As I’ve been posting about lately, Cristoforo is a family of three fonts I am developing, reviving Columbus & Columbus Initials (Ihlenberg, 1892) and American Italic and American Italic Initials (Ihlenberg, 1902) as well as adding a symbol font. I am the lead designer, with the assistance of my new intern, Andrea Harrison.
I funded the development of Cristoforo through a Kickstarter campaign, which raised over $10,000 from backers. Woot!
Current ETA on finished fonts? February 2013. However, limited pre-release versions will be available to appropriate levels of backers starting in mid-July.
Here are my awesome backers, in tiers by their level of support.
Great Old Ones
Philip M. Payes
M Sean Molley
Juris L. Purins
H James Lucas
Sarah E Canzoneri
Alexander Y. Hawson, M.D.
Damon Loren Baker
Battlefield Press, Inc.
Fred Hicks / Evil Hat Productions
Derek M. Koch
Mark L Pappin
Galahad de Corbenic
David Occhino Design
Robert “Rev. Bob” Hood
Hans de Wolf
Stacey Van Keuren
Rt Andrez Mora
Elliott C. Bäck
Adam Hunter Peck
THomas W. Holt Jr.
Juan M. Escribano
Wayne A Arthurton
H. James Lucas
With about 48 hours to go (midnight Sunday PDT), my Cristoforo font project on Kickstarter is at about $9,300 in pledges from backers who want to get cool fonts and other swag. As $10,000 is my final “stretch” goal (the point at which I add Cyrillic support to the fonts), I was trying to decide how to both celebrate and encourage the last few pledges I need. I settled on releasing a free font that might be of interest to some H.P. Lovecraft / Cthulhu fans: Dark Symbols icons designed by Brennen Reece and Graham Walmsley, fontified by me, released at no charge under the Open Font License 1.1.
Download Dark Symbols font (Zip archive of .otf).
What are the Dark Symbols? Graham explains them on his blog, but basically these are rough-edged hand-drawn symbols, intended for folks to mark up Cthulhu-related role-playing adventures.
I may also incorporate the Dark Symbols in my Cristoforo Symbols font; that’s TBD. But in any case, enjoy this free font, and consider supporting Cristoforo in its waning hours on Kickstarter!
The current issue of Communication Arts has an article I wrote on a couple of recent attempts to make special fonts for dyslexics, entitled “Should Dyslexics Unite on a Typeface.”
Although the print magazine reaches a huge audience (yay!) it does impose serious space limitations. It also has a big lead time. I thought I would add a couple of possibly relevant thoughts here, as well as a new research link. Also, the online version of the article makes the graphics a bit small—here is a PDF you can zoom in on.
Here’s some new research showing that more generous letterspacing and line-spacing together can make text easier to read for dyslexics.
My biggest criticism was that despite some valiant attempts at testing, there was no evidence that these fonts really were any more functional in terms of reading than other reasonably legible fonts. Heck, they couldn’t prove that these fonts were significantly better than freakin’ Arial, which is a fairly low bar to clear in terms of improved legibility. (Not a slam against Microsoft, btw. They have sponsored both highly legible fonts such as Verdana, and lots of research on legibility. But neither Arial nor Helvetica is a great legibility typeface.)
One thing I didn’t get into in the article was that they could have chosen other things to measure besides the traditional reading speed and comprehension measures. Those are easily measured, but they are not very subtle. One really has to have a very large sample size of readers, or hose the typography pretty seriously, to impact those measures to a statistically relevant degree. People can read gothic blackletter without all that large a decrease in reading speed, but they sure don’t like it for running text.
Perhaps I am a bit hasty to discount simple user preference as a factor. But I am more interested in the actual impact on the reading experience and on people’s lives rather than what people say if queried afterwards. Luckily, there are things one can measure that get at this more directly than stated preferences, while still being a bit more subtle than reading speed and comprehension. I covered these in a previous article for Communication Arts, “How to Explain Why Typography Matters.” Check out the last few paragraphs on the second page, where I talk about measures like corrugator muscle activity (how much people wrinkle their brow), tension of the orbicularis oculi muscles (used in blinking, squinting and frowning), and even performance on creative tasks following a reading experience (it improves with better typography, even if that typography doesn’t impact reading speed or comprehension).
My Kickstarter campaign for the Cristoforo typeface has passed half its $6400 target in the first week, with 16 days to go! That’s fabulous.
I will be making my intern decision no later than Sunday! I’ve been holding interviews, and I’ve only had a handful of serious applicants, but they have including some really awesome people. I’m still open to hearing from more people before I make my final decision, but I have at least a couple of great candidates. The absolute drop-dead deadline is tomorrow (Sat June 2) at 2 pm PST. Anybody else who applies at this point needs to be local or able to come out here, open to part-time internship, and ready to send me stuff right away to support their application, and to interview with me on Sunday (preferably in person).
I keep on seeing versions of Columbus (the source for Cristoforo) in interesting places. I was sitting having a coffee with one of my intern applicants in downtown Portland just this past Tuesday, next door to Portland landmark Voodoo Doughnuts, and realized that they use a hand-lettered version of Columbus for their slogan, “Good things come in pink boxes,” seen here on one of said boxes:
I’ve also in recent months seen it on the logo for Juju, a bar in downtown Seattle:
… and for the signage and logo of Brides by Demetrios, a wedding dress and bridal chain. I saw it in the upscale Buckhead suburb of Atlanta, but they have stores all over.
I believe the picture above is their Indianapolis location, but the Atlanta/Buckhead one had the same neon sign. I just couldn’t get a good picture of it with my cell phone at night.
If at first you don’t succeed….
My first go didn’t quite make it, so I reconfigured the reward structure and relaunched my Kickstarter campaign to find backers for my new typeface, Cristoforo, a revival of some classic Victorian typefaces by Hermann Ihlenburg. It’s also known as the typeface of Call of Cthulhu (the H.P. Lovecraft roleplaying game), and as the original logo for Cracker Jack. The campaign will only last until midnight on Saturday June 17. Basically, people pledge money up front for the fonts (and other goodies) so I know the project is viable. Reward options for backers depend on their funding level, and include not only the fonts, but computer desktop wallpaper, T-shirts and posters.
Kickstarter is all or nothing. Only if the total pledges exceed the minimum funding target are people’s credit cards charged and the project moves forward.
If funding exceeds the minimum by enough of a margin, I can add more language support for central/eastern Europe (including Cyrillic), and even pay an intern! Otherwise, the intern will be an unpaid position. I hope to make intern decisions in a week, and just revised the job description again.
(Not familiar with this? Basically there are memos concerning the former President’s service in the National Guard in the early 1970s, and they make him look bad, and suggest that political pressure was what kept him in the National Guard. They are now fairly widely believed to be forgeries. The fact that the CBS TV news show “60 Minutes” initially treated the memos as authentic got several folks in trouble, and led to the departure of Dan Rather from CBS. The Wikipedia article is a fine start for more details.)
Wow. I can’t believe it. Dan Rather in a recent CNN interview isn’t just saying that they did the best they could with what they knew at the time, but also claiming that the Bush National Guard memos have never been debunked: ”the longer we go and nobody comes forward with proof that the documents were not what they report to be, the more I believe it.” He also said that ”those who found the story uncomfortable for their partisan political purposes attacked us at what they knew to be the weakest point, which was the documents.”
So Rather is zero for two statements there.
First, it’s clear that opinions among actual relevant experts are mostly restricted to the range from “can’t tell with the information I have,” to “the documents are clearly forgeries.” I have an MS in printing, have worked as a font and typography geek since the 90s, and I’ve testified as an expert witness in this area in court, so I include myself as somebody with relevant expertise.
I’ve given my analysis of the Killian/Bush documents in an interview and article on CreativePro.com. I have also presented this analysis repeatedly, starting with the conference at the St Bride Printing Museum in London in 2004, and at the Justified West conference in Vancouver in 2009, and at a talk for The Type Directors Club in New York City this past January. I got plenty of questions and discussion, especially at the St Bride conference, but in the end, nobody disputed my analysis at any of these presentations. That’s in front of audiences including literally scores of expert typographers. On average, they probably tend towards the left politically, so you should expect them to not like my conclusions and challenge them.
I believe I have clearly and specifically disproven the specific devices that were initially frequently cited as possibly used for the memos, the IBM Executive proportional typewriter, and the IBM Selectric Composer, which latter was pretty much a low-end typesetting machine.
Also, any typographers in the audience who were skeptical should have been encouraged by me offering $1,000 in cash out of my own pocket (an offer which I have repeated since, and hereby reiterate today) to anybody who could produce a device that:
- can replicate the line endings of the memos
- was available when the memos were supposedly written circa 1973
- is not an actual zillion-dollar typesetting machine (not a Linotype or Monotype typesetter, for example)
Nobody has so much as proposed a device, presumably because it doesn’t exist. It’s been eight years.
The last loud defender of the memos who claims some expertise is Dr David Hailey. With his unique access to higher-res scans of the memos from former CBS produceer Mary Mapes (who did not return my emails requesting such access, btw), he proved that they were not printed using Times New Roman, as some had claimed. What he didn’t realize at the time was that he had in fact proved that they were printed in Times Roman, the near-twin of Times New Roman. See my comparison of the two fonts. In private correspondence since, he has conceded that Times Roman is plausible, and further that the memos are likely forgeries produced on a later model typewriter. He still believes that they were typed, because he believes the irregular degradations in letter shapes were consistent with typing. I just take it as consistent with a combination of photocopying and faxing, but that’s not critical to my argument. Hailey is not arguing that some typewriter available at the time could have produced the memos, and that’s what would be needed for the memos to be authentic.
This rebuts Rather’s statement that the memos have never been debunked. There’s tons of evidence against them, and nobody can point to a device that could have produced them.
Now as to Rather’s assertion that those who attacked the memos did so for partisan political purposes, there are only two problems.
First, it’s what logicians call an “ad hominem” attack. Instead of attacking the argument, attack the messenger or their motives. The only problem is, that tells you nothing about whether the argument is true or false. So it’s just bad form.
More importantly, the suggestion that all those attacking the memos were right-wing partisans is simply untrue. I don’t usually talk about my political views here, but for once it’s relevant to my typographic views. So here goes.
I’m a flaming liberal in most people’s books. I donated money to the Democratic presidential candidate opposing George W. Bush in both of Bush’s elections. I don’t want to put into words the strength of my dislike of the former President and most of his policies (though there are a few things he did that I agreed with). When I was a kid growing up in Canada, even the Conservative party was to the left of the US Democratic party. My problem with Obamacare is that it doesn’t go far enough.
So I don’t like Bush, okay? But that doesn’t make the documents authentic. By the way, it’s not hard to find other liberal experts whose analysis of the documents is that they are fakes. For example, this fellow. So, no, not everyone attacking the authenticity of the memos is some right-wing ideologue.
Dan Rather’s inability to admit having made a mistake is getting a little old after almost eight years.
[Updated June 1 & May 29 on deadline and minor details, May 26 on time/duties/pay, previously May 6 on funding chances, possibility of part-time, clarified total working hours, and discussed what will happen if the Kickstarter campaign fails.]
Deadline for applications: 2 pm PST, Saturday June 2nd. (Though earlier is better, interviewing the week of May 29th.)
I’m looking for a type design intern, probably just for the summer, though I’m open to a longer period. This will be an unpaid position, but with an unusually good ratio of learning-plus-even-working-on-your-own-projects to ruthless exploitation. The duties of the position will be dependent on the success of the Kickstarter funding campaign for the Cristoforo typeface. I expect the project will be funded, but without enough money for a stipend. Assume it’s unpaid and you won’t be disappointed.
If the Kickstarter campaign fails? I am still considering that. I may still proceed to work on the typeface just to get it done. It’s nice to finish things. That would eliminate most of the graphic design work in the position, as that was all for the “rewards” for Kickstarter backers. I might still do the desktop wallpapers, and just maybe digitally printed T-shirts. It would also make a part-time situation make more sense, with less total work and less time pressure involved.
I’m located in Portland, Oregon. Helpful if you are too, or willing to relocate for the summer.
I’m open to negotiation, but as a starting point, I envision this position as roughly equal parts of the following areas of work:
- Helping me with font production on Cristoforo (in process) and especially Cristoforo Italic (not even started). There is room for some actual type design here.
- Helping create and deliver the rewards for the Cristoforo Kickstarter project (t-shirt, poster, 3 desktop designs; taking the lead on design, if possible)
- Reading suggested books from my substantial library on typography and type design. Expect to read at least one book every week, more if possible.
- Working on your own type design project(s) much as you would if you were doing a University course
- Receiving direct type design instruction as well as detailed and constructive feedback and critiques from me on your work, both on your own type design project and your help on Cristoforo
I initially viewed this as totaling a full-time position, but I had concerns that I will have enough work to keep my intern busy, given the limitations on my own time. Part-time is more plausible, maybe 15-25 hours a week. Mind you, it depends on how much you can do on your own type design as well.
The position will start in June. It could be remote initially if you are coming out later.
Salary is unlikely. If the Kickstarter campaign exceeds its funding target, then half the excess will go to my intern. It probably won’t be much, but I am hopeful the fringe benefits will compensate.
If you are working with me in Portland, you would likely be spending a significant amount of time in the finished basement of my home, in a small office area. (Perhaps not my existing home office space, we might take over the storage area for more space!) You’ll have a 24“ monitor to work with, and if you don’t have your own laptop I will provide a Windows laptop to use with the monitor. We could also meet elsewhere, as long as it is not too distant from my SE location.
I do not discriminate on the basis of age, race, gender/identification, sexual orientation, national origin, etc. If you do, we might not be the best match.
- Obsessive, detail-oriented personality
- Strong ability to follow through and finish lengthy projects
- Comfortable and able to both work substantially independently (for your own type design) and with considerable guidance/interference/supervision (on Cristoforo and possibly on the Kickstarter rewards).
- Some background in typography and graphic design
- Quick learner
- Very good English reading skills or ability to put in extra hours to make up for it
- Fair spoken English communication skills
- Solid computer skills. I am happy to teach type design and font production, but you need to be good on a computer already
- Either bring your own laptop or be happy working on Windows
- Be really sharp—brainpower is good.
- Able to work evenings and especially weekends. That’s when I’m free—though much work could also be done during weekdays when I’m busy at my day job. I am not talking about working more than 40 hours a week, it is a question of when we meet and work together.
- Able to relocate to Portland, at least for the summer. If not, we’d be doing a bunch of work by Skype and email and such. But a local (or relocatable) candidate would be preferred.
- Substantial graphic design skill/experience, able to take the lead in designing the poster, t-shirt, and desktop designs called for by the Kickstarter project. BFA in design, or working on a BFA, or equivalent experience, would be great.
- Do not require a special visa to work in the USA, or are willing to work for free. I am not inclined to deal with US visa/immigration bureaucracy unless you are an extraordinary candidate (in which case you ought to be getting paid more than I can afford to pay you!)
Bonus Points For:
- Quite comfortable with both Mac and Windows. I go both ways and my main box right now is a Mac.
- Have your own laptop to bring with you
- Have done noticeable reading or have real experience relating to type design
- Have some familiarity with FontLab Studio or other font development software (CorelDraw does not count)
- Experience with screen printing and/or letterpress printing
- Being a geeky intellectual type
Submit a resume, write-up, or whatever you like. References appreciated! Samples of, or links to, your previous work would be great, especially anything that shows your attention to detail and ability to complete long projects. If you have done any type design or font production, I’d like to see the actual font file, along with any comments you have on things you think are good and things that you know need work.
My email address is tphinney and the domain is cal.berkeley.edu.
[UPDATE 26 May 2012: The first try didn’t quite make it, so I revised the reward structure and re-launched! Link now points to the revised project.]
Yes, I’m starting a Kickstarter campaign to find backers for my new typeface, Cristoforo, a revival of some classic Victorian typefaces by Hermann Ihlenburg. It’s also known as the typeface of Call of Cthulhu (the H.P. Lovecraft roleplaying game), and as the original logo for Cracker Jack. The campaign will only last until midnight on Saturday May 19 [revised: June 17], which is 26 days from now. Basically, people pledge money up front for the fonts (and other goodies) so I know the project is viable. Reward options for backers depend on their funding level, and include not only the fonts, but computer desktop wallpaper, postcards, T-shirts and posters.
Kickstarter is all or nothing. Only if the total pledges exceed the minimum funding target are people’s credit cards charged and the project moves forward.
If funding exceeds the minimum by enough of a margin, I can add more language support for central/eastern Europe (including Cyrillic), and even pay an intern!
As mentioned previously, I’m working on a revival of the Hermann Ihlenburg typeface Columbus (1892, MacKellar, Smiths & Jordan / American Type Founders), under the name Cristoforo. But now I’m looking for samples of its differently-named italic companion, American Italic (Hermann Ihlenburg, American Type Founders, 1902). I have two from the ATF 1906 specimen book, shown at right. But neither shows a complete character set at a reasonable size. If anyone has the actual metal typeface, especially in a medium to large size, I would love to get a full specimen. Or, if you have a printed sample showing all or most characters at a largish size, that would also be great!
[Update April 21/22: Just got some great pics from Jackson Cavanaugh (Okay Type), showing the relevant pages from the ATF 1899, 1900, and 1903 specimen books! Amelia Hugill-Fontanel at the Cary Library is also digging into it. I am still thinking about scans, but the pics are a fab start. I am already in good shape for Columbus Initials, the swash caps font. I'd love to hear from anybody who has metal type for any of these faces!]
I’m already in decent shape for a sample of the upright version of Columbus, unless it turns out the full typeface has more characters?
Click on any image for a larger version.
Watch this space for news on the related Kickstarter campaign coming in a few days! Get in touch if you would like a sneak preview. [UPDATE 23 April 2012: I am now funding development of this typeface on Kickstarter! Deadline is May 19.]
Sometimes printing a PDF is legal, but making a really pretty book might not be.
I just want to make pretty hand-made hardcover books, like these I did years ago:
Using real sewn signatures like these:
Without becoming a criminal.
I’m trying to make some one-off fancy hardcover books from some PDFs I have. Unfortunately, doing so may often be illegal, even when printing the document to make a less nicely bound book would be legal.
“What the heck,” you say? Well, here’s the thing….
Making a really high end hardcover from a document such as a PDF involves rearranging the pages (“imposition”) in order to print them in sets on sheets with more than one page per side, so that you can fold them and sew them in groups (“signatures”).
Commercial e-books sold as PDFs are often encrypted with flags on the PDF permit printing, but not modification. Nor do they permit “document assembly” which is exactly what I need: the ability to rearrange, add and delete pages in the PDF. Unfortunately, common approaches to doing imposition involve generating a modified PDF: one in which the pages are at least rearranged and put more than one to a (now larger) page. So far, it looks like many (perhaps all?) imposition apps do it this way and don’t work with PDFs that have restrictions on modification (perhaps on PDFs that have *any* access restrictions?).
Now, I can easily break the encryption on a PDF, if that PDF allows opening but just has restrictions on specific uses like modification. If I do that, I can then use imposition software on a PDF that allows printing but not modification, and make a fancy book.
But (at least as I understand it, and admittedly I’m not a lawyer) the Digital Millenium Copyright Act says that circumventing an access restriction is always illegal, regardless of why I do it. That makes me a criminal if I do that, even if for the sole reason of making a pretty hardcover book. Even when printing the pages out normally and slapping glue on the spine, like a typical softcover “perfect-bound” book, is permitted and legal.
(Perhaps a lawyer could successfully argue that the flags on PDFs that allow some uses but not others are guidance, rather than effective technological measures creating access restrictions? That is, unlike encryption of the entire PDF with a password needed to open it. That argument worked for Adobe v Monotype over the embedding flags in fonts. But I have neither the interest nor the deep pockets needed to fund making that argument in court.)
[Update: As seen in the comments on this post in the first 18 hours, the legal situation is more complicated and more uncertain than I thought. Fair use may indeed offer a defense. Given the uncertainty, and my desire to stay on the right side of both copyright law and the DMCA, my behavior is not going to change much with this knowledge, though it is comforting.]
Why are PDFs set this way in the first place?
So I was wondering, “why do publishers use the particular combo of settings they do, that is bugging me?” It turns out the answer is “because that’s the only reasonable option Adobe makes easily available to them.”
Although the PDF format allows for very granular permissions settings, the Acrobat Pro and InDesign UIs do not. They give the choice of “no protection” or one of four option combinations, which determine the settings of the 10 different permissions.
Most publishers of commercial PDFs are going to want to allow commenting, and disallow document modifications. That gives them exactly one choice, which also disallows “document assembly.”
Nobody is going to go for the “everything but page extraction” option:
… and short of that, allowing document assembly disallows commenting, for some reason I don’t understand! Perhaps Adobe thought that this would only be used by books going to a professional high-end print production house, who would not need to stick comments on the PDF? Teh broken.
Of course the use case for comments in general is much broader than for imposition, so publishers quite reasonably pick the option that is bugging me.
I see there are third party tools that do allow such granular option choices (e.g. Nitro PDF), but of course they are not so widely used.
Ideally Adobe would change their content creation and Acrobat Pro applications to allow more granular settings of the 10 different functionality permissions in PDFs, without forcing content creators to resort to specialized apps.
We could also fix this by changing the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA). I gather circumventing an access control mechanism is always illegal unless a specific exemption is carved out for that use. Allowing an affirmative defense for cases where the access control mechanism is circumvented to enable functionality which is either generally allowed by the licensor, or allowed by fair use, would be cool. I’m sure it won’t happen, though, and it would be a long wait.
What else can I do?
I can go to the copyright holders and ask their permission to break the encryption on their PDFs for the purposes of making a fancy book from each, for my personal use. Getting the permission of the copyright holder gets one off the hook for DMCA violation.
(I would also consider it okay to sell such a book to somebody else, if that third party could prove to me that they had licensed the printable PDF as well. But that isn’t my intent in making the books, I really just have personal use in mind.)
I have in fact been doing this, with good luck to date. Kind of a pain to track them down, but authors so far have been really great. They say sure, I can break the encryption on my PDFs for this specific purpose. I guess they quite rightly figure that if I were an evil hacker I wouldn’t be asking nicely about something that I can do easily enough without permission.
Hey, I love e-books. I read more than I used to thanks to e-books and my Kindle. But there are some books that for various reasons I would like to have a really nice physical hard copy of. Some of these I have already licensed as a PDF, and that PDF and the license allows me to print it out. So I’d like to do that, and not end up breaking the law just because I want to make a really nice book out of it, not just pages stuck together with glue, like a paperback.
A “signature” is a group of sheets of paper, folded in half, which can then be stitched through the spine of the group (the fold), and also stitched to the other signatures. In traditional offset printing the signature usually starts out as a single huge sheet, folded repeatedly, and trimmed so that the pages are only linked at the spine at not at top and bottom. But if you want to make a fancy book from a PDF, you could just use pages twice the size of the pages of the original PDF document, folded in the middle, to make four pages per sheet. As almost all my originals were 8 1/2″ x 11″, and I have a printer capable printing 11″ x 17″ pages, double-sided, I decided to do that.
Books using sewn signatures instead of glue alone are much sturdier and more resistant to pages coming loose. If the sewn signatures are also sewn to thick cloth tapes which attach to the covers, the book can be extra resistant to the entire book block coming loose from the binding as well. This is the style of binding I am doing in current projects.
More About Imposition
Now, the interesting thing about signatures is that it complicates the positions of your pages. To understand what I mean, try taking three sheets of paper in a stack. Fold the whole set in half to make a booklet. Now start numbering the top right corner of each page. You’ve got 12 numbers.
When you take the stack apart, the first sheet has page 1 on the right half and page 12 on the left. and on the other side it’s pages 2 and 11. Let’s call it 12-1/2-11. The next sheet is 10-3/4-9, and the final sheet is 8-5/6-7. In a full on book there would be multiple signatures, each starting in this kind of sequence. So if I’m printing 8.5×11 pages on 11×17 sheets, I need to rearrange the original pages, and put more than one on each side of a sheet, to get the right pages on the right sheets. Add in possibilities like throwing in some blank or unnumbered pages at the beginning, and multiple signatures, and it can get quite complicated.
Luckily this is an old and fairly well-understood printers’ problem. It’s called “imposition,” which is the art of figuring out which page numbers go where. Of course, in serious offset printing a single sheet might be folded a bunch of times before cutting it apart… that’s really complicated! So there’s imposition software that sorts this out for us. The one I’ve heard the most about is called Quite Imposing and deals with the complexities faced by printers putting many pages on a sheet, among other things. It’s a plug-in to Adobe Acrobat. But it costs $475 USD.
However, for my purposes I only need two pages on each side of the sheet. For that use, I found the amusingly named Cheap Impostor software does everything I need for a fraction of the price of the high end applications. It’s only $35, and it’s shareware so you can try before you buy. I’ve already pumped over a thousand pages through it. The author was quite responsive for tech support, as well. Highly recommended.