Monthly Archives: December 2011

Typographic Countdown — the last day before 2012

How to punctuate the end of a year‽ Interrobang is by nature a playful—and therefore perhaps not seriously taken—nonstandard punctuation mark. Its concept is credited to New York ad man Martin Speckter. Americana, 1965, was the first face to fully support the ‘interabang’ across all its weights. The mark still remains outside of standard character encodings and support is spotty across platforms, so for now, if you need it, it’s back to the glyph palette.

FF Ernestine by Nina Stössinger, with Armenian by Hrant Papazian, rejects the overlain interrobang construction for a wider, and certainly clearer mark, though its off-balance comportment introduces an element of comedy.

I remember something said by a speaker at the 2011 Brand New Conference on the subject of the interrobang, though I don’t recall who; He said the mark’s initial purpose was to indicate the asking of a question that immediately results in seeing the answer. Historically speaking, this explanation is unfounded. The interrobang was designed to do what bold underline italic does quite capably; yet I find this new thesis much better, and much more worthy of reflection. The idea that the answer lies in asking the question gives a kind of sublime hope. Putting together this countdown has caused me to get to the bottom of a few good mysteries, so I hope you’ve enjoyed it.

Finally, as part of starting the new year with a bang, we’re offering a 15% discount on all orders up until Jan 2 that make use of the promo code Bang12. Happy New Year.

Typographic Countdown — 2 Days ’til 2012

As you make your preparations for New Year’s Eve, we invite you to think about one. The numeral one, 1, started out as a single horizontal stroke. Beginning around the 4th century in India, the stroke gradually raised to a vertical mark, with a small loop at the top. When finally introduced into western society, the similarity to the Roman numeral, I, led those who did the integrating to adhere serifs to the base and top.

Premiéra Book by Thomas Gabriel uses its wedge-shaped serifs to fix itself firmly to the baseline.

Typographic Countdown — 3 Days ’til 2012

Two (2) is another arabic numeral. I guess I had always assumed the reason why the currency sign goes in front of the numbers is because arabic numerals were written and read from right to left. So $5 reads ‘five dollars’ and not ‘dollars five.’ The problem with this hypothesis is that the people who designed ‘arabic’ numerals were Indians who read and wrote left to right. That’s not to say that the Arabic language didn’t have its way with these numerals when the time came, I just don’t know that that’s true.

In Western culture we tend to group things in pairs. Things that don’t occur in multiples of two we call odd. Managing the relationship between opposing pairs is the essence of composition, for what figure could exist if there were no ground?

Escrow Roman by Cyrus Highsmith stands up nice and tall in Scotch Modern style.

Typographic Countdown — 4 Days ’til the New Year

With four days left to go, we’re jumping ahead to the number 3. Three, along with the rest of the Arabic numerals, comes from a completely different tradition than our alphabet. The ten digits in question are about as Arabic as the Latin alphabet is English. They developed over hundreds of years under the hands of mathematicians in India, spread to Persia, and ultimately the whole of the western world during the middle ages.

Threes with a flat top, like in Miles Newlyn’s Rubrik are harder to turn into eights that those with a curved top.

Typographic Countdown — 5 Days ’til the New Year

We almost lost Z forever when Appius Claudius Caecus dropped it from the Latin alphabet to make room for G.  It came back about 200 years later in the 1st century BC because of the lasting influence of the Greeks and their zeta on the written records of the Romans.

Frieze by Julian Morey renders Z with dots set in straight lines.

Typographic Countdown — 6 Days ’til the New Year

Ampersand isn’t a letter, it’s a character that comes from the Latin word et, which means and. Over time, the scribal hands that recorded these ands grew to think  they should connect to form a ligature. While this practice dates back to first century Rome, the name ampersand did not gain popular use until the early 19th century.

Ampersand set in Williams Caslon by William Berkson reads Et to my eye with a kind of extravagance you’ll not find elsewhere in the Caslon Roman. Beautiful to think that these ‘fleurons’ could just be waiting for you in the middle of a block of text.

Typographic Countdown — 7 Days ’til the New Year

Y this morning. The letter is a direct derivation of the Greek upsilon, which in turn comes from the Phoenician waw. As a side note, Y was seen by early English printers (presumably due to its similarity of form in blackletter script) as a suitable replacement sort for Thorn, Þ. This resulted in the ‘Ye Olde Ribbon Shoppe’ phenomenon, which has led some to believe that people actually talked like that. ‘Ye this; Ye that,’ They didn’t. They said ‘The’, same as us. Thorn was later thrown out of the English alphabet in preference of Th.

Bureau Grot by David Berlow can be credited as one of the first to bring back the now popular device characteristic in wood types of pushing past the curve extrema at the terminals. More recent examples include Parry Grotesque, Maple, and Supria Sans.

Typographic Countdown — 8 Days ’til the New Year

X comes from the Greek chi. The Etruscans are credited with tacking this letter to the back of their alphabet, along with others, it later becoming the Latin alphabet. A similar mark existed in the Phoenician from which T has come.

Olicana Smooth by Nick Cooke deftly wields the pen; its strokes retaining their inkiness and natural shape.

See You in 2012!

We hope the season finds you well! FontShop’s office will be closed for the remainder of 2011, but our customer support team will be checking in to help with your requests. If you call us, please leave a message if your issue is urgent and someone will get back to you.

In the meantime, snuggle up with some hot cocoa (or ice tea, for our friends in the Southern Hemisphere) and watch for the conclusion of our Typographic Countdown to the New Year or reread our Best Typefaces of 2011 newsletter.

Need a last minute stocking stuffer? Don’t forget the newly released FF Ernestine ProFF Ernestine Offc Pro and FF Ernestine Web Pro versions are priced at an intro rate through December 31. Or get the design geek in your life a ticket to the upcoming TYPO San Francisco Connect coming this April.

We’ll be back on January 2 with loads of new content and some exciting announcements. Thank you for a great 2011!

Typographic Countdown — 9 Days ’til the New Year

W slowly made its way into popular use as its own letter well into the 16th century. It was long written and even typeset as UU. In German, W makes the sound that we English speakers associate with the letter V. Keep this in mind next time you utter the words Weiss Antiqua. It’s Weiss, like Miami Weiss.

Ayres Royal by Gert Wiescher decorates the page with flourished initial caps.

Staff Picks, December 2011

December’s Staff Picks are in. As we at FontShop get ready to spend time with our friends and family for the holidays, we wish you all peace and prosperity, new clothes and fresh eyes. Now on with the picks.

Star picks FF Nuvo Mono from FontFont

“Good font for development and console. High contrast between numbers and uppercase characters, very distinct upper O, lower o and zero. Good contrast for comma, period, colon and semicolon. And it looks nice.”

Jason picks Cottingley from Device Fonts

“This slanted, aerodynamic, connected-script font reeks of retro spies, martinis, and hidden tape recorders.”

Mayene picks Fiance from Sudtipos

“The thick, comfy curves remind me of staying warm under tons of blankets during the holiday season and makes me crave marshmallows on top of some hot chocolate.”

Typographic Countdown — 10 Days ’til the New Year

V shares its decendency with F and Y as coming from the Semitic letter waw, or vav, however you choose to say it. As mentioned previously, V along with U took on a kind of vowel sound for much of its history before arriving, in the 16th century, at the consonant sound we now give it.

Condor by David Jonathan Ross coolly renders V in a face all about controlled contrast of stroke.

Random Improvements

Browsing random typefaces just got a lot more fun and easy thanks to our Randomizer tool on We’ve just launched a revised version of our Random Font Generator. It’s part of our ongoing effort to evolve past old ideas and offer new ways of interacting with our website.

This new version is the fastest and simplest way to discover new fonts on

In addition to a more comprehensive sample of the randomly selected typeface, from our collection of over 150,000, some of the new features are:

  • Simple bookmarking of new fonts as favorites as you browse via the star icon. You can sort the results out later once you’re dizzy with font overload!
  • The Purchase Options tab is only one click away from the sample tab. When you come across the typeface that makes you scream “I MUST HAVE THIS NOW!”, it’s easy to snag.
  • Intuitive navigation via on-screen clicking, arrow keys or swipe gestures. The support of mobile devices, like iPad, is one of our major focuses for the future.
We hope you like these new features. Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.

Typographic Countdown — 11 Days ’til 2012

U’s present associations were more recent to develop. The Romans used U more or less interchangeably with V. This persisted through the middle ages, though rules developed for when to use one over the other. It wasn’t until the 16th century that the two parted ways, and U became representative of the the vowel sound we now pin on it.

U from Ulf Constantin Stein’s DYS.opia reminds me of Dr. Shinobu Ishihara’s tests for perception of color.

Typographic Countdown — 12 Days ’til the New Year

T has held onto its sound through the years. In early Semitic alphabets such as the Phoenicians’, taw was the final letter of the alphabet, it meant mark, and it looked like a plus sign or x.

In FF Quadraat by Fred Smeijers, lowercase t’s crossbar softens prior to terminating, perhaps to avoid undue attention on the page.