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DNA on 10th — street art, wayfinding and font


Fonts + Design

Snellen Optotype Font with Upper and Lowercase characters

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
SnellenMK optotype font. Uppercase, lowercase and symbols to test your eyes. (zoom)
Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
SnellenMK optotype font. Uppercase, lowercase and symbols to test your eyes. (zoom)

In the process of designing my Snellen Eye Chart typographical posters, I came across the Snellen font by Andrew Howlett. I wasn't happy with all the letters, so I made attempts at giving the font an update. I call this redesign "Snellen MK", to avoid conflict with Howlett's "Snellen".

Not being a font designer, I will likely get myself into trouble.

snellen chart posters

While making my Snellen chart series, I entered the rabbit hole of optotype fonts ... and I can't get out!


Typographical posters of how the world works in the style of Snellen eye charts
 / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca buy artwork
A technically accurate Snellen chart using four genetic bases A T G C rendered as optotypes. The chart begins with the start codon ATG and ends in the stop codon TGA, which appears only once in the chart. Print at 16 in × 24 in. (BUY ARTWORK)

Typographical posters of how the world works in the style of Snellen eye charts
 / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca buy artwork
A technically accurate Snellen chart using the nautical flag alphabet rendered as optotypes. Print at 16 in × 24 in. (BUY ARTWORK)

The charts don't necessarily use the latest version of my Snellen font design, which fluctuates as my mood about some of the letters changes.

optotype fonts

The optotype requirement is that letters be designed on a 5 × 5 grid, and have constant stroke width. This means that both lower and upper case letters need to share the grid and stroke. To stay compatible with the eyechart paradigm, letters should be as obvious as possible.

Lorrie Frear's article What are Optotypes? Eye Charts in Focus is a great read about optotypes and eye charts.

Snellen Optotype Letter Design

uppercase

The uppercase letter design uses Herman Snellen's original chart as inspiration.

I have modified the design by Andrew Howlett (see below) for some letters. All the changes are relatively minor: more serifs and consistent stroke width for bars on R and K.

lowercase

The lowercase characters should be considered experimental.

The progress of my redesign is shown below. I would greatly appreciate feedback and suggestions!

Download SnellenMK Optotype Font

The distribution contains both Andrew's version and my redesign.

v7.002 11-Jul-2019 — Download SnellenMK optotype font

version v7.002 11-Jul-2019

Tidied all letter forms with Fontlab 6.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Snellen optotype font (version v7.002 11-Jul-2019) that includes both upper and lower case characters, along with most punctuation and some symbols. Based on design by Andrew Howlett. (zoom, download SnellenMK optotype font)

version 7 — 6 Feb 2017

Fixed g and e. Thanks to Makeesha Fisher for suggestions.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Snellen optotype font (mk.v.7). Original design by Andrew Howlett (left) and my redesign (right), which includes both upper and lowercase letters as well as digits and symbols. (zoom, download SnellenMK optotype font)

version 6 — 5 Feb 2017

Adjusted serifs on f, j, l, o, t to extend the full width of the grid. Added a lot more symbols.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Snellen optotype font (mk.v.6). Original design by Andrew Howlett (left) and my redesign (right), which includes both upper and lowercase letters as well as digits and symbols. (zoom, download SnellenMK optotype font)

version 5 — 4 Feb 2017

Added lowercase, digits and symbols.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Snellen optotype font (mk.v.5). Original design by Andrew Howlett (left) and my redesign (right), which includes both upper and lowercase letters as well as digits and symbols. (zoom, download SnellenMK optotype font)

version 4 — 23 Feb 2017

Adding digits.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
SnellenMK optotype font (mk.v.4). Original design by Andrew Howlett (left) and my redesign (right), which includes both upper and lowercase letters as well as digits. (zoom)

version 3 — 22 Feb 2017

I'm exploring the lowercase characters. I don't know what I want to do with them. Make this into a more standard font in which lowercase letters are smaller, so that letters can fit their roles clearly when text is set in sentence case, or fill out the full optotype grid.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
SnellenMK optotype font (mk.v.3). Original design by Andrew Howlett (left) and my redesign (right), which includes both upper and lowercase letters. (zoom)

version 2 — 22 Feb 2017

Flushed out some inconsistencies in the uppercase characters. Added serifs to more letters.

Now all the letters occuppy the full 5 × 5 grid, including the I, whose serifs were widened to allow this. While this new uppercase I isn't as pretty as the old one, it makes the entire typeface more consistent to its optotype roots.

Still struggling with the G. In the original version, the descending stroke was cut off in the middle of a grid, which I didn't like.

The S has been fixed—thanks to Elanor Lutz for feedback.

I've color coded the characters slightly differently, drawing attention to ones that I feel need more thought.

The lowercase characters aren't color coded (yet) because ... most of them need help. Primarily, I'm vacillating between making them fill the full size of the 5 × 5 square, just like the uppercase characters, and keeping them confined to a 4 × 4 square, which incurs loss of legibility. If I make the letters the same size, it will be impossible to distinguish lowercase and uppercase characters some cases (e.g. c, i). Perhaps this is desired?

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
SnellenMK optotype font (mk.v.2). Original design by Andrew Howlett (left) and my redesign (right), which includes both upper and lowercase letters. (zoom)

version 1 — 22 Feb 2017

First attempt at lowercase characters.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
SnellenMK optotype font (mk.v.1). Original design by Andrew Howlett (left) and my redesign (right), which includes both upper and lowercase letters. (zoom, download font)
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news + thoughts

Hola Mundo Cover

Sat 21-09-2019

My cover design for Hola Mundo by Hannah Fry. Published by Blackie Books.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Hola Mundo by Hannah Fry. Cover design is based on my 2013 `\pi` day art. (read)

Curious how the design was created? Read the full details.

Markov Chains

Tue 30-07-2019

You can look back there to explain things,
but the explanation disappears.
You'll never find it there.
Things are not explained by the past.
They're explained by what happens now.
—Alan Watts

A Markov chain is a probabilistic model that is used to model how a system changes over time as a series of transitions between states. Each transition is assigned a probability that defines the chance of the system changing from one state to another.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Nature Methods Points of Significance column: Markov Chains. (read)

Together with the states, these transitions probabilities define a stochastic model with the Markov property: transition probabilities only depend on the current state—the future is independent of the past if the present is known.

Once the transition probabilities are defined in matrix form, it is easy to predict the distribution of future states of the system. We cover concepts of aperiodicity, irreducibility, limiting and stationary distributions and absorption.

This column is the first part of a series and pairs particularly well with Alan Watts and Blond:ish.

Grewal, J., Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2019) Points of significance: Markov Chains. Nature Methods 16:663–664.

1-bit zoomable gigapixel maps of Moon, Solar System and Sky

Mon 22-07-2019

Places to go and nobody to see.

Exquisitely detailed maps of places on the Moon, comets and asteroids in the Solar System and stars, deep-sky objects and exoplanets in the northern and southern sky. All maps are zoomable.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
3.6 gigapixel map of the near side of the Moon, annotated with 6,733. (details)
Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
100 megapixel and 10 gigapixel map of the Solar System on 20 July 2019, annotated with 758k asteroids, 1.3k comets and all planets and satellites. (details)
Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
100 megapixle and 10 gigapixel map of the Northern Celestial Hemisphere, annotated with 44 million stars, 74,000 deep-sky objects and 3,000 exoplanets. (details)
Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
100 megapixle and 10 gigapixel map of the Southern Celestial Hemisphere, annotated with 69 million stars, 88,000 deep-sky objects and 1000 exoplanets. (details)

Quantile regression

Sat 01-06-2019
Quantile regression robustly estimates the typical and extreme values of a response.

Quantile regression explores the effect of one or more predictors on quantiles of the response. It can answer questions such as "What is the weight of 90% of individuals of a given height?"

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Nature Methods Points of Significance column: Quantile regression. (read)

Unlike in traditional mean regression methods, no assumptions about the distribution of the response are required, which makes it practical, robust and amenable to skewed distributions.

Quantile regression is also very useful when extremes are interesting or when the response variance varies with the predictors.

Das, K., Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2019) Points of significance: Quantile regression. Nature Methods 16:451–452.

Background reading

Altman, N. & Krzywinski, M. (2015) Points of significance: Simple linear regression. Nature Methods 12:999–1000.

Analyzing outliers: Robust methods to the rescue

Sat 30-03-2019
Robust regression generates more reliable estimates by detecting and downweighting outliers.

Outliers can degrade the fit of linear regression models when the estimation is performed using the ordinary least squares. The impact of outliers can be mitigated with methods that provide robust inference and greater reliability in the presence of anomalous values.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Nature Methods Points of Significance column: Analyzing outliers: Robust methods to the rescue. (read)

We discuss MM-estimation and show how it can be used to keep your fitting sane and reliable.

Greco, L., Luta, G., Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2019) Points of significance: Analyzing outliers: Robust methods to the rescue. Nature Methods 16:275–276.

Background reading

Altman, N. & Krzywinski, M. (2016) Points of significance: Analyzing outliers: Influential or nuisance. Nature Methods 13:281–282.