Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Italics, part three: the f branch and outliers

If you haven’t, please read the introduction to italics: part one and part two. The tutorials on the preceding ‘n’ branch and the ‘a’ branch also helps.

Remaining on the italic tree are a handful of miscellaneous letters. Many of them share a type of curved horizontal stroke found on the letter ‘’ (the upper and lower strokes, not the cross stroke). Others like ‘t’ and ‘z’ are outlying letters that we will also finish in this post. There also exists one poorly-defined hybrid letter—‘y’ that will be dealt with in this post.

The letter f

The italic ‘’ is the only English letter that has both an ascender and a descender (other languages have letters that do this too—like รพ, but those are obviously not English letters). Its stem is capped by two curved horizontal strokes (labeled 2 and 3 in the diagram) that are fairly common in the italic alphabet.
These strokes are very similar to the terminal on the c.
The ‘f ’ terminal is closely related to the ‘c’ terminal.
The ‘’ terminal is closely related to the ‘c’ terminal.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Italics, part two: the a branch

If you haven’t, please read the introduction to italics: part one and part two. The tutorial on the preceding ‘n’ branch also helps.

Like the n’ branch, the ‘a’ branch is a family of italic letters which all derive from a certain root (‘a’). The ‘a’ branch sprouts off of the side of the ‘n’ branch, and the ‘u’ and the ‘a’ form the junction between the two. In this way, the ‘a’ branch can be thought of as the second stage of italic design, though the design process is quite similar to that of the previous branch.

The letter a

Unlike the roman ‘a’, the italic ‘a’ has only a single bowl and stem, much like a ‘d’ without its ascender.
In terms of its architecture, ‘a’ is most directly descended from the italic ‘u’. The two letters share a bowl stroke; in the ‘a’, a second, horizontal stroke closes off the aperture, forming an eye-shaped counter. It is important to note that in italics, the stress is somewhat more diagonal, so the ‘a’s hairline is actually found near its upper-left corner.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

A new name and some tweaks to the roman

Even though I’m working on italics, there were a few things I wanted to fix in the roman style (a type designer, or any artist for that matter, should never be afraid to go back and add some polish to previously completed parts of the font). Here, I made the letterforms a bit wider and rounded the bowls some.
The difference isn’t big, but I think it makes it slightly easier to read, especially at medium sizes (11–16 pt). (Text is from Wikipedia)
The one on the right is the new version of the font.

In other news, I’ve also decided to change the working name of the font. Instead of “Floribunda”, the typeface will now be known as “Inflorescence” instead. I think it sounds a bit nicer (no forward-schwas in the middle of the word!).

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Italics, part one: the n branch

If you haven’t, please read the introduction to italics: part one and part two

The lowercase italic alphabet can actually be divided into three stages, represented by ‘n’, ‘a’, and ‘f’, plus a couple outliers. The ‘n’ branch, which this post will teach you how to design, is a vast swath of ten italic letters which all come quite naturally from each other. This is part of what makes italics so fun to design—the letters share so many characteristics that you can knock out large portions of the alphabet by nailing down just a few letterforms.

Typographical italics are descended from italic calligraphy, which contains only a few fundamental pen motions. That means that there is incredible congruence among different italic letters. The ‘h’, ‘m’, ‘n’, and ‘r’ are all letters with the “shoulder” or “hump” stroke, and the linear letters—‘i’, ‘j’, and ‘l’—are all degenerate forms of them. The ‘u’ is merely a rotated ‘n’, and the ‘v’ and ‘w’, are, at least sometimes, copies of ‘u’ strokes lacking the vertical stems.

At the center of this italic family is the letter ‘n’, from which all the other letters can be derived. Accordingly, it makes sense to spend more time on this letter and make sure that you get it right, since the shapes you draw in this letter will be reused at least nine more times.

Characteristics and parameters of the italic n

If you read my first post on italics, you should already be familiar with the form of the calligraphic ‘n’. This form actually resembles quite greatly the ‘n’s many people render in their handwriting, especially if they have cursive tendencies.
Many italic typefaces mix in traits of this form with those of the roman ‘n’, which is written with two strokes. The most obvious example of this is in the heights of the joins. Because the calligraphic ‘n’ is made up of a single stroke (at least visually; calligraphers are known for breaking up simple strokes into three or more components, especially when lettering at large sizes), the stem and shoulder meet at a vertex at the lower left corner of the letter.

It naturally follows that in italic type, the join of the ‘n’ is often dragged down the stem, much closer to the baseline. How far down the join is found varies. With numerous exceptions, older style typefaces generally have lower italic joins, while more modern (especially computer-claredon) typefaces have higher italic joins. This should make sense—computer-claredon type is, frankly, more closely related to sans serif type than “true” serif type, and following the sans tradition for oblique rather than italic type, these modern serifs tend to be close to visually slanted roman typefaces. Indeed, in many modern computer serifs, the joins hardly moves at all between the roman and italic styles.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Introduction to italics, part two

 » Read part one of this post.

This post will be about setting up your italic workspace, as well as an outline of what lies ahead.

How does an italic font relate to the regular style?

An italic font almost always shares the same vertical metrics as its roman counterpart. That means that they have the same x-height, capital height, etc. Otherwise, the italic font might rightly be regarded as a completely separate typeface from the roman. Horizontal metrics and actual letterforms, at least for the lowercase alphabet, deviate significantly, as discussed. In fact, an italic font is meant to provide contrast with the roman style.

How do italic fonts work?

Technology wise, italic fonts aren’t really that different from roman fonts. Italics are drawn just like any roman font, in rectangular em boxes. Italic–roman pairing in apps does require a font to be flagged as ‘Italic’, though we’ll worry about that when we get to font packaging. One very helpful thing to do is to specify the italic slant in the Font Info dialog (accessible in fontforge from ElementFont Info) This will cause fontforge to draw the italic slants as guidelines in the glyph panel, which can be immensely helpful when you’re drawing your italics. Supposedly it also lets you constrain your vertical motion to the italic slant when drawing, though this functionality appears to be broken in fontforge at the moment. The slant value is also used by word processors to slant the cursor when italics are being used.