The quick brown fox has retired

Via The Browser, a look into a font design process I hadn’t really considered before. If “typography is about the spaces between the letters as much as it is about the letters”, then a popular way of evaluating how well those letters and spaces work together is through the use of ‘pangrams’, sentences that contain each letter of the alphabet at least once. But perhaps the quick brown fox has had its day.

Text for proofing fontsFonts by Hoefler&Co.
The far more pernicious issue with pangrams, as a means for evaluating typefaces, is how poorly they portray what text actually looks like. Every language has a natural distribution of letters, from most to least common, English famously beginning with the E that accounts for one eighth of what we read, and ending with the Z that appears just once every 1,111 letters. Letter frequencies differ by language and by era — the J is ten times more popular in Dutch than English; biblical English unduly favors the H thanks to archaisms like thou and sayeth — but no language behaves the way pangrams do, with their forced distribution of exotics. Seven of the most visually awkward letters, the W, Y, V, K, X, J, and Z, are among the nine rarest in English, but pangrams force them into every sentence, guaranteeing that every paragraph will be riddled with holes. A typeface designer certainly can’t avoid accounting for these unruly characters, but there’s no reason that they should be disproportionately represented when evaluating how a typeface will perform.

In 2015, I dumped the pangrams we’d accumulated and rewrote our proofs from scratch, trading their wacky and self-satisfied cleverness for lists of words that are actually illustrative.

These lists of words, whilst not being as easy to memorise, are far more useful—to the professional typeface designer, at least. Here’s just a part of them.

[…] Linden linden loads for the ulna monolog of the consul menthol and shallot. Milliner milliner modal for the alumna solomon of the album custom and summon. Number number nodule for the unmade economic of the shotgun bison and tunnel. […]

It reminds me a little of lorem ipsum. I wonder if these new typefaces went through a similar process.

Times New Arial is a new experiment utilising the latest technology of variable fontsIt’s Nice That
With Times New Arial, the collaborators combine the visual extremes of both Times and Arial into one interpolated typeface. With new technological possibilities, the hybrid represents a new era of font usage, challenging the role of variable fonts in the present cultural scape. As well as being poster children for web typography, Times and Arial also represent progress and proxies within digital design. “We wanted to combine this conventional aesthetic with new technical possibility in order to revive and refine them, so in turn, we could experiment with them in our projects,” continues David.

Scunthorpe Sans 🗯🚫 profanity-blocking fontVole.wtf
A s*** font that f***ing censors bad language automatically. It’s able to detect the words f***, s***, p***, t***, w***, c*** and dozens more, but with a special exemption for “Scunthorpe”; that town has suffered enough.

Font Books – Turn your next font into your next read
Font Books is a collection of original typefaces designed to help people read and understand classic literature better.

LogofontsBehance
Often when we see a logo, a question arises: “which font was used?” In this project I did some research on the logos of some of the most famous brands, trying to understand which font they use or which have been modified to get to the final result. Follow Logofonts on Instagram.

Early video game typefaces

More video game nostalgia. You would think that having to fit an entire set of fonts into tiny, 8 x 8 grids would result in some unimaginative typefaces. Think again.

The 8-bit arcade font, deconstructedVox
In his book Arcade Game Typography, type designer Toshi Omagari breaks down the evolution, design, and history of arcade game fonts. In the video above, he guides us through this delightful 8-bit world and breaks it down pixel by pixel.

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Want to read on? Here’s a link to the book’s publisher.

Arcade Game TypographyThames & Hudson
Arcade Game Typography presents readers with a fascinating new world of typography – the pixel typeface. Video game designers of the 70s, 80s and 90s faced colour and resolution limitations that stimulated incredible creativity: with letters having to exist in an 8×8 square grid, artists found ways to create expressive and elegant character sets within a tiny canvas.

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You can try these fonts out for yourself with this arcade font writer, and for more video game nostalgia, check out this collection of vintage arcade games you can play online.

Spots before your eyes

All this news getting too much? Just switch browser fonts.

Color Dot FontAnd Repeat
The Color Dot Font is a font composed entirely of colored circles. In the Color Dot Font, each Latin character is replaced with a circle of a certain color. For example, an “a” character is represented by a blue circle, a “t” by a yellow circle, and so forth. Available as a TTF file, the font can be installed and used on any computer operating system.

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Trumped typography

Trump’s handwriting was in the news the other day, when cameras caught a glimpse of the notes he’d made for himself before meeting reporters.

Handwriting expert says Trump’s ‘I WANT NOTHING’ note bears ‘the sign of a liar’Rolling Stone
As for the large, blocky writing, Lowe attributes that to him being “someone who has a strong need for security and to be in control, to be looked up to.” The way the letters disconnect point to “someone who was unable to assimilate the difficulties he experienced in childhood, which leaves him open to life’s various adversities. He lacks good coping mechanisms and has trouble relating fully to himself and to others.”

Now you too can write like the president, though why on earth you’d want to is another matter.

Final Word From The Pres

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Write your own notes in Trump’s handwriting with this new web generatorFast Company
Part of what made the photo notable was that it revealed that the unique writing style the president uses online—the Twitter-friendly brevity of character count and a seemingly unpredictable all-caps emphasis—applies to good old pen on paper, too. For the website, called Final Word From the Pres, the Jones Knowles Ritchie team took those characteristics and automated them. The generator will autocorrect words, turning “we” to “I,” “Trump” to “Stable Genius,” “big” to “yuuge,” and “SNL” to “unfunny,” so the note you write is adapted to the president’s voice. But there are many more autocorrections, with over one hundred Easter eggs up for discovery as you uncover the distinctive language patterns of a very stable genius.

This isn’t the first time such a typeface has been created.

Tiny Hand will be your new Comic SansBuzzfeed News
I was struck not only by the peculiar delivery of the notes, but also by the idiosyncratic way Trump writes the alphabet. At that moment it was clear to me — as it surely must be to you, dear reader — I had to make a font based on Donald Trump’s handwriting.

Mad to think that’s from 2016. Here we are, nearly 2020, and he and his juvenile writing/thinking is still here.

More accidental typography

Some years ago I came across a photographer who had discovered an alphabet written in the skies over her head. Here are a few more examples of letter-forms in unusual places.

Put words into action with ‘Gerry’, a new font created from the silhouettes of gerrymandered electoral districts
The font, created by Ben Doessel and James Lee, is composed of 26 districts whose absurd boundaries resemble alphabet letters much more than they resemble logical, cohesive population groupings. Alabama’s pronged 1st District bears a striking resemblance to the letter K, while New York’s 8th District looks like an M with its tall legs connected by a curved middle.

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And here’s another example.

Stone alphabets
[A]ssembled by Belgian type designer Clotilde Olyff from stones collected at the beach.

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Just my type

Jesse Simon continues to pay attention to the details of his built environment.

The colours of Berlin: yellow
The colours of Berlin is a new bi-monthly series that will run throughout 2019. Where other posts on this blog have attempted to describe typographic trends and phenomena in Berlin, the entries in this series will focus on a particular colour by presenting a collection of images without additional text. Every city has its full spectrum on display; this is the one that belongs to Berlin.

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It’s hard not to feel down about the ugly state of my city, when I compare it with those examples of considered design. So here’s something quirky to lift my mood.

“Something illegible still has something to say”: Eliott Grunewald on his type designs
“I’ve been more interested in display typefaces, for their expressiveness and ‘voices’; like type as an image more than the design of a text typeface,” he tells It’s Nice That. “So I guess, sometimes, it does result in letterings which are formally too intense or even illegible. But something illegible still has something to say, to show or to promote, I don’t feel that even if you cannot read the word, you cannot get anything from it.”

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And, for a full account of what goes into good typeface design, take a look at this.

Why San Francisco
We got our first glimpse of Apple’s new sans-serif typeface, San Francisco, when the Apple Watch was unveiled in September of 2014—a new typeface designed specifically for legibility at small sizes on a tiny, high-resolution screen. Big news for type nerds and Apple fans alike.

It’s very thorough, and I don’t pretend to understand half of it, but it’s nice to see someone paying such close attention to the details.

In HE, everyone’s at it *

* Being deceitful, that is. Or maybe just willfully ambiguous?

Let’s start with Alex Hayman from Which? University.

Students need clarity when choosing a university
It has been almost a year since the Advertising Standards Authority upheld a number of complaints about misleading information in HE. Despite the clear warnings, we’ve investigated and found at least six universities included examples of unsubstantiated or unverifiable claims about their standing on their websites, in likely breach of advertising standards. This just isn’t good enough.

Various examples are listed. This is an interesting line from The Guardian.

UK universities ‘still inflate their statuses despite crackdown’
The continued use of assertions about high international status is evidence of the strain universities are under to increase their domestic and international student recruitment, as well as the effects of global rankings.

Hmm. But, of course, it’s not just the universities that are happy to stretch the truth.

Essay mills: ‘One in seven’ paying for university essays
More students than ever are paying someone else to write assignments for them via “essay mills”, a Swansea University study has revealed. The survey of more than 50,000 students, found 15.7% admitted to cheating since 2014 – up from an average of 3.5% over the last 40 years. […]

It showed the amount of students admitting to contract cheating, when students pass off a custom-made essay as their own, has increased over time. But Prof Newton, director of learning and teaching at Swansea Medical School, suggested the number could be much higher, as students who have paid for essays to be written are far less likely to volunteer to take part in surveys on cheating.

Indeed. But what if you want to exaggerate how much work you’ve done, but are a little short on funds? Free fonts!

Times Newer Roman
Introducing Times Newer Roman, a font that kinda looks like Times New Roman, except each character is 5-10% wider. Fulfill lengthy page requirements with hacked margins, adjusted punctuation sizing, and now, Times Newer Roman!

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Times Newer Roman is a sneaky font designed to make your essays look longer
According to Times Newer Roman’s website, a 15-page, single-spaced document in 12 point type only requires 5,833 words, compared to 6,680 for the standard Times New Roman. (That’s 847 words you don’t need to write, which is more than twice the length of this post!) […]

Of course, it’s the digital age, so there are some downsides: Times Newer Roman will only work for assignments you have to submit by hand or in a PDF. If you’re sending in a Word document using a custom font that professors almost certainly don’t have installed won’t help. Similarly, Times Newer Roman is only useful for hitting larger page counts; if you have a strict word count limit, you’re out of luck.

Caught out by their own documents

Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager currently tied up with the ongoing Russia investigation, must have skipped a few MS Office training seminars at work, as he seems to be unaware of Word’s Save As function.

How Manafort’s inability to convert a PDF file to Word helped prosecutors
“Manafort emailed Gates a .pdf version of the real 2016 DMI P&L, which showed a loss of more than $600,000,” the indictment claims. “Gates converted that .pdf into a Word document so that it could be edited, which Gates sent back to Manafort. Manafort altered the Word document by adding more than $3.5 million in income.”

Then, according to the indictment, Manafort “sent this falsified P&L to Gates and asked that the Word document be converted back to a .pdf, which Gates did and returned to Manafort.”

By sending these documents back and forth by email, Manafort and Gates made it easy for prosecutors to pinpoint exactly who changed the documents and when.

It reminded me of this story, linking corruption to a popular Microsoft font.

A Microsoft font may have exposed corruption in Pakistan
The Microsoft font Calibri is now a key piece of evidence in a corruption investigation surrounding Pakistan’s prime minister. Investigators noticed that documents handed over by the prime minister’s daughter, Maryam Nawaz Sharif, were typed up in the font Calibri. But the documents were dated from 2006 — and Calibri wasn’t widely available at that point, making a good case that they were forged.

How Wikipedia found itself at the centre of a major corruption scandal in Pakistan
As I am part of Wikipedia’s counter-vandalism team, I have been engaged in the reverting of unverified information being added to the Calibri page by anonymous users. But as the edit war grew and the sensitivity of the issue became obvious, I had to ask an administrator to lock the page to restrict any further edits in order to avoid misleading information being spread outside of Wikipedia.

A fascinating look into what it’s like reading with dyslexia

This is very clever, a great use of Javascript.

Dsxyliea
A friend who has dyslexia described to me how she experiences reading. She can read, but it takes a lot of concentration, and the letters seems to “jump around”. I remembered reading about typoglycemia. Wouldn’t it be possible to do it interactively on a website with Javascript? Sure it would.

Much obliged to Christopher Hallas, over on Linked In, who pointed me in the direction of this pdf from the British Dyslexia Association, full of great advice for clear, accessible documents production.

Dyslexia Style Guide (pdf)
The aim is to ensure that written material takes into account the visual stress experienced by some dyslexic people, and to facilitate ease of reading. Adopting best practice for dyslexic readers has the advantage of making documents easier on the eye for everyone.

Couldn’t agree more. And here’s another take on recreating the exasperation​​ ​of reading with dyslexia.​​

This font shows you what it feels like to be dyslexic
“What this typeface does is break down the reading time of a non-dyslexic down to the speed of a dyslexic. I wanted to make non-dyslexic people understand what it is like to read with the condition and to recreate the frustration and embarrassment of reading everyday text and then in turn to create a better understanding of the condition”.​​

Typography saves the day

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Teen to government: Change your typeface, save millions
Reducing paper use through recycling and dual-sided printing had been talked about before as a way to save money and conserve resources, but there was less attention paid to the ink for which the paper served as a canvas for history and algebra handouts. “Ink is two times more expensive than French perfume by volume,” Suvir says with a chuckle.