Author Archives: Andrew Roberts

Lupton 61-95

On page 73, the section on anti-aliasing, I must have stared at the words ‘smooth’ and ‘none’ for a good two minutes, trying to see the difference. I felt like that poor kid in the second grade class who couldn’t see the kangaroo in the Magic Eye illusion.

Well, at least I can see the differences in typefaces. And I can appreciate them, too. Page 72 discusses how during the early years of the web, designers were limited to just a few typefaces. Poor souls. This notion of being limited by your medium got me thinking, though. I realize that printing with movable type meant that you have to design each character individually, and piece them together to form words. Today, though, we saw some examples in class of custom designs, in which the typeface went beyond the individual letters, and incorporated the entire words into that particular style. For instance, there was one word Rene showed (let’s say it was ‘flap’) in which the stem of the p swooped down and underlined the whole word. You could never do that with movable type, because each letter-block, or stamp, is self-contained. In order to pull this technique off, the stem of the p has to have a sort of self-awareness (how postmodern!) of its placement in the entire word, so that it knows how to go about underlining itself.

I wonder if we’ll see more of this kind of thing made available to us in everyday word processors.

On page 76 there is the artist’s sketch of the font, Castaways. I wonder what would happen if more programmers got involved in font programming. The scenario I’m imagining is: you type a word–let’s say it’s ‘damp’–and then you hit the spacebar. Suddenly, the whole word morphs. The stem of the d swoops upward and to the right; the stem of the p swoops downward and to the left. Suddenly the word ‘damp’ is encapsulated in itself; it has wrapped itself up in a sort of bubble. I bet they already have this sort of thing out there in one form of another, but I’d be curious to see more of it–perhaps in a more subtle, more functional form than the way I’ve just described. What I’m getting at is: right now typefaces are mostly designed on a letter-to-letter basis; I’d love to see more typefaces designed on a word-to-word basis.

Toward the end of this section, on page 92, there is a discussion about how designers are putting words in space in a way that the reader is released from linearity. I see this working well in advertising, of course, wherein the reader is invited to look at, say, the big phrase in the middle of the page first, and then move outward from there … but I haven’t seen this done–at least, not very effectively–on the narrative level. I read stories from left to right. With no exceptions. But I do look forward to the day a designer comes along, and compels me to read them otherwise.

Found Typography

I started off in the bathroom. Hence the faucet, door lock, etc… Next I hit the streets. Westcott to be exact. I passed a sign that said “BEWARE OF DOG” and afterward I regretted not snapping a picture of it, because I wanted my phrase to be “BEWARE. BAPTIST ANARCHISTS AT PLAY” … the word ‘play’ came from a playground sign, with a little clipart image of a girl with pigtails swinging on a swing… As you can see, the phrase I went with ultimately was “PARKING FOR BAPTIST ANARCHISTS ONLY.” The letter I’ve inserted is the letter “Z” – it’s a bunch of pipes at Levy school, a few doors down from my apartment… see the whole thing here:


“Words originated as gestures of the body” (13). I’ve always been fascinated by this. I love seeing the handwritten texts of writers I admire, and applying what little knowledge I have of handwriting analysis to their text. My own handwriting is pretty sloppy, but nonetheless, I enjoy the look of it–the feel of it. It’s organic. As an undergrad, much to my creative writing professor’s chagrin, I would often submit my stories and poems written out by hand. We would get into debates about it. “Writing is a visual art,” I would snobbishly assert. “The way I write out my words is as much an artistic expression as the words themselves.” To which my professor would respond: “Andrew. Your handwriting is an expression of brain damage. Get a printer.”

I enjoy reading the blurbs on how these old typefaces were created, and what the men who created them had in mind. Geofroy Tory’s typeface, for instance, reflects his belief that letters should reflect the ideal human body, and that the crossbar in the letter A is placed in a way that, if superimposed on a human body, it would cover up the man’s “organ,” thereby maintaining his modesty and chastity (p. 16). Ha! My imagination runs wild with the implications of this. If I, in my own handwriting, tend to draw a low crossbar, does this imply some hidden desire on my part to reveal my “organ?”

But I digress…

What I’m getting at is the relationship between handwriting analysis to typeface analysis. In handwriting analysis, you study the handwriting to gain an insight into the writer’s mind. In typeface analysis, however, you study how the typeface influences the reader’s mind. For instance, Renner describes certain “typefaces that dispense with handwritten movement,” such as his own Futura, as “calming” (p. 27). “Fonts of astonishing height, width, and depth,” on the other hand, are used to grab a reader’s attention, and are therefore ideal for advertisements (p. 23).

I love Bruce Mau’s “Can we envision…” list on pages 34-35, in which he challenges the reader to imagine a font that “has projective memory that reminds you to remember”; “a font that learns”; “a font of youth”; and so on. I love this notion that fonts themselves have a personality–they invoke in the reader a particular feeling, or association.

I wonder what the personality of my own handwriting is. What mood does it evoke in my reader? And as for typeface: what typeface would evoke in my reader the same–or at least a similar–feeling as my own script?

I look forward to finding out.