Reference

Earliest Sans-Serif Typefaces

This blog post describes two of the earliest documented English (Latin alphabet or Roman) sans-serif type designs. The first is somewhat obscure, but still more widely known: Caslon Egyptian or Two-Lines English. The second is even earlier and more obscure, which I am calling Soane Old Roman, based on a tiny sample sketch by John Soane which was discovered in the twenty-first century and discussed by James Mosley and the late Justin Howes.

Caslon Egyptian, 1816

or Two-Lines English Egyptian

Some resources about this typeface, the earliest commercially available sans-serif typeface.

  1. Wikipedia entry on Caslon Egyptian.
  2. Jonathan Martin’s article on Behance: Two Lines English Egyptian Digital Revival. This is where I got the high-resolution scan of the sample from the two-century-old type specimen book. His typeface is not publicly available for download or purchase, although if you contact him privately he may take your money.
  3. Fonts in Use has an article about...
  4. ... Font Bureau’s Caslons Egyptian revival, with its invented lowercase.
  5. Jonathan Morgan and Adrienne Vasquez made a revival which is available for purchase.

 

Soane Old Roman, 1779

James Mosley published a scan of a type sample from a sketch dated 1779 for a proposed “DESIGN FOR A BRITISH” museum by architect John Soane. From these thirteen letters (plus two, if you take C from G and P from R) we can create the better part of an alphabet.

So now we have an even older typeface from the dawn of sans-serif types. If we fill in the gaps of Old Roman with Caslon Egyptian, we have a complete sans-serif uppercase alphabet older than the US Constitution.

 

2021 Soane Old Roman revival by Jared Updike

I made an experimental typeface (all uppercase, very few glyphs) that I created from Jonathan Martin’s reference scan, which combines Caslon Egyptian (capitals in this file) and Soane Old Roman / New Roman (lowercase in this file.)

  • Download the OTF here. Available under the SIL OFL. If you make any changes or make something interesting from this, you must make the changes available under the same license, and call it something different. And please let me know about it!

For a comparison, including the lovely and quite popular Proxima Nova by Mark Simonson, see this table below:

(All of the black glyphs are available in the Soane Old Roman Bold OTF file.)

Conclusion

Just buy and use Simonson’s gorgeous and professional Proxima Nova family, or if you want it to be more historical (mostly, besides the capital letter G) get the Caslons Egyptian family from Font Bureau.


Programming

Video Games as an Art Form

Video games are one of the only forms of media that include all the forms of media I deeply love: programming or software development; interaction design and user experience; writing or literature; animation and computer graphics; music and sound design; fine art, illustration and graphic design. (Film or cinematography if you have the budget.) What an art form. Take that, Hollywood!

Like many who grew up since the Atari 2600 and Nintendo Entertainment System were available in the 1980’s, making my own video games was what motivated me to learn how to program in the first place.

In the modern world, with decades of software development experience under my belt, I feel like I still have it in me to make a game from scratch, perhaps something fun—but I would turn it into too much work and have a hard time keeping the scope narrow. I still know how to put a game together at a technical level and I think with my vastly improved engineering skills and improved tools like C# or JavaScript and Unity and widely available GPU hardware it would be easy at a technical level to make a high quality low-tech game, but artwork or assets and level design would be a big project.

The issue I have with that type of time investment (unless the kiddos were older or were somehow involved) is that the game market is a mess and the indie game world is saturated and overcrowded, just intensely competitive. Gamers and non-gamers have really high expectations. And the way to make money is to make a game free and then use dark patterns from behavioral psychology and trick people into paying to play a game that is made crummy on purpose, for monetization reasons. What a mess.

The sliver of hope is that there many ways to publish a game and ask an audience to pay for it. One is itch.io or Steam, where people pay you directly. The App Store allows this too, but is pretty overflowing with an infinitude of highly-funded games that you have to compete with for attention. There are also streaming platforms like Google Stadia, or Apple Arcade. If you cut a deal with Apple, you can get paid to develop a beautiful and fully true-to-itself game, yet give the full game away “for free” to subscribers so that people can enjoy the whole thing—without being forced to make it worse just to make money (monetization, pay-to-play game mechanics, fishing for whales). I’m pretty sure unless I had some unique new concept I could never catch the attention of Apple Arcade to develop it for them, but that would be quite an honor. Unlikely but it would be amazing.

I really admire when people put something together that is beautiful and inspiring. So there is a part of me that hopes to return to making video games someday.


Reference

Mickey Mouse Shorts

This is old news but my wife and I watched all of the new (2013–2019) Mickey Mouse Shorts (usually 3.5 minutes) on YouTube over the years and unsurprisingly, now that our toddler is old enough, he loves them too. It is about five or six hours of material. He watches all of it in about a week!

I found out that I share a birthday with one of the main characters. I also found out the Disney is working on a theme park ride based on that Rainbow Caverns episode called Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway. Surprisingly this is the first Mickey-themed ride-through attraction!


Programming

Announcing Magpiler

Magpiler is my own replacement for Docpad. The software simply runs through and slurps in a folder of Markdown content and JS templates and allows a dev server to serve up individual pages, and a script to generate all output for static serving.

This content is now live on Updike.org (Jareditorial, this blog, and USA.Updike.org) and I can edit the Markdown posts with a Dropbox-synced text editor (Byword) on my phone, and run a shortcut on my phone to have the server download the Markdown from Dropbox and update the content publicly. I can also sit down at my Mac and add features or lots of new content at once (using Magpiler-dev) and deploy those to the site with Git and Dropbox.

Magpiler as a tool is pretty boring but that is the point: you put the interesting bits of code in the templates for your website, which automate things for you, and then when everything is set up to your liking, you focus on the content and adding new posts, etc.

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