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Notes on multi-script typeface design
July 19, 2014
Notes on multi-script typeface design
Slides from a talk given at Granshan 2014 Design & Identity, in Munich.
July 19, 2014
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Notes on multi-script typeface design Gerry Leonidas
Introduction: A comment on the current state of typeface design
for non-Latin scripts, summarising the points made on “Going Global” [next four slides]
1. two and a half steps
1) Providing basic, but correct, support
2) Covering mainstream genre requirements
3) Innovating in typeface design to support rich typography
2. Multi-script or Other-script?
Distinguishing between designing typefaces for documents integrating more than one
script, and designing typefaces for scripts that the designer is unfamiliar with, for overwhelmingly single-script use.
One script: Typographic adaptation to typesetting processes
In the case of new single-script typefaces, the main challenge
has been the adaptation of script complexity to the limitations of type-making and typesetting systems developed for another context.
Risk: research is time-consuming, costly, difficult, or even impossible
Commercial pressures (time allocation, budget limits, lack of sufficient clarity
at the project deﬁnition) and the variable access to trustworthy information and feedback jeopardise projects.
Multi-script: Parallel texts or embedded words and sentences
Distinguishing between one column of a script next to,
or opposite to, one in another script (e.g. in a translated text) and embedded use (e.g. a word or a phrase in one script within sentences in another).
Risk: the assumptions of the dominant script determine design
Features from the original script can be shoehorned onto the
“secondary” script. These may include vertical proportions, stroke dimensions and modulation, terminal formation, handling of punctuation, and so on.
Latinisation and / or Typographicisation* ! ! * invented word
Latinisation: the design of a non-Latin script using design patterns
and even speciﬁc formal elements from the Latin, usually with a mismatch between the typographic and stylistic connotations of the two scripts (e.g. “modern” ).
Typographicisation: the adaptation of a script that has forms
and behaviour determined by written forms to the constraints of a type-making and typesetting system. This script may often be used on its own.
3 Design challenges
Type-making and typesetting tools Legacy “typewriter” fonts Latin-centric terminology
Limitations examples: character sets, many-to-many substitutions. “Typewriter” fonts: from actual
type- writers, to early digital. Of marginal formal quality, developed under extreme limitations, but still inﬂuential.
Character set determinism Algorithmic line-level behaviours Changes within a community’s
Character sets change over time, across documents, and communities. The
“deﬁnitive” versions might not exist. Intensely context-dependent substitutions. Changes to a script across generations.
Western type-family compositions Input conventions Minority scripts, dialects, and
regional “parallel identities”
Type family conventions for weight / width / style from
Latin typefaces that do not transfer easily to another script. Communities sharing a complex script, but not a language, an orthography, or international visibility.
Stroke modulation and proportions Range of curves and counters Range
of in/out points Number of continuous strokes
The variability of radii and counter shapes are most likely
more complex than in the Latin; stroke dimensions tend to respond to these factors. Transferring the logic of the ductus into the typographic forms.
Parity with existing styles Opportunities for expansion
The fewer the existing relevant typefaces for a script, the
more pressure for new ones to relate to them. Conventional ways to expand a type family may not apply to a non-Latin script, requiring innovative thinking.
The cultural moment! Modernity vs. convention Variety and differentiation Identity
Typefaces respond to and reﬂect the range from language preservation
to mainstream textual communication, to imported / novel genres that express aspirational classes and generational identiﬁcation.
p.s. Where’s the intelligence?
As a typeface project develops, how do we capture the
design decisions and the knowledge generated? And how is this built upon across projects? Our current workﬂows aim at ﬁnal outputs, not capturing and analysing processes.
N.b. No part of this discussion needs to stem
from the technology of type-making.
We lack a clear, shared language to discuss typeface
design decisions for shapes and behaviours that is independent of the means of making fonts.
Thank you! ! @gerryleonidas @typefacedesign