MoMA has just acquired 23 digital typefaces for its Architecture and Design Collection. Some are of everyday use, like Verdana; others are familiar characters in our world, like Gotham, which was used in President Obama’s election campaign, or OCR-A, which we can find at the bottom of any product’s bar code; and others are still less common, but exquisitely resonant, like Walker or Template Gothic.
Helped by a panel of expert advisors that included graphic design critics, designers, and historians, we based our decisions on the same criteria—ranging from aesthetics to historical relevancy, from functionality to social significance, from technological ingenuity to economy—that we use when evaluating objects. We paid particular attention to the synthesis of goals, means, and elegance that we always seek in modern design.
This first selection of 23 typefaces represent a new branch in our collection tree. They are all digital or designed with a foresight of the scope of the digital revolution, and they all significantly respond to the technological advancements occurring in the second half of the twentieth century. Each is a milestone in the history of typography. These newly acquired typefaces will all be on display in Standard Deviations, an installation of the contemporary design galleries opening March 2 on the third floor.
The digital fonts, like most objects in the design collection, are commercially available design products. As such, they can be purchased from the original producers—aptly called foundries. The fonts are akin to, say, an iPod, a Braun clock, or a Konstantin Grcic chair. MoMA has either purchased them or obtained them as gifts, but the copyright and the right to sell a user’s license remain with the original manufacturer.
Type Design and MoMA’s Collection
Type design follows the history of object and building design throughout the centuries; it similarly reflects social developments, advances in materials and means of production, cultural biases, and technological progress. Just like the design of artifacts and buildings, in the past two centuries type design has grappled with the industrial revolution first, and the digital revolution later. Just like architecture and object design, type design has had Modernist and postmodernist phases; like other designers, type designers have felt the need to find new inspiration in traditional examples, in the vernacular, and in popular culture. Type is a design universe unto itself, an essential dimension in the history of modern art and design. Typefaces—the building blocks of information printed or displayed onscreen—are design in and of themselves, even before they are used.
And yet, aside from a very important example—the 36-point Helvetica Bold lead type designed by Max Miedinger in 1956—previously there were no typefaces in MoMA’s collection. We did have a rich collection of works produced using typography in innovative, elegant, and unconventional ways, for example the exceptional, recently exhibited collection of posters from the Neue Typographie movement. However, the design units in those works, so fundamental in our collection of design, were missing. The best of them belong in MoMA’s collection, and although we are beginning with the digital era, we intend to work backwards to document the entire twentieth century.
The 23 acquired typefaces are:
• American Type Founders OCR-A (1966)
• Wim Crouwel New Alphabet (1967)
• Matthew Carter Bell Centennial (1976-78)
• Matthew Carter ITC Galliard (1978)
• Erik Spiekermann FF Meta (1984-1991)
• Zuzana Licko Oakland (1985)
• Jeffery Keedy Keedy Sans (1991)
• Erik van Blokland and Just van Rossum FF Beowolf (1990)
• Barry Deck Template Gothic (1990)
• P. Scott Makela Dead History (1990)
• Jonathan Hoefler HTF Didot (1991)
• Neville Brody FF Blur (1992)
• Jonathan Barnbrook Mason (1992)
• Matthew Carter Mantinia (1993)
• Tobias Frere-Jones Interstate (1993-95)
• Matthew Carter Big Caslon (1994)
• Albert-Jan Pool FF DIN (1995)
• Matthew Carter Walker (1995)
• Matthew Carter Verdana (1996)
• Jonathan Hoefler and Tobias Frere-Jones Mercury (1996)
• Matthew Carter Miller (1997)
• Jonathan Hoefler & Tobias Frere-Jones Retina (1999)
• Jonathan Hoefler & Tobias Frere-Jones Gotham (2000)
Historical Background on the Evolution of the Digital Typefaces Proposed for Acquisition
Experimentation in the digital realm began in the 1960s, prompted at times by the problems faced as computers became more mainstream. For example, businesses needed to find ways to process information efficiently, and in 1966 OCR-A, the first machine-readable typeface, was adopted as a standard. Also at this time, screens were introduced as windows into the inner workings of a computer—the first real interfaces. Letterpress and Linotype (hot metal) machines gave way to early CRT (cathode ray tube) monitors and photographic reproduction technology. Inspired by this, Wim Crouwel proposed New Alphabet (1967), an experimental typeface designed to take CRT monitors into account when setting type on a computer. In the second half of the 1980s, a new revolution spurred by the Macintosh home computer took Crouwel’s experiment further. Zuzana Licko was among the first to create typefaces made of pixels and composed of dots on a grid, meant to be used onscreen, and to be printed on early dot-matrix printers.
As computer programs for type design became more sophisticated in the 1990s, designers felt free to experiment in ways that had not been possible before—for instance, creating a typeface from a laundromat sign, as Barry Deck did when he designed Template Gothic (1990), or designing a new typeface, as Jeffery Keedy did in 1991 because the fonts available did not satisfy his needs as a graphic designer. Even the history of typography got special treatment in this era, becoming a repository of timeless and universal ideas ready to be updated, while popular culture provided familiarity, closeness, and a collection of idiosyncratic curiosities ready to be re-imagined, from highway signs to punk leaflets. Just like in music and fashion, mash-ups of existing typefaces were mixed with homages to stonecutters of the past—P. Scott Makela’s Dead History (1990) and Jonathan Barnbrook’s Mason (1992) are good examples.
Those were exciting and euphoric times for designers, with heated debates lighting up conferences and journals. On the one hand, some designers were bent on pushing the limits of visual communication one character at a time—as in the intentionally out-of-focus letters of Neville Brody’s Blur (1992) or the randomized outlines of LettError’s Beowolf (1990)—and on defining the postmodern in type design. On the other hand, some designers continued the modernist quest for uniformity and clarity. Erik Spiekermann’s Meta (1984-1991) and Albert-Jan Pool’s redesign of the German standard typeface, DIN (1995), were formidable successors to the “classic” and oft-used typeface Helvetica.
What We Chose and Why
We chose some of these typefaces because they are sublimely elegant responses to the issues of specific media. For example, typefaces like Bell Centennial, Mercury, Miller, and Retina were all designed to be printed on newsprint, with cheap ink and in small sizes.
In many cases, advances in technology influenced the aesthetics of type. We have tried to form a comprehensive collection of the most elegant solutions to typography design in the midst of the digital revolution; typefaces like OCR-A, Oakland, New Alphabet, Verdana, and Beowolf address the span of twentieth-century type-design solutions, from CRT monitors to programming and the Internet.
Typography has a special relationship with its own past, with frequent redesigns and revivals, from among which we chose the ones that most inventively distill the essence of historical examples to give it new, contemporary life—as in HTF Didot, Galliard, Big Caslon, Mantinia, and DIN. Others, like Dead History, reference the past, but reinterpret it in new ways.
Lastly, several of the fonts we chose visually reflect very closely the time and place in which they were made. Interstate and Gotham are purely late-twentieth-century American faces, celebrating vernacular type by making it exquisitely contemporary. Walker, Meta, Blur, Keedy Sans, Mason, and Template Gothic are all faces that represent a specific era in the digital revolution—the early 1990s, when digital typography was coming into its own. They were chosen based upon their importance to cultural history as well as their experimental aesthetics.
July 20, 2011
P22 announces new fontBuffalo, NY - 17 June 2011
Announcing P22 Casual Script Pro- a new font designed by Richard Kegler for the International House of Fonts (IHOF) Collection
P22 Casual Script Pro is a flexible OpenType font based on mid-20th Century hand drawn advertising lettering scripts. As an alternate to thicker casual script styles, this free-flowing thin brush style is evocative of vintage product advertisements and packaging lettering and is highly suitable for a retro flavor.
The Pro font includes over 500 glyphs with at least 2 of all upper and lower case characters with OpenType scripting and ligatures for a more natural and random effect. There is also a unique feature not found in other script fonts: Small Caps! While it may seem unnatural for a script font to have small caps, these work well as an authentic variation of brush script lettering for advertising. Also included in the Pro version is a full Central European character set, swash characters and more.
The Pro font package includes one Pro OpenType font and 3 single, basic OpenType fonts- Regular, Alternate and Small Caps, for use with applications that do not support OpenType features. Now through June 30th, the Pro package is available at introductory pricing.
Quick preview of P22 Casual Script Pro is available in our newsletter:
You can now follow P22 on Twitter.com:
Become a fan of P22 on Facebook:
P22 type foundry, Inc.
Not your typical type
PO Box 770
Buffalo, NY 14213
article posted 17 June 2011.
Georgia & Verdana
Typefaces designed for the screen (finally)
by Daniel Will-HarrisDownload them here...
The typefaces you normally read have been designed to be typeset digitally and printed on paper. But as more people read more type off computer screens, they're unfortunately reading a type designed in another era for another medium. That's why type on screen can look pathetic (especially so-called "italics" on the Mac) and is often painful to read.
In the past, every time a new typesetting or printing medium appeared, designers created typefaces to take advantage of it. But today, while more people than ever are designing more typefaces than ever, so few of them are designing type specifically for the screen that you can count them on one finger.
Maybe it's the complexity of the task, which requires a deep knowledge of type design, legibility, and technology, rather than just style. Maybe it's because until the web has a way to transmit type as easily as it transmits pictures (see WebFonts), there's no market to sell such faces.
Luckily, a company with the deepest pockets in the computer world thought deeply enough to see what a problem this was and hired a type designer with years of experience designing legible type under difficult circumstances, including Bell Centennial for phone books, and ITC Charter for low-res printed output.
The company: Microsoft. Yes, Microsoft. The type designer: Matthew Carter. The typefaces for the screen (shown automatically on this page if you've downloaded the fonts from the link at the bottom of this paragraph): Verdana a sans serif named for the verdant Seattle area and Georgia, a brilliant serif named after a tabloid headline about alien heads found in Georgia, which was then used to set test headlines. The hinting on both was done by Monotype's hinting expert, Tom Rickner. These fonts are available for free download at www.microsoft.com/truetype/
Verdana does everything right on screen; it has a large x-height so characters look bigger, yet not so big that it's hard to tell the lowercase from the uppercase or that it looks crowded in apps such as web browsers that don't have adjustable leading (yet).
Verdana is extended, but more importantly, it has extra space between characters so they don't touch. The bolds are quite bold, ensuring that you can always tell the difference between bold and roman, yet the bold characters never fill-in, even at small sizes (you can still read it at 4 point, at least under Windows).
Special care has been taken with letters like 1, I, l, i and J so that they aren't confused. The lowercase "i" is slightly shorter than the lowercase l, which also makes them more distinct. Letter combinations such as "fi" "fl" and "ff" are designed so they clearly do not touch, as touching letters can create hard-to-read blobs on-screen. Microsoft's web site states, "Curves are reduced to a minimum in the counters. Lowercase characters are a pixel taller than their uppercase counterparts at key screen sizes, to aid the distinguishing of particular characters."
Even though it was designed for the screen, Verdana is attractive on paper. While some have compared it with Frutiger, a closer look reveals more of a resemblance to Carter's own Bell Centennial. Because it's spaced widely for the screen, it has a more "typewriter"-like feel to it on paper. [not to editor: if you track it more tightly for the page please mention it here.] But this face was not designed for "style," it was designed for function, and Matthew Carter explains (below) how the screen literally dictated the design.
Georgia, Carter's new screen serif, is perhaps an even more remarkable feat than Verdana. It takes the complexity of serifed characters and makes them not only comfortable on-screen, but also very attractive.
In large sizes, Georgia might be mistaken for a heavier Times New Roman. It's a sturdy face that could easily be used by any newspaper. On-screen in body-text sizes, it takes on new life--looking friendlier, almost like Cheltenham. The characters are beautifully clear at 8-12 point. Its x-height is larger than Times, but not as large as Verdana's, and the result is a face with a traditional feel that's very pleasant on-screen. It has a true italic that is so fluid and graceful it could be used by itself, and like Verdana, a bold that verges on ultra-bold. The numerals have a slightly old-style feeling but are still lining.
Georgia is nothing short of wonderful on-screen--which is, of course, the whole point. It could easily become the de facto serif screen face, and readers would be all the better for it.
To find out why and how Microsoft initiated these fonts, I spoke with Simon Earnshaw, a typographer at Microsoft.
DWH: When (and why) did the project start--and when will it be complete?
The Verdana family started in early Summer 94 as a two font typeface (Tahoma), designed by Matthew Carter and hinted by Tom Rickner, to be used as a system font for Windows95. To make the fonts work in extended text settings it was necessary to open up the counters more, widen the advance widths and loosen the spacing. Thus Verdana was born; effectively the more generous cousin of Tahoma.
Just as the Verdana fonts have their origins in Windows, the Georgia fonts were conceived for the then nascent Microsoft Network as a serif alternative to Times.
Verdana, Georgia, Trebuchet and Comic Sans are all available now for free downloading.
DWH: What characteristics did Microsoft want in the faces?
Our brief was very loose beyond a statement of the problems we wished to overcome and the intended purpose. We felt more inclined to let the experience and eyes of Carter and Rickner produce what felt right to them. Of course we (and the UI designers) had input at different stages, but to a large degree we just let them get on with it.
Matthew Carter's unique approach
Matthew Carter has designed or resurrected many popular typefaces including ITC Galliard, Snell Roundhand, Cochin, ITC Charter, Bell Centennial and more. He's designed type for lead, photo and digital type, and been instrumental in the creation of type libraries for phototype (at Linotype) and digital type (as one of the founders of Bitstream). There are few people more qualified to design typefaces to meet the demands of the screen.
DWH: Matthew, why did Microsoft embark on this project?
Microsoft wanted fonts to give Windows a new look. They also needed some faces of which they were the sole undisputed owners so they could give them away. They also needed fonts with a comprehensive character set. MS software is localized all over the world [dwh: over half of Microsoft's sales are outside the United States] so they needed fonts that were conceived from the start as being as all-inclusive as possible.
DWH: How did you start working on this project?
In graphic design circles, people think of screen fonts as preview mode--it's only when the toner hits the wood-pulp that we usually judge a typeface.
But that's an increasingly short-sighted view of life. Larger numbers of computer users spend their entire time in front of a screen and never (or seldom) print anything. So it became obvious to us that this was a reversal of priorities--we should not approach this as one of doing printer fonts adapted for the screen, we should design them as screen fonts from the outset, the printer fonts are secondary in this case.
In the past I've been burned starting from outlines and trying to be extra clever in the hinting. So I finally deciding, ‘I'm better off grasping the nettle. What's most important is to get the bitmaps right at the sizes people use most often.'
So instead of starting with outlines and then working to hint them for the screen, I started by simply making bitmap fonts. No outlines, just bitmaps.
Bitmaps are relatively easy to make and they show exactly how the fonts will look on-screen. This allowed us to make decisions about sizes, weights, and distinctions between serif, sans, roman, italic, all viewed in context. Working this way we came up with a definition for a certain number of critical sizes and weights.
Once the key bitmaps were done, I very carefully wrapped an outline around them. I always have in mind that this outline will then be given to the person responsible for hinting--and they'll need to be able to hint outline to get back, pixel for pixel, to the bitmap faces where we started.
DWH: Isn't this the reverse of the normal practice of starting with outlines then creating bitmaps?
Yes, but since our immediate problem was, "how do we make the bitmaps look as good as possible," we felt our chances of success were higher if we simply started out with bitmaps.
DWH: Verdana appears extended with extra spacing between the characters. How did you come to those decisions?
In very early trial we would set a paragraph of text in a pre-existing face and in Verdana on the same screen. Then we'd walk backwards across the room until one of them became illegible.
If Verdana has any unique qualities at all it's in the spacing. Pre-existing printer fonts are spaced for paper, not the screen, so they suffer on screen. In Verdana, it's the regularity of the spacing that's just as important as the positive parts of the letterform.
Wider spacing wasn't enough, it also had to be more regular, this was thing that gave it an advantage in readability. Verdana really isn't wide, the sensation of width comes from the spacing.
DWH: Verdana's bolds are extremely bold. How did you decide on this weight?
The bolds also started out with bitmaps. At small sizes the only way to make something bolder is to double the weight: a stem of one pixel jumps to a stem of two pixels. In typographic terms that's a big step; very few bolds are as much as twice the weight of the normal until you get into the black or ultrabold range. The bitmaps dictated the weight.
DWH: Do you see any other faces having inspired Verdana?
One face I feel lurking is Bell Centennial. Both faces had some legibility requirements in common. And with similar limitations come some similar solutions--you simply couldn't design a Helvetica-like "c" which turns in on itself without it blocking completely on-screen
DWH: How do you feel about your work being given away?
As a type designer I try never to part with the rights forever. Even when a face is done for a particular client, they will license it for a certain period of time, then the rights will revert to me. People commission faces, use them for a while, get bored with them, then this gives me a residual benefit.
But in this case there was never any plan other than to give these fonts away. I didn't see what else they could say, realistically, except that they needed complete rights. It was up to me whether I would choose to work this way or not. I liked the project and people so I thought, why not?
DWH: Since other designers aren't yet designing fonts for the screen (probably because the mechanism for embedding them isn't in place), you weren't taking away from anyone else's sales. It seems to me that your faces will just serve as an inspiration to other designers.
It's true to say that type designers have been rather slow in dealing with the screen, but much more importantly, computer screen fonts are considered a sort of poor relation. Oddly enough, it is the buzz about the Internet that has made this a competitive issue.
I'm a believer in designing specifically for the screen. When you get up to larger sizes for display you can use anything on screen. But for type down at the most-often used sizes I remain persuaded that what we did was the best thing to do--to look at this as a screen exercise.
DWH: Do you think that OpenType will spur more type designers to design for the screen?
I would hope so--it would be good to see more screen work being done. But first there needs to be a demand. Graphic designers must create a market for these new faces by demanding faces designed specially for the screen. Designers may think they have a library of type that will be good enough on the screen so they don't have to buy a lot more faces. But as I've explained, text sizes really have to be designed "for the screen."
These new fonts could be sold to people who are tired of straining to read the screen, so why is Microsoft is giving them away? They'll be included in Microsoft's new browsers, and be freely downloadable at Microsoft's web site. I asked Simon Earnshaw, a typographer at Microsoft about this:
DWH: Does MS plan to keep these fonts as freely downloadable for the foreseeable future?
Absolutely. The whole point is to make them available to as many users as possible. The more people have the fonts, the more confident a Web author can feel when specifying the fonts.
DWH: Will these fonts be included as standard in future MS apps or versions of Windows?
DWH: Was there a commercial motivation behind this, or is this just Microsoft's gift to anyone who has to read text off the screen?
Both, as you'd expect. The provision of these fonts reinforces Microsoft's advances in making layout, appearance and control of Web pages easier, better and more attractive. And the real winners are the users. Typographically we now offer far more than any of our competitors; and this in a medium which traditionally has been a very poor relative of DTP and print. Of course we still have a long way to go, but we're at least demonstrating our commitment to addressing some of the issues.
DWH: In this case, Microsoft has acted as the patron saint to everyone who has to read type off a screen, and stands as a testament to the company's attention to detail. Microsoft should be congratulated for subsidizing new fonts that make on-screen reading easier for everyone.
If you're looking for existing faces that are easy-on-the-eyes, some of the best include: Avenir, Blueprint, PNM Caecilia, Gill Sans Book, ITC Legacy Sans, Lucida Fax, Lucida Sans, ITC Maiandra (excellent and casual), Memphis, Melior (or Bitstream's well-hinted Zapf Elliptical), Myriad Multiple Master (you can tune the sizes yourself), Sassoon Sans, Serifa (my standard screen font), and Univers or Zurich (especially the extended version).
I've found that the hinting on Bitstream's TrueType fonts is especially good, probably because Bitstream designed its own tools for the purpose and many of their fonts were hinted by a group of type designers who have since left to form Galapagos Design, the type design and production company responsible for all the digitization and hinting of all new ITC releases.
Monotype offers special "ESQ" (Enhanced Screen Quality) fonts with hinting by Rickner and his colleagues at Monotype. ESQ faces include Arial, Arial Black, Century Schoolbook, Impact, LetterGothic, and Nimrod. Choose any of these faces from the Monotype library and you get an ESQ version. And some of these are free: Arial and Impact are both freely downloadable from the Microsoft site. --DWH
|The message was sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you don't want to receive these emails from Facebook in the future or have your email address used for friend suggestions, you can unsubscribe. Facebook, Inc. P.O. Box 10005, Palo Alto, CA 94303|
On the first of July 1999, five trucks transported five letters from Madrid to Castellón. The five letters had been built in white reinforced concrete, in the city of Madrid. The five trucks were the same, the five letters were different. The drivers carried telephones so that they could attend to the orders of the directors of the action. As they moved through the landscape and the towns, the five letters formed a word.
The emergence of a word, an intruder, implies a culturization of landscape through thought. A culturization in motion that leaves no lasting mark. An ephemeral action, limited to four hundred and forty kilometres and ten hours of travel.
Nature is what a person sees through experience. The task of art is to generate thoughts able to propose new experiences. The task of photography is not to represent or imitate what exists, but to summarize an experience. Therefore, the pictures of this travel reveal the process of a different experience – just a few documents are left as a trace that freezes time, catalyses memory and at the same time challenges the disappearance of the ephemeral.
The movement of the five letters on trucks must be understood as a “travel with weight”, reminding us of the mass of the earth that claims for itself everything that moves on its surface. The aim of this ephemeral installation has to do with the earth (two ways of colonizing: the gaze and the footprint) and with time (two ways of measuring: distance and movement).
The emergence of these intruding letters, before the changing eyes of people, provokes a transformation of the different territories that are crossed by the road. A sort of spatial appropriation through the footprint and the gaze –a material confrontation between the language of the particular and the language of the universal.
The continuous and accelerating frictions between the language of the particular and the language of the universal, between simultaneously being one and part of a group, inaugurate the moment of invisibility. The globalisation of culture and the respect to difference call for a wordless consensus. Today it is necessary to make ideas invisible, in order to clear the path for an architecture made from the frictions of living as presentation — not representation — of life. The architecture of tomorrow does not ask for forms, but for the marrow of forms, an architecture with a succinct body, just enough to stand up.
If something characterizes today’s architecture, it is the architect’s capacity to explore and exploit, with a critical and ironic attitude, preferably with a sense of humour, the apparent restrictions and difficulties of the profession in our time. Only he who considers the clusters of overlapping and conflicting building codes, the economic constraints, the diversity in the client’s agenda, the political cycles, the mutability of program, the speed of change in society or the unpredictability of human behaviour as opportunities rather than constraints, will be able to seriously pursue this profession.
Because of all of the above, today we need a non-theoretical conversational mode understood as a creative apparatus that realizes the frictions between objects and ideas, the client and society, work and the city, between the architect and his perplexed discipline; if there was a time in which architecture was about lowering tension, establishing correlations and reaching agreements — as there was a time in which the tension became noticeable — now it is necessary to make these tensions even more tangible and use them as creative material. In this way, we do not only accept contradictions, but the optimistic assumption of these frictions as the true trace of our collective unconscious. The true material is no longer private obsessions, but the hidden collective anxiety, the other face of an artificial everyday, which must be explored as if only in the unspeakable, in the invisible, other shapes of truth could take cover… That which remains after a conversation because it hasn’t been said.
Luis Mansilla and Emilio Tuñón are the founders of Mansilla+Tuñón Arquitectos. They are Professors in the Architectural Design Department of the Architecture School of Madrid, and have been visiting professors at the Princeton University School of Architecture.
People have known for centuries that children resemble their parents. In the middle of the 19th century, however, an obscure monk discovered something remarkable: One could mathematically predict which traits parents would hand down to their offspring. This discovery revolutionized agriculture. It lent credence to some fairly sickening plans for weeding out "undesirables" in the human population. It also shed light on the process of evolution.
Born to a farming family in 1822, Gregor Mendel had no aptitude for agriculture, despite how much his research would affect the field later. He lived in Moravia (what is today the Czech Republic), in a society that preserved remnants of feudalism. Farmers were compelled to labor a few days every week for local landowners, getting only four days a week to farm their own land. As a youth, Mendel frequently took to his sickbed for weeks — even months — at a time, apparently not much looking forward to his future. His luck changed when a teacher recognized his sharp mind. Mendel eventually enrolled at Olomuc University, but finances interrupted his studies. Though he probably never felt a strong spiritual calling, he joined the Augustinian order, thereby escaping his financial worries. The monastery provided an environment that encouraged learning and experimentation, and here Mendel stayed for the rest of his life.
He fulfilled various duties as an Augustinian, including visiting the sick. When his superiors saw how much those visits troubled him, he was relieved of that responsibility. He taught science for years, but because he never passed the requisite exams for a teacher's certificate, he always had to work as a substitute. He proved best suited to science.
Before turning his attention to peas, where he would make his most important discoveries, Mendel bred mice, but the local bishop apparently preferred that Mendel find a more genteel area of study. Peas proved practical; they were cheap, took up little space and produced offspring quickly. So for years, Mendel carefully tended his pea plants, meticulously counting and classifying their offspring. No one knows exactly how many pea plants Mendel grew, but in the 1930s, one historian calculated that he may have grown more than 5,000 plants in 1859, and more than 6,000 in 1860. "We can also suspect that pea soup made a tiresomely frequent appearance on the menu of the monastery of St. Thomas," modern historian Peter Atkins has observed.
While Mendel worked, controversy raged around Darwin and Wallace's newly published theory of natural selection, but Mendel didn't participate. Instead he hammered out the mathematical principles of inheritance. Darwin, like many of his contemporaries, believed that parents' traits were mixed to middle ground in their offspring. Mendel astutely studied simple either/or characteristics such as purple or white flowers, and discovered that they are passed to offspring intact, although at different rates (often a 3:1 ratio). He also made the clever deductions that some traits can reappear generations later, after seeming to disappear, and that different characteristics are inherited independently of each other. Contrary to popular opinion, Mendel didn't discover genes, much less "dominant" and "recessive" genes. Instead, he used these terms to describe the appearance of a character, or what we now consider gene expression. After years of working with peas, Mendel moved on to other crops to verify his findings. In 1866, he published his results: "Experiments on plant hybrids" in the transactions of the Natural History Society of Brünn.
Although Mendel ordered 40 reprints of his paper, the whereabouts of only a handful are now known. Darwin was reportedly on the recipient list and, so the story went, didn't even cut the pages (necessary in those days to open papers) to read Mendel's work — an assertion that has been disputed. Only one scientist ever bothered to respond to Mendel's paper, and he responded with what would ultimately prove to be unfortunate advice, at least when viewed through the prism of later discoveries. Karl (or Carl) von Nägeli, of the University of Munich, had previously experimented with hawkweed, a plant that follows an obscure asexual reproductive method. Mendel started experimenting with hawkweed, and began to question his findings from studying peas. He finally gave up all experimentation when he became abbot of the monastery, though he continued to dabble in ornamental horticulture.
Mendel's main interest in studying genetics may have been simply to better understand hybridization (an interest Nägeli would have shared), rather than develop a general theory. Yet it's naive to think that he was just a humble monk who never hoped for fame. In fact, he did hope for recognition, but the only recognition he enjoyed during his lifetime was as a local meteorologist. Although he was said to remark, not long before his death, "My time will come," it's hard to know whether he really believed his own words. He died in 1884 never knowing how much his findings would change history. Mendel's work was cited in a few papers in the late 19th century, but it wasn't until the dawning of the 20th, motivated in part by a priority dispute about publication, that other scientists took note of the 19th-century experimenter.
After Mendel died, his original manuscript, "Experiments on Plant Hybridization," alternated between celebrity and obscurity perhaps even more than his theory. Around 1911, a teacher fished the paper out of a wastebasket in the Brünn Natural History Society's library. After being returned to the society's files, the manuscript spent time in the briefcase of a German botany professor. The paper went missing altogether under Soviet occupation, then turned up decades later in the possession a later-generation Augustinian monk and descendant of one of Mendel's sisters. Other Mendel descendants were overjoyed to take possession of the paper — until the same Augustinian monk allegedly learned that he'd be evicted from the cloister if he didn't hand the manuscript over to his fellow monks. A New York Times article in 2010 reported that the ministry of science in Baden-Württemberg was also involved in the dispute. Dynastic and monastic tensions notwithstanding, Mendel might have been mollified that his manuscript was finally prized.
For more information:
The Monk in the Garden by Robin Marantz Henig
Gregor Mendel by Simon Mawer
DNA: The Secret of Life by James D. Watson
"Mendel and Modern Genetics: The Legacy for Today" by Garland E. Allen in Endeavour Magazine, June 2003 issue
Evolution by Edward J. Larson
Evolution by Linda Gamlin
The Mismeasure of Man: The Definitive Refutation to the Argument of the Bell Curve by Stephen Jay Gould
Galileo's Finger by Peter Atkins
A Guinea Pig's History of Biology by Jim Endersby
Making Modern Science by Bowler and Morus
The Science Book edited by Peter Tallack
A Family Feud Over Mendel’s Manuscript on the Laws of Heredity (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/01/science/01mendel.html)
"The 100 Events" Life Magazine Special Issue Fall, 1997
July 19, 2011
Latin fonts seek Arabic counterparts for an intimate design revolutionBy Kaelen Wilson-Goldie
BEIRUT: For years, art directors, graphic designers and the writers and editors who occasionally poke their noses into the debate have been engaged in huge philosophical brawls over tiny technical details. For ages, they have been willing to throw down over the merits of serif versus sans-serif typefaces - whether or not letters should carry little decorative flourishes, or serifs, like the rightward kick on a lowercase a, the leftward angle on a lowercase d or the miniscule hat that caps a capital letter such as J.
Some find serif typefaces timeless, elegant and easy on the eyes for sustained reading. Others find sans-serif typefaces fresher, breezier and more contemporary. (One typeface designer says a serif font is a classy, well-dressed woman while a sans-serif font is a tragic fashion victim). The different text treatments and legibility issues online versus in print have only complicated these admittedly dorky discussions even more.
If you can take all of that without falling asleep then you are sure to find the book "Typographic Matchmaking: Building Cultural Bridges with Type Design," which was feted with a launch party, lecture and exhibition in Beirut last month, an invigorating read. One of the most interesting debates to emerge in the book - which was edited by Huda Smitshuijzen Abi Fares, an established graphic designer and expert on Arabic typology, and chronicles the experiences of five Dutch-Arab design teams that spent two years devising new Arabic fonts to match existing Latin fonts - is whether or not serifs apply to Arabic type at all.
Designers Peter Bilak and Tarek Atrissi, who collaborated on an Arabic extension of the Fedra font family, concluded early on that serif and sans-serif styles held no place in the history or tradition of Arabic type.
"The only way to make Arabic compatible with serif typefaces is to increase the contrast of the stroke modulation," they write. As such, they were able to match their new Arabic font to both Fedra Serif A and Fedra Sans.
Designers Fred Smeijers and Lara Assouad-Khoury, on the other hand, meticulously translated the rounded serifs of the Fresco font to an Arabic counterpart by inverting them.
"Typographic Matchmaking" is an exhaustive record of a pilot project spearheaded by Abi Fares and the Khatt Foundation Center for Arabic Typography. In an introduction dubbed "Arabic Type in the Age of Digital Production" that knowingly builds on the approximation of Walter Benjamin's famous and oft-
cited essay "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction," Abi Fares notes that the low cost and high speed of information exchange engendered by globalization, be it a force for good or bad, has introduced the pressing need for fonts capable of supporting multiple scripts, and has at the same time exposed Arabic fonts as vastly underdeveloped alongside their Latin counterparts.
Building font families in which Latin and Arabic scripts can be seamlessly interchanged is vital for bilingual (or trilingual) cities in the Arab world, whether for signage, advertising, branding or designing publications that speak more than one language. Right now, bilingual books, journals and magazines, whether in Arabic and French or Arabic and English, pose huge logistical challenges. Not only is the cost of translation high (and the precision of language elusive), the physical layout of pages is also significantly frustrated when different fonts are required.
But the ambitions of "Typographic Matchmaking" are more than mechanical. According to Abi Fares, Arabic calligraphers "have distanced themselves from the realities of contemporary Arab visual culture, and their work has become confined to art exhibitions rather than to applied design ... Calligraphy is still venerated as Islamic art's highest achievement and typography is seen as a mere commercial necessity with little aesthetic refinement and value." The "Typographic Matchmaking" project aims to encourage the design of digital Arabic fonts that preserve the Arab and Islamic world's cultural identity while allowing talented young typographers to mess around, subvert and manipulate that culture from within. Addressing the current shortage of Arabic fonts, their lack of variety and their incompatibility with both contemporary technology and current design discourse is, for Abi Fares, a step toward forging a mature design culture - and with it a more powerful, positive image of Arab culture in the world.
To illustrate the project's long-term potential - and the fonts' practical applications for those blinded by the book's descriptions of x-heights, ascenders, descenders, counterforms, glyphs, strokes and the maddening level of complexity wrought by the fact that Arabic type requires four versions of each letter depending on where it is positioned in a word - Abi Fares teamed up with the arts organization Xanadu to organize the Beirut launch party at Art Lounge on December 15. Fifteen Lebanese artists were invited to use the "Typographic Matchmaking" fonts to create artworks that reflect their vision of Beirut. (These works are a necessary antidote to the book's cover, which is surprisingly dull and visually unappealing.)
Of course, for all the technical jargon, "Typographic Matchmaking" does offer fascinating insight into how typeface designers work. One traveled to Cairo to photograph the city's vernacular visual culture. Another conducted comprehensive research on the historical use and development of Maghrebi and geometric Kufi styles versus more fluid Naskh calligraphy. All of them offer a humbling portrait of how painstaking typeface design can be.
"Type design is a private endeavor with a very public appearance," writes Nadine Chahine, who developed BigVesta Arabic with her former professor Gerard Unger (the Vesta and BigVesta Arabic fonts were used in Abu Dhabi recently for an exhibition in the Emirates Palace about the plans for Sadiyaat Island's cultural district). "The final result is like any relationship: It always needs more work, and it'll never be perfect."
"Typographic Matchmaking: Building Cultural Bridges with Typeface Design," edited by Huda Smitshuijzen Abi Fares, is published by the Khatt Foundation with BIS Publishers in Amsterdam. For more information, please check out www.khtt.net