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Issue #56 — The Skinny Eisenhower

We're back, type friends! With an almost endless backlog of interesting news, type releases, and fasc
Coffee Table Typography
Issue #56 — The Skinny Eisenhower
By Coffee Table Typography • Issue #56 • View online
We’re back, type friends!
With an almost endless backlog of interesting news, type releases, and fascinating articles to go through, the coming-back-editions are always the hardest ones to curate. I’ll start with the simplest, but perhaps most exciting news — Serif Source is finally getting italics 🎉 Adobe have written all about it on their blog, so check it out for more details. For now, all you need to know is that after 4 years, the Italic version of Serif Source is also open source.
For design & type inspiration, I also urge you to check Emergence’s website, perhaps the most refreshing typographic layout I’ve seen in a very long while. Another very cool project launched recently by Icons8 is Font Shaming, a showcase of the font pairings startups are actually using, rather than relying on whatever works beautifully on paper or Sketch. Apparently Facebook likes the combination of Georgia + Helvetica quite a bit.
Noemi Stauffer, editor of the Fresh Fonts newsletter, recently published a fantastic article reviewing the 30 best free open source typefaces out there today. An unmissable read, and an encouraged bookmark for a very long time, too.
And while we’re at it, Erik Kwakkel shared the most fascinating print of a book with an incredible typographic layout: text in a checker-board pattern. Things get more interesting once you realise this is a design from the 15th century, so do, please, take a peek. Speaking of taking a peek, there’s a screenshot of Puck magazine of an 1881 edition which features very original, typography-inspired emoticons.
Cups consumed in the making of this edition*:
2 espressos, 1 matcha latte, 2 cold brews, 1 Americano, 1 chai latte (it was late).
*don’t worry, not in the same day.

A Spectre is Haunting Unicode
A Typeface Mystery: The Legend of Eisenhower’s Skinny 'S'
Restoring Walbaum, a 200-year-old Typeface
What a wonderful article by Quartzy, written by Anne Quito. Not only it’s giving us insight about what went into making the restoration of Walbaum, a 200 year old serif typeface, but it also explains, very technically, the topic of its main challenge: optical sizing. And it comes with the best definition and explanation for it I’ve ever read.
In the early 1800s, a German punchcutter, Justus Enrich Walbaum created a typeface that signaled modernity at the time; a departure from the Blackletter fonts that were common in German books at that time. Despite its technical excellence, Walbaum has largely been forgotten and eclipsed by similar high-contrast serifs such as Didot and Bodoni.
So after two years of very careful and well crafted research and hard work, 3 designers unveiled a modernised version of Walbaum, which comes in nothing short of 69 different variations! As for the process,
First, designers scour libraries and archives to collect old samples of the typeface in various sizes and weights. They take high resolution photos and trace letterforms digitally, often smoothing out shapes to eliminate rough details from the ink gain and paper fibers. Sometimes, designers are required to infer an entire alphabet based on a few letters. They prepare the bold, italicized styles, upper and lower case letters, numerals, and punctuation marks, and create character sets for various languages.
So, using several type specimens from the very early 19th century as reference, Nix, Crossgrove and Villanueva set out to recreate the typeface to perfection. And here’s where’s this story gets also technical interesting: the point on why fonts need to be restored for the digital age.
The problem is in what’s called “optical sizing.” Before computers allowed us to change a font’s point sizes instantly, type designers had to create variations of the same typeface in different sizes. In this process, they were also able to make important adjustments, such as adding more space between letters in small text, or making the letterform openings a bit larger to increase legibility.
Walbaum in the wild
Walbaum in the wild
Note how much thicker the letter n is for the 6p application on the far left compared to the 96pt size
Note how much thicker the letter n is for the 6p application on the far left compared to the 96pt size
Optical sizing is often overlooked when choosing or even creating typefaces, but for workhorses which need to work from sizes ranging from very fine print to very large copy, this matters a great deal. And the analogy I’ve mentioned in the beginning to understand optical sizing?
Nix illustrated the point with an analogy: “Imagine if we all decided that 10-year-old boys would be the optimal human form,” he says. “Rather than having babies, we just shrunk 10-year-old boys to baby size, and enlarge them to the size of a full grown man. That’s kind of what we’re combatting.”
A bit gruesome, yes, but efficient at explaining the concept. There’s a lot more interesting details about this beautifully restoration process, so make sure you read the original article over at Quartzy for the full details.
Typeface Du Jour ✍️
Ysans, Typofonderie
Ysans is a relatively new typeface released at Typofonderie, designed by the ever-so-talented Jean François Porchez. Self-classified as a sanserif influenced by Cassandre lettering pieces and the geometric sanserif style from the inter-war period, it’s an incredibly elegant and formal typeface, contemporary in style and rather unique in its forms.
Of course, being designed by Jean François has its advantages: it’s a rather strong workhorse of a typeface and it spares no missed attention to detail: for example, each style of Ysans has two sets of punctuations: the basic punctuation and a set of thin punctuations particularly suited to headlines.
Its colourful conterpart
Its colourful conterpart
Continue reading its details, or just go ahead and get it, directly from Typofonderie.
On the Coffee Scene ☕️
This New Pour-Over Brewer Costs $1,000
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