Friday evening, September 19th. We are in Barcelona at the annual ATypI conference. The last session of the day is winding down – Building the perfect what?, an excellent panel discussion moderated by industry veteran and award-winning typeface developer David Berlow. For the past 45 minutes a cross section of type specialists have expounded on the amazing capabilities current font technologies offer: letterer and type designer Martina Flor; type designer, Arabic specialist and legibility researcher Nadine Chahine; Principal Product Manager at Adobe Caleb Belohlavek; Senior Fontography Product Manager at Microsoft Simon Daniels, and Google Fonts’ David Kuettel. I noticed that over the course of the presentation my left knee started shaking, just like it did during Thomas Phinney’s panel Free Fonts: Threat or Menace? in Amsterdam last year. Indeed, the one where I shouted “Bullshit!” at the panelists and took a stand for the type designers. As David Berlow invites questions from the audience, I bite the bullet and ask the question that has been building in my mind during the panel discussion:
Designers ask Adobe for a better user interface for type
The introduction of OpenType fonts in 2000 offered designers a rich and sophisticated typographic repertoire. The number of fonts that support these typographic features has grown exponentially over the years. And yet, we – the designers, producers, and users of digital type – have observed with growing despair how software applications offering typesetting capabilities have failed to provide an adequate typographic interface.
In the fifteenth century women had few career opportunities. Few, bar those in the higher social classes were even sent to school, and women were not admitted to universities (Oxford university didn’t permit women to matriculate or graduate until 1920). Their options were very limited and pessimistically and perhaps a little exaggeratedly summed up by Sherrill Cohen, who wrote that medieval women faced just three options: ‘marriage, monasticism, and prostitution.’ (Cohen, p. 170). For those who did not join a convent, marriage came early: ‘an unmarried girl of sixteen or seventeen was a catastrophe.’ (Plumb, p. 132).
A contemporary family from Commercial Type, a connected script by Lián Types, an ambitious sans from Hoftype, a roughed up family by Fontfabric, a hard-working serif from House Industries, a sophisticated sans by Typetanic, a historical stencil face from Storm, and an expressive family by Andinistas.
The Questa Project is a type design adventure by Dutch type designers Jos Buivenga and Martin Majoor. Their collaboration began in 2010 using Buivenga’s initial sketches for a squarish Didot-like display typeface as a starting point. It was a perfect base on which to apply Majoor’s type design philosophy that a serif typeface is a logical starting point for creating a sans serif version and not the other way around. The extensive Questa family includes serif, sans, and display typefaces.
By the 1990s, CD-ROMs and the Internet turned computer screens into the final display substrate. Those were the dark ages of on-screen typography. Designers traded in low-res compromise, bending to the will of fours, the tyranny of the pixel. Endless hours were spent on what my colleagues and I affectionately called “fat-bitting.” It was an activity hardly worth the effort. We were masons, chipping and shifting single pixels — fixing what the screen did to otherwise well intentioned letterforms. “I could be at the bar, but no… I have to fat-bit this shitty logo.”
Welcome to a new monthly roundup of type-related info and entertainment. (This will be in addition to Sean Mitchell’s excellent This Week in Fonts feature.) This month, we have movies (about sign painters, and Eric and John Gill), books (about Porchez, Baskerville, Spiekermann, and typewriter art, as well as books by Steven Heller and Gail Anderson), a Flickr group that points at things, a free typography course with Ellen Lupton, ladies of letterpress, medieval marginalia, all sorts of lettering and typography, some fun new fonts, and more.
A fast moving script by Process Type Foundry, a versatile sans from The Northern Block, a decorative serif by Zeune Ink, an energetic script from Sudtipos, a characterful grotesque by Commercial Type, a harmonious slab from Dada Studio, a comfortable sans by Font Bureau, a spirited grotesque from Latinotype, a condensed sans by MCKL, and a neutral face from Type Dynamic.
I love letters. All kinds and types of letters: small, large, drawn, sketched, painted, rough, smooth, serif, sans serif, script, roman, italic, oblique, digitized, old and new, uppercase, lowercase, all materials and media, three dimensional… Yes, I love letters, except for those that are poorly or incorrectly proportioned. For those poor ugly letters, I feel pity and sadness.
A friendly brush script by Nikola Giacintová, a new classic from Jason Vandenberg, a flexible sans by Fatype, fluid & friendly structure from Latinotype, a new sans by Monotype, a multicolored face from Underware, an elegant serif by FontFont, and a practical sans from Ludwig Type.
Three years ago MetaDesign Berlin asked us to design a custom Serif and Sans typeface for the German federal government. They had been assigned to redevelop the government’s corporate design with the typefaces as part of the update. The project was to cover all communication issued by the government and their ministries, online or offline, national or international. It was a demanding and interesting task. Though we were accustomed to working on projects like these for corporations, we were now asked to design “for the people”.