, “m”, “l”, “c”, “e”, “r” and “u”. But the point of this exercise is to make a revival and that means getting the flavor of the typeface I am reviving and not finding the quickest way to end up with a digitized typeface. If I generated most of the shapes from the “o” and the “n” I would end up with a very different typeface in flavor that that of the original. This happens because the idiosyncrasies that might be present in the “o” and the “n” will be repeated over the whole typeface. These idiosyncrasies might be the result of errors of interpretation of the original shapes.


    Drawbot (2.0)

    November 6, 2006

    Me and Drawbot aren’t getting along so well but at least I am trying to make some “designy” things with it. It makes it more bareable. Ex-t]m student will definitely know what I mean.



    November 6, 2006

    For those who are dying to know what kind monogram I managed to design with two S’s the waiting is over. Naturaly this is only a rough version.


    The broad pen or “my new best friend”

    November 6, 2006

    The broad nib pen is more enjoyable than the pointed pen. At least for the moment. It was really tough at first but now I’ve grasped the principle and the shapes come very naturaly. With the pointed pen one must really be precise in order to get the shapes right while a little hesitation with the broad nib pen isn’t so bad.