#79 • Garamond in Stripes

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Coffee Table Typography
#79 • Garamond in Stripes
By Coffee Table Typography • Issue #79 • View online
Type friends!
It’s been a few months since the last issue, and I am, without a doubt, attributing this to pandemic-induced ̶b̶u̶r̶n̶o̶u̶t̶ fatigue. I hope you’re well, wherever you are — I really do. As I type these words and plan this issue, I can feel resistance creeping in. But I am reminded that so many of your newsletters have kept me great company in my own mornings or evenings. If typography, language and design is our shared ground, then allow me to distantly pay you a visit to your inbox, even if inboxes aren’t the most welcoming of places. Thanks Gonçalo for getting me getting back on track with good material.
So, again. Type friends!
The good people at Pyte Foundry shared what I believe it’s the oldest type specimen that’s been recorded in high (very high) quality: François Guyot‘s 1565 specimen sheet is available for you to move around in high-res, and is nothing short of impressive. This was the first time that Romans and Italics were cut “with an intention that they should work together“ rather than Italic being “a text-letter alternative to the Roman.”
Lately I’ve been obsessed with architecture and typography, possibly thanks to 99% Invisible’s book. Allow me to share a few interesting finds on the topic.
The first one is one the nose: quite literally, typography made of floor plans. There’s an entire book, Architectonisches Alphabet, dedicated to floor plans which look like letters. And you can browse the whole thing.
For some more deliciously appetizing visuals, you can’t miss this piece by Creative Boom on Johann Lucchini’s Architype Alphabet — artworks combining typography and architecture really, really well. Not only are the pieces individually gorgeous, they also work together to create an alphabet, and I’m lost for words at how beautiful these are. On a similar note, if you’ve ever wondered what would happen if Accidentally Wes Anderson met typography, Mel Edwards has got you covered.
In non-architectural news, Microsoft is asking us for advice on what the next Calibri should be, and this is a Twitter thread certainly worthy of your time. What would you like to see?
Until next time,
—Ricardo

A court, wanting to ban... Garamond?
It’s true. Our old, trustworthy work horse, Garamond, has been on the news lately and under fire by the U.S. Court of Appeals, “encouraging the use of typefaces that are easier to read and to discourage use of Garamond.”
What?
“Maybe it was a string of obscure acronyms appearing in a relatively small typeface that hurt the eyes of judges,” wrote a commentator at the National Law Journal. Slate asked “What did Garamond do to deserve a D.C. Court’s wrath?” I have some sympathy for the judges. When a big part of your job involves reviewing deadly dull legal briefs, readability matters.
But why Garamond? Didn’t we like Garamond? Here’s what they say:
Moreover, if one’s going to choose a font with serifs, Garamond is easier to read than the Times New Roman and Century fonts the D.C. Circuit prefers. Garamond has a smaller “x-height” — a measure of the size of lower-case letters relative to upper-case letters. As Betty Binns points out in her 1989 classic “Better Type,” research tells us that a large x-height leads to “poor differentiation of certain letter pairs, such as lowercase n and lowercase h.”
But the mediums have been changing – and some research has shown that in serif typefaces, higher x-heights might perform better. And if there’s one thing we’ve all been doing for the past year, is spend more time in front of our screens.
The D.C. Circuit recommends that documents be submitted in Times New Roman or Century. Century is required for most pleadings in the U.S. Supreme Court, and the justices’ opinions are set in a variant known as Century Schoolbook. It’s a serious-looking font, but it scores low on tests of legibility. Times New Roman has been the default choice among lawyers for longer than I’ve been a lawyer, and seems to be the default for lots of published scholarship. 
Stephen Carter has a few more interesting personal thoughts on the matter, so please continue reading over at Bloomberg. As for me, I’ll keep my Garamond, thank you.
Ink Traps and Pals
Let me start off by saying this is a wildly interesting article on everything you thought you didn’t want to know about ink traps, but turns out you do. I’ll only touch on a few of the topics mentioned in this exhaustive article, but by all means, read the whole thing Toshi Omagari prepared for us — it’s pure gold.
What are ink traps?
The idea of an ink trap is creating edges of inside corners of printed graphics. You might see them in typefaces, as well as logos intended for printing. It is a solution to suboptimal printing conditions in which a larger area of graphics (e.g. line intersections) could result in ink smudge. If you want to minimise the effect, you counteract by shaving off the mass around the problematic part. See the last example here:
In typefaces, we’ve had a good example for many decades now. The famous Bell Centennial, designed by no other than Matthew Carter, was released in 1978 with a specific use case in mind: phone books.
By optimizing for small print and with its condensed small version, phone books would be able to be reduced in size, therefore reducing its size, reducing paper, reducing printing costs.
Carter’s solution was to cut the inside corner deep. The typeface looks super odd compared to the original Bell Gothic but works like a charm when printed at very small sizes like 4 to 6 points. It is intentionally imperfect at the outline stage, and counts on the bad ink to do the final touch instead of complaining about it.
Other forms of ink traps
Toshi mentions that the technique is the ink trap, not the shape. That’s because there are numerous shapes with the same intent, and numerous intent with the same shape.
Some typefaces used similar techniques to claim to be ecological. Ecofont, made in 2009 by the Dutch design firm Spranq, is a Vera Sans with holes in the middle with the aim to reduce ink. The text may look slightly lighter or you might notice the holes when used at large sizes, but it apparently reduces the ink needed to print the same text set in Vera.
Ecofont's takes ink traps to a different level; to make holes
Ecofont's takes ink traps to a different level; to make holes
But it’s not that simple:
These eco fonts that aim to cut down printing ink, as well as the school student’s famous ‘discovery’ in 2014 that thinner font at smaller size uses less ink all have the same problems. One is that home/office is a less-controlled setting compared to that of Bell Centennial where the designer knew exactly how the typeface would be used. People use fonts in all sorts of sizes and ink printers as well as laser (toner is a dry and powdery substance that does not behave in the same way, and the ink traps won’t work the same either).
How did the ink trap start?
According to the author, the first mentions of ink trap in typography, at least, date back to 1931, from the ad for Linotype Excelcior in the American printing industry journal Editor & Publisher, volume 64. Perhaps more interestingly, the term ink trap was referring to the problem and not the solution.
Light traps
I won’t cover the rest of the article, but Toshi takes the concept of ink traps to the next level with light traps — or how some typefaces were prepared for phototype, by preemptively making a typeface extra-sharp in the corners. Continue reading over at Toshi’s blog.
Not a middle finger.
Not a middle finger.
The Emotional Accessibility of Reading
David Balley gives us a short essay that packs a punch, touching on the arts of reading, typography, and accessibility.
David, along with a few others, have established the Readability Group, a project that surfaced many questions about the human reading experience.
“We want to understand how to truly optimise the process of reading for everyone! To do this, we are surfacing data that until now has been notable by its absence, causing otherwise rigorous practitioners to fall back on hearsay and anecdote.”
The Three Pillars of Accessibility
They lead their own work by the three pillars of accessibility — Emotional accessibility (is it appealing?), Technical accessibility (is it built correctly?), and Functional accessibility (is it working?).
It’s not a surprise to read that typefaces impact brands, and that one of the roles of a typeface is to manage and balance emotion with function. According to the author, emotional accessibility should come first; “why? Because if something lacks appeal in the first place, it’s already failing.”
Increasingly we see visual design decisions being made based on data. The knock-on effect of which is a need to qualify all emotional choices and remove subjectivity as much as possible. But making something technically and functionally sound is meaningless if it looks rubbish and no one wants it.
David reminds us that typography is emotional. We’ve seen branding redesigns that swap iconic, but slightly illegible text, for more legible fonts, but losing all emotional attachment in the process. This is known as functional design, and it is certainly in fashion (have you looked at the logos on your iPhone screen? How many are just sans-serif letters? Yeah).
Emotional typography
Functionality isn’t the end-all and be-all. It’s a means to an end. A solution to a problem. Typographic ‘fashion’ began in Western Europe in the mid thirteenth century with the emergence of gothic manuscript lettering. This later evolved into so-called ‘blackletter’ typefaces, which would be infamously appropriated by German propaganda in the 1930s. Many years later, there is still a strong association between the two, although luckily this has been changing over time.
Reclaiming the blackletter style through media and pop culture
Reclaiming the blackletter style through media and pop culture
So emotionally we see the blackletter style being very effective. But functionally it struggles. Its unusual shapes make it hard to read — we’re unfamiliar with them, causing our brain to make mistakes.
For more, keep reading over at Medium, and definitely do take a look at the Readability Group Project.
Typeface Du Jour ✍️
Simon Walker recently released Lovechild for Beasts of England, and it’s a charmer. According to the foundry,
Lovechild is the literal lovechild of New Forest and Room 205. It has 485 total glyphs, including a wide array of foreign characters, making it compatible with dozens of foreign languages.
Check out a sample PDF, here. Also check out the remaining typefaces from the foundry, which are all decently priced and incredibly detailed.
On the Coffee Scene ☕️
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