H697 Type Assignment

This week’s assignment was to create a webpage which demonstrated a basic grasp of wordprocessing, css, and webfonts. I knew that which fonts I chose would depend on the text I used, so that was where I started.

I thought about using an essay from my MSc programme, but it’s a bit long and I didn’t want to deal with reformatting all the footnotes to get them out of .doc encoding. Besides, I knew I wouldn’t have time to hunt down unrestricted images to use with it. My thoughts then turned to public domain texts, and immediately went to Sherlock Holmes. (( One of my New Years Resolutions is to re-read all of the Holmes stories in publication order. )) I also thought about using one of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu’s letters, or a bit of Margaret Bayard Smith’s memoirs, but I’m not as familiar with them and it would have been harder to find a section which would provide a block quotation and good pull quote.

I thus chose to use A Scandal in Bohemia as my text. I’m familiar with it, it begins with a note from the Prince which I could use as a blockquote and includes in the beginning a classic Holmes line “You see, but you do not observe” which works very well as a pull quote. What follows are my thoughts on the design of the page, A Scandal In Bohemian Webfonts.

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H697 Week 2: Fonts

My final semester as an undergrad, I took a course on the history of the book, co-taught by the head of special collections and a professor in the English department. We started with early writings on clay tablets (and yes, I got to hold a little piece of ancient writing!) and carried forward all the way to a proof of a book by a poet who taught the occasional class at our college.

I bring this up because the historic fonts, and their creators, who show up in the first part of Ellen Lupton’s Thinking with Type are, in a way, old friends. Caslon and Didot, and of course Gutenberg and William Morris. I was aware that fonts changed over time, but not the theories behind them (humanist vs. modern, etc). That they were governed by aesthetic theory makes sense, and often seems to have been driven by the same impulses which drove interior design. It would be a fun exercise (for a real font designer) to create fonts based on some of the great interior designers. A Latrobe font!

The caveat in the last paragraph is due to the fact that I’ve discovered just how much work goes into creating a font or font family. If you want an idea of the thinking, criticism, and effort of a font, just watch Helvetica (2007). You’ll never see street signs the same way again. After this week of reading and learning about fonts, I’ve been analyzing every shop sign I see.