Use your words

Selected talks from ATypI 2017 Montréal type design conference

This week I have been watching lots of the talks from the ATypI 2017 Montréal type design conference. Below are just a select few that particularly inspired or intrigued me.

Innovation meets tradition

Shani Avni: The first Hebrew type family by Ismar David – In 1932, Ismar David emigrated to Palestine from Germany. With his knowledge of, and familiarity with, the richness of Latin type, he conceived the first Hebrew typeface family. The design process spread over two decades, during which David researched the origin of the Hebrew script and writing traditions, and experimented in search of innovative letterforms.

Ismar David comprehensive Hebrew typeface

In 1954, David completed his typeface family. However, it was not fully published until 2012. Parts of it were never produced, others were rejected by the locals, leaving Hebrew typesetters short.
This talk is based on research for my MA dissertation at the University of Reading. I will present David’s design process and ground-breaking results and will share the story of this lost design, offering reasons for its disappearance.

Today, type designers are challenged with creating larger type systems of manifold scripts. The making of this typeface family is therefore presented as a case study. It is particularly relevant to those who engage in enriching type systems outside the Latin realm, as it illustrates how to draw from the prosperity of the Latin, without forcing it on a different script.

The Essential Italic

Victor Gaultney: Soon after the invention of upright roman type, an interloper entered the arena—italic. Rather than displacing roman, it wound its way into our typographic culture, becoming an essential part of languages that use the Latin script. Our written communication depends on it, yet in all the books that have been written about type design there are often only a handful of pages about this essential style.

Guydot's Double Pica (1540)

This talk will explore the roles italic plays in our typographic culture: as a language feature, a typographic element, a historical marker, a design object, and a business product. These roles have shaped the design of italic and inspired innovation and creativity. But they have also often forced italic into a subservient position. What is the essence of italic? Has that identity survived its use as a secondary complement to roman? Is it possible that this servitude has given italic the freedom to flourish?

This is the story of how italic established itself as part of our typographic language, was transformed as it was relegated to secondary roles, and yet remains a strong and essential part of typeface design.

How *not* to draw accents

Unusual umlaut David Jonathan Ross: As a native English speaker, I draw hundreds of accented Latin characters in my fonts that I will never use myself. These can easily become a source of stress, because of their unfamiliarity and their sheer quantity; I often find myself wondering, “Am I doing this right?”

The legibility of numerals

Sofie Beier: When a reader encounters an illegible letter, he or she can draw on information from the neighbouring letters and from the sentence structure and thus make an educated guess as to what the letter might be. The same is not the case when the target is a number. In such situations, there is no additional help from the surrounding numbers or from the structure of the text. It is therefore essential that one number not be mistaken for another. In spite of this, there is very little relevant research on numeral legibility.

The legibility of numerals

Legibility is one of the aspects of type design I find to be most interesting and worthwhile. Sofie Beier’s book Reading Letters is highly recommended.

Excoffon Book, the last typeface by Roger Excoffon?

Bruno Bernard: “Excoffon will be the end product of all my thinking, the sum of everything that I have accumulated during my career as a typographer.” This is how typography master Roger Excoffon would describe the typeface he was working on in 1974, a daring and uncommon oldstyle face. Unfortunately the typeface failed to be published because of a contractual misunderstanding, and Excoffon died a few years later.

Excoffon Book studies

Based on Bruno Bernard’s exploration of the Excoffon archives this presentation will summarize his gatherings about this fascinating project. It will try to identify the concepts Excoffon wanted to piece together to propose new ways of thinking about type design. Finally it will raise questions about how to find the right way to value this typeface and present it to the public.

Other ATypI 2017 Montréal talks I enjoyed

  • We need to talk about standards — Bruno Maag: This presentation aims to start a discussion on how we, as an industry, can implement standards for all fonts that are produced and sold commercially, and how we can define a terminology which users can rely on to be consistent, irrespective of where the font comes from.
  • Marginalized Typography — Daniel Rhatigan: This overview of men’s magazines for mature gay audiences looks at the often novel and witty use of typography and design in genres rarely considered for anything other than their photography.
  • Atypical Practice, Intentional Typography in Dynamic Systems — Jason Pamental: Through better font selection, OpenType features, the adoption of available techniques in CSS, and available helpers, we can achieve digital typography that is as compelling as the best printed books.
  • Cartier: What was Carl Dair thinking? — Nick Shinn: The 1950s and ’60s saw a stunning adoption of modernism by Canada’s creative arts community, and Carl Dair was a key player. His work as a graphic designer was thoroughly up to date, and yet for Canada’s first proper typeface he went back to the Renaissance, old metal, and calligraphy for inspiration and effect.

See also: Other posts tagged ‘type design’ & ‘typography’


Desk by Caleb Kraft

Is My Mid Century Modern Desk An Homage or a Cheap Knock Off?

Caleb Kraft for Make: I needed a desk for my office. Being a maker that is also loaded down with fancy tools, I couldn’t bear to go to the store and buy something. I decided I wanted to make something, and the design would have to be one that I wouldn’t mind looking at for long periods of time.

The big question at this point, however, is what to do with the files. Do I share them even though this is a knockoff of Helmut Magg’s work?

Helmut Magg desk This is a lovely project idea and something I would very much like to do for myself.

This particular project raises some interesting questions as the desk is based on a fairly famous 50s writing desk designed by Helmut Magg. It and other similar Magg desks are still sold from licensed vendors for thousands of dollars apiece. There is also a pretty healthy knockoff market. Like the author, I think these kinds of designs are fine to use as inspiration for personal projects, but selling them — or even giving away the design blueprints — definitely puts you in a grey area. You’d probably be opening yourself up to a lawsuit, even if you were ultimately well within your legal rights.

See also

Make: Design for CNC

Craft and creativity

A DIY mid-century modern CNC flat pack desk and the ethics of recreating classic furniture

In Autodesk Fusion360, I designed my own. This is where things start to get muddy. I looked at his, then put it away and designed my own. All my angles and measurements are actually different than his. However, I very obviously was designing something to look pretty much just like his.


True Colors

True Colors

A visual experiment that evaluates the evolving graphic symbolism of the United States, True Colors is a collection of flags generated from the 2016 American Community Survey. Each flag is based on data specific to its state, and provides information at a glance.

Most existing flags share the same common visual cues: stripes, circles or polygons, and stars. You’ll find these familiar components in the flags of True Colors as well but their color, size, shape, and position are all determined by data.

Each layer of the flag corresponds to subjects that provide an informative snapshot of life in that state. The background visualizes population, the stripe shows housing, the circle or polygon represents economics, and the star indicates education.

Indiana - details

(via @WalterStephanie)

See also

The Refugee Nation flag

Shape of things to come

True Colors: If US state flags were designed by data

How do the United States flags look when data decides their designs? True Colors was created by Olivia Johnson, a graphic designer and flag enthusiast based in New England.




Diglû consists of 440 characters and 404 pictograms developed for the analysis and mediation of archaeological finds. It was developed as a research project of the Swiss National Fund for Scientific Research as a part of the doctoral thesis of Fabienne Kilchör.

A lineal typeface designed with 6 weights and 844 pictographic symbols Diglû is a substantial subset of the Unicode standard focused on one specific area of application.

Diglû will be made available through the independent type foundry, where other pictograms serving different niches will be developed.

(via @typeroom_eu)

See also

Craft and creativity

Diglû: a pictographic typeface for archeology

A lineal typeface designed with 6 weights and 844 pictographic symbols.


Framing 25 Years of Magic

Rhystic Studies, a YouTube channel that explores the art, history, and culture of Magic: The Gathering, takes a detailed look at the design of Magic’s card frames.

Magic card frame design

See also

How iFixit Became the World’s Best iPhone Teardown Team

Motherboard: Every year there’s a race to become the first to tear down the phone, with teams from around the world flying to Australia—where it’s first released—to compete to be the first to look inside the world’s most coveted new phone. Motherboard embedded with iFixit, a California-based company whose primary mission is to make it easier for the average person to disassemble and repair their electronics, for its iPhone X teardown.

We went inside iFixit’s office, the “headquarters of the global repair movement, which features a tool laboratory and a parts library with thousands of electronics parts and disassembly tools. Then we went to Sydney, Australia, as iFixit tried to become the first team to tear down the iPhone X.

iFixit iPhone X teardown

“Historically the only things that were close to the precision of what you see in an iPhone was in something like a Swiss watch.”

See also

What Is High Concept? Different Thoughts On Big Movie Ideas

Film Courage: What is a high concept movie idea? It’s something that has been brought up a handful of times in our interviews. We know it can be an elusive topic. Here is the best of what we have, hope you find it helpful.

See also