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Old 07-03-2005, 08:06 AM   #1
deB
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Default Sharp beginner kid asks: how are fonts made?

Hi, all!

An overseas friend has an 8 year old son who has an unusually sharp comprehension of things. A current fascination is fonts; he wonders how they're made, and what software he might use. I'm very rusty about the subject, but I knew where to turn.

I forwarded the 5/24 Fontographer item from the home page here, and suggested joining the forum. This is the kind of kid (and family) that will make good use of any pointers we provide.

Anybody have any initial comments, articles to dig out, etc?

deB
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Old 07-03-2005, 08:58 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by deB
An overseas friend has an 8 year old son who has an unusually sharp comprehension of things. A current fascination is fonts; he wonders how they're made, and what software he might use. I'm very rusty about the subject, but I knew where to turn. … Anybody have any initial comments, articles to dig out, etc?
The main thing is to learn to draw or paint letters — because one way or another, computer or no, you have to create characters before you can make a font.

He should study existing (or ancient) fonts, but also other letters that turn up. Matthew Carter based his Mantinia display font on lettering shown in a Spanish painting. Robert Slimbach used to doodle ampersands, and later put dozens of them into the script font Poetica. More than one type designer has fallen in love with a sketched g and then built a whole font around it.

Along the way he’ll figure out the extent to which you can depart from some Platonian ideal of each kind of character without sacrificing legibility, how to decide on proportions (x-height, ascender, descender), the relative widths of various characters, and so on.

No book really explains all this. There are snippets of useful information in several, including the indispensable Letters of Credit by Walter Tracy; a couple of books on lettering by Michael Harvey as well as calligraphy and lettering books and magazines; and in Leslie Cabarga’s Learn FontLab Fast; to name just a few.

There are also relevant discussions on the Type Design e-mail list*; on Typophile forum; and a few other online venues (though they tend to be focused on whatever question is asked — may not be your friend’s particular question). If he wants to join us here, we can probably have a good time with this topic.


* To subscribe or unsubscribe, send mail to type-design-request@p90.net
with the word "subscribe" or "unsubscribe" as the body (not subject).


   
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Old 07-03-2005, 03:24 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by ktinkel
No book really explains all this.
And I would really appreciate if you wrote one, KT. Somebody has to, and I think you have the background. (I promise I'll buy a copy.)

Don McCahill
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Old 07-03-2005, 03:32 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by ktinkel
The main thing is to learn to draw or paint letters.
KT,

This is the third time in a week something has reminded me of the wonderful little book First you have to row a little boat, a favorite of my father, who died June 15. I was glad to spend the last full week of his life with him (though he was mostly zonked out by then). In the past two years of his decline I've spent time going through his bookshelves, and First is one that caught my eye.

Like Dad, the author learned to sail in the 1930s off Long Island. The book recounts the author's early efforts, and being taught by a master that first he must learn to row a little boat.

And now you say to this kid, "First you have to draw some letter shapes yourself." Got it.

<PhilosophicalDriftWarning>
Not surprisingly, I find myself reflecting on "What am I DOING with my life," "What trace will I have left behind, once they've gone through my possessions as we're doing now," etc. It's a real pleasure to have a sense of passing the torch to a new generation, and a special pleasure to find someone young and eager who's sharp enough and cares enough to want to know, and to want to do something with the knowledge.
</PhilosophicalDriftWarning>

Your msg was a classic splendid KT reply. Thank you once again. (I'll buy the book too - do yourself a favor and make it a Strunkish "little book," so it's finished while this kid's still in single digits!)

deB
[Still out here in the Twin Cities,
where summer is gorgeous
but it's very very far away
from family and friends back east,
which hurts at the moment!]

Last edited by deB; 09-13-2007 at 10:47 AM. Reason: typos
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Old 07-03-2005, 03:56 PM   #5
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And I would really appreciate if you wrote one, KT. Somebody has to, and I think you have the background. (I promise I'll buy a copy.)
Thank you. I am working on it.

If I could just get past this patch of sciatica. Amazing how distracting pain is! <g>

   
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Old 07-05-2005, 03:26 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by deB
[Still out here in the Twin Cities,
where summer is gorgeous
but it's very very far away
from family and friends back east,
which hurts at the moment!]
Weren't you going to be in Salt Lake City for the SPEBSQSA convention this week?
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Old 07-05-2005, 03:50 PM   #7
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Weren't you going to be in Salt Lake City for the SPEBSQSA convention this week?
I was, but time off to be with Dad ate up the available time off (and travel budget), and his memorial service is in Maryland Sunday, the day the convention ends.

It's being webcast, and I'm very much looking forward to hearing whatever parts I can. There's a spectacular new quartet from Minneapolis, "After Midnight," and I'd love to see how they do. I wouldn't be surprised if they made the top 20 their first time out, and would be impressed but not shocked if they made the top 10.

Another event this week is a Chanticleer concert, and of course the mega-concert Sunday morning, with the chorus of 600 past barbershop gold medalists with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, in their 24,000 seat music hall.

What a year to miss!

Dave
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Old 07-06-2005, 03:06 PM   #8
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I hear ya on the budget thing. I'm still waiting for our SAI chorus' director to get back to me with an idea of what I need to budget to get to International competition in New Orleans in October. The planners need to know from me ASAP whether I'll be going due to SAI needing to finalize how many rooms and other stuff our chorus will be needing. This is one bass who really hopes to afford the trip!

   
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Old 07-06-2005, 04:26 PM   #9
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I hear ya on the budget thing. I'm still waiting for our SAI chorus' director to get back to me with an idea of what I need to budget to get to International competition in New Orleans in October. The planners need to know from me ASAP whether I'll be going due to SAI needing to finalize how many rooms and other stuff our chorus will be needing. This is one bass who really hopes to afford the trip!
You’re a bass?

Yikes. Sure don’t sound like one! (What’s SAI?)

   
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Old 07-07-2005, 10:46 AM   #10
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You’re a bass?

Yikes. Sure don’t sound like one! (What’s SAI?)
Sweet Adelines International. Yep, bass. Must be able to cleanly get down at least as low as the C below middle C and break point for SAI bass is usually E just above middle C.

   
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