Futura Pleasure

Paul Renner created the Futura font (@Linotype.com). His life is recalled in a book written by Christopher Burker:

German typographer Paul Renner is best known as the designer of the typeface Futura, which stands as a landmark of modern graphic design. This title is the first study in any language of Renner’s typographic career; it details his life and work to reveal the breadth of his accomplishment and influence.

Renner was a central figure in the German artistic movements of the 1920s and 1930s, becoming an early and prominent member of the Deutscher Werkbund while creating his first book designs for various Munich-based publishers. As the author of numerous texts such as Typografie als Kunst (Typography as Art) and Die Kunst der Typographie (The Art of Typography) he created a new set of guidelines for balanced book design. Renner taught with Jan Tschichold in the 1930s and was a key participant in the heated ideological and artistic debates of that time. Arrested and dismissed from his post by the Nazis, he eventually emerged as a voice of experience and reason in the postwar years. Throughout this tumultuous period he produced a body of work of the highest distinction

. »

Open your eyes, a short video presents Futura, courtesy of Vimeo (ie. YouTube with a much higher quality).

Fonts may be compelling and even passionnate stories, as one forum of Typophile shows. The New York Times has just given the facts, and few comments : in short, Ikea has just ditched Futura to Verdana. Mario Garcia Garcia blogs in his own witty way, whereas Idgn.org says its mind about the Big Switch (and shows the differences) and informs next that Verdana and Georgia will turn to print soon.

Worthy curated resources

Some illustrations from a wonderful book called Lettering for Advertising, published in 1956 by Mortimer Leach (courtesy of All About Lettering).

Know your type : Futura (Idgn.org).
Typowiki : Futura (Typophile).

Edit 2013-11-27

This post dating from 2009-09 is worth of a CSS-upgrade, right? Thus, the code is now tagged in proper way, still following up a steep learning curve.

Font Dependence

Font dependence, or typographical abuse, has been rebranded typoholism by iLT, who knows a great deal about what is his own Addict’s Tale. Well, there is no cure if you follow the famous typo-designer, Erik Spiekermann, confessing that (as quoted by John D. Boardley of iLT):

I can’t explain it; I just like looking at type. I just get a total kick out of it. Other people look at bottles of wine or whatever, or, you know, girls’ bottoms. I just get kicks out of looking at type. It’s a little worrying, I must admit.

All you have to try is make fun of it and watch on.

You know what? As we all need Typography, never restrain from thinking with Type (where you can find numerous useful links and much more stuff based on the eponymous book by Ellen Lupton).

You are really addicted that much?
– Read articles by Peter Biľak (from Typotheque).
– Roll on the blog of Erik Spiekermann.
– Enjoy the TypoWiki of Typophile.
– Watch Ellen Lupton‘s lecture at ESAD Personal Views (Escola Superior de Artes e Design in Matosinhos, Portugal). Oder Erik Spiekermann im Gespräch mit Walter Bohatsch (in german).
– Cry I Love Typography with John D. Bardley.

Edit 2013-11-27

This post dating from 2008-06 is worth of a CSS-upgrade, right? Thus, the code is now tagged in proper way, still following up a steep learning curve.

On- + Off-screen

Paper and screen are not worlds apart. It’s been ages since print media was beginning to be designed with computerized tools. Leaning on Editorial design for Print Media (nearby post) tools and challenges, scores of editorial ventures on cellulose emerge and maybe thrive, not only the now well-known and ad-saturated Monocle.

Offscreen Mag intended to switch people off, both readers and interviewees who are intensively, sometimes madly stuck to their e-devices. The magazine is a gem, from the paper to the inking to the fonts (Tungsten Narrow by Hoefler & Frere-Jones, from Issue No6 though + Calluna by exljbris) and, indeed, the lay-out.

At first, it looked a bit nerdy-oriented, with an almost stereotyped design flair: always over-tidy offices, orchard of apple (device) trees anywhere, amazing-people-to-skyrocket-my-start-up. But diving into Issue No6, the scope is a good deal broader, with a larger range of interviewees from miscellaneous horizons. Back to Issue No1, all the texts prove worth reading and reading again to grasp challenges and tricks that are both common and original from, well, the digital-cum-artefactual world, aka our world.

The editor, Kai Brach, is about to find the right tune, at least IMHO. Contents and package are highly valuable to understand some factors for nowadays far beyond « bits and pixels« .

& :
Codex Mag, another outstanding magazine on typography by John Boardley (Cf. Codex we love – WebOL).
TypoGrapho ? | Editio ? – (WebOL, building what would be the DigitEditLab).

« Editorial design for Print Media »

Courtesy of the bookshop of the MOTI in Breda, The Netherlands, an outstandingly enriched book is to be earmarked: Turning Pages. Editorial design for Print Media published by Gestalten. The introduction by Andrew Losowsky sets the scene:

To argue that print will be entirely replaced by technology is to repeat a huge misunderstanding of one of the most fundamental aspects of printing. Because a book, a newspaper, a magazine are themselves pieces of technology; honed by centuries of skill and imagination.


Essentially, it comes down to this: the survival of the physical product only makes sense in those situations where its physicality is a deliberated curated part of its design. Print has a presence and it has a legacy. It is the role of the designer to understand that, and to push its limitations. And if they don’t, somebody else will, because the barriers to entry for new players in the print game are lower than ever before. Print on demand is now available across virtually all media, and is continually being improved, meaning that the most significant cost is often not the printing or the technology, but simply the time put into creation.

This book is both a handbook with an impressive power to wrap up ideas and tips, and an incentive to move deeper and deeper into the edition challenges.

#1 – Editorial, Concept, Idea – « Concepts resemble machines: they are the reason you work on the content, and at the same time they define the method of your work. »
#2 – Object – « Form and content have to work together to deliver an idea that is enjoyable, useful, and informative. »
#3 – Structure – « A fluctuating narrative keeps the curve of interest high, which is good for the reader and for advertising revenue as well. »
#4 – Navigation – « Order, hierarchy, legibility, & impact. »
#5 – Typography – « In my projects, typography is always one the most important issues. What is more exciting than choosing your outfit before going out? Typography is the outfit of the text. »
#6 – Layout, Grid – « Without the grid nothing is possible. The grid means reference, order, hierarchy. The grid can be silent or loud. Most importantly, you can be imaginative and free working with the grid. »
#7 – Cover – « The cover has 2 main functions: it needs to express our brand and mission at a glance, and it also needs to work as a newsstand sales tool. We find that provocation and light sensationalism, mixed with clean design, do well for us. »
#8 – Visual language – « Images and graphics are necessary, but not as decoration. They are narrative tools. »
#9 – The next chapter – « Print is the most compelling invitation into the GOOD ecosystem. When that stops being true, we’ll stop printing it. »

Numerous examples are beautiful presented on the spreads: Brand Eins, Fantastic Man, The DrawBridge, Monocle, the Stuttgarter Zeitung, Die Zeit Magazin and so many more.

& :
EditOL, for much more on the topics tagged roughly as Editio.
– Another gem from the MOTI in Breda, which is the exhibition called « 100 Years of Dutch Graphic Design« .

« 100 years of Dutch graphic design »

The former Museum of Graphic Design in Breda, The Netherlands, is now called the Museum of the Image (MOTI). The semi-permanent exhibition space devoted to the history of Dutch graphic design, Grafisch ontwerpen, is worth more than the mere one-shot visit.

Thanks to Vimeo, most of the current video featuring sometimes outstanding interviews are within reach on the Net:
Irma Boom, for book design.
Thonik, for typo-oriented graphics.
Lust, for interactive design.
More down there to follow, and let’s watch out for the MOTI’s Channel on Vimeo. What is missing: Broersen & Lukacs, for animation & video.

TypoGrapho by WebOL | Another valuable discover in the MOTI in Breda, all about editorial design.
Irma Boom20 books featured on YouTube.
ThonikSome of their works featured by IdN.
Broersen & Lukacs.

« Plaidoyer pour le lire » en questions

Nombre de voix répètent à bon droit que la lecture autre que par le livre, le codex, en est une véritable. Le dit collectif Numerikli(v)re a publié un ouvrage Plaidoyer pour le lire, dont la préface rédigée par Anita Berchenko et Jean-François Gayrard comporte cet extrait :

La langue française est riche de mots pour définir la lecture. Tout comme il ne nous viendrait jamais à l’esprit de dire « je lis une liseuse, je lis une tablette », on ne lit pas un livre, mais on lit un roman, une nouvelle, un essai, un guide, une bande dessinée, un blog, etc. On ne lit pas parce qu’on veut sauver une industrie, celle du « livre », on lit parce qu’on veut s’évader du quotidien dans un roman, conquérir de nouveaux espaces, de nouveaux mondes, de nouvelles vies que la lecture va nous permettre de vivre par procuration, on lit parce qu’on veut se documenter, se renseigner, compléter nos connaissances… On lit pour entrer en résonance avec un auteur, pour une rencontre avec ses mots, pour être un autre le temps d’une lecture. La littérature ouvre des portes sur des chemins suffisamment nombreux pour que chacun choisisse celui (ou ceux) qu’il veut arpenter.
Il est temps de se poser les bonnes questions, celles qui vont permettre dans le monde d’aujourd’hui de continuer à œuvrer pour la littérature. Il est temps d’abandonner les vieux schémas, pour trouver comment continuer à propulser le lire. Nous ne nous donnons aucune limite, si ce n’est celle de notre imagination, pour que la lecture continue d’enchanter les lecteurs, pour que leurs tête-à-tête avec les textes continuent de se dérouler dans la félicité.

Le propos ne souffre pas de débats. Mais ceci :

Sur n’importe quel support, un texte, ce sont des mots, des phrases, une histoire, des sentiments, des sensations, qui transcendent ou pas le lecteur qui s’y plonge. Pourquoi se focaliser sur un support, et par là même vouloir « sauver » un objet, et à travers lui une chaîne, la chaîne du livre, quand il faut juste encourager à lire

Oui et non. Il est évident ici que la lecture n’est pas le livre et que, au jeu des miroirs, l’epub est un livre. Pour autant, la neutralité du support est une illusion. Il est de mauvaises mises en forme, que ce soit sur page de cellulose ou sur écran.

  • De quelles lectures parle-t-on : linéaire, annotante, butinante (hypertextuelle) ? C’est selon, et selon l’état des offres matérielles et éditoriales, l’on combinera la liseuse (à encre électronique), la tablette (l’écran plat typique), le codex papier.

  • Est-il possible de dévorer un texte d’autant mieux que l’on est au milieu de centaines, comme en bibliothèque personnelle ou publique ? Cela le devient, au vu des offres de bonne tenue éditoriale et des capacités de mémoire des petits ustensiles électroniques, des milliers de fichiers.

  • Est-il possible d’ajuster la mise en forme pour que les canons minimaux de la typographie, c’est-à-lire du bien-lire, soient respectés ? Cela dépend des supports, des machines mais force est de constater que les possibilités demeurent embryonnaires, et requièrent une sensibilité qui n’est pas commune.

  • Est-il possible d’avoir des mises en page originales, qui ne se répètent pas ? Ce point est corrélé au précédent.

  • Est-il possible de choisir le mode de déroulement ? A la différence de ce souligne Hubert Guillaud au détour d’un récent billet, changer d’écran intégralement comme l’on tourne la page d’un codex, à la différence de la page déroulante d’une page-web-avec-les-dits-ascenseurs,n’est pas un archaïsme mimétique. A l’expérience, l’oeil et donc le cerveau-lecteur ne gagnent-ils pas en confort, en immersion, en concentration lorsqu’ils ne cherchent pas où se poursuit le texte ? A bien comprendre Jost Hochuli dans Le détail en typographie. La lettre, l’interlettrage, le mot, l’espacement, la ligne, l’interlignage, la colonne (Éditions B42, pour la version française et présenté ici par EditOL), le moindre effort est gage de lecture plus rapide ; mais plus aisée, concentrée ?

  • Est-il préférable d’opter pour un écran à encre électronique (de type liseuse) ou tout autre (écrans plats, tablettes) ? Il est un débat sur le caractère fatigant du second mode rétro-éclairé ; il est vrai qu’un bon matériel se règle mais l’expérience semble néanmoins souligner combien le premier finit par s’oublier à l’instar d’une feuille de papier correctement imprimée. Il est vrai encore que bon nombre de sites, notamment de presse, sont bruyants, saturés de couleurs abondant dans la cacophonie de la publicité tonitruante –même pour les yeux–, en sorte que le magnifique paragraphe du remarquable ouvrage de Robert Bringhurst (The Elements of Typographic Style, chez Hartley & Marks Publishers) est une délicieuse description critique, schématique en ce que la lecture d’écran peut être intense et studieuse, tout comme celle du papier futile et chaotique, fausse donc car il y a nombre de contre-exemples mais juste si l’on considère qu’il faut un agencement de bonnes conditions souvent inconscientes pour une lecture-étude ou une lecture-immersion sur écran (par exemple : un fichier epub bien composé, un logiciel sans fioritures, une liseuse bien paramétrable) :

The screen mimics the sky, not the earth. It bombards the eye with light instead of waiting to repay the gift of vision. It is not simultaneously restful and lively, like a field full of flowers, or the face of a thinking human being, or a well-made typographic page. As we read the screen the way we read the sky: in quick sweeps, guessing at the weather from the changing shape of coulds, or like astronomers, in magnified small bits, examining details. We look to it for clues and revelations more than wisdom. This makes it an attrative place for the open storage of pulverized information -names, dates, library call numbers, for instance but not so good a place for thoughful text.

  • Est-il possible de partager, de prêter un texte ? Constat doit être fait que les formats dits propriétaires, du type de celui choisi par Amazon (auparavant mobi ou azw, aujourd’hui kf8 ?) sont un verrouillage : l’epub-sans-DRM est ce qui rend, au plaisir du jeu de mots, la lecture dite numérique analogue au livre-codex que l’on emprunte en bibliothèques, que l’on se refile.

  • Quels sont les dites méta-données, l’appareil critique, les présentations liminaires ? L’on peut continuer à lire en Pléiade alors même que des éditions de poche sont disponibles, l’on peut se mettre à jongler entre le papier et l’écran sans exclusive mais en se rappelant que le texte seul, nu, directement lisible n’existe que par une médiation, notamment une mise en forme.

  • Bref, qu’est-ce que lire ? Et puis, tenez, ce tout récent billet de François Bon : la grande mutation de la lecture numérique.

Comme pour les meilleurs sujets, telle la musique, ce billet n’est pas achevé : réflexions-lectures à venir, commentaires possibles même invisibles doivent nourrir les notes de l’atelier d’EditOL. Bref et sans que cela soit un mot conclusif, un livre est un texte qui prend une forme lisible. Un bon livre numérique est un bon texte, avec les informations idoines : les méta-données sont l’ours de l’édition cellulosique ; il ne doit pas être frappé d’obsolescence prématurée, d’où l’importance du bon format informatique…

Typographie n’est pas un mot caduque dans l’après-livre comme dirait François Bon, cela est répété à l’envie ici. Terminons par cette seconde citation de Robert Bringhurst,

Typography is the craft of endowing human language with a durable visual form.

& :
Editio ? (EditOL + TypOL).
– Le Tiers-Livre de François Bon pour l’une des plus riches réflexions sur la pratique contemporaine de l’édition, relevant aussi de la lecture et de l’écriture.
– Jost Hochuli – Review of Detail in typography (DesignersReviewofBooks.com) – Review of Detail in typography (Jon Tangerine) – Excerpts from Detail in typography (Oliver Tomas) – Notes on Detail in typography (EditOL) | abc litera | Via Wikipedia.DE.
– Robert Bringhurst – Review of The Elements of Typographic style (Typographica.org) | Via Wikipedia.EN.

abc of all

En français, auf Deutsch mais que cela soit écrit en romain ou en italique mais aussi pourquoi pas en amharique il faudrait décliner toutes les formes de la pensée écrite hors idéogrammes. Bref, TypoGrapho parce que WeLoveTypography.

Much lauded iLT (i Love Typography) has released a long note on the alphabet (2010-08), introducing its variety back to its origin in Sumer.

We see it every day on signs, billboards, packaging, in books and magazines; in fact, you are looking at it now — the Latin or Roman alphabet, the world’s most prolific, most widespread abc. Typography is a relatively recent invention, but to unearth the origins of alphabets, we will need to travel much
farther back in time, to an era contemporaneous with the emergence of (agricultural) civilisation itself.

SUMER – Cuneiform. « The Sumerians began to experiment with writing at the close of the fourth millennium BC, in Mesopotamia between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates (roughly modern-day Iraq). Like most writing systems, Cuneiform, initially scratched — later impressed by a stylus — into soft clay, started out as a series of pictograms — pictures representing words. The word for bird, for example, existed at first as a simple pictorial representation of a bird. The figure below demonstrates this process of abstraction or rationalization. In time, the pictures of things came to represent, not only things but, sounds. It is clear that a written language with signs that represent sounds requires fewer characters than a language in which a sign stands for a thing or an idea. We use 26 letters (and the Romans used only 23 to create some of the most outstanding literature the world has ever known) while the Chinese, for example, have to learn thousands of characters to express themselves. Even early cuneiform comprised some 1,500 pictograms. A language in which a picture or grapheme represents a thing or an idea has its advantages: people may speak any language while the written form stays the same. So a Chinese from the Southern provinces can speak a totally different dialect than his compatriot in Beijing, who would not understand him when he speaks, but can read what he writes. »
EGYPT – The writing of the gods. « The Egyptians developed a similar system of pictograms, one many of us are familiar with. Hieroglyphic inscriptions (literally sacred carving), like Cuneiform started out as pictograms, but later those same pictures were also used to represent speech sounds. Looking at the different forms of Egyptian hieroglyphs we can better understand how those pictures of things representing words became more and more abstract. While you might be familiar with the form of Egyptian hieroglyphs carved into stone (lapidary inscriptions), they do, however, come in several forms or styles — all influenced by the medium upon which they are written, the purpose for which they are written, and their intended audience. »
THE FIRST ALPHABETS – In Wadi el-Hol. « Until the discovery of two inscriptions (graffiti) in Wadi el-Hol, Egypt, in 1999, it was generally held that the beginnings of alphabetic scripts could be traced to around 1600 to 1500 BC, to the Phoenicians, a people of traders who lived on the coast of today’s Lebanon and Israel. However, the 1999 discovery reveals that, rather than the early Semitic alphabet being developed in their homeland of Syria-Palestine, it was instead developed by the Semitic-speaking people then living in Egypt. This strengthens the hypothesis there must have been ties between Egyptian scripts and their influence on those early Semitic or proto-Sinaitic alphabets. Moreover, it pushes back the origin of the alphabet to between 1900 and 1800 BC. »
PROTO SINAITIC – « At the same time as the short-lived ugaritic script was being developed (an alphabet adapted from Cuneiform), another alphabetic system emerged that was influenced by Egyptian hieroglyphs. This proto-Sinaitic alphabet of consonants was pictographic, yet each pictograph represents a sound rather than a thing or idea. It is this proto-Sinaitic alphabet that really marks the starting point, the root of numerous modern-day alphabets, from Arabic and Hebrew to Greek and Latin. »
THE PHOENICIANS – The Purple People. « This simple and ingenious modern alphabet of consonants from which the last vestiges of pictograms had been erased, is indeed a merchant’s instrument: easy to learn, to write and to adapt. And adapted it was by cultures that we are generally much more familiar with: the Greek and Roman societies that form the base of modern Western civilisation and the lesser-known Tuscans. »
GREEK – Enter the vowel. « Although the earliest extant Greek inscriptions date back to the 8th century BC — the first Olympic games were held in 776 BC — many scholars think that the Greeks adopted the West Semitic Script (the Phoenician consonant alphabet) three centuries earlier. (note: Naveh, Millard, McCarter, and Cross concur. See Naveh, pp. 185-6). For a long time (at least until the widespread adoption of Ionian script in the fourth century BC), the Greek scripts followed no fixed direction, being written left to right, right to left, and in horizontal boustrophedon. (Braille is set boustrophedonically.) »
LATIN – Musical chairs & the tale of Z. « The Latin alphabet that we still use today was created by the Etruscans and the Romans, and derived from the Greek. It had only 23 letters: the J, U and W were missing. The J was represented by the I, the U was written as V and there was no need for a W. The story of the Z is particularly interesting. In the third century BC, the letter G (a variant of C) was added; Z was borrowed from the Greek, then dropped as Latin had no need for it — perhaps at the behest of the Roman censor Appius Claudius; G took its place in the line-up, until the first century BC, when the Romans decided they needed the Z for borrowed Greek words (when Greek literature became the vogue), they re-introduced it, and placed it at the end of the alphabet, where it remains to this day. »
RUSTIC CAPITALS. « From the square Roman capitals (preserved on the plinth of Trajan’s Column (114 AD), developed the freer-form and slightly more condensed Rustic capitals. »
Uncial & Half Uncial – The ‘lowercase’ makes its entrance. « Most writing was of course done on papyrus and on walls, informal and quick. The cursive was the letter that Martialis read aloud to his friends when he recited his poems at night. This was a letterform that could be jotted down quickly with a reed pen dipped in ink. The ‘old’ cursive is difficult to read but the ‘new’, that evolved from the 4th century onwards resembles our own writing. It spawned the much later Carolingian minuscule letter — the Adam & Eve of printing types used today. The second great invention, the codex, came at the same time. While the Romans used scrolls made of papyrus, in the fourth century somebody had the idea to cut parchment into oblong pieces and sew them together — thus creating the first random-accessible book. Together with the eminently readable script this must be considered one of the greatest inventions of all time. »
Carolingian to Gothic – An Emperor and a Yorkshireman. « A beautiful, legible book hand; long ascenders and descenders, letting in light between the lines, open and round letters with few ligatures and variant letterforms. The early Carolingian scripts share some features with the Roman Half-Uncial (the club shape ‘head serifs’ on the ascenders of b, d, h, and l, by the 11th century these were replaced by triangular serifs, similar to those we see in numerous roman typefaces of the incunabula (latter half of the 15th century). The early, rounder a was dropped in favour of one similar to that found in early Roman Uncials. In manuscripts penned in this hand, it is not uncommon to see the r with a descender. »
Roman – Enter typography. « Printing and 15th century humanism are closely related, and since the humanist philosophers and philologists (literally ‘lovers of words’, meaning they loved classical Latin) reintroduced classical Latin as the lingua franca of their class, it is no wonder that the first roman alphabets of the earliest printers only used the 23 letters of the classical era. The J was added later. The first J in print was probably made in Italy, early in the 16th century; the written form was first used in the Middle Ages, in France and the Netherlands. The W is a letter not known to the Latins but used often in the vernacular languages of the west. Well into the 17th century it was set in type as VV, but you will also find two Vs that have been cut down and joined to form a W.« .
Putting the pieces together.

I have focused on writing systems that contributed to the later development of the Latin alphabet, but of course the story of the written word is broader and more profound. I have not mentioned writing systems that developed independently (e.g. Chinese and Japanese), and other scripts that do owe a debt to the proto-Sinaitic and Phoenician alphabets, like Hebrew and Arabic. The evolution of writing cannot be fully appreciated (comprehended, even) in isolation. Its stories are woven deep into the fabric of histories and civilisations, its paths steered by politics, religion, economics, and by innumerable other factors. So, the next time you set pen to paper, or tap keys on your keyboard, take a moment to reflect on the origins of these simple signs, signs that furnish us with incredible power — the power to describe all things.

& :
TypoGrapho (WebOL) | Twitter/@webol/Typo.

EDIT : First version in 2010-09.