Classifications are can be useful

This text was a rough draft for this article, please read on over there.

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4 Comments

  1. Posted 26. October 2011 at 09:11 | Permalink

    This is a quite interesting post, and one of special interest to me as I’m also making personal research on this classification ground. It has been going on for some time but it’s really when I read The Stroke, that I came to a conclusion equivalent to yours; how practical, and maybe necessary, it would be to have a classification based on a skeleton/tool/style way of describing letters. And I also view such an approach as a means to keep the old and historic model classifications around. In fact, I even consider they could be a base to the identification of the various & mixed influences a recent typeface can be built on.

    But beyond the outline that defines a shape, projecting a mood, or belonging to a certain style, I also find the precise definition of proportions and technical characteristics of some importance. As you well said, a classification should be a helping tool for users of type, to choose the right typeface for the right job and in this, I think the aspect of style will always remain a subjective and educated matter: only by knowing your history will you be able to make consistent choices. This being, there are parameters one judges only by the keen eye nowadays, and this could be a bit more rationalized (with moderation on the ‘rationnal’ part still). I’m thinking of proportions and ratios existing between the x-height related to the whole body, or towards ascenders/descenders. Or of how the thickness of the stem relates to its height, defining the weight, the ratio between thicks and thins, defining contrast, etc. All these would provide numbers.
    If such parameters could be defined in a systematic way (with some tool designed to that purpose), we would have a little ‘technical resumé’, sort of an simple DNA chart for each typeface, allowing us to quickly chose or match them on the base of their equivalent x-height, overall grey value, etc.
    It might even be put to a further and more historical-conscious use, as I suspect we could find numeric tendencies in the historical forms. But this might also be wrong, and it isn’t of an immediate use to the common type user who searches the typeface he needs for a specific job.

    It would simply be a little helper in the type-choosing process as you would still have to know your craft in order to be conscious of the matters engaged in setting small-size or headings type, but still, aware of this numeric system, you could look for a typeface, knowing you want one with an x-height_to_body ratio of 1.75 (parameter & value are arbitrary here), which could also be a way of searching through font libraries, looking also for these parameters. In my mind, this principle only functions on the structural part of letters, this is why it probably has to be associated with a style definition system, to provide a quite complete overview of a typeface’s characteristics.

    This being, it is only a thought for now, and I still have to study the validity and real usefulness of it, as well as the technical reality that would allow such a method to live.

  2. Craig
    Posted 1. November 2011 at 20:10 | Permalink

    I think this strategy of classification is pretty sound.

    When you say “whether the counters are open or closed,” are you talking about the apertures, or something else?

  3. Indra Kupferschmid
    Posted 2. November 2011 at 14:16 | Permalink

    Yes, Craig, I mean aperture. I would have called the upper space inside “a” and the lower in “e” a counter too, but I’m no native speaker. Will correct, thanks.

  4. Craig
    Posted 3. November 2011 at 18:06 | Permalink

    For the record, I’d call those counters too, but “open counters” (no matter what the aperture).

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