Height – The Twelve Days of Ax‑mas

On the twelfth day of ax-mas, we’re exploring the Height HGHT axis.

Or should I say, we’re exploring how I’ve been dissuaded from the idea of making a Height axis.

I was working on a piece of lettering, where the words had a hill-like effect through the height of the letters, and I found the easiest way to implement this was as a height axis. It made it easy to rough out the effect, and continue from there.

But since then, I’ve come to a different conclusion about that height axis:

  • It might not be a good idea to ship one, and
  • It was really a Y Transparent axes like we’ve been looking at in the last couple of messages, not a height axis

In any examples of Latin-centric height-changing lettering I can think of, you wouldn’t want the letterforms to change width, just height. The goal is truly for them to get taller or shorter in place.

There was a proposal for a registered Height axis from a CJK perspective, submitted right around the same time as Type Network’s parametric proposal, but the relationship between the ideas was immediately apparent and discussed. From the outside, it seems like the conclusion was: the x- and y-axis parametric proposal is generally the right idea, and already accounts for concepts like a Height axis. Amstelvar even has a demo of how language- or script-specific axes could replace the Y Transparent axis, in this case Y Transparent Chinese YTCH, in the same way that the bundle of axes does this for Latin.

But beyond that, it also seems like it requires concensus on the idea of a high- and low-level axis which isn’t resolved.

So, today, if I needed it for a personal Variable Font for a piece of height-based lettering, I still wouldn’t hesitate to make one. But in terms of a distributed font, using the Y Transparent axis concept internally, even if you explained it as a height axis externally, seems like a conceptually better path to me.

I’ll put a bow on this series next week, but in the meantime: happy ax-mas or whatever you celebrate! Hope you have a great holiday.

Until next time,