The three lowercase ms of Glyptic DJR.
The best part of releasing the new version of Glyptic DJR this week is that I can get rid of the custom stylesheet I use to test it 😅
January’s Font of the Month: Glyptic DJR Lowercase
This month’s update started with a sneaky little change I made in August. I love Herman Ihlenburg’s Glyptic, but its U felt off to me. There’s something stilted and overly-mechanical about the squared-off left edges of the vertical stem, and I didn’t like how all the serifs seemed to push out from the letter’s center.
So in my revival, I tweaked it. I removed the bottom serif and replaced it with a vertical spike—simpler and still sharp. I did the same thing to G, which already has a lot going on and could afford to be less busy. Then I added a bilateral serif to the top of U, echoing the bilateral serifs you see in the rest of the typeface.
At the time, these seemed like such insignificant tweaks that I didn’t bother to mention them in my write-up. But as I set out to expand Glyptic, I quickly found myself in the middle of a butterfly effect. The new vertical spike, a change I wasn’t even sure was right, became the cornerstone of the update I am sending you today: Glyptic DJR Lowercase.
Ihlenburg didn’t design a lowercase for Glyptic (at least that I know of). Fortunately, he was a prolific designer, so there’s no shortage of lowercases for me to reference as source material for the piece of historical fiction I was about to create.
I noticed that Ihlenburg would often use Uncialesque forms in his lowercase, even if they weren’t prevalent in the uppercase. I saw them in softer, more flowing designs like Campanile (see the h, m, and n below) and in more daring designs like Ringlet (see the alternate n in this cover). And I couldn’t help but remember this exact same inwardly-bent curve in Glyptic’s U.
So, I made Glyptic’s U the starting point for the lowercase, and everything else cascaded from there. Lowercase u follows uppercase U, n is a 180° rotation of u, m is a horizontal mirroring of n, and w is a vertical mirroring of m. And every step of the way, the little vertical spike I added (and the serif I omitted) became a bigger and bigger part of the design.
The result is a kind of semi-serif, where serifs are in some places you’d expect but not in others. The vertical asymmetry made this a tricky design to space—I had to treat letters like p, d, b, and q as if they were sans-serifs for spacing purposes since none of their serifs occur within the x-height. Of the letters with vertical stems, only i and l use a conventional serif arrangement.
Glyptic gets its chaotic energy by mixing spikes and curls—it’s a strange heightening of the same juxtaposition of sharps and rounds found in Roslindale. So I wanted to ensure that I passed up no opportunity to incorporate my favorite details from the caps: the elongated, scroll-like vertical serifs and the spiral-y curlicues. In a and e, I blended the wedge vertical serifs with a open crossbar / interior ball terminal combo that I borrowed from Campanile…the resulting letterforms are open where they should be enclosed, and enclosed where they should be open!
The pair of letters that vexed me most were f and t, where I felt that it was necessary to include the vertical serif even though it made the letters unusually wide and difficult to read. I tried dozens of variations before landing on a pair that has a ball terminal on the left-hand side too, and an alternate that doesn’t.
Do I think that this is the lowercase Ihlenburg would have made for Glyptic? Definitely not. But I do think it honors the original design in its own way, preserving Glyptic’s rigidity as well as its eclecticism and whimsy.
I also took this opportunity to add lining figures and decorative borders. If I keep on adding, can I still call it a revival? I’m feeling out where that line is. I get excited when a project stops being a digitization and feels like a conversation… an asynchronous exchange of visual ideas between a thing 145 years old and a thing that is just taking shape.
My 2022 in variable fonts
As posted here regarding recent discussions about variable fonts, I offer these personal stats.
In 2022, I published or co-published five variable fonts.
Three through Font of the Month Club, currently starting at $24:
- Nickel Gothic (wdth)
- Gimlet Sans (opsz, wght, ital)
- Warbler (opsz)
Two co-published multi-script variable expansions:
- Fit Devanagari, designed by Kimya Gandhi (wdth; €49)
- Roslindale Cyrillic, designed by Jovana Jocić (opsz, wght, ital; $150)
In 2021, the count was six.
I can only speak for myself, but not much of a slowdown over here, not too many “toy fonts” (aside from Fit), and hopefully accessibly priced (discounted licenses are also available).
Also, all of my major families are available as variable fonts, except for Turnip and Input which are hopefully coming in 2023.
Pappardelle’s serif gaps
The thicker the serif, the more important the serif gap! 📐