114 IMMUTABLE LAWS OF LETTERING
125 WEST 45th STREET
NEW YORK, N. Y.
LOGO, FONT a LETTERING BIBLE 115
MY FUNNY LETTERFORMS. The order of thick-thin strokes in
roman-style lettering results naturally from the use of the flat-edged pen
held at a certain angle. When such letters are mimicked by being drawn in
outline form, it's easy to confuse thicks for thins. This, of course, looks
horrible. Don't guess when drawing roman letters (I always forget which
stem of К is the thick one). Pick up a magazine, or anything with type in it,
and use that for reference.
The letters in BadTyp were designed to showcase many flaws, such as incorrect order of thick/thin
strokes and inconsistent stem weights. I still shudder to look at these masterpieces!
Below, Franklin Gothic Bold and Times Roman from Adobe both display proper order
of thick/thin strokes, although the effect is more subtle in heavyweight Franklin Gothic.
The heights of crossbars or horizontal
strokes may be purposely drawn higher
or lower to achieve a certain effect. A
lowered crossbar is often indicative of
Art Deco fonts from the 1930s, such as
the 1939 Revlon letterhead, above.
This hand-drawn and -lettered design
is a good example of illustration in
harmony with the "color" of the type.
1Q2C mi mmm
Above, a sample of the font Anna by Daniel Pelavin perfectly captures the essence of the Art Deco style. This very successful
typeface marketed by ITC is noted for crossbars lowered to about one-quarter of cap height that reemerge on the left for a
streamlined effect. Note how the diagonal stroke of A7 joins the vertical stem only halfway down, in keeping with the crossbars.
Right, typical Art Nouveau lettering
adapted from the 1898 Schriften Atlas
of Julius Hoffmann Verlag. Here, the
crossbars have been raised to two-
thirds of cap height. This is high
enough to leave no mistake that there
has been a design decision here, not
just an overcompensation for optical
droop. The raising of the crossbars has given strong stylistic definition to the entire
alphabet. The bowl of R and the top of S have been raised to match H-F-E-N, and
A. Like the font Anna, this is a monoweight style of letter that doesn't slavishly
remain mono. Both styles exhibit subtle variations in line weight, like the flairing
stems above, that are typical of their brush- or pen-drawn origins. I don't really
like the Í, above, because the abrupt angle breaks style with the rest.
j OMIT NEEDLESS SERIFS As with language usage,
errors in letterforms may become standard in time through
repetition. A recent phenomenon has been the introduction of the
serifed / in otherwise sans-serif fonts. I accept blame. BadTyp was
one of the first sans-serif fonts to include this anomaly—but I was
kidding! The serif / in Matthew Carter's Verdana, example below,
was a brazen act by a talented designer, though many amateurs
have simply failed to comprehend that those horizontal strokes on
top and bottom of / are indeed serifs, not a part of the letter itself.
Ill II II II
Gill Sans Bold
MSUtrnm» Legibility may be the reason that the serif / has become
legitimized. Can you identify the above characters? In Gill Sans they are: cap
I, lowercase 1 and the number 1. Other examples compare cap I and 1.
DRAW LETTERS CORRECTLY Amateur letterers so often
make the following mistakes that I included some of them in BadTyp, right, my font
that is a virtual library of commonly misdrawn letterforms. Below, the center strokes of
HI and diagonal stroke of N should always extend to the baseline. The center of rVmust
reach full cap height, unless all other letters in the style follow suit, as shown in the
examples above. The crossbar of A should be positioned to balance the upper and lower
counters. Otherwise, these characteristics are abominations in a roman alphabet.
SERIFS R COOL!
TAKE STEPS TO AVOID CLOG Achieving a relatively even "color"
throughout all letters in a line or in a font is always the goal. Therefore,
maintaining equal stroke widths is important to the lettering designer. But of
equal concern is how the joining of one stroke to another causes an optical
doubling of the stroke weight, unless specific steps are taken to lessen the bulk.
Normally, the opposing sides of a monoweight stem stroke remain parallel
for its entire length, a. Both sides of diagonal stems such as Y-Wshould also
be parallel, yet they may be drawn to taper in width as they conjoin, b and c,
in order to minimize their combined girth. This is usually done so slightly as
to be hardly discernible to the average man on the street.
to further open
up the inner junctions
practice in ^
Matthew Carter's font
Bell Centennial Bold,
intended for poorly printed
telephone books, made
clog reduction into a wild,
The N above shows an extreme solution to the problems of intersecting
strokes and ink clogging up in corners of small characters in print. I
would be reluctant to shave letters designed for larger point sizes to
this degree, but it is appropriate for small type sizes in print or on the
web where such shape distortions would be virtually unnoticeable.