Shire Post Mint Mistborn Coin AMA

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Name Shire Post Mint Mistborn Coin AMA
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Date Oct. 26, 2017
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#1 Copy

jofwu

What special considerations do you have when designing a coin? (compared to other art that you typically do)

Isaac Stewart

I haven't designed a lot of coins, so I had that same question when first talking to Woody and Helen at Shire Post. Once we decided on the sizes for the coins, the biggest issue was designing something that's legible at that size. The images and text need to read well, and for the most part, I needed to keep the text from running over the top of the images (which affects legibility). The only change Shire Post asked to be made after seeing the first images was to separate the text from the images a bit.

#2 Copy

Oudeis

In Shadows of Self, there was a broadsheet article about a woman in the southern mountains who ran into a strange red and black person by a placid pool. Her name was [Nicelle] Sauvage, and I admittedly made a bit of an assumption that she and [Nicki] Savage are the same woman.

Isaac Stewart

You are exactly right! She did appear in the Shadows of Self broadsheet. Thank you for reminding me of that.

Oudeis

The name adaptation threw me off, I only picked it up this last time I read through it in my epic-cosmere-re-read leading up to Oathbringer.

I do have to admit, while pretty cool, the dashing stranger who tried to kill a nice woman and destroyed public property in the sky above a metropolis using unknown arcana seemed... a little out-of-character for Nazh as we've otherwise seen him.

Isaac Stewart

[Nicki] added some extra drama to her version of events to make it more interesting. I don't think Nazh would've tried to kill her, though he might want her to think that he was. He's easily annoyed by those who get in the way of his missions, even if they're just nosy adventurers. :)

Footnote: Nicelle Sauvage is mentioned in the "Visitors From Other Worlds" article in "The House Record" broadsheet. Nicki Savage is mentioned in "The Ghastly Gondola!" article in "The New Ascendancy" broadsheet.
#3 Copy

Argent

I'll ask you... about how you took the pretty minimal description from Brandon's books (I think we just knew that the Lord Ruler's face was on one side, and Kredik Shaw was on the other) to full coin designs.

Isaac Stewart

As for designing the coins based on Brandon's descriptions, I brought it up at one of our Dragonsteel work meetings. We discussed what the coins ought to look like, I looked up old coins for inspiration, then I worked up some really rough designs and got them approved by Brandon. You can consider these designs to be canonical as to how they would've looked in the Final Empire and later on in Elendel.

Ben McSweeney

For TLR, I actually started from the basis of this piece, but aging him further so that he appears more mature and regal.

The design for Kredik Shaw is an amalgamation of different versions I've done. I would expect that the building on the coin is merely the "main palace", and possibly only part of that. The Kredik Shaw palace complex would be much larger.

My favorite is actually TLM (Spook) "revealing the Elendel Valley" after the Catacendre. It came out much better than I anticipated.

#4 Copy

meramipopper

Could your ever imprint one of your maps onto a coin?

Did you ever think of a Mistborn map coin?

Issac Stewart

A Mistborn Map coin would be cool! (But probably too detailed, not to mention canonical at this point.) I did draw inspiration from the old maps I did to try to tie the design into the world, if even a little bit. A series of coins based on maps would be really cool, and if simplified enough, they might just work. It could be quite the series, even if they wouldn't be canonical, just collectible. If that ever happens, let's look into sending you one, definitely!

#5 Copy

Oudeis

Huh. I had always assumed the glyphs were more like the syllables in Japanese, where the symbols don't contain any of the phoneme information, directly.

Isaac Stewart

You are mostly correct. The glyphs are meant to be recognized rather than read. However, some phonemes do show up in some of the glyphs.

Oudeis

Kaladin just picked up a listener knife and noticed glyphs on it he didn't recognize.

Now, he can read glyphs, but he's not much of a scholar.

Are these glyphs even in the same linguistic family? Is Kaladin fluent enough with glyphs that he'd recognize if they were, to use an analogy, Korean symbols instead of Japanese symbols?

Isaac Stewart

The shape of the glyph matters more than the phonemes that make up the glyph. Over time, glyphs morph toward what's easier to write as people who know nothing of the internal phonemes take shortcuts, etc, so a hypothetical Kaladin who can suddenly read the phonemes inside glyphs would only be able to decipher the newer ones that haven't had a chance to morph over time. So, hypothetically speaking, Kaladin would be able to recognize glyphs no matter the symbols that make them up. The arrow-looking glyph from the forehead tattoos is also found in the Bridge 4 glyphpair. Both glyphs mean "bridge" even though the internal pieces of each are quite different. It's like us being able to recognize the letter R whether it's in Times New Roman font or in a wildly different font like Desire (https://www.myfonts.com/fonts/charlesborges/desire/). Hope this helps!

Oudeis

It does, yes! I figured it wasn't the phoneme meta-data.

Basically my question was, Kaladin looks at the glyphs on the listener daggers, whose providence we still don't really know, and seems to assume that although he doesn't know these specific ones, they are "glyphs" as he knows them. I don't speak too many European languages, but if I saw a series of words I suspect I'd have reasonable success sorting out which ones are Polish and which ones are not, just from knowing which letters tend to be common and what patterns tend to be prevalent.

So my question was simply... is Kaladin fluent enough that we can assume he's right, these symbols actually are glyphs in the manner he knows them, just ones he doesn't recognize? (Or the equivalent of very odd spellings?)

Or is he simply making an assumption; he knows what a glyph is, so if he sees something similar he just assumes it's a glyph, when it isn't anything close? We see the Alethi, even the bridgemen, do that a lot to the listeners, just being ethnocentric, judging the listeners by Alethi standards, assuming that Alethi culture is the basic standard and everyone else is a deviation from that.

Anyway, thank you for the answer!

Isaac Stewart

Sorry that I misunderstood your question. Now I see that you're referring to a specific spot in The Way of Kings. I just re-read the section you mentioned to re-familiarize myself with it. The glyphs he sees on the knife look different enough from the ones he knows to make him question their origin. It's not clear enough to me from the text to say definitively that the knife is of Alethi or Listener origin or from somewhere else altogether. (I suspect, though, that the knife is not Alethi in origin.) Kaladin is likely making an assumption--as you mention--that what he sees are glyphs. In the very least, they're symbols of some sort. Whether glyphs or letters in an unknown alphabet is up for speculation.

#6 Copy

Argent

  • In analyzing the glyphs we've seen in the books, we've noticed that some of their "components" resemble the Thaylen symbols for consonants. The Thaylen don't have letters for vowels though - does that mean that glyphs also disregard vowels 100% of the time, or do vowels affect the way a glyph is written? For example, would "viv" and "vev" look exactly the same, or would there be some differences?
    • If vowels do affect the glyphs, do they affect them by somehow changing the consonant lines?
  • Our best theory for deciphering new glyphs is that the glyph "letters" actually correspond to two English letters - so writing "vev" is more akin to writing <ve> followed by <v_> (or perhaps <_v> followed by <ev>). How much of this is in the right direction?

Isaac Stewart

Good questions! The vowels don't affect the glyphs any more than the consonants do. I'm going to RAFO about the glyphs relationship with Thaylen. You're on the right track, however, on half of the word being written and then mirrored. That said, please remember that glyphs aren't meant to be read or even deciphered. They're learned in the same way that we can look at dozens of stylized pictures of cats and still be able to tell that it's a cat.

Argent

So, you've said that glyphs are not meant to be read several times, and I know that, but I think I've been misunderstanding you. I've been assuming they are just too complex and decorated - like an extravagant font. Are you saying they are not a hard writing system instead?

There are obviously some rules to how the glyphs are designed, but does your reply mean that there is always a little bit of "I'll do what looks cool"? Kind of like how the band Koяn decided to flip the "R" - it's still recognizable enough, but there's no rule that says when you can and can't do that?

Isaac Stewart

Let's see if I can explain further. Glyphs are recognized rather than read. If you learn the letters in an alphabet and you come upon an unfamiliar word, you can be reasonably certain you'll know how to pronounce it if you're already fluent in the language. You can at least read it, and you might know from context what it means. Glyphs are different in that if you come upon an unfamiliar glyph you might be able to guess what it means by its shape, but until someone tells you "that glyph means 'soup'" then you're still guessing.

The calligrapher's guild has rules they follow in creating glyphs, and there's a lot of artistic license, like the flipped R in Koяn, for the very reason that the guild isn't expecting people to read the glyphs. Those in the guild--and some scholars who are interested in how glyphs morph over time--might be able to decipher some of the glyphs for academic purposes.

How's that? Any clearer?

Argent

It is clearer, yes :( I think we might still bug you every now and then, but I am coming to terms with the idea that we won't get anywhere near the level of understanding we have for the women's script, for example. It just felt so close, with the slight similarities between some glyph components and the Thaylen letters, you know?

Isaac Stewart

There's definitely a relationship between the Thaylen letters and some of the glyph components (although it's not the biggest part of what makes up the glyphs). Imagine if back in the middle ages a culture decided to use some latin letters as the basis for symbols so that it would be easy to mark things for people who don't read. This hypothetical culture threw in a smattering of other alphabets in there too. So, if that sort of thing developed naturally over time with phonemes and symbols getting added as the culture encountered other cultures, then you might get a bit of an idea of what's going on with the glyphs.

ccstat

I admit I'm still a little confused. The glyphs are recognized based on their shapes, but those shapes also appear to be highly mutable. I'm not sure how to reconcile those two ideas.

If an established glyph can be stylized into a crown, a skyeel, or the other shapes that highprinces use as their symbols, how does someone associate the new shape with the standard one with which they are familiar? Does the stylized version preserve some core recognizable shape (since the constituent graphemes alone wouldn't be enough to decipher the meaning)? Or does each instance of a glyph have to be learned separately?

Isaac Stewart

I agree that those two ideas are hard to reconcile! Let me see if I can explain it a bit more without giving too much away.

There's a calligrapher's guild that creates (and I suspect controls to a certain extent) the official glyphs. If a new glyph needs to be made, they do it in a way they see is proper, based on canonized rules that have developed over time.

That doesn't keep amateur glyphmakers from creating things from time to time, and there's certainly a shift in shape as glyphs morph through the ages. The Guild is probably a lot like the Oxford English Dictionary folks, occasionally canonizing popular but unauthorized glyphs that get used so much that they become ubiquitous.

Usually it's just guild members who are morphing glyphs into poems and such. If a nobleperson wants a glyph for their house, they go to someone authorized by the guild, and they'll stylize things into a crown, a hammer, etc. A good example of this will be seen in one of the pieces of art in the new book. We've seen Dalinar's Tower and Crown. Watch for the Sword and Crown and compare the shapes inside the Sword with the shapes inside the Tower. Maybe that will help with some understanding.

#7 Copy

Argent

How long did it take you to come up with this writing system? :)

Isaac Stewart

It took several weeks if not months at the end of 2009 and the beginning of 2010 to nail down the basics of the glyph system. There was a lot of back and forth with Brandon at first as we both felt out what we wanted to do with it. In some ways, I feel like we're still filling in some of the blanks as we go, so it's an ongoing process.

#8 Copy

Jazzy-Kandra

I've noticed that the glyphs seemed to take inspiration from Arabic word art and calligraphy... Do you think you could talk a little more about how it inspired the making of glyphs and the art behind them? Did you draw from any other written languages (like Chinese calligraphy) when creating this system?

Isaac Stewart

Good question! The biggest influence was definitely Arabic word art and calligraphy. That's something Brandon and I wanted to do from the start with the glyphs, and I realized that in order to make both glyphs and word art work, I'd have to take things a step farther and figure out the building blocks of the glyphs. I can't think of any other systems off the top of my head that I drew direct inspiration from.

The second biggest influence was the need for the glyphs to be symmetrical to reflect the holiness of symmetry within Vorin culture. I had an old iPod touch (it was new back then) and a simple symmetry app. When I found myself with a few minutes, I'd spend time sketching interesting shapes. I saved the best of these for use in The Way of Kings. Using those as a base, I started coming up with calligraphic shapes that would allow me the look I wanted, and over a bit of time, I developed a lexicon of shapes to use in the creation of glyphs. This helped keep the style mostly consistent from one glyph to another. Though there are levels of complexity in glyphs, I believe--everything from creating a glyphward for religious purposes to scrawling the shorthand version of a glyph on a map to indicate whose army is where.

#9 Copy

meramipopper

How difficult is it to come up with a design that pops on a coin?

How do you draw something that factors in the contours that will be on a coin?

Issac Stewart

Designing for coins wasn't difficult because Brandon had already created great descriptions. The real trick was to not make it too detailed for the engraver at Shire Post! I think he did a great job bringing our intricate designs to life!

Factoring the contours was something I worried about a bit, which was one of the reasons I brought Ben onto the project. I described to him what we wanted, and he painted some grayscale depth to the coins so Shire Post would have an idea of what we were envisioning.

#10 Copy

Oudeis

Someone told me once that there's apparently a secret hidden in Nazh's name, but I've yet to determine what it is. Recently finished Shadows again, paying attention to names, and couldn't really find any sort of conventions. The only name given any relevance was the surname Forescout, and that doesn't seem connect to Nazh.

Issac Stewart

I hadn't heard of something being hidden in Nazh's name. I'll have to look a little closer....

Footnote: Oudeis is likely referencing a comment made by Brandon in the afterword for Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell in Arcanum Unbounded, where he references the fact that he has not yet revealed Nazh's given name (Nazrilof is his surname).
#11 Copy

Pagerunner

I developed a lexicon of shapes to use in the creation of glyphs.

How do you determine which shapes to use when creating a glyph? Is that phonetic? Are there shapes that only appear in proper nouns, or for abstract concepts?

Isaac Stewart

I don't get to say this very often, but RAFO. :)

Event details
Name
Name Shire Post Mint Mistborn Coin AMA
Date
Date Oct. 26, 2017
Entries
Entries 11
Upload sources