Blue Pencil

Blue Pencil is a “slog”: a slow blog. It does not get updated daily or even on a regular schedule. Instead, it gets updated when there is something of value to be posted. Postings often take a long time to prepare and appear at intervals of a few weeks or even months. Sometimes there is a flurry of postings within the span of a few days. Blue Pencil may be unpredictable in its frequency, but not in its purpose. Blue Pencil is fiercely dedicated to the 3Rs: research, reading and writing.

Tutorial no. 6—Tight but not touching kerning

This tutorial was sparked by “The Kerning Game,” my review of Kern Type in Imprint. The 1970s were the heyday of what Hermann Zapf disparagingly called “sexy spacing” but what trade typographers called TNT (“tight but not touching”) typography. The designer who led this revolution was Herb Lubalin (1918-1981). Although the notion of “tight but not touching” typography is associated with the acceptance of phototypography in the 1960s and 1970s Lubalin’s exploration of the style began during his tenure …
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Tutorial no. 5—Calligraphy: The Basics of Italic addendum

The posts on The Basics of Italic became very convoluted once I tried to verbally describe the ductus of each letter. My 1993 ACI sheets did not include basic ductus information for some reason. (Maybe because the audience were calligraphers and I assumed they could figure out the rudiments of making letters from models.) But that assumption won’t fly with readers of this blog who have no experience with writing with broad-edged tools. So I am making available here as …
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Tutorial no. 5—Calligraphy: The Basics of Italic 4

The Basics of Italic: SwashesThis post, the last of The Basics of Italic, shows the rudiments of creating swash Italic letters. Most swash letters are ascenders or descenders since swashes need room to breathe and the most commonly available free space is in the margins and between lines. Swashes on ascending strokes, both vertical and diagonal, are shown in Row 1. b d f h k l—The swash replaces the entry stroke at the top of these letters (with …
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Tutorial no. 5—Calligraphy: The Basics of Italic 3

The Basics of Italic: Entry/Exit Strokes The previous two posts paved the way to making a “serif-less” Italic with the broad-edged pen. By “serif-less” I meant that the letters were missing entry (entrata) and exit (uscita) strokes. In calligraphy, Italic letters, other than some capitals, do not traditionally have serifs. But entry and exit strokes function in a similar way visually. They are both visual aids and physical/kinetic ones. Entry strokes allow the pen to more easily begin a …
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Tutorial no. 5—Calligraphy: The Basics of Italic 2

The Basics of Italic: Stress
These tutorials on the basics of Italic began with a monoline skeletal letter to establish the basic forms. But Cancellaresca corsiva, the original Renaissance name for Italic, is traditionally made with a broad-edged pen. The broad-edged pen creates thicks and thins (stress) as it moves through space in different directions. This gives the letters much of their magic. (A good theoretical analysis of the effects of the broad-edged pen versus those of the flexible pointed pen …
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Blue Pencil no. 18—Arial addendum no. 3

The Arial thread that I began a few weeks ago keeps attracting comment. Indra Kupferschmid, the German typographer, has sent me a series of emails full of some provocative questions about Monotype Grotesque. I have taken the liberty (with Indra’s approval) of quoting the most pertinent parts of her emails. I am also posting her supporting images. Indra writes, “I never heard of a “New Grotesque” [from Monotype] from 1956. Why would they stop developing it when every single foundry …
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Tutorial no. 5—Calligraphy: The Basics of Italic 1

The Basics of Italic: Skeletal Forms The four images that comprise The Basics of Italic are scans of photocopied sheets I designed in 1993 for inclusion in the newsletter of the Associazione Calligrafica Italiana in Milano, Italy. That is why the notes are written in Italian. I will provide an English translation for each sheet as it is posted. The first sheet shows the skeletal forms of Italic as a means of comparing and contrasting it with …
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Blue Pencil no. 18—Arial addendum no. 2

Nick Sherman has been avidly following my Arial postings and in a recent email had this to say:
In the post, you say: “A clone is not only a typeface that looks like another one but has nearly the same data. By this definition Arial is not a clone of Helvetica, even though it has muscled in on Helvetica’s commercial success.” In some ways you are wrong. While the outlines of Arial are different from Helvetica, most of the …
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Blue Pencil no. 18—Arial addendum

Nick Sherman suggests that those interested in the Arial story look under the Wikipedia hood to see who has contributed to its account of the typeface. “This can be found by comparing previous edits of the article, under the ‘View history’ tab. For example, you can see that Thomas Phinney has edited the Arial article several times. You can also find some interesting tidbits under the ‘Discussion’ tab. He also reminds me that John Downer tackled the subject …
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Blue Pencil no. 18—Some history about Arial

I have moved the third portion of Matthew Carter’s email to me regarding Just My Type (see Blue Pencil no. 17—Correction) to a separate post since it was not a correction but a further elucidation of a commment I made. And I have paired it with Rod McDonald’s follow-up email (formerly Blue Pencil no. 17—Addendum).
Matthew Carter: Somewhere there must be a proper account of the beginnings of Arial, but at the risk of repeating myself or somebody else, here goes. …
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Blue Pencil no. 17—Corrections

I received this email from Matthew Carter pointing out some mistakes in my dissection of Just My Type.
A couple of corrections to your corrections: p. 66 The original weight of Snell Roundhand was released in 1966. I arrived in Brooklyn in September of 1965 and had to do Cascade first and make a start on Helvetica Compressed. My one surviving Snell drawing was revised on August 1st 1966 which provides a ‘terminus post quem.’ The Bold and Black weights …
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Blue Pencil no. 17Just My Type: Addendum no. 2

In my published review of Just My Type for Imprint I mentioned some of the larger themes percolating beneath the surface of the book. One that I forgot is the notion that typefaces should look like typefaces. This is similar to Eric Gill’s declaration that “Letters are not pictures or representations.” (An Essay on Typography, p. 23) Gill was offended by letters that tried to look like things (such as letters made of tree branches, viz. the back cover of …
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Blue Pencil no. 17— Just My Type : Addendum

Predictably, my review of Just My Type on Imprint has aroused controversy. Steve Heller has defended the book—to some extent. In doing so, he mentioned that he had reviewed the book favorably for The Financial Times. When I read his review I was not upset that he liked Just My Type. I was upset by some of his reasons. Two statements jumped out at me:
He [Garfield] jumps headlong into the swelling waves of type minutiae, and is extremely knowledgeable …
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Blue Pencil no. 17—Just My Type—Part Two

p.71 “Carter then [after apprenticing at Enschedé] returned to London, and found there wasn’t much demand for skills rooted in the 1450s. So he began to paint signs, another archaic art. At the beginning of the 1960s he [Matthew Carter] went to New York… After a while he was offered a job at the Mergenthaler Linotype Company in Brooklyn….”
The implication here is that Carter moved to New York early in the 1960s, worked as a sign painter in the city …
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Blue Pencil no. 17—Just My Type—Part One

Just My Type. Jacket design by Roberto de Vicq de Cumptich.
Just My Type: A Book about Fonts
Simon Garfield
New York: Gotham Books, 2011
[London: Profile Books, 2010]
This is the original review that of Just My Type that I wrote for Imprint. I am posting it here because a number of comments in this dissection refer to it rather than to the revised review that Imprint published. For the revised review visit Imprint.
It was inevitable that once typefaces became fonts that …
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Der Typografische Kanon

Prater Gastsgätte Biergarten in Berlin During my visit to Berlin this past July I went to the Prater beer garden with a group of type geeks led by Indra Kupferschmid, Florian Hardwig and American expat Dan Reynolds. Among the others was Christoph Koeberlin who asked us to name our five essential type books. Although I do not read German I own and cherish many German and Swiss books and so chose five of them for my list: Buchkunst im …
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