Archive for graphic design

Mining Yahoo Images for color schemes

I meant to post about this a while ago, but while reading Bruce Sterlings's Beyond the Beyond, I learned about this clever tool for generating color schemes. Given your keywords it searches for the top five images on Yahoo! Image Search and chooses the six most prominent colors from each.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given "existential type" it just returns different shades of gray – ones even less interesting than Bruce got for "cyberpunk".

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Testing mftrace

I am not entirely sure how fair of a comparison I am making, but I am open to suggestions on how to better compare the hypothetical output of a font designed using METATYPE1, where a Type 1 font would be directly generated, versus a font designed using METAFONT, where a Type 1 font is generated using mftrace.

For my experiment, I chose to compare glyphs from the Type 1 version of Computer Modern maintained by the American Mathematical Society, which was presumable crafted by manually tracing the bitmap version and optimizing various aspects by hand, with glyphs generated by mftrace on 3000DPI bitmaps generated from the METAFONT source. I could imagine that it might be fairer to compare the result of using nearly identical METATYPE1 and METAFONT source to generate the Type 1 glyphs, but then I would be biasing the design process towards the limitations of METATYPE1. I had considered using the METAFONT source for AMS Euler, because the source is simply the outline and would be easy to convert to METATYPE1.

I also decided to use glyphs with plenty of curves for the test, as I figure that tracing software can probably do a pretty good job with straight lines.

In any event, I will leave it to you to decide whether you can distinguish which is version is which below.  The order in which the two versions appear differs for each of the three examples below.




As you might have guessed, my opinion is that results are so nearly indistinguishable, that given the design limitations of METATYPE1,  it would make much more sense to work with METAFONT and mftrace, and use FontForge or a similar tool to add hinting as a postprocessing step.

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The Controversial Comic Sans

I figured I would pass along Emily Steel's Wall Street Journal article: Typeface Inspired by Comic Books Has Become a Font of Ill Will.

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METATYPE1 and meta-fonts

I've been spending time lately learning more about working with METATYPE1, mostly for my own projects, but with the eventual hope of writing some tutorials.  While working on one of my running examples, I was encountering some difficulty expressing what I wanted in a reasonably declarative fashion. So I decided to see how it was done in Latin Modern.

I was dismayed to learn that Latin Modern is not a meta-font like Computer Modern. Instead the Type 1 versions of Computer Modern (which was developed by either Bluesky or Y&Y) were decompiled into MetaPost code as raw path outlines. So at that point all of the useful abstractions in Knuth's original code and specifications have been lost.

The only other major typeface developed in METATYPE1 that I know about, Antykwa Toruńska, has no source available and from the description I highly suspect that it was developed by creating raw paths that matched the scanned specimens. This got me thinking about whether there are any meta-fonts that have been developed in METATYPE1, or even whether Computer Modern might be the only full meta-font family in existence. I just skimmed through the METAFONT sources that are included in TeXLive, but didn't see anything particularly promising yet.

In any event, going back to the original issue, I have been starting to think that maybe the limitations of METATYPE1 are perhaps not worth being able to directly generate Type 1 fonts. It could be entirely possible that working in METAFONT and using something like mftrace to generate outline fonts from high-resolution bitmaps will produce results of sufficient quality. I'm hoping to do some tests to compare the two approaches this weekend.

(It is worth noting, that the comment about METATYPE1 on the mftrace page is slightly incorrect or out of date.  METATYPE1 can handle overlaps, there are just complicated restrictions on how overlapping may occur.  Finding clean approaches to avoid these restrictions was why I became interested in looking at the Latin Modern code to begin with.)

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The Fifth Element

The other day, a colleague of mine pointed out to me that Aarhus University recently rolled out a new, somewhat controversial,  visual identity that includes a novel geometric alphabet that they call its "fifth element".


Zapf’s Manuale Typographicum

Yesterday, I discovered that most (if not all) of Hermann Zapf's Manuale Typographicum is available online. I am not sure about the legality of the site, but given the limited availability of hard-copies, it gives some people an opportunity that they might not otherwise have.

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Gentzen Symbol released

I just finished hastily packaging up a prototype release of Gentzen Symbol (I can't avoid working on my ICFP paper all day).  I would of course be interested in any feedback or problems people might have if they try using it, or suggestions on how to improve the design of the glyphs for future releases or development.

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Hands on with Fonts & Encodings (finally)

In September, I mentioned being quite excited by the new O'Reilly book Fonts & Encodings. Today, I was tempted to buy it from the campus bookstore at EPFL, but decided to do a little research because it would be nearly a 60% markup if I bought it here versus in the US. Fortunately, the EPFL library had purchased a copy which was not checked out.

Strangely, enough it is described as being translated from French by Scott Horne, but as far as I can tell there is no French edition (and if there is, I find it strange that the EPFL library and bookstore only had the English edition). Perhaps only the original manuscript by Yannis was in French.

I've only just begun to delve into it, at 1017 pages it will take some time to review it in depth, but if you are serious about typography I think this is a book that you will definitely want to own. It really covers the entire spectrum: Unicode text and how it works, through setting up fonts to display your text in operating systems and software, all the way to designing/editing/hinting fonts. I haven't looked at it in enough depth to be absolutely certain, but I am pretty sure it has nearly enough information on most formats that you could write software for them as well. It is truly a wondrous tome.

I will have to see what more I have to say once I've spent more time with it. One reason I thought of picking it up today was that it has quite a nice introduction to using METATYPE1, which with some luck I may use to start on a true meta-font for Gentzen Symbol. At the same time I guess I will try to package up the Type 1 PostScript version of Gentzen Symbol from my dissertation, assuming that there is anyone out there truly interested in using it in their own documents.

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The Esszet

The blog at Hoefler & Frere-Jones has a nice little piece on the German glyph ß, which in turn has a link to a much more detailed article on Typefoundry.


Principia Narcissus finished

I just finished the last revisions on it today. If you like, you can purchase a bound copy from Lulu at cost. You can also download a copy from them, but it does not look like it will have the cover (or at least as part of a single download). I am hoping I can put together a PDF that contains the front cover for download.

One of the things that rather surprised me when I was making the final tweaks to the cover was that the width of the printed book Lulu sent me is actually 209mm rather than the 210mm you would expect for A4. However, this did not seem to impact anything, so I will not worry about it. My best guess is that a millimeter or so of the page width is lost due to the binding process. I was surprised to find that I had managed to quite accurately center the large orange text on the cover quite well by eyeballing it.

This final version contains a number of typographical fixes and small wording changes. Chapter 5 received the greatest number of edits as I decided to proofread the entire chapter again. It was the last chapter written and had received the least amount of scrutiny.

I really hope that somehow I did not introduce some kind of terrible printing problem or mistake in the process of fixing all the things I noticed that were wrong with the draft printing I received. If I did, I expect most of the recipients will probably not tell me.


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