What does a type designer’s handwriting look like?

Erik Spiekerman's handwriting

In case you haven’t seen it—I hadn’t—faithful reader Schizohedron points out the following fun thing to look at:

There’s great power in a typeface, but what’s always interested me more than the typeface is the designer behind it – why did they create the typeface? Where did their inspiration come from? How did they start?

Lately, I’ve been asking just one question, though. Something which has always intrigued me: these people that help us communicate … how do they themselves communicate? If we strip away the monitors, and the printing presses, and the typefaces … how would William Caslon have written on a post-it note?

. . .

So, to satisfy my own curiosity I asked a number of prominent typographers to send me a scan of their handwriting. This is the result.

The respondents are Erik Spiekermann, Göran Söderström, Nikola Djurek, Sebastian Lester, Mark Simonson, Kris Sowersby, Eduardo Manso, Veronika Burian, Marian Bantjes, and Dino dos Santos.

And attendance is the other 50 percent of your grade.

Free Hand Penmanship Series Writing Charts

Fonts can shape reality in intangible ways, as Phil Renaud, a graphic designer from Phoenix, discovered when he studied the relationship between his grades and the fonts he used for his college papers. Papers set in Georgia, a less common font with serifs, generally received A’s while those rendered in Times Roman averaged B’s.

—Peter Wayner, “Down With Helvetica: Design Your Own Font,” New York Times, June 26, 2008

Man, that’s why I got those B’s in college: Georgia hadn’t yet been designed.

(Thanks, Rose!)

. . .

In other news, I just registered for TypeCon again. Anybody else going?

MetaFilter Asks . . .

metal type

MeFi user Caduceus requests information about

Changing technologies in book design?
I’m looking for information about how new technologies have affected book design and typography.

I’m particularly interested in the affects of computers and design software, but information about how things like Print on Demand and ebooks have changed the status quo of book design would also be helpful. I’d be happy to be pointed to books, web essays, blogs, whatever information I can track down and dig through.

Kind reader Brian Winters directed Caduceus to this blog, but I don’t think there’s much here that addresses the question, since I started designing books relatively late in the digital age (around ten years ago, give or take). Most insight into such subjects around these parts comes from my more experienced visitors. So . . .

Should any of you more (or less! it’s MetaFilter!) informed persons wish to weigh in, there’s the thread. Of course, if you are, like me, too lazy to go register so that you can comment at MeFi, you’re welcome to deposit your thoughts here.
Continue reading “MetaFilter Asks . . .”

The Recipe for Success

Book Cake

Following up on the popularity of her copyediting report, Rose Levy Beranbaum has posted another interesting entry about the production of her forthcoming cookbook: Book Production Phase 7 Pre Design Meeting.

The designer’s estimate had the text running forty-two pages over the initial castoff, so there was a lot of discussion about how to make it fit. She’s posted her notes from the meeting, which give a you an idea of the complexity of cookbook design. Continue reading “The Recipe for Success”

So I guess there’s no Klingon italic, either


The term “Roman” is customarily used to describe serif typefaces of the early Italian Renaissance period. More recently, the term has also come to denote the upright style of typefaces, as opposed to the word “Italic”, which refers to cursive typefaces inspired by the handwriting of Italian humanists. Thus Linotype offers fonts called Sabon Greek Roman and Sabon Greek Italic, (designed by Jan Tchichold), based on 16th century models. But by using terminology which is typically associated with Latin type and evokes the history of Italian typography, Linotype makes a careless statement. “Greek Roman” and “Greek Italic” are contradictions in terms, mixing two very different histories.

—Peter Biłak, “A View of Latin Typography in Relationship to the World,” Het Wereld Boek (Amsterdam, 2008), reprinted at Typotheque

Huh. Now that you mention it, yes, that sounds stupid.

Photo: Mandragoras by sp!ros; some rights reserved.

Need a quick C-note?

Sanskit grammar

Kevin Pease of Designrants points out the following excellent opportunity—which, oddly, he doesn’t wish to take!—for an up-and-coming type designer to make a few bucks and gain some experience for his or her résumé:

The project is for outputing a variant Typeface from an existing open source Typeface, where the variant is replacing only 1 alphabet (upper,lower case, basic and italic) and putting a sanskrit alphabet (upper,lower case, basic and italic) that will have to be designed.

. . .

The budget is about $100 via Paypal, Moneybookers. Delivery for early/mid-next week.

Um, I don’t know much about designing typefaces, and nothing about Sanskrit, but that sounds . . . how shall I put it? . . . extremely challenging. Still, if you’re really hard up for cash and selling your spinal fluid isn’t working out for you, perhaps this is your dream project. If so, see Kevin’s post for more details!

Via Ultrasparky.

Meet me at the Pilcrow & Capitulum


Like most punctuation, the paragraph mark (or pilcrow) has an exotic history. It’s tempting to recognize the symbol as a “P for paragraph,” though the resemblance is incidental: in its original form, the mark was an open C crossed by a vertical line or two, a scribal abbreviation for capitulum, the Latin word for “chapter.” . . .

In any case, Pilcrow & Capitulum would make a fine name for a pub . . .

—Jonathan Hoefler at Typography.com. I like the way this man thinks.

¶ I enjoy using pilcrows (HTML entity ¶, in case you want one of your own); perhaps we need to find some new uses for this character.

¶ I mean, besides the obvious—T-shirts!

The most expensive India, Ink., post of 2008?

Cash Register

Typographica has posted its fourth annual Favorite Typefaces collection, and for possibly the first time ever, I already own one of the chosen few: Leitura, which I purchased last summer during Dino dos Santos’s krazy half-price sale and even actually used for a project. The other winning typefaces that I covet most fervently are Feijoa and FF Meta Serif, as well as Minuscule and National.

From the honorable mention list, I’ve got itchy add-to-cart fingers over Chronicle, Karmina, Declaration Pro, and Parcel.

Which typefaces strike your fancy?

Photo: register 004 by dogwelder / Luke Gattuso; some rights reserved.