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Ralf Herrmann

Difficult term definitions like aperture and typeface/font

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Ralf Herrmann    469
Ralf Herrmann

While working on our term database, some term stick out for having a disputable definition. I would like to start a forum discussion to discuss them. I am especially interested to hear from native English speakers which definitions might be more common and why. 

To begin with: 

Aperture

To me that is about the opening of a counter:

aperture.gif.6958dc1cee078985b9e1e6d4bd9

However, FontShop and other sites with Glossaries use it for an “open counter” itself:

Aperture.png

So, is the latter really an accepted definition? Sounds like a misunderstanding possibly gone mainstream to me. 

 

And then there is this endless debate about fonts and typefaces
I usually go with the traditional: a typeface is what you see ( → the design), a font is what you use ( → a tool which you can typeset with). 

However, there is also this:

 

I have heard this approach several times. Basically, there are “original designs”, which are then typefaces, but versions are just fonts. This doesn’t work well for me. There would be no way to draw clear lines and 99.9% of the font users would always use the “wrong terms”, because there are not one of the handful of font experts in the world. But maybe I am missing something and haven’t heard all the arguments yet. 

 

 

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Ralf Herrmann    469
Ralf Herrmann

I also asked on Twitter about aperture. The results were pretty clear. FontShop’s image was a mistake and will probably be corrected. 

I am still happy to receive comments about font vs. typeface definitions. 

Edited by Ralf Herrmann

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Mycroft    1
Mycroft

In this day and age I don't think there's really much call for the distinction between typeface and font anymore. It's a distinction that hails back to before the digital age, but has lost its relevance these days. 

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Ralf Herrmann    469
Ralf Herrmann

In this day and age I don't think there's really much call for the distinction between typeface and font anymore. It's a distinction that hails back to before the digital age, but has lost its relevance these days. 

​So, if you consider them as being (almost) synonyms, how would you define it then and why is that definition different from earlier times?

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Riccardo Sartori    158
Riccardo Sartori

I’m obviously not a native English speaker (in fact, I’m just an English reader and, barely, writer), but I’ve followed the font/typeface debate, and am interested in semantics and, of course, typography.

What works best for me to distinguish between the two is this: the typeface is the idea, the font is the product.

So you can talk about both, but you can’t buy the first (and, really, neither you can really look at it…). And while the typeface lives in an ethereal but somewhat immutable state, next to Euclidean geometry, the font, as its technical mean of reproduction, constantly changes and evolves and adapts to new forms of consumption.

The best analogy I have come across is the one with music: the typeface is the song, the musical piece, while the font is the cassette, the MP3.

You will have albums and type families, concept albums and type systems. You will have classical music and Trajans and Garamonds, and there will be the philologically perfect ones, and the ones by Glen Gould. You will have the Beatles and Springsteen, and Miles Davis, and Frutiger and Zapf, and Carter and… You will have Brit Pop and neogrotesques. You will have country and Hellenic Wides. You will have pop stars and drama, and you will have Hoefler & Frere-Jones. You will have giants and honest craftsmen, popular work and much admired but not so successful one. You will have old formats returning in fashion and you will have vinyl and letterpress, other not so much, and you will have phototype and the cassette tape. You will have classics and disco music, and the grunge section at Dafont. You will have different names for the same work, and the same name for different works. You will have remixing, and remastering, and plagiarism.

I’m tempted to stretch the analogy to sheet music and signpainters’ guides, but will stop here.

As for “aperture”, the FontShop example looks like a case of synecdoche: naming a part for the whole. After all, there can’t be an aperture without an open counter…

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Mycroft    1
Mycroft

​So, if you consider them as being (almost) synonyms, how would you define it then and why is that definition different from earlier times?

​The distinction comes from  the good ol' days when they still used printing presses. A typeface would be, say Garamond, while a font would be any number of blocks (glyphs now) within that typeface. I'm sure you know this, though. If you imagine a typeface is your grocery bag, then the font is the groceries inside it. 

But then desktop publishing came along and the two terms sort of gelled together. Word doesn't ask you to select a typeface, it asks you to select a font. Same with Illustrator or Photoshop, etc. 

Edited by Mycroft

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jayarBauhaus    0
jayarBauhaus

Just because some software programmes use certain terminologies, it doesn't mean they are correct. For example, PageMaker started using the term "leading" to refer to line spacing, i.e. the distance between baselines in a block of text. InDesign carries on this mistake, although it has been pointed out to Adobe (after they bought PageMaker) a number of times. The original meaning is: the additional space added between lines of type – i.e. strips of lead (it's pronounced, by the way, "ledding", not "leeding") – for functional or aesthetic reasons. So, for text set, say, 10/12, the leading is 2 points, not 12, as certain major layout programmes would have you believe. Just sayin’
I think we can give up, however, trying to get such things fixed. Imagine the worldwide outcry if Microsoft changed "Font" to "Typeface" in the Word menu. I have a German version of Word on my laptop and it says "Schriftart", which is closer to "Typeface", so I am not constantly reminded and can sleep nights :-)

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Riccardo Sartori    158
Riccardo Sartori

I dare to say that the wording on Microsoft’s and Adobe’s menus is correct. After all, the action performed is akin that of a compositor of yore: choosing the right style, weight and size of sorts. The selection of typeface pertains to the graphic designer, who decides the proper styles for each element. The fact that with DTP these two figures conflates (or, more often than not, the latter one isn’t even present) doesn’t make the difference less important.

Along the same lines, we still have typeface designers and font makers (or, nowadays, more like font developers), the same as we used to have punchcutters. And, again, the fact that they can be the same person doesn’t make the two crafts less different, or any of them less important than the other, or, crucially, the distinction itself less important.

I’m not a fan of the hierarchical distinction between art and craft, yet the “The Great Wave” is universally recognised as the work of Hokusai, not of the crazily talented craftsmen who chiseled his drawing into wood blocks.

That is to say that there is the typeface (the design, the ukiyo-e print), that you can see and peruse because of the font (the mean of reproduction, the woodblocks). 

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George Thomas    49
George Thomas

For example, PageMaker started using the term "leading" to refer to line spacing, i.e. the distance between baselines in a block of text. InDesign carries on this mistake, although it has been pointed out to Adobe (after they bought PageMaker) a number of times. The original meaning is: the additional space added between lines of type –

​A small correction: the change in terminology did not begin with PageMaker. When I first became a commercial typesetter in the late '60s (long before desktop) baseline-to-baseline spacing was called "leading" and any extra space between paragraphs was called "plus leading". For instance, a markup such as "Palatino 10/11+4" would mean ten point Palatino on eleven leading with four points of paragraph leading. There certainly were likely regional variations in the way it was written and understood.

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Ralf Herrmann    469
Ralf Herrmann

Just because some software programmes use certain terminologies, it doesn't mean they are correct. For example, PageMaker started using the term "leading" to refer to line spacing …

Well, it’s the classic case of how language changes. 

Correct means that the word/meaning is widely accepted and (in a specific situation) can be used in such a way that “sender” and “receiver” think of the same meaning when a certain symbol is used. That’s it. The problem is: this correctness can change with time or context. 

If one person learns it one way and during his lifetime the meaning changes, that can certainly be annoying—almost painful. But claiming that an older word/meaning is more “correct”, when a new word/meaning is already well established and used without problems, is indeed pointless. A word/meaning isn’t more correct, just because it was there earlier, not even if the older one seems to make more sense somehow. It doesn’t matter. 

And no one can tell otherwise regarding a certain word, because that someone uses hundreds of words which have already changed in exactly the same way and that person considers them “correct”. 

 

So considering this, I am very pragmatic about such meanings and therefore I am asking what the current understanding of font/typeface and their possible differences might be. I have of course a very clear definition myself, but if the speech community as a whole has already decided otherwise and I can’t convince them to change their mind, it might be wise to rather accept the changes. I am certainly doing that regarding the term leading for example. 

Edited by Ralf Herrmann

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