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#61 • Interpunct for the Future

Type friends! 📚 If you don't watch anything else this week, just please ensure you watch Marcin Wich
Coffee Table Typography
#61 • Interpunct for the Future
By Coffee Table Typography • Issue #61 • View online
Type friends! 📚
If you don’t watch anything else this week, just please ensure you watch Marcin Wichary’s talk entitled The Abridged History Of Having Fun With Keyboards, which is, as you’d expect by now if you’re familiar with Marcin’s work at all, one of the most fascinating talks I’ve seen the entire year. From his passionate views on the evolution of keyboards, to original letter-art from the early 20th century until today, this talk is filled with heart-warming quirks on type, text, keyboards, computing. Simply unmissable, friends.
Speaking of unmissable, you may remember Marvin Visions, a unique typeface designed/modernised by Mathieu Triay a little while ago. Mathieu has been doing some relentless additional work on the typeface, having just released 10 new weights and a variable font — nothing short of amazing. But he also shares a thorough write-up of the process, including word exchanges with the original designer and a few original sketches, you can’t miss this one.
Also really exciting to see, is the wonderful people at The League of Moveable Type coming back full force with amazing new content. They’re releasing a new series of videos as easily digestible typography best practices and advice, with 3 videos in the pipeline so far. Don’t miss this, and don’t forget to congratulate Micah on a job well done 👏.
One of the typefaces that got my attention (and plenty of others’, too) was Optician Sans, with an interesting inspiration source: optician’s charts. Pete Barr also made a little animation demo of a bouncy—dancing ampersand, using the GreenSock JS library and, of course, plenty of talent. A very cool little experiment in animated typography.
Wishing you all a wonderful holiday season — and remember that books are always in season. Sincerely,

Medieval Instagram
Medieval Instagram
Medieval Selfies — Yes, Really
On this wonderful article by Medieval Books, we’re given a glimpse into the world of selfies — a few hundred years ago. Something truly remarkable that I had no clue about.
Self-portraits of medieval book artisans are as exciting as they are rare. In the age before the modern camera there were limited means to show others what you looked like. In the very late medieval period, when the Renaissance spirit was already felt in the air, some painters made self-portraits or included themselves in paintings commissioned by others.
The medieval painter Jan van Eyck showed himself in the portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and his fiancé, adding the date 1434 to the picture, making it a particularly early selfie. In books, two kinds of artisans were able to produce self-images of themselves on the page.
Scribes could doodle themselves using ink and pen, and decorators could do the same with brush and paint. We almost exclusively encounter self-portraits made by decorators, perhaps because scribes lacked the skills and equipment to produce something meaningful.
Even so, decorators rarely put themselves in the picture. The exceptions to this rule are real treats, as this post aims to show: they provide sneak peeks into the workshops of medieval artists.
Frankfurt, Staatsbibliothek, MS Barth. 42 (late 12th century)
Frankfurt, Staatsbibliothek, MS Barth. 42 (late 12th century)
The way we know these are self-portraits is pretty straightforward and fascinating at the same time. If there’s a drawing of the decorator on a page, a conscious decision on their part, there’s usually a sign that links the decoration to the artist:
This is precisely what the nun Guda did: she depicted herself inside an initial letter D with a banderole (title banner) that reads “Guda, sinner, copied and decorated this book”
The author raises a very amusing point about these selfies, in which they’re easily associated with a kind of advertisement in the cases where they added their own names. After all, it was shameless self-promotion in a way – as if to say, “If you like this, you know who to contact!”
It is somewhat perplexing, however, that patrons allowed artists to add put such spam in their newly purchased books – especially when showing a decorator and his wife drinking on the job.
I’ll leave it up to you to read the article in its entirety, and also check out the other selfies examples (here’s my favourite, undoubtedly the cutest). For now, just be grateful you no longer have to draw your own selfies every single time.
Typeset in the Future: WALL·E
We’ve previously talked about Dave Addey’s wonderful articles for Typeset in the Future — and now with an entire book on the subject out, Dave was kind enough to give us a very thorough preview, featuring the timeless classic animation movie WALL·E.
This article features several dozens of screenshots from the movie with its corresponding type details — yes, we’re not mistaken here, that really is dedication to the craft.
Dave starts by setting the facts straight: the movie is not titled WALL-E, or WALL•E, but:
Our hero’s name is not, as you might think, WALL-E. Moreover, it definitely isn’t WALL•E. His name is WALL·E, and that dot is an interpunct, not a hyphen or a bullet.
Why does this matter? The interpunct isn’t just a nice little dot to use for style, on no. An interpunct is used to separate words in Latin and ancient Greek (as spaces weren’t invented until several centuries later.) The interpunct is still in use today—it’s the official decimal point in British currency (£9·99), and is used to represent the dot product of two vectors in mathematics (x · y). Most relevantly, it’s used in Japanese to separate titles, names, and positions, as in “課長補佐 · 鈴木” (Assistant Section Head · Suzuki).
Starting with the most obvious question: the typeface. That futuristic looking typeface is Gunship, designed by Dan Zadorozny who’s indeed famous for sci-fi looking type design, which you can find on Iconian. Perhaps a very little interesting detail that everyone (myself included) would miss, is that Gunship has a set of both uppercase and lowercase letters, uncommon for this type of sci-fi typefaces.
It is interesting to find a few examples and use cases of Futura, then, a traditionally classic futuristic typeface (did I really just write this?), not even because of its name. An example is this scene showing the Buy N Large Bank, which is indeed set in Futura Oblique:
BUY N LARGE BANK signage, set in Futura Extra Bold Oblique
BUY N LARGE BANK signage, set in Futura Extra Bold Oblique
Funny enough, the self-promotional poster for WALL·E doesn’t use Gunship, but something which is remarkably close:
WALL·E’s self-promotional poster is also a fine example of Handel Gothic, one of the movie’s supporting typefaces. Originally designed in 1965 by Donald J. Handel, the font has become a mainstay of design futurism. (Indeed, it is quite possibly the originator of one of our rules for futuristic type: Make straight things curved.)
Here’s where Dave’s deep, thorough research starts paying out its dividends, making connections everywhere. The movie draws a lot of inspiration from some Walt Disney references and even Disneyland — so it’s fascinating to know that this latter typeface, Handle Gothic, was actually the typeface used on the iconic EPCOT Center at the theme park in Florida, in 1982:
Handel Gothic enjoyed a particular resurgence when the type family was expanded in the 1980s, and will be immediately familiar to anyone who visited EPCOT Center at Walt Disney World in Florida, which opened in 1982. (Later in this article, we’ll look in detail at the theme park, which is now named simply Epcot.) The original EPCOT Center logo was Handel Gothic all the way
The rest of the article covers so many more references, both to type, cities, design quirks, and so much more. It will easily take up 20 minutes of your time, so save it for a rainy day perhaps, though I promise you it’s worth it. If you like this kind of deep dive, don’t forget to consider getting his new Typeset in the Future book.
It's Nice That | Mak Kai Hang discusses the typographic differences within Chinese graphic design
Variable and Parametric Fonts. Differences?
The development of new typefaces is linked to the technology available to make and reproduce them. Although the idea of parametric and variable fonts has been around since the late 1970s *(yes, 70’s, as we’ll see a bit further down), it hasn’t been until fairly recently that designers the morphing, shape-shifting type — and the technology to create them — has become available.
So, variable or… parametric fonts? As a web designer, why should you care about their differences?
Generative or variable typefaces:
These are typefaces which consist of a single font file, but allowing them to be modified within constraints in ways that they can achieve multiple weights, widths, and several other attributes — all defined by their font designer. And these, you can control with CSS, for example.
Parametric fonts, on the other hand,
Work within a well-defined scope, in between a set of defined parameters, providing widely adjustable alternates for things like letter width, stroke, and x-height.
So why and where to use parametric fonts?
A good recent example is Antique Gothic, which,
…was created by Prototypo, which, along with Metapolator, is a good example of a current project experimenting with parametric type. Dan Rhatigan, senior manager of Adobe Type views parametric type as reinforcing the idea that a typeface is not necessarily fixed until it’s delivered to someone.
“I think of tools like this as grouped in a bucket with what a few folks are trying to do with delivering web fonts from source files, instead of delivering stuff that’s already been generated or produced,” he says.
Antique Gothic, parametrisation
Antique Gothic, parametrisation
Notice above how the font designer controls the anchors themselves, getting immediate results for its final form. While this is all pretty neat, in theory it’s far from being a recent technology, you may be surprised to learn that it was back in 1977 when Donald Knuth introduced Metafont, a programming language reliant upon geometric equations to construct its letterforms. For type systems, parametric coding allows a user to globally apply changes to each component of a letterform — such as its stem width or serif — based on algorithmic values defined by the type designer.
So, in essence, parametric systems are different than variable fonts, by interpolating (or morphing) from two or more master designs for each character. The most advanced and complex systems generate whole fonts from a single, cleverly designed master font. You can keep reading the original article over at Medium for a few more details on this topic.
Typeface Du Jour ✍️
Handjet — Rosetta Type
What a refreshing typeface from Rosetta Type. Handjet is… different. It’s not your typical pixel font, nor a 80’s revival of old LCD screens.
Designed by David Březina, the Handjet type system contains eleven elemental shapes, all working as a single variable font. Thus, users can interpolate between the shapes and produce custom variations. There are two main variants. The first one is honest, with elements fitted on the 32-pixel grid perfectly; two elements next to each other to form a stroke. The second one is a cheat – the elements seem to be following a 16-pixel grid, but break away as they please.
Note, this is also a highly customisable typeface via the tweaking of several different parameters and a wide range of OpenType features.
How can you not love :rightdooooooooooog: to be turned into this?
We love it, and it also contains a generous licensing system for the time being, which means you can experiment with it as you please. Pay it a visit.
On the Coffee Scene ☕️
New Evidence Shows Coffee May Help Prevent Parkinson's & Lewy Body Dementia
Did you enjoy this issue?
Coffee Table Typography

A love for words, letters, language—and coffee.
A digest of curated resources, articles and knowledge sharing about the beauty of typography; in design, on the web, or books.
You will read these over your morning cup of coffee, while the aromas of freshly ground beans are still in the air, quickly realising that words are beautiful and that you might need that second cup after all.

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With 💙 from Montreal, Canada