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13 January 2008 @ 05:33 pm
The Plea (And Confession) of a Type Torturer  

[Cross-posted from my
MovableType Blog]

Please believe me. I’ve tried. I will grant that some of those attempts may have been half-hearted, but I was weary, down-hearted. I didn’t think that I could do it (and I’m still skeptical), but I can’t live this lie, maintain this charade any longer, and so this voice cries in the wilderness, hoping someone out there can help me out of jam of a mental block:

I need a replacement for Franklin Gothic Extra Condensed:

One with an honest italic (not just slanted romans). One that will contrast as beautifully against my body font (currently a simple Bodoni Book, with both lining and old-style numerals as appropriate) without clashing.

You see, I don’t want the world, I just want your half.

My current front-runner is Agenda Semibold Extra (or Ultra, I haven’t decided yet) Condensed (Italic):

[ I've decided to remove the samples for Agenda, you can find it if you care, but as I said in comments in the cross-post I realized I liked it a lot less once this was posted.]

While it is quite nice in its own right, it's too round, lacks the subtle, oblique stress that (was one of the elements that) drew me to Franklin Gothic, and the lack of a branch terminal on the spine & bowl mating of some forms (“b,” in particular) doesn’t sit well with me. It doesn’t feel as . . . classy. You see, I’m still hoping for a long-lost italic cousin to come out of the woodwork.

I can’t seem to shake that sense. A little help?

How I came to be in this pickle is a longer story, one of interest to no-one except myself, I suspect.

The romance began slightly more than 10 years ago. I don’t remember now if it was love at first sight, but it was something close. It definitely led to the awakening of my interest in the arcane world of typography.

Oh, sure, I’d long known about fonts, and I collected as many as I could find. I’d long before hit the 127 face limit in MacOS. But typography still lay just outside my purview. This project would prove to be the first step on that awakening.

It came at a perfect confluence of events, I had just read[1] Robin Williams’s Non-Designers’ Design Book (it's been through a few revisions since) and just attended a re-employment seminar that charged me to rewrite my résumé from the ground up. Granted, most of the results are now cringe-worthy, but at the time I felt on top of the world.

I was using Times Roman[2] as my body font (I know, I know, they were baby steps at first), so I wanted a very strong sans serif with a much darker color for my titles. The speed and satisfaction with which I settled on Franklin Gothic Extra Condensed was rather unsusual for me at that time.

I soon realized that I needed to distinguish between employers and job titles, so I applied an italic style to the titles. PageMaker, not finding an italic font dutifully slanted the romans. I can hear the type geeks screaming in pain, and I wish that was the extent of the sins I must confess, but there is more. And I think (in my defense) the ungainly, mildly disturbing width of those letters eventually pushed me in the direction of learning what an italic really was, and started opening the world of typography to me.

When I migrated away from PageMaker into building the PDF from XML source using FOP, I lost my slanted roman “italics.” After casting around for a replacement font, I eventually dug in, learned the PDF file format and figured out how PageMaker transformed the letterforms, and spent far too much effort perpetrating that particular crime. I eventually wrote a Perl script to apply the matrix transformation to the right text in my PDFs, and as I upgraded FOP a few times spent time hacking my script to work again.

With the latest upgrade I finally said, “Enough!” I no longer had an excuse — I know what I was doing was wrong. I must correct myself. My inner type geek can turn a blind eye no more.

And so, here I am, trying to replace my first lover. The one who opened my eyes to a new world, in so many ways. Yes, she’s a troll. But I’ll always have a speical place for her.

...And I just realized that this whole entry could have been condensed down to a pithy, personal ad format. I’m sure anyone still reading to here would have gotten more amusement out of that than this missive. Oh well. Next time.

[1] (or was about to read, chronology of events has always been a slippery thing for me, and events from this time in my life are particularly elusive)

[2] It wasn’t until much later that I moved my body font to Bodoni Book, not realizing that in so doing I was using two very different faces by the same designer, Morris Fuller Benton.

Current Mood: weary
Current Music: "Man Eater" — Hall & Oates (not MY iPod)
alicelee on January 14th, 2008 06:30 am (UTC)
I would throw Agenda out of bed on account of those Ses. Wow, they're ugly.
Erik Oganeriktheplaid on January 14th, 2008 01:52 pm (UTC)
Yeah, after posting this I realized I liked Agenda a lot less than I thought I did. My problem is I can't seem to help looking for something that looks as much like FGEC as possible. This one fails.
[Retry]orb_box on January 14th, 2008 04:40 pm (UTC)
I'm guessing that similarly Optima isn't going to be the right fit either. I will keep pondering...
[Retry]orb_box on January 14th, 2008 05:02 pm (UTC)
You know, I do think I've found a good candidate:

Xheighter Condensed Bold & Condensed Bold Italic

If not, then you may want to examine the Freeset and Gothic families...
[Retry]: Puporb_box on January 15th, 2008 01:52 am (UTC)
Oh, and if you disagree, (or agree) I would love to hear your thoughts on why.
Erik Oganeriktheplaid on January 15th, 2008 03:03 am (UTC)
Sorry, I planned to, I just got swamped (well, meeting hell) at work and hadn't even had a chance to look yet. I sat down now to do so and just got called to dinner. Back in a bit.
Erik Ogan: balaclavaeriktheplaid on January 15th, 2008 05:06 am (UTC)
Xheighter Condensed Bold & Condensed Bold Italic

My first reaction was "YES! Exactly!" But now I'm not so sure. The x-height is extreme, to say the least (not that it's surprising, given the name), and the fact that it differs so much from the, er, height of the cross bars in the capitals (I forget what that's called) bothers me. (Though it may not be as noticeable in normal text as it is in MiXeD cAsE sAmPlEs). Actually, yeah, it's not so bad in real text.

Less of a big deal is the fact that I'd like to keep the binocular "g" glyph if I can. It's silly, I know, but I love them.

Ooh, speaking of the "g" the bowl floats above the baseline, and the joint of the "y" actually falls below. Those might be a deal breaker given the business formal nature of the document in question. (too "whimsical")

Still, it's much better than Agenda by a long shot, and something I can see using in other projects, if I ultimately reject it for this one. Thanks!

If not, then you may want to examine the Freeset and Gothic families...

Hmm, yes, Free Set is intriguing, if a bit … plain. Still, the bold has a bit more character. And, not surprisingly, I'm utterly failing in my attempts to search for a family named "Gothic." (Since it's a synonym of sans-serif :) Well, I've found Linotype's Gothic 13, and it looks intriguing, but it seems to a one off (that doesn't even conform to their own numbering scheme)
[Retry]: RazorBunnyorb_box on January 15th, 2008 05:37 am (UTC)
[Retry]orb_box on January 15th, 2008 05:39 am (UTC)
[Retry]orb_box on January 15th, 2008 05:40 am (UTC)
Re: Actually....
This variant doesn't have the binocular g, though.

When this all started, I immediately thought of Impact, but there is no proper italic for it. (and it has a "wonky" question mark)
Erik Ogan: close-uperiktheplaid on January 15th, 2008 03:42 am (UTC)
I'm guessing that similarly Optima isn't going to be the right fit either. I will keep pondering...

I used to LOVE Optima, since it was the only sans serif I knew with stress. I kinda OD'd on it. And the stress means you need to be very careful when pairing it with a serifed font, since it tends to clash badly.

On the other hand, (while I was really thinking of something quite a bit more condensed) Optima Extra Black might actually work, and I can try it for real, since I already have it. I'd need to purchase the italic, but I was planning on purchasing both, so that would be a benefit, actually. :)
stealthymonkey on January 14th, 2008 10:58 pm (UTC)
I'm just here to say that reading this entry makes me not feel so bad for going after wine-snots who use the word 'mouth-feel' in written reviews.