Thomas Milo Presented With Dr. Peter Karow Award At DTL FontMaster Conference

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News | Yves Peters | October 26, 2009

The second Dr. Peter Karow Award for Font Technology & Digital Typography has been awarded to Thomas Milo for the development of the ACE layout engine (the heart of the Tasmeem plug-in for InDesign ME) for Arabic text setting. The Award is presented every five years to a person who makes an exceptional and innovative contribution to the development of digital type and typography related technology. The first Dr. Peter Karow Award was presented to Dr. Peter Karow himself at the third DTL FontMaster Conference at Castle Maurick in 2003. This means it took an extra year before the jury (Dr. Peter Karow, Dr. Jürgen Willrodt, Peter Rosenfeld, and Frank E. Blokland, chairman) came to an unanimous decision for this second award.

Thomas Milo and his company DecoType developed with ACE – an acronym for “Arabic Calligraphic Engine” – new advanced technology for Arabic text setting. The Arabic script needs a far more sophisticated approach than for instance the Latin script, based on a thorough analysis of the Arabic script. Not only did Milo’s typographic research serve as the foundation for the ACE technology, clearly it also formed a basis for the development of the OpenType format, although this is a less known and acknowledged fact.

Thomas Milo’s importance for the development of digital type and typography is evident and in line with the position of Dr. Peter Karow in the field. As one consultant of the award jury stated:

Dr. Karow made type digital in a way we know today (description of shapes as outlines, rasterisation, hinting, greyscaling, plus page-layout improvements). Thomas Milo added the “smartness” needed for scripts that ask for a more sophisticated behavior than Latin.

On the 18th of November Dr. Peter Karow shall personally present the award to Thomas Milo at the Type[&]Design 2009 conference in The Hague.

The jury of the Dr. Peter Karow Award congratulates Thomas Milo with his impressive achievements!


Demo of Tasmeem, shaping a text from A to Z in InDesign CS4. Features of word shaping and position tuner are used on Naskh font.
About Thomas Milo:

Titus Nemeth on designing typefaces for ACE in Tasmeem (PDF):

Decotype videos demonstrating ACE by way of Tasmeem:

On November 18th, 2009, the 4th DTL FontMaster Conference will take place at the five star Steigenberger Kurhaus Hotel in The Hague.

The conference – titled “Type[&]Design 2009″ – is targeted at those who work professionally with type, such as graphic designers, typographers, printers, type designers, and font developers. It will provide insight in many (technical) aspects of type (design) and font production. The primary focus will be on OpenType, and the support of this font format in both operating systems (such as Mac OS and Windows) and in applications from leading companies (like for instance Adobe, Microsoft, Apple, and Quark).

Besides the OpenType format the IKARUS system as well will have a central place in the conference program, since it is now 35 years ago that the era of the digital font production started with this invention by Dr. Peter Karow. Much of the actual font technology, like hinting and kerning, originated in the IKARUS system, for which the DTL FontMaster modules are built. Dr. Peter Karow – the guest of honour during the conference – will present the second Dr. Peter Karow Award for Font Technology & Digital Typography. Furthermore the new 3.0 edition of DTL FontMaster, which includes the 2.5 version of the Adobe Font Development Kit for OpenType (AFDKO), and version 1.5 of DTL OTMaster will be presented.

The previous DTL FontMaster Conference took place at Castle Maurick in Vught, nearby ‘s-Hertogenbosch in 2003. In the past three years the Dutch Type Library organised so called “FM Tracks” in Lisbon (2006), Brighton (2007), and St. Petersburg (2008), as part of the ATypI TypeTech Forum sessions. So after six years the FM Conference has returned to the Netherlands.

Speakers at the conference are Dr. Peter Karow (Digital Typography and Artificial Intelligence), Dr. Jürgen Willrodt (OpenType Status 2009), Thomas Milo (DecoType, ACE, and Tasmeem), John Hudson (Scholarly Types), Peter Rosenfeld (Re-inventing font technology), and Frank E. Blokland (Automating type design processes). All talks will be held in English.

A PDF version of the conference program can be downloaded here. More information can be found on the FontMaster website.
Header image: Thomas Milo by Eben Sorkin.

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5 Comments:

  1. Congratulations, Tom. I look forward to being present when you receive the award at the DTL conference.

    By way of an appreciation:

    Thomas Milo’s importance for the development of digital type and typography is evident and in line with the position of Dr. Peter Karow in the field. As one consultant of the award jury stated: ‘Dr. Karow made type digital in a way we know today (description of shapes as outlines, rasterization, hinting, greyscaling, plus page-layout improvements). Thomas Milo added the “smartness” needed for scripts that ask for a more sophisticated behavior than Latin’.

    More than that, I think Tom’s approach to Arabic continues to confront us with the question ‘Where should that “smartness” reside?’. The different ‘smart font’ formats that have come along in the wake of Tom’s work with Arabic distinguish themselves in how they respond to that question. Ironically, considering the influence that Tom’s work has had on smart font formats, ACE fonts are relatively un-smart or naïve, in the sense that the fonts themselves do not contain much layout intelligence; rather, they are collections of shapes that in combination can represent with more or less complexity – as determined by the designer – particular styles of Arabic text. In Tom and Mirjam’s own typefaces, the complexity is determined by the particular script style – naskh, thuluth, ruqaa, nastaliq –, painstakingly researched and reproduced with all their strictness and also all their flexibility; in ACE fonts from other designers we see different kinds and different levels of complexity appropriate to those individual typefaces (making clear nonsense of the claim that ACE is all about old calligraphy). What ACE gives to all these fonts with their differing complexities, is a set of flexible capabilities in line with the organically developed capabilities of the Arabic writing system, and it does so largely without the aid of layout intelligence within the fonts. One might say that ACE is a smart engine that drives naïve fonts.

    Contrast this with the model of Apple’s GX/AAT and SIL’s Graphite smart font technologies, in which all the layout intelligence resides in the font and none in the engine: smart fonts driving naïve engines.

    And then there is OpenType, which sits, often uncomfortably, between these two models, with its layout intelligence divided between the engines and the fonts. It isn’t always clear who is driving – the smart engines or the smart fonts –, and I’m not sure where the naïvité now resides. Perhaps with the people who thought, and might still think, that OpenType would solve all problems of the typography of complex writing systems. With this too Tom’s work confronts us: Arabic simply done better than it is possible to do in OpenType or AAT or Graphite. It is not that these smart font technologies and their attendant engines are useless – they do a lot of things very well and they do them very widely in everything from professional publishing software to this email program –, but that they do not do everything that we either want them to do or that they need to do in order to express in typographic form all the world’s writing systems without doing violence to those systems.

    I think one of the most important points that one can make about Tom’s technology is that it is not necessarily an appropriate technology for any writing system other than Arabic (although there are other systems to which it might apply or for which parallel technologies might be appropriate, and the philosophy behind the technology may be applied to any writing system and produce varying solutions). ACE is that rare – perhaps unique – thing: a technology organically grown from a particular writing system, with the singular goal of getting that system right.

    Posted by John Hudson on Oct. 27, 2009
  2. “ACE fonts are relatively un-​smart or naïve, in the sense that the fonts themselves do not contain much layout intel­li­gence; rather, they are collec­tions of shapes that in combi­nation can represent with more or less complexity – as deter­mined by the designer – particular styles of Arabic text.”

    We never published our specs, this is speculation – and incorrect.

    Posted by Thomas Milo on Oct. 27, 2009
  3. I think one of the most important points that one can make about Tom’s technology is that it is not necessarily an appropriate technology for any writing system other than Arabic [...]

    If you are saying that there are scripts so different from the Arabic script that technology tailored around the latter may not suit the former, then I agree. My impression is that Thomas is the last one to claim that ACE is universal.
    If you are saying that ACE is for the Arabic script and nothing else, then I could not disagree more:
    The technology that DecoType came up with and the way they use it results from analysis of the Arabic script. Still this functionality addresses the needs of other scripts too: there are shapes which are arranged somehow and sometimes get marks attached to them — and does so in an intelligent way. In some cases, applying ACE to other scripts would require only a subset of the given functionality. In others, it may mean adjusting parts of the functionality.

    That said, I think that the questions you raise, whether ACE is appropriate technology for writing systems other than Arabic, where the “smartness” is or should be located, and what the differences are between various layout technologies, divert from what the award is about:
    According to the statement the award acknowledges an “innovative contribution to the development of digital type and typography related technology”. And with ACE, Thomas Milo has introduced “smartness” to, and influenced the development of, digital type and typography related technology. Existence of other technologies like those you mention confirm it. Thus the essential part of your post is this little “in the wake of” right at the beginning: “The different ‘smart font’ formats that have come along in the wake of Tom’s work with Arabic [...]“. This is, in my understanding, what the award is about. By developing this particular technology, DecoType did more than just develop this particular technology.

    Posted by Karsten Luecke on Oct. 28, 2009
  4. مبروك Congratulations Tom! I feel out of my depth in these discussions and say things at my peril. For example I did not know about the other smart-font technologies. In an ideal world a similar project would be open-source so that talented programmers can pitch in and work things out openly and for other languages than Arabic. In any case would it be true to say that Tom and his team’s achievement is like Colombus’ egg where those that follow were inspired by his breakthrough (excuse the pun)?

    Posted by Vladimir Tamari on Oct. 29, 2009
  5. Dear Mr Thomas Milo
    Congratulations on getting the award. I am Civil Engineer by profession and also a researcher of Islamic Calligraphy for more than 2 decades.I have also written two books about Life, achievements and masterpieces of great Calligraphers.These books are in Urdu Language.

    Presently I am working to develop a new font of Urdu(in Nastaleeq script) by using Calligraphic samples of one of famous Calligrapher. For this purpose I need your assistance.Can u please inform me step by step procedure for developing a new Urdu font which contain all beauties of Nastaleeq script.

    I will anxiously wait for your reply.

    Thanking u and with best regards

    Rashid Shaikh

    Posted by Rashid Shaikh on Aug. 7, 2012

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