"Designer's description: Constantia is a modulated wedge-serif typeface designed primarily for continuous text in both electronic and paper publishing. The design responds to the recent narrowing of the gap between screen readability and traditional print media, exploiting specific aspects of the most recent advances in ClearType rendering, such as subpixel positioning. The classic proportions of relatively small x-height and long extenders make Constantia ideal for book and journal publishing, while the slight squareness and open counters ensure that it remains legible even at small sizes. This font is suitable for book typesetting, email, webdesign, and magazines.?
A typeface for e-periodicals
The brief for John Hudson was "to design a serif typeface that would be appropriate for use in e-journals", a typeface that could be used not only in the online versions of printed magazines, but in periodicals designed entirely to be read on the screen - and perhaps, ideally, in printed magazines as well.
With this many-sided use in mind, Hudson decided to try to push the boundaries between screen and print typography. He was already well versed in the technical limits and possibilities of digital type on screen, especially in Windows.?"I've watched screen resolution and the ClearType renderer improve over the past few years," he says, "and seeing what the next version of the renderer would be capable of, I was keen not to limit my design to the current or imminent state of the technology, but to anticipate further improvements. In simple terms, this meant including details that reveal themselves as size and resolution increase."?Hudson paid close attention to how details of type design are resolved on sreen at different sizes and resolutions. Since ClearType's primary visual benefit is in the horizontal direction, he designed the letters to avoid vertical problems. "When I came to design Constantia, I began with the idea that the forms should be slightly squarish, to avoid the kind of curves that would produce jagged y-direction rendering. Next, I looked at a lot of different typefaces rendered in ClearType to see what kind of details worked well with the technology and which did not. One of the things that really impressed me was how well certain spiky serifs responded to the renderer. This observation inspired the very sharp triangular serifs that are a feature of Constantia."
One of the notable differences between Constantia and the other typeface in the ClearType font collection, Cambria, is in the x-height: Constantia has longer ascenders and descenders. "In this respect, Constantia has more the proportions of a book face, and this was a deliberate response to the idea of something that could be used in journals." Cambria, by contrast, is intended more for business and technical documents, and has a larger x-height.?In deciding how to approach the designing of the italic of Constantia, Hudson looked at Eric Gill's Perpetua italic (originally called Felicity). "I've never been a big fan of Gill's italics on aesthetic grounds, but they have some interesting functional virtues. I was very impressed by the clarity of Felicity on screen, and realized that this was due to the regularity of its slant and the reduced cursivity of some letters, e.g. the lowercase z, which are close to being sloped roman forms. I wasn't going to do anything quite so rigid myself, but this idea of selectively reducing cursivity is an interesting one that can resolve problems with the y-direction rendering in ClearType."
Constantia has the same basic set of characters and features shared by all the ClearType fonts, plus sets of small-cap lining figures (both proportional and tabular). There is also a stylistic variant of the Greek uppercase iota with diaresis, and corresponding smallcap variant, that is suited suited to all-cap display settings and headings, e.g. "staïkos".
Text in Latin, Greek and Cyrillic
Hudson dealt with the challenge of designing simoultaneously for three different scripts by working on all three at the same time, going back and forth from one script to another. "After I had worked out initial ideas for a subset of Latin letters, I immediately began work on the Cyrillic and Greek, and those initial Latin forms were revised in light of what was happening in the Cyrillic in particular. For example, there are more vertical terminals in the Cyrillic letters, and these need to be strong because they are key elements of the letters, not appendages; working on these encouraged me to go back and make the vertical terminals of the Latin stronger, which gives the whole design more presence.
"The Greek script is probably my favourite to design for, even though it is very much harder to get right than either Latin or Cyrillic. Many Greek typefaces of the past thirty years, including designs produced in Greece, are very stiff, and suffer from trying to sqeeze the Greek letterforms into Latin structures. I'm very conscious of the fact that the normative forms of the Greek lowercase alphabet developed in isolation from the Latin, in the Byzantine empire, and were influenced by Middle Eastern scripts that have a much steeper ductus than Latin; they arec also traditionally written with more rotation than Latin, which varies the ductus. So I try to avoid using the typical Latin contrast pattern in the Greek lowercase, while still maintaining harmony of weight across the different scripts."
Cyrillic represents quite different challenges from Greek, especially in relation to Latin. "One of the challenges in Cyrillic type design is to find authentic details for particular styles op type, especially if the Latin companion is in a style that precedes the development of the modern Russian alphabet in the 18th Century. Constantia has some elements of Renaissance types, and applying these to Cyrillic is a bit like taking the script in a time machine. The Cyrillic script probably needed the most adaptation to screen rendering, i.e. some elements of Constantia Cyrillic would be different if I'd been designing for print. The flatish upper terminals of the upper- and lowercase zhe and ka, for example, are a fairly novel feature, and simply produced the best letterforms when rendered with ClearType." Hudson admits that Maxim Zhukov, Microsoft's Cyrillic type consultant, "wasn't very keen on this feature of the design," but the two of them "worked together very hard on these letters to make them look right, with lots of minute adjustment of weight through the terminal. Designing these letters was probably the hardest thing in the whole Constantia design."
Just as the Latin italic needed to harmonize with its roman, the italic fonts for the Greek and Cyrillic versions of Constantia had to work well with their upright companions, as well as with each other.
The Cyrillic italic follows the Latin in being generally more cursive than the roman, with more condensed forms and with calligraphic features, such as the sharp, deep cuts when the bowl of Latin letters like b and h meet the stem. Some of the fully cursive Cyrillic italic letterforms are very different from their upright correspondents, and this is followed in the Constntia design - compare, for example, the italic and upright forms of ghe and zhe.
"The Greek required a somewhat different solution, though, because the design of the upright is already more cursive than the Latin and Cyrillic - overall, it is less rigid, with many more curves and a greater variety of shapes and counter sizes. There was little possibility of increasing the cursivity of the Greek in the same way as I had done for the Latin and Cyrillic; and the condensed, angular forms that appear in the latter don't look natural for Greek, which has a greater number of rounded forms. So the Greek italic is in some respects less differentiated than the others, being closer to a sloped version of the upright Greek".
Hudson is looking forward to seeing Constantia used in e-journals, since this was the initial brief. "And I'm also expecting to see it used in documents in which people want something modern but with the smaller x-height and long ascender proportions of Constantia. Since I was interested in how the gap between screen and print typography has been reduced, and continues to grow narrower, I would be thrilled to see Constantia being used for both the print and electronic media versions of a publication. Until recently, it has not been possible to use the same typefaces in print and electronic media without compromising either the readability or the attractiveness of one or the other.""
?J.Hudson in Now read this, The Microsoft Cleartype font collection, Microsoft 2004, p. 24-25.
Constantia van John Hudson (Tiro Typeworks) heeft de kleur van Times en Georgia (Matthew Carter, 1993), de constructie eerder van Georgia. De schreven lijken zwaarder dan bij Times, lichter dan bij Georgia. Ook de verticale as en het dikduncontrast zitten ergens tussen Times en Georgia. De open a, e en t, de vierkantige bogen, en de spievormige schreven zijn volgens Hudson ingegeven door ClearType fontrendering, maar ogen ook heel modieus. Constantia is een fris alternatief voor Georgia en vooral voor Times, vooral voor wie meer typografische mogelijkeheden en meertaligheid apprecieert. Een vergelijking van de drie letters heb ik ook op Flickr geplaatst: een .png op basis van drie tekstkolommen in InDesign, Word spacing 80 100 120; Letter spacing -1 0 1; Glyph scaling 99 100 101; Adobe paragraph composer, Optical kerning, Optical margin alignement, enz. De "spiraaltjes" zijn plaatsvervangers voor ontbrekende glyphs (download gratis maar dus absoluut niet aan te raden in productieomgeving).
De ClearType® fonts zijn te koop (bugvrij!) bij Ascender® Corporation.
Boven: Contstantia tussen Georgia en Times: prachtig systeemfont.