Sunday, August 19, 2007

Practical application of the fonts (3)

The style of the Amsterdam School (AS) originated in Amsterdam, but later on the architects went to the north of The Netherlands, especially the province of Groningen, to do some wonderful work. Not many people know this, and to promote the richness of the AS architecture in Groningen a new book has been written. The title is Versteende Welvaart (Petrified Prosperity in English) and it will be presented on September 7th. That is the day before the National Monument weekend, a rare occasion to visit buildings that are otherwise closed to the public.
Looking at the cover of the book, the lettering is instantly recognizable. The design was made by Koos Staal who works in Haren, to the south of the city of Groningen. (Province and Capital bear the same name). When I read the title and started thinking about a new blog entry it struck me that the title in English is very powerful. An alitteration with a strong metrum. Anyway, I dug up font Mokum Cohen Topline and made the following:

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Practical application of the fonts (2)

And yes, I use the fonts myself too. For instance on the new nameplate on our front door. The font is Mokum Cohen and the material is bronze colored stainless steel. The plate was made by workshop De Haan in Hilversum, a small engraving studio that likes to do work that is "out of the ordinary". Like using fonts that are not run-of-the-mill.

It proved very difficult, though, to get the whole thing to work. The main problem is, that the engraving machine (it looks like a plotter and has a fast rotating tip that cuts away the material) is being driven by a PC running under Windows 98. Unfortunately there are no drivers for this kind of hardware under newer versions of Windows. Could be a nice challenge for the software community, wouldn't you think?

Anyway, the whole process had to revolve around Windows 98. I brought the design and the .ttf-file on a memory stick, only to discover that a PC under 98 is not capable of reading a USB stick. You can, however, download a utility to make that possible but the owner of the negravingshop decided she did not want internet on the PC that is used to drive her business hardware. One virus-infection was enough to get to that decision. Luckily the font is small enough to fit on a floppy disk (yes, I do have them) which could be read without any problems. A couple of days later the small plate was ready, just in time for our new front door.

People interested in the possibilities of engraving could contact Graveeratelier De Haan. They can be found on the internet, or you could give them a call +31.35.624.50.78.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Nice typeface, does anyone know it?

My grandfather lived in Winschoten in the province of Groningen in the north of the Netherlands. He worked as an apprentice with an agricultural cultivating firm, that also traded in seeds and did some landscaping. The latter mostly in the form of gardens. When grandfather left the job in 1908, he got a certificate, written by the owner himself on company stationary. See the small picture on the left that may be enlarged by clicking on it.

What struck me immediately was the typeface of the print. A peculiar, somewhat fin-de-siècle design, with unexperted curls. Notice the way the C and H are formed into a ligature in the name Winschoten.

My big question: does anyone recognize the typeface, of could someone point me in the direction of a good enough resemblance. I could of course recreate the font myself, but that takes a lot of time. I searched the archives in Groningen for more information about the company building, and yes! they did have a picture postcard of it:

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Struggling with Japanese Katakana

When working with non-Western characters you sometimes encounter special problems. For instance the Katakana syllabary, a set of 47 different sounds from Japanese that are used to represent Western names and objects. The basic sounds are not enough to get all the different sounds in languages other than Japanese. Therefore it is possible to combina two characters to create a new one. When doing this, the first character is standard in height, the second is smaller. An example may be seen in the chart I scanned. Take the "nyo", which is made from the character "ni", followed bij a smaller "yo". The result is pronounced as "nyo".
The problem I now have is: how much smaller should the second character be in relation to the first? It looks like 50 percent but it is hard to tell. It could be dependant on the style of writing (whether the text is indeed written or printed) or the person writing. I guess I'll have to do some experimenting, unless someone has a bright idea.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Practical application of the fonts

It's always nice to get feedback, from people who like my fonts and do something with it. The latest is Jan van Cadsand, a true fan of the Amsterdamse School. He likes to take walks in Amsterdam, visiting famous spots like "Het Schip" (The Ship) a building designed by De Klerk. This complex houses a museum nowadays, but there are also lots of ordinary dwellings in it. Not all the people who live there are happy with the hordes of architectural tourists that bring their cameras along and photograph everything that's in sight. Some people do tend to stretch the posibilities, by putting their camera against the window and take pictures of the interior of people's houses.
But, if you just take pictures of the outside, without invading anyone's privacy then Het Schip is the place to be. Jan did that, and he uses my font Mokum Betondorp to put text in his pictures. Well done, Jan. If anyone has used my fonts in a remarkable way, please let me know!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Just In Time

I like to retrace my steps sometimes, just to see if everything is still like I thought it was. I did that this week, only to find out that I had been just in time to photograph the original steel letters that were designed by Dick Greiner. These formed the basis for my font Mokum Betondorp.
The Vereenigingsgebouw (Community Building in English) as I photographed it in 2005 no longer exists. It has been sold (or rented) to a religious group, see the right-hand side of the picture. The building now is a temple. When I checked on the internet I first searched voor Shri Luru, the name that was attached to the building. That turned out to be a mistake, the second word is Guru, not Luru. This proves immediately that the font used voor the sign is not all too clear. But, perhaps the Western alphabets are difficult for scholars versed in Sanskrit. I don't really know, I'm just glad I went there in time to capture the original lettering. Judge for yourself, click on the picture to get a larger version on your screen.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Rudelsberg-font by Eckmann

Andreas Höfeld from Germany pointed me in the direction of type designer Otto Eckmann, also from Germany. Eckmann designed a number of fonts in 1900, that appeared with the Klingspor Foundry. The regular font contains echos from Roberta (or the other way around, I do not know which of these fonts was first) and the old handwritten texts made by monks. Especially the captital T, with the sickle-like stem.
The alternate font looks more like the lettering found in the Berlin Zoo. The latter font could have been modified, bij adding the peculiar top on the "o". I made a print (click to enlarge) with the fontset downloaded from the website Andreas mentioned:

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Nice typeface in the Berlin Zoo

I went to Berlin for a short vacation. At the same time I went hunting for typefaces and in the Zoo I saw this one. It looks a bit Art Nouveau and I have the distinct impression I have seen this one (or a good lookalike) somewhere before.
Websites like don't know this font and in my old catalogues I cannot find it either. So... If anyone has a bright idea? I'd really love to hear it!

Saturday, March 31, 2007

First proof of concept

This is the first sample of my new font, based on the sculptures made by Van den Eijnde for the main Post Office in Utrecht (see my post from March 8). The font was actually used in a "Japanese way", meaning the texts run from top to bottom. Not yet having produced a font file this is too difficult to do, so I just put some letters on a normal line. There are still some quirks in the font that have to be eliminated, but I didn't want to keep the preview from you too long. As always, comments are welcome!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Art in concrete

Question: Am I willing to drive several miles into the wilderness just to look at some letters? Answer: yes, especially when those letters were poured in concrete in the 1920's. The text is a bit faded, but it is still decipherable. If you know that the words for "radio" and "station" are exactly the same in Dutch and in English, you'll have absolutely no problem reading the name of the building.
In between the words are two figurines, the left one with distinct oriental features, the one on the right with caucasian looks. The face in between symbolises the Aether, the medium in which radio waves travel. The artwork can be found above the entrance to the main building of the Kootwijk radio station which was built to have a wireless communication with the colonies at the other side of the earth. Before 1923 the communication went through cables but in the 1st world war these were sabotaged and eavesdropped on. The Dutch government decided that a wireless solution was necessary. The result was a huge building made from reinforced concrete, so to speak in the middle of the desert. Actually it was a heather landscape, and it still is, as you can see on the second picture.

I do not plan to make these characters into a font, I just wanted to show them to you.

Dutch characters

My language, Dutch, has a few specific characters, not found in any other language. Besides that we use the diacritics in a peculiar manner. Not to change the sound of a vowel (like the Umlaut in German), but to indicate a specifiek pronunciation. For instance, the word zoëven (so avon) is pronounced differently than zoeven (soofin). A typeface should have these letters with two dots above them, in order to produce texts in Dutch.
Another character that we cherish is the ligature i-j, that over the years has become a character of its own. Some fonts do have this ligature, such as Ancestory SF that I used to produce the word Lijst (Dutch for list). It is not a good idea to simulate this ij by placing two dots on an ypsilon (ÿ), the difference is just too great.

And finally the long f, the earstwhile symbol for our national currency the Guilder. It used to be called Florin, hence the letter f. This symbol is not used very much any more, but it survives in the heading of Het Financieele Dagblad, the biggest financial newspaper in The Netherlands. On the image (top) a copy of the FD's heading on their website. For more information in Dutch about fonts, typefaces and their use, you may consult Alexander Overdiep's website.

Thursday, March 15, 2007


I guess someone has got some explaining to do, and it isn't me. What happened? I contacted the sales rep of the Rotterdam Cruise Terminal, to get some more info on the typeface of their logo. During the telephone conversation I got the following answers: "The typeface was especially designed for the Terminal, and therefore it is not commercially available. The font does not have a name and no, the lettering has never been used before". Case closed, you may think? Until yours truly mentioned the 1929 and 1931 travel brochures, designed by Machteld den Hertog... For which there was no reply. There could be some copyright issues here, because whoever designed the original letters is probably not "dead for 70 years" as the law states. When you are making big money (as I suspect) selling fonts you should abide by the law.
Anyhow, I won't touch this typeface. I decided not to recreate this particular font, which should give me more time to complete the Mokum GGD and Mokum Neude (a new one, derived from the statues in the Main Post Office in Utrecht).

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

An unexpected find

Sometimes my work takes me to strange places, like the Cruise Terminal in Rotterdam. This was the place where large ocean liners used to dock and let passengers ashore. The building now functions as a conference center. The owners have decorated the exterior as well as the interior with a font that bears a vague resemblance to the lettering that was used in Amsterdam around 1920, 1930. This Rotterdam typeface is a bit less sophisticated and I'm still trying to find out if it is an existing font or something that was especially designed fot the Terminal. I'll let you know what the outcome of this small investigation is. I added an extra picture, this one from the side of the building, where the text is placed in a box. This feature is also present on the windows on the ground floor. Even the plates in the restaurant have a boxed-in text, this one is a bit rounded to fit into the curves of the porcelain.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Mirror images, almost

This week I went to the main Post Office in the city of Utrecht. This building was erected between 1918 and 1924, architect J. Crouwel. Inside there are a lot of statues, made by Hendrik Albertus van den Eijnde. At the very first glance I knew these letters were screaming to be transformed into a typeface. This will be done.
The sculptor Van der Eijnde also was involved in the Scheepvaarthuis (the office of the combined shipping companies) in Amsterdam. On the picture the similarities are striking. On the left is the statue representing the Indian Ocean (Indische Oceaan in Dutch) which is located next to the entrance in Amsterdam. On the right the statue representing Asia (Azie in Dutch) located in the grand hall of the Post Office in Utrecht. The letters on the right will be the ones I'll tackle first. They are bolder than bold, so to speak, and I see a lot of possibilities there.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Vive la différence!

The title is an exclamation by the French, to celebrate that not all things are the same. I don't know if there is a direct English equivalent. Anyway, I want to celebrate a small difference in font Mokum GGD, which I decided to keep CAPS only. This gives room for different characters, to wit the uppercase and the lower case set. That way I can combine the two fonts found on the building in ons ttf-file.
To give an idea about the looks I did a test run with the first six letters of the alphabet. Please tell me what you think.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

First version of GGD

The first version of Mokum GGD is ready. The lettering was taken from sevaral old pictures of a building that is no longer there. It used to ne on Waterloo Square in the middle of Amsterdam and it housed the Municipal Health Dept. In Dutch that is the Gemeentelijke Geneeskundige Dienst, or GGD for short. Hence the name Mokum GGD. The texts that were painted on the walls of the building are not, as I first thought, from the same "font". So I'm playing around with the two styles, and try to produce something that is rather wild as well as pleasing to the eye. Clicking on the small image will bring a largers version on your screen.