Wednesday, May 8, 2013

New Technology Remakes Typography

Lower development costs mean lower prices for new fonts like Fairview
Hunter Communications recommended reading from:
WIRED

Link to article:
Typecast: How New Technology is Reinventing Typography

Printing, graphics, commercial art, font design--these were all painstaking, labor-intensive tasks.  But now that typography is based on digital data instead of wood type, metal blocks, or even sheets of rubdown lettering, the field has been revolutionized. From fast digital tools to new sources of revenue, the world of letters is not at all what it was.

Excerpt: "Designing typefaces is a rare craft that involves drawing letterforms and painstakingly setting the spacing between them. For hundreds of years, designers had to master wood carving and metal casting to practice their art. With the rise of computers they learned to conquer bitmaps and vectors using tools like Glyphs, FontLab, or RoboFont. As programming becomes a common part of the designer’s skill set, innovation is continuing along these lines.

'We’ve been designing typefaces for specific printing process since as long as type’s been made,' says Cyrus Highsmith. 'To draw a new typeface for the screen or for a specific device is just an extension of what I’ve already been doing.'

Highsmith creates typefaces for the type foundry The Font Bureau and teaches typography at RISD. His fonts are are sold directly to designers, commissioned by clients like Sports Illustrated and Martha Stewart Living, and he recently wrote a textbook called Inside Paragraphs: Typographic Fundamentals. He’s part of a rich tradition that stretches back to Gutenberg, and feels equally excited about the future of his profession.

According to Highsmith, the last decade has been challenging for type designers. The print world is shrinking, but technical limitations prevented web designers from fully exercising their typographic skills. Now, however, the growing popularity of the '@font-face' tag that became formalized in the CSS3 specifications is reinvigorating typography on the web by allowing a diverse range of unique but high-quality fonts to be called onto a page from an external foundry. With it, web designers can think more like print specialists and purposefully choose typefaces rather than defaulting to system fonts. 'Suddenly the number of people who are thinking about typography has exploded,' he says.

Using these new web standards in the service of 'responsive design' is an area of interest to Highsmith and his colleagues at The Font Bureau. 'How do you design responsive typefaces that can change based on the device being used, whether they’re being used as a headline or caption, or the size of the page they’re on?' he asks. He points out that the nature of fonts is changing rapidly, and cites Chartwell, an interactive 'font' developed by Travis Kochel, which designers can use to make quick charts, graphs, and spark lines by typing."

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