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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. Notes on multi-script 
 typeface design Gerry Leonidas

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

    for non-Latin scripts, summarising the points made on 
 “Going Global” [next four slides]
  3. 1. two and a half steps

  4. 1) Providing basic, 
 but correct, support

  5. 2) Covering mainstream 
 genre requirements

  6. 3) Innovating in typeface design 
 to support rich typography

  7. 2. Multi-script or Other-script?

  8. 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.
  9. One script: Typographic adaptation 
 to typesetting processes

  10. 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.
  11. Risk: research is time-consuming, costly, difficult, or even impossible

  12. 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.
  13. Multi-script: Parallel texts or embedded 
 words and sentences

  14. 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).
  15. Risk: the assumptions of the dominant 
 script determine design

  16. 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.
  17. Latinisation and / or Typographicisation* ! ! * invented word

  18. 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” ).
  19. 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.
  20. 3 Design challenges

  21. Type-making and typesetting tools Legacy “typewriter” fonts Latin-centric terminology

  22. 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.
  23. Character set determinism Algorithmic line-level behaviours Changes within a community’s

  24. 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.
  25. Western type-family compositions Input conventions Minority scripts, dialects, and 

    regional “parallel identities”
  26. 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.
  27. Stroke modulation and proportions Range of curves and counters Range

    of in/out points Number of continuous strokes
  28. 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.
  29. Parity with existing styles Opportunities for expansion

  30. 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.
  31. The cultural moment! Modernity vs. convention Variety and differentiation Identity

    and exploration
  32. 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.
  33. p.s. Where’s the intelligence?

  34. 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.
  35. N.b. No part of this discussion 
 needs to stem

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

    design decisions 
 for shapes and behaviours that is independent of the means of making fonts.
  37. Thank you! ! @gerryleonidas @typefacedesign