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Back In from the Cold

December 7th, 2008 by Noam Berg

Man, I’ve been bad about posting here. Lots going on, I’ll try to get everything down over the next few posts.

First off, I’m working on numerals for the typeface I’m making for Josh’s class. I’ve been building quasi-Jensonian letters out of bits of Hadassah, a Hebrew font designed in the fifties by Henri Friedlander. When I say quasi-Jensonian, read quasi-pseudo-sorta-kinda-maybe. I used the letters from Jenson Pro as guides for the proportions of my new glyphs. Very little resemblance to a Venetian humanist type after that.

In honor of its mixed-up heritage, I’m calling it Yosephson (or Yosefson? Not sure about the spelling yet). Josh thinks it as a shot at being a text face, but I’m not so sure. I’ve been working on the numbers today, old-style figures in the finest Humanist tradition. In the course of looking over my proofs, and trying to figure out why the 3,4,5,6,8 and 9 looked so out of proportion, I decided to do some quick research on the true nature of text figures. I pulled up some figures from the usual suspects:

I realized that I’ve been working under many, many mistaken assumptions. I’ve been learning a ton today about the preconceptions I have been working under with regard to how numbers look. Mostly I’d been assuming that the extenders in oldstyle figures use the same descender height and ascender height (or at least cap-height) as the letters. Wrong! Thank you for playing. They’re quite a bit shorter. The waist of the 8 does not correspond to the x-height. Nor do the waist of the three or the bowl of th 9 sit on the baseline. Sometimes, neither does 4.It’s helped me make muuuuch better figures for Yosephson.

Notice also some change in weight on the 0,3,4 6 8 and 9: trying to get them in line with the rest of the alphabet. I like the new zero. Eight’s problematic. I tried applying the sort of super-ellipse-parallelogram thing I used for the O in my ill-fated previous design (Binary Sort…although I’m gonna recycle that name, it’s too good to waste). The counters live in a a universe from the rest of the letterforms. Maybe they can coexist. That’s another fun thing about type: often what works is something that in theory shouldn’t work at all.

Typography, especially type design, is all about discovering how letterforms and figures really work. When you sit down to design them, you start realizing really fast how little you know. It’s about seeing the world as it really is, not how you think and assume it is. Now go work on your kerning, young grasshopper.

Dammit, I told myself I’d get to bed early tonight and it’s almost 1:00.

Posted in Design, Typography

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About the Mad Scientist Running this Show

Noam Berg is a graduate Student in the Design and Technology MFA program at Parsons School for Design in New York City. He is also the (debatably) creative force behind Exfish Studio. Noam is obsessed with old vacuum tubes, type design, computers, guitars and comic books. Noam likes Thai sweet chili sauce, hats, suits & ties, Wacom tablets, Japanese green tea (with the toasted rice), nerdy science girls, many varieties of music, SLR cameras, AnarchoJudaism, lithography and pocket watches. Noam's not a big fan of cell phones, the cool kids, ugly and over-used fonts (you know who you are!) and talking about himself in the third person. Seriously, this is really weird. I'm gonna stop doing it now.