Most of my recent research has been driven by my current
academic programthe MA in Typeface Design program at
of Reading, England. This part-time program began in October
2000 and was completed in September 2002.
I wrote three essays for the course, one of which is available
here. These essays had a 3000 word limit, so are necessarily
limited in many ways.
Balancing typeface legibility and economy:
Practical techniques for the type designer
Typeface legibility and economyare they adversaries
or can they work together? Their relationship is filled
with tension. Common wisdom says that efforts to increase
legibility can reduce the amount of text on a page, whereas
techniques used for efficient use of space can jeopardize
legibility. Is this the real situation? This essay looks
at some of the variables that affect legibility, particularly
those under the control of the type designer. From this
foundation, it continues with a summary of techniques used
in the design of economical typefaces throughout type history
and evaluates their impact on legibility.
Multitudinous Alphabets: The design of extended latin
The canonical twenty-six letters of the Roman
or Latin alphabet, in their capital and small
forms, serve many languages of the world very well. From
past centuries up to the present day, type designers have
focused on these basic characters and their accented forms.
For many languages and uses, however, these symbols were
not sufficient, so linguists devised extensions to the Latin
alphabet. Although useful, these new or borrowed letters
were a bane to the printer and required type designers to
surmount technical problems and tackle difficulties in design.
The situation is not much different today. Technical advancements
have made the manufacture of type easier, but many design
This essay begins by describing how extended Latin
letters were invented. It then focuses on some specific
design issues by reviewing the work of type foundries through
many technological eras. Linguistic issues, though interesting,
are not covered in depth, nor are extensions of designs
to other scripts such as Greek or Cyrillic, or the many
important issues surrounding the design and use of diacritical
This essay is undergoing revision in preparation for future
publication (hopefully!). A trimmed-down version was presented
at the September 2002 ATypI Conference in Rome. Contact me
if you would like to read the current version.
The influence of pen-based letterforms on Devanagari
Typefaces are, in essence, realisations of written letterforms.
Movable type was invented in order to make it easier to
produce literature using those letters. Many early typefounders,
however, did not attempt to slavishly copy the shapes of
pen-written symbols. They sought to give them new forms
that were faithful to the alphabet, yet appropriate to new
technologies. This essay seeks to investigate the influence
of pen-based letterforms on Devanagari typefaces. To what
extent have typefaces conformed to the written shapes that
preceded them? How have some typeforms departed from scribal
calligraphy? Should modern designers look more to manuscript
or to printed forms for inspiration?
The brevity of this essay and corresponding limitations
on research make it impossible to attempt a complete history
of Devanagari type, to critically review individual letterforms,
or analyse the social acceptance or rejection of various
typefaces. After a review of Devanagari manuscript samples,
several typefaces from different historical periods are
reviewed for their level of faithfulness to those styles.
The essay concludes with a set of principles for designing
type drawn from the work of the most successful designers
and their relationship to the calligraphic tradition.
The necessary brevity of this essay makes it only moderately
useful to others. The topic really requires more in-depth
research, particularly in the area of manuscripts available
to early typefounders. Many of the illustrations are less-than-ideal,
since the sources are difficult to reproduce. If you would
like to review this essay please contact me.
My largest research project was a 10,000-word dissertation
on diacritics, with a focus on the problems type designers
have to confront when designing them.
Problems of diacritic design for Latin script text faces
Early in the development of the Latin script, special marks,
separate in nature from the basic letters, began to be used.
Since the innovation of movable type, these diacritics,
or accents, have been a special challenge for the
type designer. Their size, spacing and design can be critically
important for the reader, but can also cause many problems—with
letter fit and line spacing in particular. The design of
these additional marks, and their harmony with the rest
of the typeface, is important to success.
This essay focuses on these problems and the techniques designers
have used to address them. After a review of the definition, origin
and classification of diacritics, each major problem is identified
and analysed, with an emphasis on how they have been, or could be,
overcome. The analysis concludes with a review of remaining problems,
some recommendations for the type design community, and comments on
the future of diacritic design.
Please note that this is a lower res (200 DPI) version.
If you really want the 9.6 Mb version let me know!
The discipline of an academic program is a great motivator.
It will be difficult to continue academic research now that
my program is done. Nevertheless, I do hope to investigate
some of the following topics, motivated primarily by whatever
font development projects currently on my plate. If you have
information on any of these areas please contact me!
- The importance of thick-thin contrast in non-latin scripts
- The history of latin typefaces designed specifically for
- How does language affect type design?
- The design and spacing of punctuation, in both latin and
- Essential elements of letterforms, particularily for specific
- The influence of latin type design on non-latin typefaces