The Plea (And Confession) of a Type Torturer

| | Crossposted

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.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Erik Ogan published on January 13, 2008 5:33 PM.

Synchronicity was the previous entry in this blog.

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