Cold Type Fontograhpy for the masses
slevin at SIGNPUDDLE.NET
Fri Feb 11 20:57:20 UTC 2011
Originally, I wrote this message to a list of people who don't
understand SignWriting, but do understand Unicode and Font technologies.
I'm happy to announce that an official proposal for the symbols of the
ISWA 2010 may be a reality sooner rather than later.
Unofficially, the proposal for the symbols as plain text has already
been finalized through the Center for Sutton Movement Writing. The
Unicode characters are a small but important aspect to the ISWA 2010
standard. Some of the character names may change a little, and
additional specifications for the ISWA 2010 will be cataloged.
Above the symbols, there is a standard data format for the SignPuddle
data and several potentials encoding models based on general ideas and
researched theory. Fortunately, we'll all be able to use the same
symbols not matter how we encode the details above plain text.
For the SignPuddle data, I know we need better editors. I'm hoping that
Open Office becomes a reality through SIL's Graphite sometime this
year. Imagine using SignWriting in a spreadsheet and having it sort
properly. Cut and paste with the SignPuddle data will be a reality. I am
one step away from a font file, then we can try a custom Graphite viewer
and printer. It will be based on SVG. It is greatly needed for text and
book presentation. Rather than the current editors, publication is the
Later, keyboarding shouldn't be that hard to restart, although
perfecting a smooth typing system will take time to develop and master.
Many ideas for text editors will be tried, all using the same symbols.
Different encoding families will use the same symbols, but with
different founding philosophies, so that a conversion between the data
will be required. Below I try to explain my encoding family and ask for
Here's the soapbox
Imagine if you will that Valerie created a hotpress catalog of symbol
glyphs: 37,811 of them. You can imagine each as a physical block of
metal. The history of hotpress is very interesting for Asian scripts.
Thousands upon thousands of tiny blocks of metal organized by topic and
size. Each publishing house had a unique and prized collection of
slugs. This attitude continues with font files and technologies. There
are amazing craftsmen who do amazing things with text.
In the western world, a much smaller set of hotpress characters created
the printing press and mass communication.
Since hotpress chunks are physically bound, they can not overlap.
Recent advances in font technology have enabled glyphs that morph and
can overlap. There are several competing visions for how font
technology should work on the computer. It's often platform specific.
I believe True Type is very different that Open Type. So it is a real
concern how the Unicode specification and the font features are
implemented on a wide variety of platforms and devices.
Interesting article here:
I live in a different world.
Cold type is based on the precise placement of potentially overlapping
images. Historically, some publication houses used cold type
technology. Images were optically displayed and captured by film
negative. SignWriting has roots in the cold type family.
Amazingly, Valerie has already passed through the printing press stage.
Wax symbols were dipped in ink and individually placed on a master sheet
for copying. The painstaking work continued for some time. It was
never mechanized and dropped out of favor. One Wikipedian confused the
wax & ink printing with handwriting. He foolishly dismissed the writing
system as too slow to be practical because he didn't understand.
I have continued that vision with the catalog of symbols that Valerie
created. It was a unintended continuation, but my work has many
historical precedents. I take this as proof that we are writing
grammatically correct. Grammar can not be imposed, but must be created
by a group of people over time and discovered after the fact.
With a cold type mentality, I allow the writer to become the
fontographer. We agree that I will not change the general size and
shape of the symbols and that I'll remember the precise placement of
each symbol. The writer has the choice to create something new using
Valerie's symbols or can use something previously written by themselves
or another human being.
When the writer has made their choice, I consider it rude to fiddle with
the appearance. Suggestions can be offered based on previous writings,
but nothing should be forced.
This is the writer taking part in the design and perfection of the
visual representation. I respect the writer and Valerie's cold type
To simplify SignWriting's cold type technique, several rules were made
and one truth was uncovered.
1) Each symbol has a general restriction for size and shape
2) Symbols do not change size individually
3) Symbols do not rotate
I found out that given a cluster of symbols, I can always determine the
correct visual center. No matter what symbols the writer used. No
matter where the writer placed the symbols. A simple algorithm could
find the center. Very important for sign text layout.
This vision has shaped the existing SignPuddle data.
I hope some of you share the same vision.
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