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#67 • Corgigraphy

Type friends! ✍️ Thank you for your understanding, and patience, regarding the little hiatus of CTT.
Coffee Table Typography
#67 • Corgigraphy
By Coffee Table Typography • Issue #67 • View online
Type friends! ✍️
Thank you for your understanding, and patience, regarding the little hiatus of CTT. My getaway across Japan was just the fuelling that I needed; from a typographical perspective, Japan is of course a box filled with surprises. Delightful, weird, quirky but beautiful surprises. More on Japanese typography soon to come, dear ones.
I’ve recently stumbled upon Velvetyne, a French foundry with the most refreshing, quirky, awe-inspiring and did I say weird—website. I love it to bits. It’s unique, insanely typographical (as it should be), and surprisingly consistent in its faux-brutalist design. Pay it a visit if you will.
Worth mentioning too, is the release of FontFamous — a typeface which contains vector logos of some of the most famous companies out there. I know, I know, icon fonts. But it’s certainly an easy way of getting CNN, Product Hunt and LifeHacker in your website, because you’re cool like that.
A very interesting read about the current state and dissection of font licensing came from Janina Aritao the other day. Different platforms have a different meaning of “owning a font”, and licensing agreements can get insanely complicated. So bookmark this one if you ever need to be sure you do font licensing right, next time you buy/rent typefaces.
Last but not least, the biggest piece of news from Apple: after San Francisco, Apple is releasing New York, a “brand new” serif typeface that you can download and use right now. The reason it’s “brand new” is because New York is actually a classic typeface from almost 40 years ago, designed by the ever so talented Susan Kare. A promising revival, in its classic serifed form, which I’m personally excited to see out in the world.
Don’t miss the most phallic medieval paragraph emphasis ever drawn on a book. It might not be safe for kids, but it sure puts a different spin on the traditional manicule.

Getting To the Bottom of Line Height
You’ve probably seen this already, especially if you follow design news of any kind, but I’m still taking the plunge and dissect this fascinating article by Marcin Wichary for Figma, on line height.
While this article announces how Figma is now handling height in typography, there’s so much goodness and details about the history of necessity of line-height rules, that it’s worth a slow, dedicated read even if you’ve never used Figma. Trust me, I’m a pseudo-engineer.
Typesetting in its early stages — a few centuries ago — had a very specific concept of line height.
Things were simpler in the days when type was made out of metal. There were two main roles — type designer and typesetter — and their work was constrained by the rules of the physical universe.
It also helped that by late 1800s, the type industry had figured out most of the basics. A life of a typeface would start on paper, with a type designer spending weeks or months sketching all the necessary letterforms. After they were done, the drawings of the typeface were turned into a font: actual physical blocks of lead.
Back then, of course, you needed to buy one or more blocks for each letter. You also needed to buy additional metal blocks for different sizes of text. Based on the physical size of the block itself, fonts of the same size could be bigger or smaller, their baseline (the line each letter “sits” on) placed higher or lower, and so on.
Notice some fonts take up more space than the others, and the baselines vary
Notice some fonts take up more space than the others, and the baselines vary
Lines of blocks would be placed one after another, which resulted in continuous blocks of lead. Typesetters would then insert a few narrow strips of metal to space the blocks out, and to make the text overall easier to read: to “breathe” a little.
Therefore, in the metal era, finding the right amount of leading (or line-height), was an art form of its own. Different block sizes and lengths of lines required different pieces to work with.
Enter the digital era
I love how Marcin begins this section:
Then computers ruined it all. As we transitioned from paper and metal to screens and software, typography inherited everything that computers have to offer — including bugs, incompatibilities, and updates.
Not everything was horrible, of course. Computers gave both type designers and typesetters unprecedented amounts of freedom. Pixels were subject to few of the restrictions of the metal universe — things could overlap at will, or stick out of their once-rigid boxes. As a typesetter, you could add as much leading as you needed without requiring any actual lead
In digital type, line height can be set to any number — including a number larger than the font size itself. And with this, software started implementing standards one after the other, setting the baseline for how we today deal with line height in typography in Photoshop and other software.
But getting used to the newfound freedoms took some time. Early graphic programs like Photoshop or QuarkXPress were still used to design for paper, where you had absolute control over fonts, and could measure and position everything with a lot of precision. As a result, they followed the same principles and the same vocabulary as print typography. A designer using Photoshop, for example, would still specify a 16-point type and then add 4 points of leading to it.
Then the web came along!
I won’t go as deep into summary here, as I would like you to read the article full length, but here’s what I learned in this section. In 1989, two decisions were made that changed how we today deal with line height in the web.

  1. They distributed the extra space that was once a strip of lead both above and below each line. They nicknamed the new systemhalf-leading.”
  2. The CSS spec defined 100% line height as 100% of the font size. This means that a 16-pixel font with a 100% of line height, has 16px of line height.
The reason for that change was simple: knowing the default line height of a font required loading that font, which could be really slow on the early internet. Multiplying line height by font size, on the other hand, could be done immediately. “We wanted to do as many calculations as possible without having to load the font,” mentioned Håkon Wium Lie, co-creator of CSS. 
These contrasts between the software and the web have, for very long, been the source of confusion and frustration between designers and web developers, causing the seemingly simplest of text alignments to become a burden to implement on the Web. At the end of the article, the corresponding changes to how Figma operates regarding text are announced and boy, they look… sensible. I can only hope that most design software follows this lead, too.
There’s a lot more information on line-height and the decisions behind it all, which I didn’t cover here. If this is your cup of coffee, please go ahead and read the article in its entirety.
It all started with a sign.
It all started with a sign.
The Design Process of Coniferous
Here’s a short, sweet, and visual one for you. The wonderful OhNoType have published snippets of the process of Coniferous, a typeface with a long-dated inspiration and with a multi-year building process. I’ll condense the highlights for brevity and prioritise the images of the process, but you can have a look at the full article.
20 years after spotting the “National Forest” calligraphic style on that sign, an initial sketch came to life, which remained just that: a sketch. However, it’s worth remembering that this is typically how all typefaces start: with a shitty initial sketch.
2012 sketch from the author
2012 sketch from the author
A year later, the author had a breakthrough with the style, which also serves as a tip to anyone starting out:
A huge takeaway from my time studying at Type Media was the idea that the type of pen used, the angle at which it is held, and the path it takes decides everything for you. At this time, I was obsessed with the Pentel Pocket Brush. Conveniently, when applying a majority of the nib flat against the paper, that pen produces a stroke not unlike that of a signpainter’s quill. I was struck by how suddenly the contrast felt closer to what the original was doing.
And the first digitisation, in 2014, of the sketches above resulted in the following:
At this point, I fell temporarily out of love with this design. After I graduated, I moved on to Hobeaux, Viktor Script, and the subsequent other typefaces that have comprised the early Ohno catalog. I was probably convinced that the National Forest Script was too cute to be intellectually satisfying to my increasingly esoteric taste.
But perhaps the biggest proof that type design is a long, arduous process in which multiple and unexpected changes happens at every step of the process, there’s the name. Coniferous, which will likely change after so many years:
I am aware that Coniferous is a dumb name, but I am trying to branch out in terms of parts of speech. Obviously was my first adverb typeface, and Coniferous is my first adjective. Soon, I will release my first preposition typeface, as long as I can get the copyright.
Another learning moment for me was noticing how the importance of consistent angles of the pen affects the overall consistency of the shape endings. Notice how the slopes are all consistent (in direction), which according to the author, was not the case in its early stages!
You can continue reading about the process, and check out the typeface over at OhNoType. It’s a magnificent headline font.
Language and the Invention of Writing
Boy am I excited for this one. What you see above is a chart, made originally by Matt Baker, tracing the evolution of our common alphabet from its Proto-Sinaitic root, around 1850 BC. There’s an even more fascinating video guide to this, which you should watch if you can.
Prompted by this book, which I personally did not know about, as well as the “Writing Revolution: Cuneiform to the Internet”, which I’ll too read soon, Joe Marshall brings us an entertaining and short thoughts on the evolution of writing. As my knowledge on this keeps getting fuzzy and it’s hard to pin down, I sure appreciated the brevity of this article.
Language is not an invention. As best we can tell it is an evolved feature of the human brain. There have been almost countless languages humans have spoken. But they all follow certain rules that grow out of the wiring of the human brain and human cognition. Critically, it is something that is hardwired into us. Writing is an altogether different and artificial thing.
Since we live in a highly literate culture, it can be a bit hard not to think of writing as just a different version of language – there’s the sound version and the written version. 
The origin of Cuneiform (arguably the most influential writing which shaped our current methods), in now Southern Iraq, as well as Chinese characters and hieroglyphics in the Nile Valley, are only a few of the many independent originations of writing in human history. It is hard to be certain which originations are entirely from scratch versus at least some influence from the idea of another writing system if not directly an adaptation of it.
From looking at the chart:
Historians of writing believe that our current alphabet originated as a sort of quick-and-dirty adaptation of Egyptian hieroglyphics into a simpler and more flexible way of writing.
You take a small number of hieroglyphic characters representing specific things, decide to use them not for their meaning but for their sound and then use this as a way to encode the sound of words in almost any language.
What’s really truly fascinating is that:
…most historians of writing believe that this invention – the alphabet, designed by and for sub-literate Semites living on the borderlands of Egypt about 4,000 years ago – is likely the origin point of all modern alphabets.
There’s a few more thoughts on the evolution of alphabets over in this article, and if you have some time, please watch the original video as visuals, here, really make the case.
Typeface Du Jour ✍️
The Future Mono — Klim Type
It’s no secret that I have a love affair with Klim Type Foundry. Everything they shape and write about is as close to gold as art can get — and over at Future Fonts (where yet to be complete fonts come to life), it’s the same story with Future Mono.
Their one liner describing Future Mono sold me easily:
Imagine if Paul Renner moved to Japan and Kyota Sugimoto asked him to adapt Futura to a typewriter.
It’s really hard not to love this, and it’s currently only at version 0.1. May I draw your attention to the “r” of the Medium weight?
Get it at Future Fonts for now, and you can also find its specimen here.
Typeface Du Jour #2 ✍️
And because of the hiatus, you get two typefaces instead of one. This week, I also stumbled upon Garnett by SharpType. Designed by Connor Davenport, it features 6 weights and defines itself as a contemporary grotesk that glows with the affable quirkiness of 19th-century metal type.
Originally conceived as Davenport’s undergraduate thesis project, Garnett started as a superfamily of 4 different typographic classifications—Grotesk, Antique, Modern, and Typewriter—with each style based on the type of its respective classifications’ time period. The accompanying book acted as a documentation of his process, a container for Davenport’s essay: The Banality of Typeface Design, as well as a type specimen for the 42 style family
You can buy Garnett directly from SharpType.
On the Coffee Scene ☕️
Dive Into Cafe Imports' New "Coffee Processing" Video Series
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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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