This is the portfolio of aspirant type designer David Jones.
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Ranalina, a font
The origin of Ranalina involves:
- found materials in protest signs of the Black Lives Matter protests, and other protests of the early 21st century;
- found tools, repurposed from an 8-bit font project, that could make font files from straight-line vectors;
- a found 8-bit aesthetic and making curves with a square grid of pixels.
In the 1980s, computer fonts were made on an 8x8 pixel grid.
There are no curves, no diagonals. 2 rectangles touch at a corner. That is enough to let the eye create the curve in the mind. An idea that is explored in an essay in Toshi Omagari's «Arcade Game Typography» (Thames and Hudson, 2019).
I imagined i could create letters using tape, and instead of curves, i would bring rectangles together at their corners.
Question: Can i make a font from tape?
The name Ranalina comes from Rana, the scientific name for the genus of frogs, and Frogtape, a brand of masking tape.
The early experiments were drawing B and O. I had to attack the curved forms first, to explore the design space, and test the possibilities.
An early O had the outline of a bevelled rectangle, giving it a look rather like ITC Machine (ITC, 1970) or Princetown (Letraset, 1981).
This proved possible, but i was overwhelmed by the design possibilities. If i am allowed to cut the tape at a 45° angle, what about any angle? With enough slivers of tape cut at any angle, we could make any shape. What then, did it mean to make a font from tape?
[image of O with bevelled corners]
[image of made up letter with thin slivers]
I eliminated the possibilities by declaring that i would only cut the tape at right angles.
The early experiments with the B and O led to early fixing of some design parameters that have formed the basis of the remaining font design. The only polygon in the font's design is a rectangle, and all the rectangles are as-if made from tape, so they all share one of their dimensions: the width of the tape, which is the design's unit. In a scalable font, the design unit can be any size. However, Ranalina is designed in Inkscape, and in the SVG source files the design unit is 24mm which matches the width of Frogtape (in one of its common sizes).
These considerations are a mixture of pragmatic, aesthetic, and some that constrain the space in order to promote creativity. Out of these considerations arise The Rules:
- a unit square that is 24mm on a side, with 8 regular subdivisions of 3mm;
- a design grid of 4 units wide and 5 units high;
- rectangles mostly placed vertically or horizontally;
- curves reimagined as rectangles partially overlapping at corners;
The diagonal strokes are more arbitrary than the vertical and horizontal strokes, but not completely arbitrary: they are typically placed so that 2 of their corners are on the 24mm or the 3mm grid.
[illustration of V and grid?]
Of course there are always exceptions to the rules. And in this font, X is an exception.
A monoline style with a strong grid has a few historical models:
Architype Van Doesburg is a digital version of Theo van Doesburg's experimental alphabet (1919), which was originally made from metal type furniture.
Wim Crouwel's New Alphabet (1967), has also been digitised by The Foundry Types:
Another example, this time using actual tape to reverse out or mask, is Ed Ruscha's Boy Scout Utility Modern. This is not a published font, but has been in use since 1980.
There is certainly nothing original in Theo van Doesburg's idea of abstracting form into rectangles, and so this is an idea that recurs throughout history. Ranalina, which is one expression of that idea, will inevitably wanly reflect some of those echoes.
Ranalina, the diacritics
Perhaps unusually for a latin-script font,
Ranalina uses an OpenType
mark table to position marks on base glyphs.
This allows for both ordinary use of diacritic marks,
and typographical possibilities beyond the regular unicode
blocks for latin script.
Some possibilities are probably not used by any script yet, and some are typographically inadvisable.
Diacritics are supported for numbers, using the same OpenType
This is useful for the dot-above because mathematicians use that notation
to represent a decimal fraction with a recurring digit.
But it also allows for extra-linguistic possibilities.
Just as letters can be arranged in any combination, regardless of whether they are words with meaning or not, diacritic marks and letters should be allowed in any combination.
In the summer of 2020, i did a Twitter thread pairing fonts with Taylor Swift outfits. This lies within a sort of genre of Twitter threads where you pair a famous person in various outfits with a collection of other things.
Here's a couple of highlights from that thread.
Auncial, an alphabet
Auncial is a drawing of an uncial alphabet. It is modelled, by hand and mouse, from various images found on the internet. It is my first drawing using an off-the-shelf font creation system (Glyphs Mini).
As early practice, this was useful material in which i learnt to handle cubic bézier curves. I hope to revisit this when i have a stronger skill with cubic curves and a deeper aesthetic of uncial lettering.
Atwin, a font
Working from an iPhone photo of a page from the Phil's Photo specimen catalogue «Homage to the Alphabet» that @stewf posted to the flickr feed], i traced this sample by hand into a basic font, using Glyphs Mini.
The numbers in this sample are identical (as far as this reproduction allows) to the MICR numbers used in bank cheque processing. The letters are an extraordinary extension. Most of the soft chamfers are round, based on circles or ellipses. At first glance it may seem that the same shapes have been duplicated, but in fact many of the strokes and curves have been subtlety modified: The counters of E do not have the same curve at the top as at the bottom.
My version has been spaced and kerned fairly tightly to follow the spirit of the sample. The original sample had no diacritic marks, my current version of Atwin supports: dieresis, dot (above), grave, acute, circumflex, caron, breve, ring, tilde, macron, cedilla. All these have been drawn afresh.
The original sample has very few punctuation marks, i have drawn a
more complete set of punctuation.
Some of these are trivial (like
questionreversed, which is a
reflection of ?), others are new drawings.
Parentheses, braces, slashes, typographic quotes, and
even glyphs like
tilderingabove have been drawn.
Stems and metrics have been adjusted to be consistent and ready for modern rendering and hinting engines.
Atwin has been available commercially since August 2021.
Amplette was created using the lettering template that came with the Poem Edition pamphlet The material discovery of the alphabet by Éloïsa Pérez. Amplette is an anagram of template.
Upper case, originally drawn on paper using the template:
Lower case, drawn digitally using the same components:
A more off-piste extension; an uncial alphabet:
Acacounter is an original design and a work-in-progress.
Inspired by a fusion of ideas:
- counters should have counters inside them;
- circuit-board traces;
- Fill The Space.
Acacounter had a couple of letters sketched very roughly using pencil-on-paper, then the alphabet, without punctuation or accents, was created digitally over a couple of days.
Ater a resting period, i have drawn some numbers, and made a start on the punctuation and accents, for full latin support.
Akern is designed to be fairly mainstream in its execution. It is an ordinary font that ordinary people can use in ordinary times.
It is currently in a prototype phase. It has most of the base letters of the Latin script, but limited diacritics (only breve). A set of lower-case numbers has been drawn, and a set of punctuation (limited, but useful).
Some glyphs require minor redrawing, some more extensive. The spacing and fit has barely begun.
The name is an anagram of Karen, as in Karen Cheng author of designing type.
A tracing and redrawing of the font Lydian, working from the USPTO sample.
This is a work-in-progress in its early stages, the rough digitisation is complete. Future work will be to redraw the glyphs to consistent metrics, and consider what new glyphs to draw. Should it become a fully-fledged font, or a mere alphabet?
Agon is an exercise in obscurity and anti-comprehension. Designed to appeal to the visual processing system of hypothetical aliens, it eschews curves, strokes, and counters, in favour of angled and textured hexagons.
I've written a little bit more analysis of Agon on the GitLab page for Agon.
An alphabet that has been sketched using pencil-on-paper, but which has only 3 letters digitised.
- Title: League Gothic from The League of Movable Type;
- Body and section headings: Bitter (Regular, Bold, Italic) from Huerta Tipográfica;
- Image captions: PT Sans Caption from ParaType;
- Monospace: IBM Plex Mono from IBM.