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#73 • Sans Relief

Type friends! 👋 As I sit here today, feeling slightly trapped within the boundaries of my small Montr
Coffee Table Typography
#73 • Sans Relief
By Coffee Table Typography • Issue #73 • View online
Type friends! 👋
As I sit here today, feeling slightly trapped within the boundaries of my small Montreal apartment, I can’t say it’s not hard to find the motivation to bring you the latest typographical goodies.
The days we’re living today, I believe they’re the best suited to be in the pursuit of novelty; deviate a bit from the traditional and lhabitude, to try and find wonder from different angles. Personally speaking, in these past few weeks I haven’t exactly been in that mood, fixating instead on the next real problem ahead, and clinging to the ones I can control. Not anymore, however. And so, I feel like it’s now my responsibility to bring you something new, exciting, a good distraction in which you may find yourself exploring.
I’ll start by sharing, then, this visually pleasing collection of Las Vegas Casino Logos composed by Reagan Ray. There’s as much typographical and visual diversity as you can expect, given a range of a few decades. Reagan Ray previously brought us a collection of gaming consoles’ logos, too.
For those of you who fiddle a lot with Google Fonts, this nifty browser extension, Snapfont, has been making the rounds lately.
You will also enjoy Use and Modify, a curated collection (with beautiful, large showcases of type) of beautiful, classy, punk, professional, incomplete, weird typefaces. Best of all, they’re all open source (hence the name — you can modify them). This one made it directly into my bookmarks.
Lastly, for web developers, this recent article by CSS-Tricks on considerations when choosing fonts for multilingual websites is a highly recommended read.
From my desk,
—Ricardo

Oscars 2020: Best Typography
Mathew Butterick, also known in our community for Practical Typography (still the type manual I recommend the most for curious friends), recently wrote about typography at the Oscars. Let’s have some fun.
Mathew does a one-line movie review and a more extended typography review — as it should be, of course. I’ll only quote a couple of them, so head over to the original article to read more about the movie and the fonts.
Movie: Entertaining, though conventional & formulaic.
Typography: The narrow sans serif appears to be Tungsten, which aptly evokes the mid-’60s. But the positioning of the actor names relative to the title is a little sloppy and constricted.
Movie: Well made, if we overlook some jarring shifts in tone.
Typography: I don’t recognize the font (it may be custom lettering) but it seems to be evoking a hand-printed, propaganda-poster feel, which feels apt. The poster spares us another swastika, though not the colors of the Nazi flag. The jagged black background behind the title lettering seems to reference the SS logo. I like that the typography at the top of the poster is given a similar hand-printed look.
Next on Mathew’s typography review list: The Irishman, Joker, Little Women, Marriage Story, 1917 (which used Futura, an interesting choice from a time perspective, if you know its story), and a few more movies. Head over to the original article.
Let's Heal Font Licensing
From FontsArena, here’s an interesting short article that explains just how much font licensing is broken, both for desktop and web fonts. Font licensing is one of those aspects which hasn’t really changed that much in the last years (despite some great efforts from projects like FutureFonts, for instance). Here’s the tl;dr:
Desktop font pricing
For desktop variants, fonts can be used in an unlimited amount of projects and some are even used in television and streaming for series and movie titles, a type of project usually including bigger budget and profitability.
Yet desktop fonts have a fixed one-time payment price and nobody has to pay per project or pay additional licensing fees if the project becomes successful and surpasses a certain number of readers or viewers. Please keep that in mind while I mention web fonts.
Web fonts pricing
It’s very hard to find a shop or marketplace where web fonts are not priced per domain and/or per number of page views. The strategy or reason this pricing was based on remains a mystery. With such a big discrepancy between essentially 2 formats of the same font, the decision for this pricing seems to be based solely on “we can’t limit desktop, let’s get money from where we can”.
I wonder why nobody thought of properly pricing desktop based on value it brings, rather than compensating the low desktop price from the web price, the case where fonts bring by far the least value compared to all other mediums.
Clearly, this is something for both foundries and font authors to reconsider and work together on. Perhaps it’s no wonder that their big (biggest) clients have started creating their own custom typefaces, which in the long run is a more cost-effective alternative than paying these massive amounts in subscriptions fees.
Check out the original article for some more thoughts on this. Also, don’t forget to check FutureFonts for a refreshing take on licensing, and David Jonathan Ross’ Font of the Month Club.
International Eye Charts: Better Way to See You
Here’s a fun one: eye charts. How much thought have you given to them? In this interesting short article by At issue Journal, we’re given a sample of what goes on in the design of eye charts.
Eye exam charts are not designed to be elegant or trendy.  They are based on medical science and geometric measurements. We can’t speak for how “optotype” is rendered in Chinese or Hebrew, but the letters on the English charts are all caps with no thicks or thins in the letterforms. The same principles undoubtedly apply in other language eye charts as well.  In the case of children and people who can’t read, eye charts test the ability to recognize familiar animals and the direction a hand is pointing. 
Dutch eye doctor Hermann Snellen developed the now famous Snellen eye chart in 1862 by asking patients to cover one eye and read letterforms on a 5×5 grid, while standing 20 feet (or 6 meters away).   The optotype is based on simple geometry in which the thickness of the lines equals the thickness of the white spaces between lines and the thickness of the gap in the letter “C”.  The height and width of the type must be five times the thickness of the line.
As you’d expect, but probably haven’t thought of until now, different languages (and ages) call for different types of eye charts: different symbols, different kinds altogether. Here’s one, for example, for children, with animals and hand gestures:
For children
For children
Most of you reading this newsletter are probably used to Roman letters for eye charts, but of course this is only a small part of the story. There are also different Snellen charts for other writing systems, like Chinese and Japanese below:
To answer the question “which typeface does an eye chart use”, we really must go with a flat “it depends”. Arguably, the English letters used resemble those of a slab serif. There are more modern takes on the Snellen chart, which to be fair is more than 100 years old. Here’s some more information about these charts if you’re curious.
Fixation: it's fixating.
Fixation: it's fixating.
A Short History of Body Copy Sizes on the Web
From Florens Verschelde, here’s a bit of a curious read for the web-typography curious out there. How did we get from 10px Verdana in 2003, to the insane choice paralysis of typefaces we have on the web today? Read on. I’ll only over a few aspects, so make sure to read the article in full.
When I started working on Web stuff around 2005, there were two extremely popular font styles for body copy:
10px Verdana;
11px Arial.
Those two styles appeared on maybe 90 percent of professionally built sites, to be seen by users on IE5, IE5.5 and IE6 on Windows XP and earlier versions. They also looked similar, thanks to heavy font hinting, lack of font smoothing or sub-pixel rendering, and the fact that Verdana has a bigger x-height so 10px Verdana was roughly equal to 11px Arial, only with slightly wider letters.
Let’s not forget about those 800x600 display resolutions, either.
Of course, there is no way to reliably translate typographic points to pixels, because pixels don’t have a universal physical size. Screens have different pixel-per-inch ratios. The original Macintosh had a 72ppi screen. Twenty years later, in 2004, screens in the 80–90ppi range were common. A few years laters, pixels had gotten a bit smaller, and screens were often in the 90–120ppi range, while most iPhones had a 160ppi resolution. Despite the popular misconception, and even before the Retina transition started, the Web’s resolution was not 72ppi; it never was a single thing.
In November 2006, iA’s Oliver Reichenstein ran a simple experiment: he compared a magazine’s body copy at arms’ length and a typical site’s body copy at a common, eye-to-desktop-screen distance. The website’s text looked much smaller. Oliver argued for setting the body copy to the browser’s default, or 100%, which by convention is 16px in common browsers. In 2006, and even a few years later, it was a revolutionary proposition. Web designers and clients thought it was extreme. Five years later, we still had to fight for the death of 11px body copy (example, in French).
Florens then proceeds to give us an idea of how this process went, going from 11px to 17px as screens increase in resolution and ppi. There’s a lot of history to unpack here, which I’ll leave for you to read, but I’ll leave you with Floren’s ending notes:
I’m also sad that we’re somehow chasing after device makers, operating system and browser developers, and trying to tweak font sizes every other year to adapt to what is out there in the market. The very concept of raising font size a bit depending on the screen width should raise eyebrows. Isn’t it the device’s job to make sure that font-size: 100% is readable?
Typeface Du Jour ✍️
Hatton — by Pangram Pangram
Hatton, designed by our good Pangram Pangram, makes it into the typeface feature simply because it is as quirky as it is elegant. Defined as:
A homage to the history of the London district Hatton Garden and distills the character and nuances of local street signage, ghost signs, shop fronts and landmarks that are unique to this neighbourhood.
The studios worked together to distill the character and nuances of local street signage, ghost signs, shop fronts and landmarks that are unique to the Hatton Garden location, while also capturing the imperfection and hand rendered nature of the found lettering.
The result is an eclectic and idiosyncratic typeface that expresses the history of craft in the area through a set of unique characters, ligatures and glyphs.
So charming.
So charming.
Make sure not to miss its website, which is just absolutely wonderful and a true inspiration.
On the Coffee Scene ☕️
What Is The Difference Between Burr Grinders and Blade Grinders?
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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