Baseline 6, 1985

Baseline 6, published in 1985
©1985 Published by Esselte Letraset Ltd.

This is the sixth Baseline magazine to be published by Letraset Ltd in 1985 with guest editor Erik Spiekermann. Featured articles include: Editorial by Erik Spiekermann; ‘The Quay series – a new type family for text and display’ by David Quay; ‘Letraset international student design competition 1984–5’ by the Editorial team; ‘Biblica – designing a new typeface for the bible’ by Kurt Weidemann; ‘Lucida – the first original typeface designed for laser printers’ by Kris Holmes; ‘Matrix type – from dot-printer to ETP systems’ by Norbert Küpper; ‘Universal faces, ideal characters’ by Robin Kinross; ‘The development of Arabic script’ by Mourad Boutros; ‘Letragraphica Premier – a new typeface subscription service’ by the Editorial team.

0Cover: Illustration set in position using Futura light, book, book oblique. ‘6’ is oblique. Design by Erik Spiekermann

14Detail: Character sketch from the Editorial by Erik Spiekermann

‘New technologies are supposed to make life easier, but it seems to me that everything gets more and more complicated instead.

Rather than asking something of somebody, one has to address a system and work one’s way towards the answer algorithmically. Instead of picking up a pen and putting it to paper, one presses a key which is linked to a circuit which activates an interface which communicates to a printer which prints out a character that looks a lot more primitive than anything an Assyrian grain merchant might have scribbled onto his delivery note slab almost 3000 years ago.

So now we need information designers, communication designers, and we see the re-emergence of type designers. A while ago we thought we had all the typefaces man would ever need; all there was to do was to enlarge the old proofs, clean up the edges and Bingo! –
We had a new and improved photosetting fount.

It was soon learned however that this simply wasn’t good enough. We have some technologies, which define the look of a typeface by limiting the amount of digital information available, while at the same time we have other technologies, which draw a character more precisely than any human hand could ever do it – as least not so fast and repetitively.

There always has been and there always will be a demand for new typefaces – designs, which express the feeling of a period as accurately as the length of ladies’ skirts or the shape of car radiators. Sociologists and art historians alike could make this an exciting new field of research – ‘tell me the typeface and I’ll tell you what the fashion at the time was’.

But apart from typefaces that express the mood of a period or a certain society, or simply that of the designer who is responsible for it, there are technical and economic conditions, which might demand different solutions from all the other’s previously available.

Telephone directories, bibles and office stationary all need type, but with vastly different priorities. To pick out a figure from amongst a few thousand other figures poses a different question than impressing clients with a well, printed business report.

The special feature in this issue of Baseline deals with ‘type for a purpose’; the continuing quest for the universal typeface to end all other typefaces, the demand of tradition as well as economy on a specific design, the limitations of technology, and the development of technologies where type is concerned.

The subject will also appear in future issues of Baseline; there will be reports on type designs for telephone books, transport signage systems, corporate design programmes, all written by the people who know best the designers themselves.

There is no communication without type, and type has designed by specialist designers, not by engineers or accountants – it seems that the information industry has just got that message.’

Erik Spiekermann

2Article (right): ‘Biblica – designing a new typeface for the bible’ Kurt Weidemann

23Detail: ‘Biblica – designing a new typeface for the bible’ Kurt Weidemann

‘To achieve optimum legibility special attention has to be paid to discernibility and form characteristics of individual letters, particularly those that appear with greatest frequency in our language. Lowercase r and n combinations can much more easily be mistaken for an m in a sans-serif style than in an old style roman face. Typefaces derived from basic geometric shapes are less distinguishable in their letterforms than roman types derived from Venetian old style before 1500.’

Kurt Weidemann

4Article: ‘Biblica – designing a new typeface for the bible’ Kurt Weidemann

19Detail: ‘Biblica – designing a new typeface for the bible’ Kurt Weidemann

6Article (right): ‘Biblica – designing a new typeface for the bible’ Kurt Weidemann

17Detail: Cross stitch guide from 19th century text book. ‘Biblica – designing a new typeface for the bible’ Kurt Weidemann

‘The principle of digisation, a binary (on-off) decision, had already been used in needlepoint patterns in the 19th century. This example comes from a text book for cross-stitching published in Alsace-Lorraine around the turn of the century. Just like the binary coding necessary in digital character generation, this sample indicates the fields that have to be filled and those that must remain empty. The scripts face example elucidates the problems arising when diagonal strokes are translated into sawtooth effect.’

Kurt Weidemann

7Article: ‘Lucida – the first original typeface designed for laser printers’ by Kris Holmes

8Article: ‘Matrix type – from dot-printer to ETP systems’ by Norbert Küpper

‘Graphic Designers and typographers the world over, have a long experience of designing typefaces and working with type. One area, however, that has always been neglected is type in the office and in technical communications. I’d like therefore to take a short trip into the everyday office routine and show some good, bad, but above all creative applications of typefaces in this field…’

Norbert Küpper

10Article: ‘Universal faces, ideal characters’ by Robin Kinross

20Detail: ‘Universal faces, ideal characters’ by Robin Kinross

‘A typeface that meets all needs: of composing and printing techniques, of legibility, of aesthetics, of phonetic and semantic representation. At one stroke – or with a series of rationalised strokes – all special requirements would be solved. We could stop the endless uneconomic, devising of new forms, and could get rid of the dross piled up by centuries of fiddling invention, settling happily for a world of purified communication, of meaning un-cumbered by the obstacles of form.

Stern pragmatists will always dismiss this as crazy and unreal version. But it is one that has cropped up repeatedly, encouraged by the standardisation that is inherent in printing. And like all dreams – especially recurring ones – it seems to say a good deal about the dreamer…’

Robin Kinross

12Article: ‘Universal faces, ideal characters’ by Robin Kinross

11Article: ‘The development of Arabic script’ by Mourad Boutros

‘Arabic belongs to the group of Semitic languages and most scholars now agree that Arabic script, which eventually came to predominate, can be traced back to the Nabataean script, which dates from the third century AD.

Nabatean script evolved into what became known as North Arabic or North Semitic script and further developments produced the static angular script known as Jazm.

But it wasn’t until the dawn of Islam in the seventh century AD that the written word and thus calligraphy became important. Although the pre-Islamic tribes of Arabia had a strong love of languages, especially poetry, this was based on a verbal tradition, passed on from generation to generation. The written word was the province of few and culturally unimportant…’

Mourad Boutros


Detail: ‘The development of Arabic script’ by Mourad Boutros

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