Designing for unfamiliar character sets

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Psymon
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Joined: Wed Mar 30, 2011 5:50 pm

Designing for unfamiliar character sets

Post by Psymon » Wed Sep 20, 2017 2:06 pm

Hey, folks!

I've been working for the last couple years on a blacketter font, called "Wickednesse," which you can see here (in its current state)...

viewtopic.php?f=10&t=6966

I first posted it there back in March of this year, then learned that there was a LOT of work that it still needed done on it, worked on it off-and-on over the summer and then reposted it just recently -- and almost immediately afterwards saw all sorts of things wrong with it still (some things very obvious, too, much to my embarrassment). ;)

So I'm still working on those things, but my question here is more specifically about the Cyrillic and Greek/Coptic character sets. The basic Latin set for this font comes from scans of a 17th century text, to which I expanded with all the extended characters and many, many ligatures and stuff, but for those "foreign" character sets I had to basically just make them up from scratch, of course.

I can't say that I'm very happy with them, and I doubt I'll ever be able to do an especially good job on them, if only because I'm utterly clueless about those languages and those fonts -- to me, for the most part they just look like a bunch of meaningless scribbly lines, and little more. :/

At this point, I'm wondering if I should even keep them in the font, or just scrap them completely, and just have my font be simply a Latin set.

Any thoughts? I just feel so clueless about those character sets, and can't see that I'll be able to make much (if any) improvements to them, never mind kerning or anything (since I have no idea how to write/spell in whichever of those languages that make use of those alphabets). But if perhaps they do add some value/use for my font, I suppose I could keep them anyway. I really have no idea at all if I did a "nice" job on either of those sets (especially the Cyrillic). :roll:

Dick Pape
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Re: Designing for unfamiliar character sets

Post by Dick Pape » Wed Sep 20, 2017 9:45 pm

What were your goals for this font? Why did you start it in the first place? Have you achieved any of those ends?

Regardless, you seem finished. Your further efforts are only giving you more anxiety, not more love or satisfaction!

Wrap it up. File it away. Go on to a new design.

The art of fonting should be a never-ending happy experience!

Alfred
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Re: Designing for unfamiliar character sets

Post by Alfred » Wed Sep 20, 2017 9:52 pm

Dick Pape wrote:
Wed Sep 20, 2017 9:45 pm
The art of fonting should be a never-ending happy experience!
Well said, Dick! Image
FC11.0 Pro (Help) + MT7.0 (Help) • Windows 10

PJMiller
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Re: Designing for unfamiliar character sets

Post by PJMiller » Wed Sep 20, 2017 10:22 pm

Been there, done that, got the T-shirt!

Let me tell you about Kelvinch.

This was my first font, I started out totally clueless about fonts but with a lot of experience of CAD programs and designing things on a CAD system.

I didn't know what characters were necessary and which weren't, so out of insecurity I included everything. It was a lot of work and took a long time and it just kept on growing. Eventually I realised that I had to draw the line somewhere so I stopped adding characters.

This is not the correct way to design a font.

You could try to include all character sets but the additions would end up benefiting fewer and fewer people.

The correct way to do it is to think about the audience you are aiming for and think about how your font will be used. This will help you decide if a particular feature or set of characters will be useful or not. If it isn't useful or is only useful to very few people then you have to ask yourself if it is worth your time and effort to put it in.

Who is your font aimed at and how will they use it ?

If you want to put Cyrillic in your font then are you aiming your font at medievalists or at ordinary computer users who just want a medieval looking font ?

I would have thought that a font like 'Wickednesse' will be of interest to medievalists (believe it or not there are a few medievalists in Russia so medieval Cyrillic may be of interest to them) and so if I were to be producing a font like 'Wickednesse' I would prioritise the inclusion of the characters within the MUFI standard rather than Cyrillic and perhaps add Cyrillic later if I had some spare time and if I thought it was worth the effort.

The MUFI project has a website and the specification is available as a .PDF document here.

I hope this helps.

MikeW
Posts: 499
Joined: Mon May 20, 2013 2:51 pm

Re: Designing for unfamiliar character sets

Post by MikeW » Wed Sep 20, 2017 11:27 pm

I approach things like it is a job...and usually it is. One of the hardest things for a contractor to do is guard against "feature creep." Having defined goals is important. That doesn't mean scope cannot be expanded, just be clear when primary, secondary, etc., goals are accomplished. Then set a project aside with a well earned atta boy. Then, later, see if the desire to expand is there, define a new goal and work towards it.

Psymon
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Re: Designing for unfamiliar character sets

Post by Psymon » Thu Sep 21, 2017 4:16 pm

Thanks so much for the replies here, everybody! You've all given me a great deal of food for thought, and I think I've come to a decision about what to do re my Wickednesse font. I'll get to that (my decision) momentarily, but if only to respond to some of the questions that were asked (and which I should ask myself, too)...

Re why I started this font, the seed for that was actually planted over three decades ago, when I was only about 20 or so. I've been interested in early printed books and early typography ever since I was a kid, and around that time I picked up a curious little facsimile reproduction of a 1561 grimoire entitled "The Detestable Wickednesse of Magicall Sciences," by Francis Coxe. It's quite a short little book, almost a pamphlet, but apart from the somewhat intriguing subject matter (it's about a man who became involved with "Satanic rituals" and stuff, but then found God and repented, etc.), upon my first viewing of its pages I was immediately struck by the totally awesome blackletter font used in it. Wow! I thought it was by far the best, most almost-creepy looking blackletter font I'd ever seen used -- in some ways almost amateurish, even a bit sloppy, perhaps, and yet that's actually what made it look so good in that context.

Many years later, in the mid- to late 1990s, I got on discussion forums about typography, and through there met many type designers, and began to get intrigued with that -- and it was about a decade ago that I first had the idea of creating a font out of the one used in that little old grimoire, and that's when I first scanned the pages, and started to create a font from it.

But then frustration set in, I got sidetracked with various other projects, and put it aside -- until a year or two ago, at which point I picked it up again and decided to really make a go of it. And the rest is still on-going history, of course. ;)

So that's how this all got started. As for the question of what I see myself actually doing with this font (when it's finished), and what use it might be, well, for one thing I've also been publishing ebooks in recent years, and so for starters I intend to publish a sort of neo-facsimile version of that original Francis Coxe volume, both as an end in itself as well as being the perfect way to share/display the font as well.

After that, I intend to totally re-do all the titling on my main Psymon website -- I haven't done any updates on that site in years now, but that will certainly be a rather significant thing to do, to re-do it all using my own self-created font (my current "logo" was created just using Cloister Black, with a decorative initial for the "P," so nothing really special or personalized, in my mind -- and all the titling in the various sections was simply Cloister Black, of course).

And finally, apart from those projects, there are other ebooks that I'd like to do -- perhaps some more grimoires (notably the "Malleus Maleficarum" would be really awesome in my font, if only with that for titling here and there in it). And I also want to make my font available for others to download and use as well, of course -- what they do with it, who knows???

Oh, and before I do ALL of those things, I actually want to create another font -- another historical roman/italic font, one that's more legible, of course, and yet which still looks "old." There are some really, really nice historical fonts out there, some of which are free, but most of them don't actually look "old" -- off-hand, the Fell font is a notable exception, but that's not a freebie (I want to make something that people can get/use for free), and it's not "mine." Just as with this Wickednesse font, I'd really like to do something for me, and by me.

So that's the "why" of my doing this font. :)

Now, as far as going about creating my Wickednesse font, from the original text I was only able to glean the most basic character set -- the entire extended character sets, and extra punctuation, symbols, etc. I had to "make up" on my own, of course. Never mind Cyrillic and Greek/Coptic! Those were essentially created from scratch.

The reason that I endeavoured to include those latter character sets was because when I started getting "serious" about creating this font, I thought I'd shoot for making it compliant with WGL4 standards -- don't ask me why now, I don't remember! I seem to recall that if you want to get your font "accepted" in certain places, that's a necessity. I suppose I'm actually well on my way to getting there, but at this point I've pretty much given up on the idea and don't really care any more.

Nevertheless, before "not caring anymore," I did strive to get those Cyrillic and Greek/Coptic character sets done -- but it's been quite frustrating, especially the Cyrillic, and that's brought me to this discussion here recently, whether I should even bother at all with either/both of those. :roll:

To respond a bit to PJ's reply...
PJMiller wrote:
Wed Sep 20, 2017 10:22 pm
The correct way to do it is to think about the audience you are aiming for and think about how your font will be used. This will help you decide if a particular feature or set of characters will be useful or not. If it isn't useful or is only useful to very few people then you have to ask yourself if it is worth your time and effort to put it in.

Who is your font aimed at and how will they use it ?
Well, I'll personally get some great use out of it (as I outlined above), but who knows what use anyone else might get out of it, beyond that. It's rather too "gothic"-looking for anyone to use in, say, a wedding invitation or anything else (like many might use other blackletter fonts), so I'm really not sure who might find use for it -- your guess is as good as mine, I suppose.

But personally, for my own uses, I'm actually quite thrilled with it -- I think it's coming out looking pretty wicked. Ha ha :twisted:
If you want to put Cyrillic in your font then are you aiming your font at medievalists or at ordinary computer users who just want a medieval looking font ?

I would have thought that a font like 'Wickednesse' will be of interest to medievalists (believe it or not there are a few medievalists in Russia so medieval Cyrillic may be of interest to them) and so if I were to be producing a font like 'Wickednesse' I would prioritise the inclusion of the characters within the MUFI standard rather than Cyrillic and perhaps add Cyrillic later if I had some spare time and if I thought it was worth the effort.
Yeah, I really just don't know about this Cyrillic set for my font any more -- I think I might just scrap it, actually. I feel kinda sad about that, but there's just so many issues with it. For one thing, a genuinely "historic" Cyrillic font would look totally different, the Cyrillic alphabet back in that period was unrecognizable to what it became later. For my font, I was only going after the look of "antiquity," while keeping it useful for modern readers/users -- but there's ultimately nothing authentic about it at all.

And then there's the even bigger issue that I have no real idea what I'm doing in Cyrillic! Same thing with Greek/Coptic, of course, but it's even worse with Cyrillic. :shock:

And so I think you've all, through this thought process, helped me come to the decision to rather-sadly scrap the Cyrillic from my font -- but I do think I'll keep the Greek/Coptic, if only because I can foresee that that might be useful at some point in the future. While I have no immediate need for it, many of these early texts that I've been fond of working on do occasionally insert a word or phrase in Greek, and so to that end it could well be handy to have.

So thank you, PJ, for your various thoughts on this -- and the same to everyone else who replied here, too! I do feel a bit sad about "giving up" on the Cyrillic, but I think it might be the best decision for me (and for my font) at this time. Who knows, though, what the future holds -- maybe some day there will be a "version 2" that does include it or something, if ever I do feel up to the task. :)

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