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Notes on multi-script typeface design

Notes on multi-script typeface design

Slides from a talk given at Granshan 2014 Design & Identity, in Munich.

Gerry Leonidas

July 19, 2014

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  1. Introduction: A comment on the current state of typeface design

    for non-Latin scripts, summarising the points made on 
 “Going Global” [next four slides]
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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).
  6. 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.
  7. 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” ).
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. Stroke modulation and proportions Range of curves and counters Range

    of in/out points Number of continuous strokes
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. N.b. No part of this discussion 
 needs to stem

    from the 
 technology of type-making.
  18. We lack a clear, shared language 
 to discuss typeface

    design decisions 
 for shapes and behaviours that is independent of the means of making fonts.