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Posts Tagged ‘w.a. dwiggins’

by Dr Hermann Püterschein

Bill Dwiggins got me hooked on type. His marionette shows were what attracted me to his studio, but it was his passion for calligraphy, type and typography that lured me into a life of letters. Serious stuff, but I was a pretty serious kid back then. I guess that’s how I got my “Doctor” nickname. Bill also gave me my start in the type business – but that was much later.

Toshi Omagari’s re-envisiong of Dwiggins’ original Metro

Toshi Omagari’s re-envisiong of Dwiggins’ original Metro

I believe that the Electra typeface was the first of Bill’s that I wrote about. (I wasn’t around when he drew the Metro design back in 1930.) But I did write a review of Metro Office when Linotype released the small family for, well, office use, in 2006. If memory serves, I gave it a “36 point” rating (“worth the ticket price”).

When Monotype invited me to have a preview look at Toshi Omagari’s re-envisioning of Bill’s original Metro, I jumped at the chance. The new design, Metro Nova, is quite a nice piece of work. Bill’s Metro had to make do with just four weights – and only three of them had italic complements. Omagari’s design offers a full range of seven weights of roman designs – each with an italic companion – plus six weights of condensed designs with italic counterparts as well. Now that’s an excellent enhancement.

Seven weights with italic counterparts, and six condensed weights—also with italic counterparts.

Seven weights with italic counterparts, and six condensed weights—also with italic counterparts.

Omagari also made improvements to some of the original Metro’s character designs. Not that Bill wasn’t a good designer – he was, but he had to put up with Linotype’s antiquated unit system and the firm’s insistence that every typeface family under the sun duplex – you know, share common character width values. Bill worked around these mechanical restrictions pretty well, but Omagari’s design is digital. And what a dramatic difference that makes! You won’t find any compromises in proportions or spacing in Omagari’s Metro Nova.

The new design is also available as OpenType Pro fonts, allowing for automatic insertion of ligatures and those alternate characters Bill drew for his original design. Pro fonts also have extended character sets to support most Central European and many Eastern European languages. Omagari even added the alternate Icelandic ð to the character suite! (He has friends in Iceland.)

Metro Nova Pro alternate accented Latin characters; alternate umlaud, accent “a” and Icelandic “eth” characters

Metro Nova Pro alternate accented Latin characters; alternate umlaud, accent “a” and Icelandic “eth” characters

While it’s not the second coming of Garamond, I really like the new Metro Nova. Omagari has done a terrific job of building on Bill’s original design. Metro Nova is a rock solid typeface family that’s not going to gather dust on anyone’s hard drive.

Click here to learn more about – and to license – the Metro Nova family.

Alternate and Standard setting of capital M

Alternate and Standard setting of capital M

 

Dr. Hermann Püterschein is President of the Society of Calligraphers and a noted typeface & typographic critic. He can be reached at HermannPuterschein@gmail.com

 


by Dr Hermann Püterschein

I first met Bill Dwiggins when I was quite young. I grew up in Hingham, Mass., and was one of the neighborhood kids who attended his marionette shows. Later on, I started dropping by Bill’s studio every now and again to watch him carve the marionettes.

First Showing of Metro

Today is Bill’s birthday. If he were still around, he’d be 133 years old. Bill was always a bit of a kid about his birthday. It was a special day for him. So, Monotype invited me to write this post for two reasons: to toast Bill’s birthday and to share the news that they are almost finished working on a revival of one of Bill’s most important typeface designs.

Monotype’s suggestion that I write a note honoring my friend falls happily with my mood. Moreover, It also gives me the opportunity to clear up a point about his association with me. From time to time, it’s been implied that Bill and I were the same person. This is complete nonsense and was disproved some time ago. Bill and I submitted our individual thumbprints to a prominent Boston typographer for scrutiny. When enlarged, one could clearly see that the whorls of my thumbprint were composed of Fraktur letters, while those of Bill’s were fleurons joined in an engaging pattern.

Metro Nova

Bill drew a raft of typefaces during his years as a freelance designer for Linotype. A goodly number of them have been pressed into service as popular digital fonts. The one that most deserves a makeover, however, is Bill’s first: the Metro typeface. Not that it wasn’t a good design. It was indeed, but it’s always been a small family, and Bill was hamstrung by Linotype’s penchant for duplexed fonts. (This is where a pair of styles – such as roman and italic – were cut within the same mold for use in the printing process.) This meant that all characters were required to have the same width. I certainly anticipate that Monotype’s designer for the revival project will have resolved these limitations.

Metro Nova

Something I hope Monotype doesn’t eliminate is the profusion of alternate characters Bill drew. Bill liked to have fun with his work, and his playfulness was apparent in several characters of the original Metro design. The cap Q and lowercase g and e come to mind – but I know there were more. They were pretty lively, and didn’t look like anything you might find in the Futura or Erbar families, which were designed around the same time.

It seems that some pompous printers back in the 1930s didn’t like this aspect of Bill’s design. These were hard-pressed folks who persuaded Linotype to replace the characters in question with ones that were about as stuffy as these people were. After that, you could only get the original characters by special order.

Well, Happy Birthday to Bill – and the best of luck to Monotype. I’m looking forward to seeing that new design.

Click here to learn more about the new Metro family.

 

Dr. Hermann Püterschein is President of the Society of Calligraphers and a noted typeface & typographic critic. He can be reached at HermannPuterschein@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

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