My HGR font

In 1982 we got the ability to write an article about our work for the newly established quarterly magazine ‘ITEMS’. We found that we somehow had to say something about the situation we found ourselfs in at that moment. Of course you could show all kinds of graphic work what we had made in recent years. But we suggested to write a manifesto about how we could go ahead in the future as designers. And preferably we wanted this manifesto to be printed in a font that we had designed ourself. Everything would be printed on our EPSON FX80 dot matrix printer. This output we delivered to the printer. Which would then print the ITEMS pages. And ITEMS themself undertook the distribution.

We started with the content. What exactly was this manifesto about. We introduced ourselves as a group who would like to make changes through futurologic research in existing social structures. The results would then via text and image be published. The manifesto would discuss the way how a designer could have more impact on society. We found our influence at that time too minimal. So we had a couple of issues defined as: culture, defense, economy, health, religion, environment, education, entertainment, planning, politics, food supply and science. Everything very similar to how our current Dutch government system looks at this moment with all its ‘supporting’ departments.

To begin with, all texts were entered into the computer using PRINT statements. This resulted often in a ‘SYNTAX ERROR’ because we had misspelled the word ‘PRINT’. Or because we had forgotten the quotes. These texts were then printed to check them for even more text errors. Text was also quite difficult to read on the monitor screen because everything was displayed in capitals. There was also the line spacing of only 1 pixel. That in turn stimulated even more typos.

This article is a bit less about writing code. But it is an important point because we are confronted for the first time with software companies that wrote commercial programs. In this case it was a font editing program that we had purchased at Schröder Engineering. But since we would like to design our own typeface the font editing program had to use the HGR (high-resolution graphics mode). The font editor actually generated graphics. I do not know what the name of the font editor was but it consisted of a field of 7 x 5 rectangles. Each rectangle was in turn divided into 7 x 8 pixels. On the right side was a field in which the character was displayed which you were editing. You could choose from or or  case characters. Underneath it was the graphic in the size and the shape you designed. For the printer it meanth 1 pixel is 1 printed dot. The editing of the characters was done using a joystick. That way you could switch a pixel on or off. It was the same joystick that we used for playing Space Eggs.

The starting point for the design of the font was to use only horizontal and vertical lines. All diagonal lines were excluded because diagonal lines seemed to be thinner than vertical and horizontal lines. The punctuation marks such as commas, the point and the numbers would be reversed printed. After all characters and figures were designed, we displayed the text on the screen. We could then customize or adjust the characters. We designed the HGR font like that because we thought that all text would look more as a unity. We were right about the unity but it turned out that the readability was actually very bad. But at that time we found it very good experiment.

The layout was also quite remarkable. In the first place, we rotated the layout by 90 degrees compared to the regular items layout. For us it seemed easier to read since you could show the text lines below each other twice as much as on one page. Text paragraphs jumped out according to the content. The central story was displayed at the middle of the page. While the hierarchically lower horizontal text blocks jumped out of the central column. The lowest level was positioned on the left side. Which was actually quite illogical. When everything was printed by ou EPSON FX80 matrix printer we could send our story to the offset-printer. We never had any comments on our manifesto. The reason seems obvious today. Here are the eight pages of the manifesto.

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