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Subject: Re: the @ sign, was (Jenson's ligatures)
From: Rodolfo Capeto <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Discussion of Type and Typographic Design <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Fri, 6 Sep 2002 16:36:18 -0300
Content-Type:TEXT/PLAIN
Parts/Attachments:
Parts/Attachments

TEXT/PLAIN (73 lines)


On Fri, 6 Sep 2002, George Thompson wrote:

> You're talking about two different things here. It is okay as a
> character if everyone recognizes it, but you can still apply other
> criteria as to appeal, suitability, functionality, taste, beauty, etc.
> Recognition of the character is only one threshold. I think it's also
> wrong to focus entirely on the notion of function or whether something
> distracts from function. In the case of letterforms, we don't design
> them exclusively from the standpoint of function. If we did there would
> be only a few typefaces, one for text, another for display, etc. The
> aesthetics that are introduced in the design of different typefaces are
> not there to meet a particular function. We don't generally decide on
> the exact function of a typeface a priori. except in particular
> circumstances. The suitability of a type for a particular function comes
> when someone uses it. You can't say a typeface is not functional unless
> you can show that it can't be used for anything at all, ever.


I think your points are very good, George. And I very much agree
with most of them. See that what was being discussed here wasn't
the general concept of a typeface's "functionality' - a
minefield - but the specific case of a certain design of the @
sign, and if and how that design should be criticized,
considering its general recognizability.

In particular, I find that form gimmicky (I used it in a version
of Gill Sans in my own card, and wouldn't do it again). But even
being gimmicky, it can be beautifully realized - Frantisek Storm
comes to mind as someone who has done it well.

As concerns the second point, I misread Gunnar's post as being a
kind of relativistic negation of the "criticability" of
letterforms - or signs in this case. (That may be due to my
sometimes imperfect understanding of some nuances of the English
language... ;)


[..]
> not there to meet a particular function. We don't generally decide on
> the exact function of a typeface a priori. except in particular
> circumstances. The suitability of a type for a particular function comes
> when someone uses it. You can't say a typeface is not functional unless
> you can show that it can't be used for anything at all, ever.


Well, but isn't the presence of a definite functional intent one
of the few driving forces that may shape and make consistent a
new type design? I think so. I'm not *against* the "artistic"
attitude of "I woke up today feeling like I should design a new
typeface for the world!" - but it seems to me that without a
clear set of functional constraints (even if these do not stem
from a real-world commission, though this would be the ideal
case) it's harder to achieve good results.

That a typeface designed for one particular function may end up
being widely used in totally different contexts is a fact of
life. (That's famously the case with Carter's Bell Centennial).


[..]

> There are also situations where you don't want to communicate broadly,
> but narrowly, to a particular audience to the exclusion of other
> audiences. The psychedelic posters of the 60s are a good example. They
> were designed to speak to a particular group and exclude others.
> Lettering on the posters was frequently difficult to read for people who
> weren't familiar it.

Isn't this a very particular case of a functional constraint?


regards,
R

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