MICHA.ELMUELLER

 

Reworking Typography: The Last Question

 

The “Reworking Typography” series continues:

From time to time I find articles, texts or poems which I really like. But in some of those cases the text is typeset in such a poor way that it makes me sad. For me, typography has the same role as rhetoric—the way in which you say something can have a totally different impact and I think this is equally true for text and typography. Sometimes I take time and make an effort to typeset the text in a better way.

In the midst of 2014 I chose to newly typeset the fabulous short story “The Last Question” by Isaac Assimov. There are a lot of versions out there, but I haven’t been able to find a properly typeset one.

I chose to typset this specific story aſter I had read it and was thrilled by it. But sadly the typesetting of the document was horrible. However, it held a lot of potential: typesetting the computer speech or the different time zones for examples. I also liked the idea of using a grotesque font as a body text font, in order to support the futuristic manner of the story. I experimented with various layouts and fonts and at one point even had different, increasingly futuristic, fonts for the different time chapters. In the end, however, I decided to go for the less obtrusive approach.

I chose for a layout of DIN A5 with a two-column layout. I specifically chose the two-column layout, which I somehow associate with a more technical/scientific kind of text. The text was typeset using the PF Din Text Condensed. The computer output was set using OCR-A , a font which was designed as a mean to ease the transformation of printed text into a digital representation. For the ornaments I used the wonderful PTL Roletta Floral Ornaments font. The initials were typeset using two different fonts: the P22 Arts and Crafts and the Final Frontier font used in Star Trek. The titlepage was set using Gotham — a masculine, nearly monospaced, font designed by Tobias Frere-Jones for the GQ magazine. On the soſtware side this document was typeset using XeLaTeX. The (sadly very messy) sourcecode used to render the document is accessible via https://github.com/cmichi/reworking-typography.

The PDF is available here.

This is by far my favorite story of all those I have written.

After all, I undertook to tell several trillion years of human history in the space of a short story and I leave it to you as to how well I succeeded.

–Isaac Asimov on “The Last Question”

Reworking Typography

From time to time I find articles, texts or poems which I really like. But in some of those cases the text is typeset in such a poor way that it makes me sad. For me, typography has the same role as rhetoric—the way in which you say something can have a totally different impact and I think this is equally true for text and typography.

Sometimes I take time and make an effort to typeset the text in a better way. I have decided to publish some of these workings here from time to time. The first example is a poem by Kate, which was published in a collection last year. I love the poem and was quite saddened about the typesetting (on which she had no influence).

This is the published version:

And this is my reworked version:

In the published version the title of the poem was omitted and I don’t think the feather nor the font-face fit the text in any way. The photo quality of the feather really is as bad in the print as in the photo above. The font I used in the reworking is the Adobe Garamond Pro. The ornament is taken from the gorgeous Hoefler Text. If you are interested in the sourcecode of the newly set version (written in XeTeX): I have published it here. There you will also find the PDF version.

About Me

I am a 29 year old techno-creative enthusiast who lives and works in Berlin. In a previous life I studied computer science (more specifically Media Informatics) at the Ulm University in Germany.

I care about exploring ideas and developing new things. I like creating great stuff that I am passionate about.

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