Frederic Goudy on Legibility & Readability

Goudy on legibility:

Legibility depends on three things: first, simplicity, that is, a form having no unnecessary parts; second, contrast, as shown by marked differences in the weight of the lines composing the individual letters (stems and hairlines), and also shown in the varying widths of different letters; and third, proportion, each part of a letter having its proper value and relation to the other parts and to other letters—these three things in connection with the aspects of purpose and use.

Goudy on readability:

… a type without mannerisms, and that is easily and pleasantly readable, masculine, its forms distinct and not made to display the skill of the designer, but instead to help the reader. Type must be easy to read, graceful, but not weak; decorative, but not ornate; beautiful in itself and in composition; austere and formal, with no stale or uninteresting regularity in its irregular parts; simple in design, but not with the bastard simplicity of form which is mere crudity of outline; elegant, that is, gracious in line and fluid in form; and above all it must possess unmistakably the quality we call “arts”—that something which comes from the spirit the designer puts unconsciously into the body of his work.

Perfectionism in Type Design

In a conversation on the update of Robert Slimbach’s classic Minion, Robert Bringhurst pointed out Slimbach’s perfectionism:

You’re famous in some circles for that kind of perfectionism. And for more persistent kinds of perfectionism too. Minion had only been out for a couple of years when you rebuilt it as a multiple master typeface. And in 1999 or 2000, you made the first OpenType versions of Minion, folding the Latin, Greek, and Cyrillic, along with the ornaments, the small caps, and everything else into a single font. I studied those fonts pretty closely when they were released, and I was amazed and delighted by what I saw. There was phenomenal attention to detail. For example, all the diacritics were subtly redesigned and repositioned, made a little narrower and lifted farther up above the letterforms. I’m sorry to say it, but in the English-speaking world, most type designers don’t know or care very much about such details. And not everyone takes font upkeep and editing that seriously.

I agree with Bringhurst although I do see some improvements in designing diacritics. I always have tremendous respect for Slimbach for making his typefaces as accessible to many languages as possible. Minion is of his exemplary examples.

Nikkels on Design & Typography

Walter Nikkels, Depicted:

When a design is good, it objectifies seeing, it takes a distance from its maker, the design takes on a natural character, as though it had always been there. Conversely, when the design has not been entirely successful, it remains your design, in its failure to succeed completely remains incomplete, as it were, and does not want to separate itself from its maker. (He then becomes a culprit rather than a designer).

Nikkels (p.13):

Typography is the backbone of graphic design. Virtually all specific tasks you deal with as a graphic designer were formulated in the history of book design. Typography is to graphic design what painting is to the visual arts: the top number. Beyond that I see two conceptual trends in history of typography: interpretive typography, which analyses the content and attempts to response to its design, and autonomous typography, which considers interpretation nonsense. According to the this second trend, typography should refer to itself.

Nikkels (p.21):

As a young designer I noticed that modernist typography is easier to learn than classical typography, because its structure and decision process can be easily and objectively described, like in a schoolbook. Classical typography is tricky; it is a web of optical corrections. It requires a long training in looking and thinking.

Nikkels (p.30):

Typography is nothing but representation and dignity. Unlike many of my younger colleagues I try to deal with images with an ethic and aesthetic derived from typography, rather than the other way around. Typography is concerned with the logic of reading, including the reading of images. A book is a narrative, a sequence of pages. The images too have to be narrated in a book. Displayed in a logical way and plausible way. Narration and display come together, related to each other. The illustration can be narrated and the text can be displayed. In my work the only thing that matters is the dignity with which this takes place.

Nikkels (p.59):

Typography is a discipline of silence. Now and again it tries to be noisy, but that is almost always bound to fail, unless the loudness is called for, for example, a poster and sometimes in advertising.

Nikkels (p.62):

The typography, the treatment of the text.

Nikkels (p.180):

In the theory of typography, the intercharacter spacing and the interword spacing are considered essential for the quality of a text as a visual structure. That though is based on the classical canon of mutually harmonious relations between measurements and spacing.

Harold Evans on Readability

Harold Evans, Do I Make Myself Clear?, (p.39):

Readability isn’t a literary or legibility issue. It’s a dispassionate, objective measure of whether a selection of words and sentences will be understood by the intended audience. Comprehension comes before enjoyment; you can’t be gripped if you can’t follow the narrative.

DJR on Designing Diacritics

David Jonathan Ross:

Typeface design is inherently multicultural.

In his ATypI 2017 presentation titled, “How NOT to Draw Accents,” David Jonathan Ross shares his approach to design diacritical marks. It’s an honest, inspiring talk and I hope more type designers will join him on this journey.

One of David’s methods of studying accents is traveling and looking at signages. My only concern with Vietnamese signages (both in the U.S. and Vietnam) is that most of accents were not part of the typeface. Because accents were added in afterward, they often appeared to be filling in, especially when the space of the signage is limited. One of my goals for Vietnamese Typography, which David mentioned in his talk, is to solve this issue.

I had the pleasure of working with David on Vietnamese accent for his fantastic Fit and I have been thrilled to see his monthly typefaces support Vietnamese. If you have not joined his Font of the Month Club, you are missing out. Six bucks for a display typeface that supports multiple languages is a steal. Even if you are a student in graphic design, it is a worthwhile investment to expand your type collection. Don’t limit yourself to Helvetica, Akzidenz-Grotesk, and Roboto.

Stössinger On Making Good Type

Nina Stössinger:

When fonts work well and their design effectively conveys a brand’s voice, they can be a fantastically powerful tool. They can carry emotion. They can be very specific in how they feel and specific, too, in how they behave, in how they work across media, formats, sizes, and usage scenarios. But making good type is hard and takes time and care, and evaluating and describing it is also hard, and we can’t afford to skip that part.

Should Print Design Principles Apply to the Web?

Jan Middendorp, Shaping Text, (p.36):

Yes and no. Much works differently on the web, yet the basic principles of classic and modern (typo-)graphic design have not become worthless. Proven guidelines for good layout and typography are still relevant, but they must be applied intelligently and adapted to the new environment.

Middendorp on Reading Skill

Jan Middendorp, Shaping Text, (p.12):

Not only is reading one of the most fascinating human skills, in our society it is also a vital one. People who have difficulty reading—a newspaper, a warning sign, a letter for the tax authorities—are socially vulnerable and more likely to get into trouble.

Sounds like the forty-fifth president.

Unger on the Essence of Reading

Gerard Unger, While You Are Reading:

The printed letters dissolve in your mind like an effervescent pill in a glass of water. For a short moment, all those black signs disappear off the stage, change their outfits, and return as ideas, as representations, and sometimes even as real images and sounds.