Type News: —

What kind of breathing room does an em dash require? Plenty of other things happened this week, but that question is what really matters — and we’ll get to it in due course.

But first—the news. And we begin with congratulations to Mike Parker, who will be awarded the TDC Medal on April 6.

The January type acquisitions by the Museum of Modern Art are back in the news. Paul Shaw has seen the exhibition and has a thoughtful response to it. For another take on the MoMA type acquisitions, there is an AIGA-sponsored conversation with Matthew Carter, Jonathan Hoefler, and Paola Antonelli on March 28. Alas, it’s too late to get tickets — and the likelihood of no-shows is slim. Maybe some kind folks will write about it, too.

Let’s take a break from the news and enjoy this week’s new type:

Museo Sans Rounded specimen

When Mark Simonson recently took the edge off his workhorse geometric sans with Proxima Nova Soft, it might have started a bit of a trend. This week saw the release of Jos Buivenga’s Museo Sans Rounded, an “unsharpened” addition to the increasingly prodigious Museo series.

Monosten specimen

Speaking of soft and rounded … Colophon released the ultra clean Monosten earlier this year and has since propped it up with the addition of light and bold weights, including the obligatory stencil variations.

MN00 specimen

Greg Ponchak’s experimental, monospaced MN00 follows a strict, angular grid and echoes some of the visual patterns found in woven textiles.

Weingut specimen

Delicate blossoms, leaves, buds, and tendrils propagate through Weingut, a fanciful high contrast script from FaceType. Separate weights containing letterforms and flourishes allow for stacking and coloring for a chromatic effect. And as if that wasn’t enough flair to illuminate your manuscript, there’s also a set of decorative swashes and ornaments.

Quattrocento Roman specimen

The seemingly inexhaustible Pablo Impallari has graced us with yet another two faces specifically designed as webfonts. The first is the low contrast, classically proportioned Quattrocento Roman — appropriately described as both “elegant” and “sober.” In an interesting aside, Pablo reveals that he designed the capital Q to reflect his admiration of Doyald Young.

Dancing Script specimen

On the other end of the typographic spectrum, Pablo presents Dancing Script. This bouncy, casual number tips its hat to popular display scripts of the 1950s.

Oswald specimen

Google Web Fonts was definitely on a roll this week, with two more typefaces gracing our news. Vernon Adams’ Oswald is a fairly traditional, condensed gothic sans that has been redrawn and optimized for that pesky pixel grid.

Amaranth specimen

Next, we have Gesine Todt’s lovely Amaranth, a very readable, upright italic with distinctive loops and swings reminiscent of José Scaglione’s and Veronika Burian’s Bree. As always, all four of these webfonts are free, web-ready, and open source.

Osmacka Azbukovica specimen

Serbian designer Dušan Jelesijevic took twenty four of his eighth grade students and asked them to create a hand drawn Cyrillic headline font for use in their school magazine. The result was Osmacka Azbukovica, a charming typeface packed with personality and unsullied by adult intervention (except for the technical bits).

Sancoale specimen

Fresh from Jeremy Dooley’s Insigne Design is a crisp, six weight linear sans family called Sancoale. Curvaceous strokes, true italics, and stemmed alternates are included.

Mazúrquica specimen

How about an extra condensed, grotesque-inspired display face from Latinotype? We thought you’d never ask. Mazúrquica features three wonderfully named weights (Liviana, Media, Pesada) and a selection of uppercase ligatures that’ll add some Latin heat to your headlines.

With so many new typefaces to choose from, it would be good to know how to choose wisely. Stephen Coles offered guidance at South by Southwest and has posted his thoughts and other resources on Typographica. Douglas Bonneville also has written some advice on choosing a typeface for Smashing Magazine. On the web, we don’t always have the luxury of using our first choice, even when we’re using @font-face; Josh Brewer has come along to save the day with his “Choosing Fallback Fonts” for the Typekit blog.

And now — the rest of this week’s news:

Finally, Twitter was abuzz this past weekend over the the appropriateness of the presence (or absence) spaces on either side of an em dash. No matter where one lands on this most pressing issue of our time, I’m sure we can all agree that — when used sparingly — the em dash is a wonderful rhetorical tool — and that it’s fun to discuss the minutiae of its use.

That’s it for this week. But surely something is awry, surely we got some niggling detail or other wrong—please let us know about it in the comments.

Thanks to the pro-space Grant Hutchinson for guiding us through this week’s new type!

  • 1. Giorgetta’s avatar Giorgetta Mar 25, 2011

    A space on each side of an em dash is never allowed in good typography. Print or web. Hairline space to adjust visual spacing is the only exception.

  • 2. Mandy Brown’s avatar Mandy Brown Mar 25, 2011

    Unfortunately, hairline spaces on the web are more often than not displayed as full-spaces; the tight typographic control often present in print just isn’t available to the same degree on the screen. And not using spaces (my preference, personally) can result in awkward line breaks as the browser tries to decide whether to break before or after the em-dash, or not break it at all. Different mediums have different constraints that lead to different solutions.

  • 3. Stephen Coles’s avatar Stephen Coles Mar 25, 2011

    A space on each side of an em dash is never allowed in good typography.

    I recommend a trip outside the US.

  • 4. Stephen Coles’s avatar Stephen Coles Mar 25, 2011

    Sorry for being so blunt. I should elaborate…

    Absolute rules like this are usually silly. Cultural norms can have an impact on readability, and while spaceless dashes are common in American typography, it’s not such a default in Europe.

    Also important: the length of em and en dashes can vary quite a bit between fonts, so the visual effect is not always the same.

    Be adaptive.

  • 5. Giorgetta’s avatar Giorgetta Mar 25, 2011

    Stephen, I was born in Europe and I am familiar with the typographic styles used in foreign countries. That does not give us the license to create bad typography. Being adaptive has its limited merits, but I repeat “A space on each side of an em dash is never allowed in good typography.” I have spent a good deal of time correcting “European Style” when a US publisher purchases a book from a UK publisher, for example. How far would you go in being adaptive in a case like that? And if an em dash is too wide in the font you are using be adaptive in that case, and substitute it with a dash from another font. Typography is an organic process. I see from tour usage of ellipses above that your opinion on their proper spacing also varies from mine.

  • 6. Stephen Coles’s avatar Stephen Coles Mar 25, 2011

    Giorgetta, I apologize for assuming your nationality. To me, “bad typography” is only that which communicates poorly or impedes reading, not the lack of adherence to a list of rules.

  • 7. Grant Hutchinson’s avatar Grant Hutchinson Mar 25, 2011

    “A space on each side of an em dash is never allowed in good typography.”

    Never?

    Giorgetta, I would like to see where you have seen this “rule” consistently documented. In my opinion, not having some space on either side of an em dash makes reading far more uncomfortable and complicated than is necessary.

  • 8. Giorgetta’s avatar Giorgetta Mar 25, 2011

    Grant,

    Ever heard about The Chicago Manual of Style?

    Ever been familiar with the house styles of most major publishers?

    Thin space, or hairline space is the only adjustment allowed to improve legibility in most legitimate publications. Full space around the em dash is incorrect and looks amateurish. Of course, that does not preclude people from having a personal preference. But, if we all went about following our own likes and dislikes when setting type, and ignoring the rules, yes “rules” my fellow typophile, what a mess we would have before our eyes!

  • 9. Richard Fink’s avatar Richard Fink Mar 27, 2011

    Relevant to Mandy’s concern about User Agents flubbing the width of the space is this Typophile post here:

    http://typophile.com/node/68985

    In my tests it makes a big diff if the font contains the space or if it’s being synthesized by the browser. Correct synthesis of   (#8201) and   (#8202) is an iffy proposition if it’s not an actual “empty” glyph in the font.
    FYI – at my suggestion, the Font Squirrel @font-face Generator automatically adds a full compliment of these General Punctuation/Spacing characters plus, I believe, a couple of spacer glyphs for mathematics, too.

    http://www.fontsquirrel.com/fontface/generator

    I’m with Grant and Stephen on this. Onscreen, at least, I prefer that an em dash be sandwiched in between two hairspaces.

    I believe, but am not sure, that the line-break issue Mandy brought up can be controlled using a zero-width joiner to clue the browser where to break the line. (Should work in theory, at least. ;)

  • 10. Stephen Coles’s avatar Stephen Coles Mar 28, 2011

    Giorgetta, Chicago is one style guide. According to the MLA and AP style guides, the em dash should be spaced.

    My point is: rather than blindly follow a set of disputed rules, determine what’s best given the situation, the typeface, the length of the dash, the linespacing, and your own house style. Then, be consistent throughout a piece.

  • 11. espiekermann’s avatar espiekermann Mar 31, 2011

    In German typography, we use en-dashes with spaces to indicate a new thought – like this – in the middle of a sentence. Em-dashes are also called Streckenstrich, a Strecke being a distance, both in time and space. A timetable would this read Hamburg—Berlin, i.e. em-dash without spaces, and a TV programme Nachrichten 20:00—20:30.

    I have entered two en-dashes on my Mac keyboard and I notice that the hyphen looks just like the en–dash here. Looks weird with these large wordspaces, but it looks good in print, I promise. Unfortunately, the real em-dash is hardly being used anymore and seems to be going the way of the apostrophe which is not identical with a foot- or hour-mark.

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