CubicType portfolio

This is the portfolio of aspirant type designer David Jones.

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Atwin $ a font

Atwin has been available commercially since August 2021.

Sample alphabet in Atwin

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.

Outline of the E, showing one inside curve is 33 by 33, the other
is 33 by 61

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.

Airvent, a font

The regular upper case alphabet in a random order
Airvent upper case

Airvent is a trace of an extremely poor scan of USA military standard 33558. The lettering was originally designed for panels and instrumentation for the air force.

The design is a utility monoline sans-serif with rounded terminals. I have made the font fairly regular, despite the roughness and irregularity of the specimen. I have made angled corners even where they might not have been angled in the original design. The O and Q seem heavier than the other letters, but this appears to be true to the specimen.

The design is simple, which should lend itself to further manipulations, extensions, and treatments.

I have added a few more latin letters and a small amount of punctuation and symbols.

Ranalina, a font

An alphabet in the font Ranalina

The origin of Ranalina involves:

In the 1980s, computer fonts were made on an 8x8 pixel grid.

The letter B drawn using the ZX Spectrum ROM font, light green on
a dark green grid
“B”, Sinclair ROM font from the ZX Spectrum, 1982.

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?

A question mark on a grid

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).

O drawn in ITC Machine
“O”, ITC Machine (ITC, 1970)

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:

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.

X
Exceptional X, in Ranalina

Influences

A monoline style with a strong grid has a few historical models:

The text «FORMULATED BY DE STIJL» set in The Foundry Types
Architype Van Doesburg, red on white
A sample of Architype Van Doesburg, reproduced from the Architype Konstruct Specimen catalogue from The Foundry Types.

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:

The text «New Alphabet created as a four weight family»
in the difficult to decipher New Alphabet, red on white
A sample reproduced from the New Alphabet Specimen catalogue from 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.

The letters ÑŴÜ, followed by Thorn with dot above,
V with ring above, and greater than with macron above
top line: diacritic marks from existing European languages;
bottom line: unusual diacritics.

Diacritics are supported for numbers, using the same OpenType mark table. 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.

1, 2 with acute above, comma, 3, 4, 5 with dot above / 6, 7 with
grave above, 8, 9, period, 0
top line: 25.4/72 as a decimal fraction;
bottom line: nonsense diacritic marks on numbers.

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.

Taypography

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.

Taylor Swift in a psychedelic jacket. And extremely long black boots.
Taylor Swift at the 2019 MTV Video Music Awards.
Psyche-delia Swift, yellow on a pink field
Victor Moscoso (K-Type, 2008).


Taylor Swift in a black dress, showing some leg.
Taylor Swift at Vanity Fair's after-party for the 2016 Oscars.
The single letter Y
“Y”, ITC Honda (ITC, 1970).

Auncial, an alphabet

An alphabet, including thorn

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.

Amplette

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:

The regular upper case alphabet in a random order
Amplette Regular upper case

Lower case, drawn digitally using the same components:

The regular lower case alphabet in a random order
Amplette Regular lower case

A more off-piste extension; an uncial alphabet:

The uncial alphabet in a random order
Amplette Uncial

Acacounter

The alphabet in a random order, drawn in light blue on black, using the font Acacounter

Acacounter is an original design and a work-in-progress.

Inspired by a fusion of ideas:

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.

Acacounter has numbers, punctuation, and reasonably good accent support.

It approaches full single-accent latin support and a commercial release.

Akern

The upper-case alphabet in a random order, using the font Akern

The lower-case alphabet in a random order, using the font Akern

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.

Ablang, a font

A lower-case alphabet in random order, using the font Ablang, which looks a bit like Ad Lib

Ablang is a first draft digitisation of a pencil sketch made in 2021-08. It was originally targetted for cutting in lino then printing, and i may well do a digitisation using that physical process later.

It has only lower case letters (including thorn and eth), the most popular accents used in English, minimal punctuation and some extremely draft ¾-height numbers.

Antscap, an OpenType feature font

letters collide touch and join, tape-like thread runs through several letters, an alphabet of disordered sorts

An experimental font in which the letters are encouraged to touch and which uses OpenType feature rules to modify the shape and spacing of letters to enhance the impression that they are made of a magnetic tape that is slightly chaotic.

Inspired by magnetic tape running over and around capstans.

Andily, a redraw

The upper-case alphabet in a random order, using the font Andily, which looks like Lydian

The lower-case alphabet in a random order, using the font Andily, which looks like Lydian

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, an obscurity

A series of cryptic hexagons, some of which are textured with line-shading; it is in fact an alphabet, but the correspondence to ordinary letters is obscure
Agon alphabet: ABCD / EFGH / IJKLMN / OPQRST / UVWXYZ

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.

Airbed

The letters D O M looking like they have been made from an inflatable material

An alphabet that has been sketched using pencil-on-paper, but which has only 3 letters digitised.

Colophon

Fonts used:

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