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Tabular Type Foundry

29 March, 2019

I seem to start my blog post every time by saying it has been a long time since the last entry, regardless of the language I’m writing. But oh boy, the last entry was four years ago!

Last Tuesday, I opened a new type foundry called Tabular Type Foundry, henceforth TTF in this post. As the name implies, it is exclusively a monospace type foundry. First of all, let me address the elephant in the room; no, I am not leaving Monotype. A Monotype designer can have their own foundry outside the company; our type director Steve Matteson has Matteson Typographics whose latest releases were from last year, and Carl Crossgrove owns Terrestrial Design. Opening my own foundry does not terminate my employee contract, but it does come with some asterisks that I’m not go into.

The genesis of the foundry could be associated with three of my backgrounds. I am a designer from a country whose writing system is essentially monospaced (just in general. I know the history and exceptions, so no correction is necessary). I also grew up with video games whose typefaces were almost always monospaced, not only because of technical limitations at the time but probably because they were made by Japanese developers. I had forgotten all these influences around me as I pursued typeface design as my career, but it all came back to me recently. I was doing a research on retro arcade game fonts for the past two years, going through hundreds of games every night and weekend besides my day job. Through this process that can only be described as insanity, I have learnt just how much you could do within the limitation, let alone low-resolution one. And lastly, I became more and more involved in Python coding. It seems that every typeface designer who also writes codes will want to make their own coding typeface. In my case, one wasn’t enough.

Type foundries with specific category are not unheard of; Ale Paul’s Sudtipos and Laura Worthington are primarily script foundries that enjoy great success, and there are those who only make sans serifs, consciously or otherwise. The video game font research made me ask myself, ‘can a monospace-only foundry also be a thing?’, and that’s how it all started. TTF makes monospaced fonts exclusively, but is not the first of its kind; Chinese, Japanese, and Korean foundries as well as typewriter companies had offered nothing but monospaced fonts in their early days, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there were early digital font catalogs that only had monospaced offerings. While they were entirely monospaced by necessity, my foundry is a stylistic choice and passion project.

Let me talk about the two launch typefaces!

 

Tabulamore Script

Monospaced fonts look clumsy because of the varying letter widths in Latin. I find the aesthetics fascinating but let’s see it from a traditional viewpoint for the sake of argument that it’s ugly. The problem is that you cannot maintain varying letter proportions and consistent spacing at the same time. In fact, the solution is quite simple; just give a lot of space until the shape differences no longer affect spacing and texture. That is a very widely spaced typeface indeed and letters do not hold together to form words anymore, but what if I forcefully connect them with a stroke, like a script?

The glyph width difference becomes minor and the text looks effectively monospaced as you increase tracking.

Monospaced scripts have always been an interesting topic to me. When it works, it works like magic; IBM Selectric Typewriter Script a fine example and looks especially well in the original form (The digital outline with no ribbon texture is a little too precise). https://www.myfonts.com/font/bitstream/script-12-pitch/ It also works despite the rather condensed proportion because it casually gives up on connection. It almost feels like this is how this imaginary person writes.

And this typeface was where I brought the two interests together, to make a monospaced script, one that does not feel that way at all. By choosing a relaxed monolinear script, I could fit W and i in the same width without compromising the letter proportions. I think the resulting typeface works great in this regard, and it is still surprising how well it hides the rigid limitation.

But these caps exceed the width boundry a lot. What if you type in all caps? Scripts were traditionally not written in all-caps, which is being ignored now. I am of the opinion that a modern script face should support all caps, but not many type families offer a solution to that. I have seen two approaches: small caps as seen in Zapfino Extra, and matching sans/roman which seem more popular nowadays. I have taken a hybrid route, a small cap that is more typographic but handwritten. I took the inspiration from a style called Architects Casual, which seems to work well. It is fully automatic; it converts the caps to the small caps as soon as you type a second capital letter or number.

It turns out you can make a monospace typeface that looks natural, so long as that’s the priority over practicality. To be frank, there is almost no benefit for a script like this to be monospaced. I was making it purely as a challenge for its own sake.

The typeface name is tabular + amore, which should be self explanatory. I find typeface naming easy; if you can’t come up with anything, you just need to go for non-English words or invent one, à la Pokémon. Sometimes it is too easy that I struggle to design a typeface worthy of the cool name I came up with.

 

Belinsky

I was inspired by over-exaggerated architectural letterings and typefaces, and wanted to make it a functioning monospaced typeface. You can see the influence of Kabel from g and the italic e for example, and the ß is taken straight from the Berlin street signs. That Q was originally taken from a pixelated retro game font that gave me this intentionally false interpretation.

Chinese whispers of letterforms. The pixel font is from 1941: Counter Attack (Capcom, 1990)

The i l and t f have alternates that extends their strokes to fill a gap, which is admittedly rarely seen in coding apps because most of them do not support OpenType features. You can compensate for the lack of kerning via letter substitution, something I originally implemented in my Font Marathon typeface called Cowhand back in 2015.

It also comes with the Text version which tones down the letter proportion and has more space. If used in programming, it makes your code look more personal. I am more interested in giving personality to the coding screen rather than making an über-optimised coding typeface. You can expect more unique coding typefaces in the future.

It originally debuted in my TypoBerlin presentation in which Indra Kupfersmidt asked me if/when I would release it (Hi Indra, I’ve done it!) The name “Belinsky” was taken from my favourite animation film, American Pop. It traces the history of American music through the lives of the four members of Belinsky family. The editing might be the weakest aspect and it feels like you’re missing some scenes, but that is attributed to the limited budget. No, the film has nothing to do with the typeface, but I need to let more people know about the film.

 

That’s it. Please stay tuned for more monospaced fonts!

BubbleKern

1 September, 2015

Let me talk about kerning. Well, I was going to write a boring history of kerning in digital type design and its problem, but I think anyone who has done kerning before is aware of them already so I dropped that section. Basically it’s still in the same mentality of metal type with rectangle body, so cumbersome and time-consuming that most of us find it boring, though it’s not that we undervalue it. I personally find it fun, but am always on the lookout for a better method. So far, mapping Glyphs’s kerning function to XBOX 360 controller has been my favourite, which allows me to do the whole job without using a keyboard. The workflow has better rhythm, and you can distance yourself away from the screen while kerning. Really, it’s so much better kerning experience.

But today I want to talk about the new kerning toy I’ve made, the BubbleKern. BubbleKern is a new way of kerning that lets you draw kern around the letterform (in the sense of metal type), computes collision, and generates kerning data. In other words, you draw the space around the letter and let the computer do the rest. » Continue reading «

Italic subtleties

1 February, 2014

My explanation and thought on various italics. Actually, I only wanted to do the MJ illustration and ended up adding a whole bunch of text. I hope it’s helpful for people who are not familiar with italics, and how much type designers care. » Continue reading «

Font size in the metric system

26 October, 2013

Industrial paper is measured by metres, but everything else such as type size, image resolution, etc is based on inches. Although it’s not really difficult to make the different units coexist on a paper as long as you are fine with fractional measurements, wouldn’t it make more sense to just use metres for type size too? Are you really comfortable with making a point-based grid on a metre-based paper?

In fact, there is a country that uses metric type size, and it’s called Japan. The unit is called Q or q, which is a quarter of a millimetre (0.25 mm), a little finer than a DTP point (0.3528 mm), and was invented in the phototypesetting era. There is also a unit called Ha (or simply H or h), which is basically the same as Q but used for anything other than type size (e.g. line spacing). Ha means a tooth of a cog. Older phototypesetting machines had a big drum where a photographic paper would be attached, on which the operator would expose a photographic image of a letter, dot, line, etc., and the rotation of the drum by one unit (or a cog) would move the paper by 0.25mm. Hence the term. » Continue reading «

Metro Nova stylistic sets

16 August, 2013

My new typeface Metro Nova is currently experiencing great amount of discount on Myfonts, Linotype, and Fonts.com. Normal family price is $1,147, but it’s only $99 now. If you haven’t got it yet, then what are you doing?

I realised that in the official PDF specimen, there was no description of stylistic set & alternate features, which should have been the most important part in my opinion. So I made my own list of it. Why not just update the official specimen? Good question.

Download Metro Nova stylistic set PDF » Continue reading «

Ullstein Fraktur, the unknown geometric blackletter

9 April, 2013

While I was digging through the Fraktur stuff at the Monotype archive last week, I stumbled upon this rather nice fraktur typeface called Ullstein Schrift, series number 482, marked ‘To be held in abeyance’ in the specimen.

Proof » Continue reading «

My rant on the iPhone 5 screen

24 September, 2012

This is a type designer’s blog and I have not intended to post anything non-typographic, but I’d like to share my thoughts on iPhone 5 because I hate its design; or more specifically, its screen size.

As you may know, Apple has stuck with the 3.5 inch screen with screen resolution 640*960 until iPhone 4S, but it enlarged the screen size by 256 pixels vertically in the latest product, iPhone 5.

In the presentation on 12th September, Phil Schiller, senior vice president of whatever, said something like this:

What is the design centre of a phone? It’s this, it’s your hand! A phone should feel great in your hand and more importantly it should be easy to use with this magical device we all carry. So if you carry your phone it should fit beautifully in your hand. It should be easy to send messages, type emails, surf the web, and it’s just how we designed iPhone 5.

I totally agree with that, except for the last part. » Continue reading «

We used to have more letters

2 June, 2012

This is a rough and incomplete translation of this news article, titled “We used to have more letters”.

http://www.infzm.com/content/76114

Please excuse for the bad quality, although I’m entirely up for correction. In order to translate this I used a Japanese news article quoting this as well as Japanese and English Google translations, and of course, the original article itself. Note that I’m not fully able to read Chinese and am aware that this might contain a lot of error. I also omitted the parts I regarded unnecessary or the ones I could not translate.

 

Here starts the article.

 

There are 421 Chinese fonts whereas there are 2973 Japanese.

Lots of font foundries pessimistically think that the cold-hearted judgement regarding the logo of P&G’s shampoo 飄柔 (Rejoice) will further contribute to the already grave font piracy situation, and even lamented that typeface design is dead. » Continue reading «

Book review: Type Matters!

10 May, 2012

This book made me furious. In case you don’t want to read the whole post, here’s the summary.

This book is an ‘introductory’ book for typography learners, but contains a lot of false information. It’s not like the author made too many mistakes, rather he simply lacks knowledge. To give you one example, in the final chapter, Glossary of terms, 34 entries out of 94 are either wrong, insufficient, or unnecessary. Simply put, one third of what he tells is unreliable. This is a nicely bound book with some lovely illustrations, but do not be fooled by its welcoming appearance. It will teach you wrong things.

» Continue reading «

RoboHint: the missing UFO hinter

10 March, 2012

The first serious job at Monotype is a trip to the Hague, to attend at Robothon 2012. I guess it’s unlikely that the new employee goes on a business trip in the first week, but somehow it happened to me (privilage!). Robothon is a really interesting conference as it focuses on typeface design and production process only. There’s a lot of interesting stuff going on in the Robofab and UFO circles which make me think want to get out of old school FontLab workflow as much as I want. Af all the things that were shown on the first day, the most interesting one was RoboHint, the missing UFO hinter being developed by Petr van Blokland. » Continue reading «

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