What January has been likes so far

Posted on 17 January 2008 in:

I’ve been quiet for a few weeks. After three-quarters of a month in Germany, I returned to England on Tuesday, January 8th. The submission date for our first essay was Monday, January 14th; by the time I arrived back in Reading, I was already in the midst of the writing. So what’s been going on since I installed Vista on my MacBook Pro?

International travel fun

Dan with Santa in Berlin

Although it would have been more elegant, my travel from Berlin back to Reading was not on a flying reindeer-pulled sleigh.

Auto route to Reading

This is the route I would have taken from Stansted Airport to my apartment in Reading if I had gone by car. But I went with two trains and the tube, so I traveled through London, instead of around it.

On the 8th itself, for instance, my plane arrived at Stansted airport at 10:30 am; the flight from Berlin-Schönefeld was shorter than the train trip from Stansted to London; the train in front of my train broke down, and we sat in place for quite a while. By 1 pm-ish, I was at Reading station. I took a taxi to my apartment, and was home by 13:30.

A three-week pile of mail was blocking my door, most of it addressed to previous occupants. Nevertheless, a number of Christmas gifts were in there as well, including things from Linotype and my parents. Plus, there were magazines: Slanted, PAGE, and STEP Inside Design. Actually, this was sort of my best mail day ever! But I just pushed it all into a corner, dropped my bags, left, and walked up the hill to the University campus. I got to the typography department by 14:20, about 20 minutes late for Gerry’s class.

The essay process

Everything that happened during the subsequent six days is all just a blurry memory now. I seem to remember something about not shaving, writing, answering English questions, proofreading an other essay, trying to figure out the department’s less good and more good printers at 1 am and 8 am respectively, and spending the night of the 13th inside the department with all those typography ghosts. If I hadn’t started working on my essay over the break, I never would have finished on time.

What was it all about anyway?

For my essay topic, I selected Devanagari text typefaces. At first, I’d considered writing a comparative analysis of available fonts on the market. I did veer into this general direction, but I was so surprised to discover the difficulties of setting Devanagari typefaces that my essay spawned a long introductory half which discussed the script’s support on the Mac and on Windows. We were directed to submit 4000 words. My word count, not including footnotes, images, captions, appendices, and the bibliography was about 4300.

Above, a sample image from my essay…figure 37, showing an earlier design of Mangal over the Windows Vista version of the typeface. The newer version’s counters close. Observe the older version’s open ‘ka’ (क), ‘ba’ (ब), and ‘na’ (न) forms. Also, the subscript on the far left connects with the base glyph’s stem in the older design, but not in the newer.

The weather

What was the weather like during and after the essay-writing? Well, a bit like this (link!): Sometimes it was windy. There was also occasional precipitation. When that would pass, we’d have wind and rain together. Otherwise, the weather is not wintery at all, more like cold November.

Typeface design

The new year marked the start of a new term. The last term began slowly. Lots of sketching and reading… I even missed the first week of it back in October. The second term is already very different. First we had the essay. Then we submitted the essay. The next morning, Gerard Unger had already arrived from the Netherlands for another several-day session. That means that we finished working on our essay, got some sleep, and parachuted right back into our typeface design projects.

Dave Crossland and his XO laptop

On Wednesday, Dave brought in his copy of the one-laptop-per-child machine. I’d been hearing about this for years, and was really anticipating finally seeing it! But I must admit, I was disappointed… kids want grown-up computers, too! What’s the deal? It looks like a cross between a Nintendo DS and a first-generation, clam shell iBook :( Great concept, but I hope that the screen and the keyboard will get a little bigger when the inevitable next version is produced.

Mathieu and Michi on the XO

Mathieu, Michi, and my camera on Dave’s XO laptop.

Never mind the stories, what does the typeface design look like now?

Still doesn’t look the way I’d like it to, but I’ll spare you more of my angst-ridden ranting.