Digital Evolution – Bruno Maag

During a recent conversation, I was asked to give my impression of how the type industry has changed since I started my apprenticeship in 1978. For one, I can say that the job I apprenticed in doesn’t exist anymore. And, when I started with my apprenticeship, type design wasn’t an industry in its own right but attached to typesetting equipment, as a means to sell more machines.

Bruno certificate (web)

When I set up Dalton Maag we designed typefaces with print in mind. Display on screens was a secondary consideration, if at all. The BMW typeface we designed with our colleagues at Interbrand in Cologne, in 1999, required that the fonts also looked good on screen. That was probably one of the first projects where, from the start, both print and screen were considered conceptually, although print was still prioritised. Of course, specialist applications, such as interactive CD-ROMs required type for the screen but often type would be presented as image files.

BMW typeface

BMW typeface

One such project was for Dorling Kindersley in 1995 to create a bitmap font for its interactive CD products, for 72 dpi colour screens. Using Fontstudio – a font tool which is no longer available – allowed me to create the bitmaps for 9pt Garamond Italic, with a colour foreground and white background. Carefully selecting the shades between white and full foreground colour I created an anti-aliased character representation that could clearly be identified as Garamond Italic, despite the horrifyingly low resolution. Interestingly, my work showed that only 5 shades between fore- and background colour were necessary to emulate the design so well.

Soon screen display had to be considered with every project, and gradually the emphasis of use changed from print to screen. Generally fonts needed to be designed and engineered for resolutions of 72 to 120 dpi and extensive hinting was necessary to create even textures of type on the screen, as well as emulating the actual design features as closely as possible. In addition, the design and hinting needed to be considered for black & white, anti-aliased (gray), and ClearType rendering.

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An example of anti-aliased character

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An example of a clear type character

For the last five years the vast majority of the fonts we have designed have been primarily aimed at screen based devices. That the fonts work faultlessly in print is naturally expected. This has been made possible with the high resolutions available on contemporary devices, some with over 500 dpi. Hinting is rarely necessary anymore for smart phones and tablets but still needs to be taken into account if fonts are applied to other digital environments such as desktop or laptop computers, and legacy devices.

Although the output environment has changed, we have found that the actual process of designing and engineering the font has not changed that much. We still create initial sketches and design concepts which are tested for their creative originality and usability within the intended environments. Throughout the entire implementation process, when executing the design concepts to all the necessary characters, we bear in mind and anticipate the effects of design decisions on different platforms.

The major challenge of creating fonts for a digital environment is the diversity of output platforms. We cannot predict how and where fonts are used, and how the fonts are rendered. Because we have had the fortune of living through the entire digital revolution, we have the skill to design fonts that can live in the digital legacy, as well as in the digital present. Who knows what the future brings…

Bruno Maag

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Matching Arabic–Latin scripts in logotypes

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Azza Alameddine is a native Arabic speaker from Lebanon and has been working for Dalton Maag for a few months. Azza recently ran a workshop for colleagues discussing the characteristics of Arabic typography and explaining best practice for matching Latin and Arabic scripts in logotypes.

“It is our responsibility as type designers to educate graphic designers, typographers and branding agencies about the richness of Arabic calligraphy and the infinite typographic possibilities that can emerge from it.”

Azza Alameddine

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Old cities, old calligraphy

Arabic typography started in the Ottoman Empire in the 18th century, a few centuries after its Latin sister. If we can still see the major calligraphic scripts (Ruq’a, Naskh, Nasta’liq) in the streets of old Middle Eastern cities today, it is because talented masters of calligraphy have refined the proportions and shapes over the years, and the styles have survived because they were clear, legible and beautiful. The artistic development of different scripts also meant that there was more room to express the subtle sensibilities of context. We can actually see that some of the styles used in a specific context back then are still used in the same way today.

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Calligraphic Naskh in a 13th century manuscript. Typographic Naskh in a 20th century book.

New cities, ‘new’ typography

Although Arabic typography has always had its shortcomings, it has noticeably regressed in aesthetics and functionality in recent decades. In more modern cities in the Gulf, the geometric Kufi typefaces seem to be setting a trend in the matchmaking culture. Although Kufi has not been used as a reading script since the 13th century, its emergence eight centuries later as an Arabic counterpart for Sans Serif Latin typography (in display but also in text) seems questionable.

The truth is, what we call Kufi today (or some call a hybrid between Naskh and Kufi), is actually a simplification of shapes imposed by the rigidness of Latin typography and rationalised as inspired from ‘Kufic’ calligraphy. If to western eyes matchmaking of the Kufi and sans serif seems to work, to an Arab reader it looks completely primitive and obsolete.

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A Latin sans-serif logo matching a very badly designed Kufi-style Arabic;
The top part of ‘jeem’ is square, the ‘dal’ is too closed and too wide.

Arabic is known for its cursive, flowing and horizontal feel. Reading is made optimal when letters don’t really align, teeth are not repetitive; in other words, when modularity is reduced to a minimum. You can imagine then why the geometric typefaces seen everywhere in the Gulf feel as if Arabic typography is taking a step backwards. Geometric typefaces are not a good option for reading. They strip out all the characteristics that make text legible at the expense of matching their features with those of the Latin. A similar rigidity is found in the real Kufi script which is why it was abandoned a long time ago.

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Quran in Kufi script from the 8th century.      Recent magazine with ‘Kufi’ used as body text.

Although you could argue that looking at a logo is not really ‘reading’ and as a result Kufi could be a good option, in reality the script was never part of Arabic reading habits or visual culture. The only time Kufi might seem like a good choice is if matched with a display, bold, modular Latin. And so, by default, setting it in long texts is widely abusive to Arabic typography.

 

Arabic-Latin logo matching workshop

Azza’s workshop aimed at highlighting bad conceptual decisions that are often made when matchmaking Arabic–Latin typography today and finding alternatives to these.

The workshop started with an introduction to the different styles of Arabic calligraphy and the contexts in which they were most commonly used over the centuries.

Next, Azza showed recent pictures of calligraphy, lettering and typography taken from the streets of Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Iran and the United Arab Emirates to illustrate the current visual culture in the Middle East, and draw a parallel between each style’s old and current use. The aims was to bring awareness to the participants about the function of each style.

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Some examples of bilingual signs in the Middle East. Latin sans-serif with a Naskh, Ruq’a and Nasta’liq companion in that order. Matching is not an important issue in vernacular lettering, as priority is given to legibility.

The matchmaking concept

Arabic calligraphy is rich in scripts and each one is used for a specific purpose. But, when matchmaking Latin and Arabic, often designers used to the Latin script make choices which are not suited to the Arabic. People are used to seeing particular styles in particular contexts, so the choice of corresponding Arabic style is often made to fit with the feel and function of the Latin typeface rather than its features. A good matchmaking should convey the feeling of its Latin counterpart rather than its typographic features and traditions should be respected.

Workshop participants made their choices according to what had been explained: Ruq’a is informal, Diwani is fancy, Naskh is traditional, Kufi is display….Few of them were familiar with the Arabic script, but the concept was grasped by everyone and they started by copying the corresponding shapes from existing calligraphic typefaces. They had two hours to figure out the letters, draw them, and then try to match the contrast and proportions of the Latin. They did a great job in such a short time, and although not refined, the results are very interesting.

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H&M in Ruq’a as the Latin is informal. William Montrose

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Vivienne Westwood in Diwani to give it a swashy display feel. Ueli Kaufmann

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Balmain in Thuluth for the majestic feel. Michele Patanè

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Moschino in Kufi because it is appropriate in this case. José Solé

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Marc Jacobs in a slightly modulated Naskh because it’s the most appropriate choice in this case. Riccardo de Franceschi

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Paul Smith in a Ruq’a/Diwani hybrid to translate the informal handwriting but also the fancy feel of the brand. Damien Collot

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 Gucci in Naskh because the Latin can work as text. Deiverson Ribeiro

Conclusion

It is very important that we accept and respect that not all scripts convey the same feeling when given the same features. Actually Latin and Arabic are quite opposites in many ways; this is why even an interpretation of features is sometimes not possible. When you are matching scripts, they should respect your audience’s reading habits, work on their own, and at the same time live in harmony.

To twenty first century designers, calligraphy seems too traditional and ‘uncool’. Everyone wants to experiment with new styles and do something that nobody has done before. But the truth is, if you want enhance Arabic typography, the calligraphic legacy that the Ottomans have so generously inherited us must be preserved.

In the 15th century, calligraphers have refined Naskh to give it a sharper, more modern feel. Calligraphy is not set in stone; it can be modernised in many ways through typography. As long it maintains its primary function (writing beautifully), it can, with the right talent, be adapted into today’s reading habits and challenges.

And so, it is our responsibility as type designers to educate graphic designers, typographers and branding agencies about the richness of Arabic calligraphy and the infinite typographic possibilities that can emerge from it.

 

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Blenny Joins the Dalton Maag Library

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With summer in full swing here in the UK, it’s appropriate that the seaside is one of the inspirations behind the latest font to join our library. Blenny is a fabulously curvaceous fat face display font with elegant hairlines and exaggerated ball terminals. Conceptualized by our Font Developer, Spike Spondike, the design has a retro feel with lively and voluptuous curves. A true individual, Blenny is launching with support for two script systems, Latin and Thai.

Inspiration came from everywhere. Spike’s early sketches took ideas from her visits to the beach at St Leonards, on the South Coast of England, and encouraged her to play with a vintage, seafaring theme. Other influences included the retro typefaces used on old electronics equipment and gin bottles.

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As international type designers, we decided to include a non-Latin script in the initial launch of Blenny. It was Spike’s previous experience of working with Thai, and a trip to Bangkok, which prompted her to connect the diversity of shapes in the Thai script with the design of Blenny. Spike relished the challenge of creating the Thai glyphs whilst maintaining the key features of Blenny’s design. Creative decisions on the Thai in turn led back to refinements to the original Latin.

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The font includes a large number of ligatures to ensure that the tight spacing works for every letter combination. Individual glyphs such as the “a” seem to wrap around themselves in a hug, creating something that’s visually very pleasing. With its soft curves and retro feel it is perfect for branding, bold headlines, or product labels.

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Our Chairman, Bruno Maag, loved the design from the minute he laid eyes on it, and says he’s considering having a tattoo done in the font to mark its release. We’ve also been celebrating our new addition by creating the Blenny gin cocktail – just like the font it’s named after, a Blenny is bold, punchy, and has a touch of class.

35ml gin
15ml green chartreuse
1 piece of cucumber
Whole lime
10ml sugar
Shake and double strain into a highball with ice. Top with soda.
Garnish with a dash of Angostura bitters.
Created by – Byron Knight, Off Broadway

Licences for Blenny can be bought from the Dalton Maag website.


blenny full set

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Dalton Maag introduces single editions and simplified pricing

We have consolidated the Editions within our font library; each font is now distributed as a Single Edition, with all of the language coverage and typographic support available for that design delivered in a single file.

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We have also introduced a new pricing structure, with all fonts at the same price of £48 per font style for a 5-user licence.

If you have previously purchased font licences you will now also have download access to the equivalent Single Edition file. There is no charge for this update, and there will be no charge for any future additions, features, or technical updates within the Single Edition model.

Why are we doing this?

Our customer base operates in international markets and often has need for different writing systems within one project, for instance the languages of Western Europe plus Arabic. Although they are keen to use matching fonts, customers cannot always justify the additional cost and so are forced to resort to an approximate match for which they already hold a licence.

Our Single Editions will help more of our users to use the right font every time, and at no extra cost.

“It has long been bugging me that someone who wants to use a writing system other than Latin should have to pay more for the privilege. So, it is for this reason that we have introduced this new practise. Anyone can now enjoy the fonts designed by Dalton Maag for one single price, irrespective of the number of languages supported. This will see us fulfilling an ambition as a design business, simplifying both the process for licensing fonts as well as the logistics of font distribution. We do this in the strong belief that font licensing should be as simple as possible, and inclusive, acknowledging the global nature of our customer base and creating equality between the different global regions.”   Bruno Maag, Chairman.

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What should I do if I already own a license to a Standard, Corp, Arabic, Typographic edition?

If you have previously licensed one of our fonts you will find the new Single Edition already in your downloads area. This edition may have different naming when installed, so documents and templates created previously may need to be updated.

You can see our new editions at www.daltonmaag.com

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Oscine – New font from Dalton Maag

Today sees the launch of Dalton Maag’s Oscine, a new sans serif display font family with a geometrical design expression and a condensed feel. It combines quirky lowercase characters with more conventional capitals, and has exactly the right amount of character.Oscine web (1)

Oscine can have a very different feel depending on whether only the lower or uppercase is used, or the two are used together. If designers choose to only use the uppercase then the font is serious and hard hitting, behaving like a traditional grotesque. If they opt for including the lowercase then its personality becomes more playful and distinctive. This makes Oscine a very flexible display font that can be used in a wide variety of situations.

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The condensed proportions and high x-height make it a great choice for wayfinding, while refined draughtsmanship, shortened descenders and a strong personality ensure its suitability for headlines and titles. An unconventional lowercase gives Oscine its instant recognition factor. The characters are bold in their execution and the missing tails and spurs on selected letters (a, b, d, p, and q) render them delightfully idiosyncratic.

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Originally designed for low resolution TV screens by Bruno Maag and Ron Carpenter, Oscine has been tweaked and optimised for today’s print and high resolution digital environments. It is level one hinted, covers an extended Latin character set, and is available in two weights, a regular and bold. The weight differentiations are subtle, and carefully set for maximum impact at large sizes.

Oscine is available to purchase at www.daltonmaag.com

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