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Old 07-24-2008, 05:44 PM   #1
Eric Ladner
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Default Metal vs digital type (Lonnnnggg)

Actually going back to an old thread (summer of '05):

Kathleen wrote:

"I wonder if you are not seeing a different problem — the weakness of most modern digital types when printed compared to their metal forebears. Most seem kind of wimpy or attenuated.

"Does it say which Baskerville is used? In A Tally of Types, I have a good example of machine-set metal Baskerville, and I compared it to samples in a couple of modern specimen books (not the same, I realize — especially as the latter are printed on coated stock, the former on textured book paper), and found the difference to be striking.

"Not just a matter of apparent boldness, though that was part of it. But the strokes, curves, and serifs were just more definite somehow, perhaps mainly because of the three-dimensionality of letterpress printing.

"This is a common defect in our digital fonts — it isn’t unique to Baskerville."

* * *

I'm currently reading Ursula LeGuin's latest book, Lavinia, about the eponymous Italian princess married by Aeneas.

It's set, according to the colophon, in Centaur MT. I'm not very confident of my ability to determine type size, but it seems to be around 12/18 in a 25.5 pica line on a 6" by 9" page. The page is fairly light, but I think it's rather attractive, and that started me thinking again about printing older faces with modern methods.

I think I remember printer/teacher Allistair Johnston once saying that he thought Centaur was too "sparkly" to be a good text type. That doesn't particularly bother me; I don't notice the sharpness and the diamonds much at text sizes.

Bringhurst, though says of faces such as Bembo and Centaur, "If the final output will be 14 pt text set directly to film at 3000 dpi, then printed by good offset lithography on the best coated paper, every nuance may be crystal clear, but the result will still lack the character and texture of the letterpress medium for which these faces were designed."

I don't think I've ever seen Centaur printed from metal. I have seen it printed letterpress, but from photopolymer plates, which introduces possible variables in the film and platemaking processes. And it was printed on thick, soft paper by a printer who likes heavy impression -- a real "ink in a ditch" look -- so I don't know if I really know what it should look like.

Bringhurst doesn't quite say not to print it offset, just that something is lost.

So, I guess what all this rambling is wondering is how important it is to stick with tradition, if you think non-traditional methods produce attractive, but different, results. It seems to me that it would be a shame to give up faces like Bembo and Centaur just because you can't print them from foundry type, but where do you draw the line? Laser printer output of 8 pt text on plain paper at 300 dpi may "fade into the digital mud," (Bringhurst again), but that is sort of an extreme case.

And what about the paper? Is it really anathema to print Renaissance-inspired faces on bright, coated stock?

Enough for now.

--Eric
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Old 07-25-2008, 06:01 AM   #2
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It's amazing how we study every little nuance on type in this forum, but most material I read utilizes something just way below the ideals we seem to be pursuing. My impression is, to just experiment with type and layout according to the publication in front of me, and then pick what I like. Some publications seem to require top notch type and layout -- but how often does this happen? And even some of what should be using the best isn't... and the stuff that has the widest circulation certainly isn't. The booklets I put out using 600 dpi are literally much, much better in type (and now layout due to advice from KT) than the great majority I see, and the most popular ones of the same genre going around the world by the hundreds of millions are nothing short of horrible in paper, ink, font, and layout. But of course, the advantage I have by literally publishing from a desktop is, that I can constantly change my layouts as a very simple process. Otherwise, I think one has to do a lot of samples and be completely confident before proceeding.

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Old 07-25-2008, 09:10 AM   #3
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And to be fair, it is easier to experiment and perfect your typesetting when the printing method is the same as your proofing method.

People setting books these days probably proof on a laser printer for work printed offset. Lots of difference — type that looks nice and strong at 600 or even 1200 dpi from a laser printer may look weak when each dot is only about 6 to 10 percent as large. Besides, font technology hints at low-resolution, so the characters may not even be the same shape.

   
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Old 07-26-2008, 03:58 PM   #4
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And to be fair, it is easier to experiment and perfect your typesetting when the printing method is the same as your proofing method.
But your printer cannot provide at least some sampling for you?? I have done, quite some time ago, just a little work with printers, and I did have samples provided.

At any rate, by considering every little facet of type and layout, it does eventually have an effect. Every time I arrive at a new layout, I start thinking of some new way to do things, some little change, and eventually, I think I'm really going to surprise myself...in fact, it may happen sooner rather than later.

One thing I was thinking on lately was increased leading, and so it just goes over again and again in my mind, in spare moments that always arise. Then, today I picked up a book to read, and I'm going through it so quickly, but coincidentally, it has the increased leading I was thinking about. I feel certain that is why it is so easy to read, and so this reading experience keeps me thinking about layout. Making things easy to read and understand...I like that so much, but there are reasons, I think, that authors deliberately avoid it.

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Old 07-26-2008, 06:33 PM   #5
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The only useful sample a printer could provide is your file output at the printer’s normal resolution actually printed on a press. For a regular customer who brings in large jobs, this is not unheard-of. For a casual customer with a little job, not so likely.

As for leading, it should be proportional to the type size and design and to the measure (line-width). Too much leading can be as irritating as too little.

But authors rarely have control over such things; the publisher and the art director or designer determine leading and other details. If they are competent, the author is lucky. If not, then …

   
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Old 07-27-2008, 07:43 AM   #6
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The only useful sample a printer could provide is your file output at the printer’s normal resolution actually printed on a press. For a regular customer who brings in large jobs, this is not unheard-of. For a casual customer with a little job, not so likely.
Hmm-- are you talking New York?? Cause New York has its own rules and its own ways. I always change my attitude for New York, but then, I come out alright. For instance, a New York lawyer will never return a phone call, will never provide an update... but that doesn't mean he/she died. It's just New York. If the lawyer is chosen carefully, when the case is over, he/she will call and let you know the good results. I never once complained, but I just accepted New York as New York. (That's why the city has its own song with Frankie -- dut,dut...do,dut,dut..start spreading the word).


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As for leading, it should be proportional to the type size and design and to the measure (line-width). Too much leading can be as irritating as too little.
Ok, but what is the rule on proportion between font size and line spacing? What is it based on and does that include something about speed and ease of reading?? The book I referenced is Viking/ Penquin. Oh, yuk, Penquin, usually a tough read but good stuff. (I want to think out this line spacing stuff more).

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But authors rarely have control over such things; the publisher and the art director or designer determine leading and other details. If they are competent, the author is lucky. If not, then …
Yeah, why use a publisher if there is a real option to self-publish?? And the deadlines...ruins the art of it and true quality.

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Old 07-27-2008, 10:00 AM   #7
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Hmm-- are you talking New York?? Cause New York has its own rules and its own ways.
Well, yes — and good thing, too! (But I love New York.)

Quote:
Ok, but what is the rule on proportion between font size and line spacing? What is it based on and does that include something about speed and ease of reading?? The book I referenced is Viking/ Penquin. Oh, yuk, Penquin, usually a tough read but good stuff. (I want to think out this line spacing stuff more).
It is definitely related to readability. But there is no rule, if you mean “use such-and-such a point size for a particular leading value.” Nor can anyone say “use such-and-such a measure for a particular point size of type.” You have to look. Typefaces vary a great deal in the way they set.

But one rule of thumb is to leave wider whites between lines than between words. This is a visual thing. If the inter-word spaces are wider than the spaces between lines, the reader’s eye can drift down instead of across, distracted by the troughs between words. Or returning back to read the next line but ending up on the one that was read before (called “doubling”). These problems can be caused by fonts with too-wide word spaces as well as the way the type is set.

This can also occur if the line is too long. That’s why experts recommend increasing the leading for long lines. But the better solution is to make the line length — and leading — appropriate for the typeface and size to begin with.

All these things are relative to typeface, type size, and relative visual weight of the type. Most of the time strive to set 10 words a line (a word being 6 letters or spaces), and the width will be right. So if you change the font, you need to re-evaluate the measure (line-length).

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Yeah, why use a publisher if there is a real option to self-publish?? And the deadlines...ruins the art of it and true quality.
Because publishers still control distribution. If you want to get your book not just in Barnes & Noble and the like but reviewed by reputable book reviews, you need to get it accepted by a publisher with enough clout to push your book.

I would love to say that it also means your book gets a good copy reading and proofreading, but I fear very few writers get that kind of service these days. Unfortunately for the poor reader, who has to sift through typos and worse. But the real advantage to having a publisher and self-publishing is that the publisher will usually sell more copies of your book.

   
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Old 07-27-2008, 03:13 PM   #8
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KT:

Quote:
But there is no rule, if you mean “use such-and-such a point size for a particular leading value.” Nor can anyone say “use such-and-such a measure for a particular point size of type.” You have to look. Typefaces vary a great deal in the way they set.
Yes, but wouldn't an interline space of about a quarter of the font size be a good starting point, assuming the length of the line is about 55–60 characters? You need to experiment if you are trying out an unfamiliar font, but you have to start somewhere. And never ever set the line as 'single', even though that will be a sensible setting generally if you are sticking to the program-maker's default fonts.

   
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Old 07-27-2008, 05:53 PM   #9
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Yes, but wouldn't an interline space of about a quarter of the font size be a good starting point, assuming the length of the line is about 55–60 characters? You need to experiment if you are trying out an unfamiliar font …
You do have to start somewhere, but the repeated advice in software manuals to use 120% line spacing discourages people from looking.

Type is all about what you see, not a set of numbers in a table.

   
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Old 07-28-2008, 07:37 AM   #10
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You do have to start somewhere, but the repeated advice in software manuals to use 120% line spacing discourages people from looking.

Type is all about what you see, not a set of numbers in a table.
I agree (as I must) but most people are put of by percentage too, whereas 'a quarter' is less frightening, and 'about a quarter' would encourage a more generous approach that 125% would.

   
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