Liveblog Notes: Granshan 2015 Day 1

These are live blog notes from the lectures at the Granshan 2015 in Reading

Usual disclaimer for live blogging: These are informal notes taken by me, Dave Crossland, at the event, and may or may not be similar to what was said by the people who spoke on these topics. This is probably FULL of errors. What do you want for free? 🙂 If something here is incorrect it is probably because I mistyped it or misunderstood, and if anyone wants corrections, just should tweet me – @davelab6 – or post a comment. Thanks!

Intro: Boris

15 years of MATD


Great to see this happening. Its like a surfer movie, you stand on the board and you dont know if they will make it…. and now we are on the wave and I thin we are in for a nice ride but you dont know how it will go.

Why all of this? Well, there are so many people from around the world here today, and will a room like this, people who are making a living from type. 20 years ago people would not believe it. Global type is a business, and we are at the beginning. We have decades of growth in interest in global typogrpahy, not as a historical study, but a new domain that we – you – is helping to build. That combines understanding of culture, history, and a practical approach to discipline that can make new interesting designs. that treat the language, the script, of everyone with respect that they deserve.

These 3 will days will emphasise this. we are like mature teenagers, we are beginning to get there, and in the next few years the granshan will have a clear iddentity. its a nice thing to see poeple coming back to the university they studied at; if you have a strange feeling, its stranger for me.

its great to start the event with a legend, no better opening speaker; gerard unger.

Gerard Unger: Letterforms from the edge of Europe, 700–1200

Lets go to northern france, here was made in 871-877, a manuscript, the 2nd bible of charles de gaul. This it eh opening phase of the book of genesis. its in the biblioteque nationale, a prized possesoin of france. here is a detail from this page; LIBER. splinded capitals; identified as ture carolingian capitols. Nicolas Gray did this in ‘Lettering as Drawing, Contour as Soliouette’. This is modelled on classical roman caps, but changed enough to call them carolinian.

This is about calligraphy, epigraphy (carving) and digital letters. you see these letters in many manuscripts but few inscriptions. Kind C d G 2 was king of france, westerm roman empire, etc.

Now lets go to the abbey of or vey with a rare inscription with carolingian caps. its badly weathered, copper was inlaid and gone long ago. you see the curves in the G, D, the short serifs, the way the verticals flare; its all different to how the romans do it. this is around 840-844.

Back to this book, the caroligian miniscule, you see the page and the detail. when combined with the caroligian lowercase, there is the cap ‘N’ and an uncial ‘A’ and an uncial ‘q’ and ‘U’ and ‘O’. The franks were a germanic tribe, and charlemagne was a Frank, and CdG was a grandson.

As you go through the manuscript, at page 99, there is “The Book of Kings I”, “Liber Primo”. In the middle between the carolingian caps, there is another world! The letters are worked into a pattern, 1/3rd of them are symbols …

Uncials reached UK through missionaries; in the middle ages, people traveled widely and letters spread far. The uncials may be from greece or africa. A paleographer sugggested roman uncials are the work of a roman calligrapher working from greek uncial letterforms. this is from the coda cina inicas (?) and the uncial ‘a’ of the roman is familiar, the omega is flipped 180′ you have a roman ‘m’, so its supposed a direct lineage.

here are “english uncials” and what was made in the uk from them. this is caterbury from 750 AD, now in the royal library in stockholm. there are differences; the pen angle of roman is 30′ and in UK uncials its flat/horizontal, and a bit more ornate. Roman uncials are a bit more simple.

back to the 2nd bible of Charles de Gaul. … celts had their own art; here’s a celtic helmet from north france, now in the national archelogical museum in paris. its 4thC BC. Swirling lines, spirals, and snail shells, and interfaced cross hatching, and zoomorphic designer (eg snake heads). Here’s a vase, in the british museum, 3thC BC, more flat graphics but still spirals.

Here in the 2nd bible of CdG there are spirals, wheels, and geometric decoration in a famous manuscript. here is a 715-720AD bible from ireland, this is a treaure of the british library. in 563, st columba from ireland, founded a monastary in yeoman in the west coast of scotland. here’s another page of the linus van gospel (?) with this lettering; you see amazing creativity in solving problems that if i suggested them today to my clients they would refuse them.

here you see ‘abraham’ after a greek phi, and its split into 2 lines and fitted in an interwined way. there is a ‘G’ with the arm stem bend backwards. great stuff!

160 years later, this style was interpreted for these caps. in 1868 a hoard was found in ireland that had this chalice; it has text, an angular ‘h’ and a round uncial ‘e’.

Letterforms like an angular ‘s’ and diamond ‘o’ were influenced by runes and the ‘ogam’ (?) script. the o with a stem like a phi.

here is a stone from south east ireland with an ogam inscription; there is little known of this script.

So, this is showing how in the UK there is a mixture of roman square caps, uncials with round forms, and insular letterforms.

today designers also mix forms; when they do multiscript projects, they also look for elemnts scripts share; here is R S’s 2012 Sinhala + Latin. Similarly is 2013 by Bon Min, with Korean + Latin. There is Aaron Bell’s 2011 Latin + Korean. They found similar elements in both scripts, and the 2 have striking similarities, but lots of differences; because the korean script influences them similarly.

Ezcar was designed similarly, the Latin is angular reflecting the angularity of the devanagari.

This is Katari by erin mclaughlin, also very angular. not mixing scripts like mediavals did, but not far off.

ben jones, here today, designed a latin work with several scripts; amenian, gree, arabic, devanagari.

last, the angular ‘u’. something has gone wrong 😉 look at the anuglar ‘u’ in my alvarata. it got gold in the EU design awards and i went to istanbul to pick up the prize. i was happy to see that the angular ‘u’ was known and used there too 😉

Hrant: how do you get clients to use fonts like alvarata, that have a lot of variety? clients are too conservative.

GU: Sure, we educate them. you have to scare them 😉

Vaibhav Singh: Pictures of things: context in the time of global design

Gerry: Vaihbhav’s slides are notable as the images from from the authors collection. his eye for finding patterns when looking at material is great.

VS: Thanks, I’m happy to see so many familiar faces. The markets are growing, we have less and less time to become really interested in what we are doing. you assume a lot of ideas that educational frameowrks provide or professional practice provide. so its an intersting challenge to look at how challenges can be handeld.

I’m glad GU mentioned the movmebt of people. Its map morning! global practice today is not new. we see everything happening in many counties related to prining has been internaional. its never been an insular activity.

Printing press arrives in india in 1556, was meant to go from portugal to ethiopia, and political chagnes there meant they didnt. next was from denmark. danish missionairies had a base in south india, and the story goes they made type from the covers of cheese boxes. lots of innovations in a hands on manner. it became a base in the south east of india, and printed for multiple lanauges. not only for indian subcontentn, but china, tiben, even armenian. then from the UK, and then the french. the first english press was captured from the french. then USA missionaries in early 1800s in mumbai. they made new advances in type; they divded letters into parts to deal with large amounts of text – that was the US press and foundry.

So it was an international thing; it was not just people from the west, paper was from the middle east or china. in the 20th century, these motivations to develop new things changed. early 20th c, there is a surge in mechanical typesetting, faster production, and happened centered in mumbai, a capital crisis pushed newspaper owners to increase producitivity of print press workshops.

In the early 1920s, people in mumbai reached out to monotype uk to devleop something. there are layers of development, MT and LT produced a typeface, but that isn’t totally true, there is a layer of development, and the development process is more interesting than the type itself. a type is not a single thing, it mutates over time.

Similarly in NYC in the 30s, the Mergenthaler Linotype company took an interest to make a devananagri. their worked passed thorugh london to calcutta in 1933.

there was a collaborative effort at MIT, a hi tech company in cmabridge, and a guy in india, made a devanagari type. the commission to matthew carter, came from england, the processing in germany, the testing in india, and sent back to nyc.

the idea is that type is developed not only with formal steps, but as we see the world globally today, we are getting to in the practice of type design, its merely about putting things, making things look like each other; thats a basic idea you could be subject to. but this appraoch shows, what kind of context do we have, is this meaningful to the practice, or is it reinforcing ideas that may or may not be useful.

here is a popular dipiction of indian writing in a french trade card circa 1900. this has hyphens! the boards are huge. but this Jain poetry book from the British Library (‘banarasavilasa’) is totally different. the practice of writing is not serving the same purpose as other writing does; these are religious texts, the writer already knows the text, they know it; so its not really record keepings, it gives you a que when you need it. the text is memorised, so you come to it as a differnet kind of reader or writer.

the landscape format of the book is from the practice of using birch bark in the north and palm leaves in the south of india, and writing was shaped by these subsctrates. you get a metal stylus, you move the subsstrate – here, palm leaves – and when you have different materials/etchnology enter the domain, you see things evolve.

100 years later, you see in 1926, the tools are different; there is paper, a pen, a codex book. the codex form of the book changes according to its use. the things that appear as understanding of technoology, is interssting; there is a diffusion of tech, the more remote the place the longer it takes to get there. “the future is already here, but not evenly distributed.” so look at the actual use to tell you about the tech, the past and future practices.

here is an interesting use of a codex book, a udaipur street banker, 1926. if you have lists, the purpose of the text changes; a landscape book isnt sensible. here’s a late 19th C student manuscript, a long horizontal book, but the text is rotated.

so, an essense of cutlure is polytonic; its not that something works because its traditioanl. we also see this in designing typefacs. putting things into newer forms, or continuing traditions. older and newer ideas come togehter ot make osmething that may be better informed and more beneficial.

here is a diagram from the monotype salfords archive: adrian frutiger + mahendra patel “New Nagari” for the Univers Devanagri project. it has a specific form, looks at a pen sequence, then a low contrast version, a more simplified version… but a more complex letter would have a more radical transformation. you have to see letters in context; a letter out of context means nothing.

I dont say if this is good or bad, i say, does this appraoch take into account the context that this letter is going to be read. can this letter be deciphered? this is radical stuff in the top, there is a modularity to it, like early bauhaus attempts at universal type forms. there are directions here that could be explored further.

but designers say this is good/bad to follow. its not about that, there is possiblity to analyse information and make a more finer evaluaiton.

typefaces often have a political will behind them. there were script reform efforts, here the Sagariya Lipi. Here is Hari Govil with the 2nd Devangari Linotype machine, Mumbai 1933. Here is the LInotype devanagari v2, revised from the original design by him. This is something that people grew up with, so they become programmed to see these as The Way Thing Are, but not thinking if this is a good way or a bad way, given limitations of that time.

So how is type to evolve? A lof of type today, there is good type design happening but typography is not going anywhere. the people to use the type are not there. there is the tradiaional form that looks like this, and there isn’t much typographic exploration.

So, “Trade is a big influence in getting peopele to take an ineterst in one another… but so is the sheer pursuit of human curiosity.” – Amartya Sen (paraphrasing David Hume.)


Veronika Burian and José Scaglione: Curating a type library

Gerry: There is the difference between a type publisher and a foundry; a collection is formed with a vision, with type for specific uses. so i cornered these 2 to talk about this. about the global enviornment, where type designers now find themselves. they will tell us their secrets! 🙂 vik and jose

v: its awkward to be back here 😉 12 years ago it was a different place 🙂 so, an intro: this is the old Dept of Typography sign, that is bashed in, and this is a particular approach to type design, orientated to industrialism and utilitarianism. a focus on process and method. we were serioues, no grey hair and wearing all black (lol)

After that, we had this idea to partner in business, an experiment. we started in a collaborative typeface that became TT Carmina. Vik was in the UK and I was in Rosario Argentina. End of 2005, early 2006, the idea of long distance collaboration in type design wasnt spread like it is now. collaborative design was not widespread like it is now.

we had a shared interested in editorial design, book design.

j: so we made a method. this is an ‘a’ i made in amsterdam in 2004. vik grabbed it and said, it well, but if we do this on the bowl and the terminal. so i said, i love it, better, but it lost an essence, and it can have this terminal. and that led to a typeface.

v: its handy to have this other pair of eyes to bounce off each other. so, we had an idae for an indie foundry, there were a few around, but you cant open a shop with 1 typeface. so we saw to expand the library. we finished Jose’s reading type, Athelas, and mine – Maiola – was at FontShop in a 10 years contract. Ronnia. So we had this first website that was hideous

J: its my design 😉

v: its 10 years ago, its ok 😉 so we made this promo material and started as it goes. we did our own projects too but also realising that we have only 4 hands and 2 brains so we wanted to open up the library. so we asked our colleagues whose work we liked, like Cora by Bart Blubaugh, and the library took shape.

j: so we talk about the type busienss. how do you actually sell your stuff? there is a lot to be done to sell type. the comemrcialising of typeface has ebcome more complex recently. a lot of onts on offer. many media. the pricing structure varies a lot. its a complex scenario.

v: quickly, you see differne tdistribution models. foundries sell to a font rental system that distributes fonts. There is a cloud model too. pricing is key. you price to market standards; being too high means less sales, being too low means its not a good idea as it depreciates the market and conveys your work is lower quality. so pricing should be sustainable, to pay bills and be competitive at the same time.

j: here is a graph, 200 euro at the top. market price is say 100 euro. but a sustainable price, has development time costs, then the insertion costs of bringing it to market. it takes time too. you also must account for growth, so that the library and foundry can grow. and you need extra for a saftey net. as sometimes fonts fail to sell. you dont know exactly why. so how to manage a budget ir something we are not trained on. there are obvious things. rent an office, ;ay vendors, admin time, design time. but les sobvious costs; fianciail, taxes, services and supplies, hardware and software. taxes can add up. then, legal, distribution, support and advertising costs. every 3 or 4 years, someone will come along and say something like ‘you idiot that font is just like mine’ – this is hypothetical! 🙂 – and you may need to consult a lawyer.

v: so you have retail, tailored, and hydrid fonts, going to desktop, web and OEM customers. We have so many licenses; high profile branding, merchandising, embedding (flash, pdf, ms word), broadcasting, server licenses – all for desktop. web: self hosting, rental, or perpetiual, etc etc.

j: so we educate users so they dont get lost.

v: our customers feel really lost, ‘wtf/ what do i need?’.

j: so you need to really clarify your license structure. you need to udnerstand your guide is NOT your EULA.

v: so educating users, you separate the good from the bad quality type (eg, dafont) you have opentype feature guides, and something that worked well for us is type in use showings; you give a customer before htey buy how it looks and can work. also pairing, people ask which fonts go together. not just a business levle, but also teaching the value of type, we do workshops to teach type.

j: 3, structuring your type library is a good idea. indep foundries have a possiblity to have closer contact to clients and strucutre the library properly. we mention some ideas, “a type library should…” which is our point of view but you can extrpaolte and have your ideas too.

j: point 1. collaborate with commercial efforts. the comemrcial world needs constant visual updates. we can sell font to the same company over and over. those editorial users need more expansive families, more challenging designs. they are constnatly updaitng the visual id, but also technology is always changing. and the editorial field requies text fonts, fonts engineered for continuous reading, and that sets the competitoin bar higher.

v: points 2, it should be part of company’s general character. there was an industrial approach inherited from Reading MATD. expanding to bloal markers is a challenge and intersting. it allows us longer periods, to plan projects.

j: this is our lase meeting, 5 people on skyep around the world.

v: you need to know the key players in your field.

j: when you see how is doing good stuff, you can target htem. FCE, is the most important book publisher in mexico; once they started using our type, we could show that, and its amazing that when a well known publisher or designer uses your font, they refer others to you. that helps exposure and media coverage.

v: you must balance personal and commercial interests. we try not to repeat outseles, to learn new technoogies, to do historial research. for me, things i picked up at MATD.

j: so, a library should be coherent. there is many advantages: you need a clear definiton of what the product is.

v: we sell type famlies, not single fonts. whereas say sudtipos sells single fonts targetting packaging so its quite different. that impacts the licensing model. pampatype has a different focus too.

j: the longer you are on the market, the more you can cover the whole area of your focus. planning helps, what you learn today you can reuse. you can set up your standards, even if you are a small foundry. house indistraues. if you have consistent high qulaity you have more loyality, you have customers returning to find more, you can build along term customer relatinoship.

v: how to keep it interesting, avoiding repetition? well, we have editorial design as the overall area. then newspapers, books, reference works, and magazines, are sub categories. if you over all, you can only cover each a little.

j: if you dig into books, there are novels, academics, poetry, comics, manuals; and so on. if you pick and choose, you end up with a library, you dont get a clear focus. if you say, fonts for screen, that can span the top 4 groups with a theme. or, if you design a large family that can have a cross sectional span across the top 4 areas. you dont want fonts in your library to compete, you want them to complement each other.

v: how to deal with trends? some libraries becomes bound to a period’s trends, like emigre in the 90s of the vintage/retro stuff popular lately. but the classics have a much longer period of market insertion. also multiscript work with more glyphs is a longer process.

Creating a library conept, licensing scheme, a pricing model, communciations mode – all key to making a brand.

setting high quality standards, aid education efforts, …. , are key to building a company.

v: Real possibilities in other markets? its a question of econmic viability.

j: we started in 2006, we started with pan euro character sets. this helped us a lot as back then there were very few text fonts that carried these accents. you look at a map, how much of the globe uses latin? there is a LOT, but many areas are not well covered. Where are there foundries? Where are there not?

v: the economic centers are changing. its a matter of time. why expand to foreign scripts? new challaneges. personal, and commercial. typography can make an impact, a positive difference there. there is a lack of text types, with wegihts and styles. there is undersrved needs. so, there are may be 3 areas; self initiatved, semi initiated and fully paid projects. we started adelle cyrillic with this sketch, and we used consutlants to help us with that. there is a new generation of new type designers in these regions. there is demand for new quality. the wild days of copyright infringement are sort of retreating. here is a self initiated devanagari done at TDi, and this is still not done 😉

j: potential problems? its more expensiv.e you hve to leanr stuff, hire people to consult, post production. the key issue is, how do we sell it? we might need help how to sell these properly.

v: sometimes it can work; you need a client starting to initate a project and can continue with the fund from that initial work.

j: work on the edges, its okay to work where you dont know what will happen. this is our bree, designed as a corporate font, they can use it in a new way, like in a newspaper. an arty newspaper sure, but they find a new way to use it. this type was made for luxury printed books, to get away from swuareness of pixels, but it was licensed for apple ibooks as people saw it then worked on retina screens as well. so we can not predict the destination of our fonts. Iskra by Tom Grace (who is here) is thought to be a display type, but it works perfeclty nicely for immersive reading! and Alverata also pushes the limits.


Q: Are you happier to work on client commissioned work where the finance is clear? or self initiated work?

v: its a shot in the dark. and you learn things in commissioned work, but its narrowly scoped by the clients needs. the client can vary; you can have great ones who let you do your thing… if you do your own work, you are more free.

gerry: so vik just said, you can do what you want. Jo was the first MATD graduate to do a PhD, and there is now over a dozen matd gradutes who have or are in the process of completing one. 15 years ago people might think there may not be enough space for such high level research in this aera. these 2 talks go togther in a way, but v + j talk about an established market, people publishging ebook and magazines and so on. But JO is talking about another world. designing type for scripts withotua ny libraries out there. in 10 years there might be a talk about editorial design in the scripts Jo is presenting now. a prophetic talk.

Jo: so, this is a self initiated project following up my PhD on the mongolian script. Sherpa; the writing systems of the himalayas. there are minority scripts. another map! here we are.

Lantsa is a script, when I did my field trips to look at tibetian and mongolian writing systems. it was used by buddhists and went with the culture through india and chian to japan. this lantsa/ranjana writing system has been studied before. earlier academics and lingusists docimented it. explorers in 1828 made plates and documetnation of the script, in their early writings. this is Hodgeson’s “Notices of the languages, literature and religion of the bauddhas of Nepal and Bhot” (sp, Bhutan.)

Ranjana is from Nepal in the same period. The north indian gupta brahmi script is the ancestor script. those writing sstems have not been produced as printing types; the challenege is what aer we looking for, which models are good, and how to translate them into a digital font. it occured not earlier thant he 11th centiry.

in 1834, Csoma de Koross “Grammar of the Tibetan language” has plates 38 and 39 with teh grammar of the langauge and these plates have a complete syllabory. i use the word lantsa for both, as the literature also focuses on it.

in 1888, sarat chandra das argues that the lantsha characters in tibet occured during hte 2nd and 4th period of the grammat reformation of the tibetian script. he also gives a good voerview of the syllabary; the 36 consonants that are combined with vowelrs and each other, so the glyphs set becomes very large.

end of day 1

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What are the most important things the software freedom movement can do for itself?

On 2015-01-10 I responded to the FSF’s call for feedback on their ‘High Priority Projects List’ with an email, which I’ve added a bit more to and posted here.

The call goes like this:

we’re looking for projects of great strategic importance to the goal of freedom for all computer users … not every project of great strategic importance to the goal of freedom for all computer users will be a software development project. If you believe other forms of activism, internal or external (e.g., making free software communities safe for diverse participants, mandating use of free software in the public sector), are most crucial, please make the case and suggest such a project!

I believe the biggest strategic mistake the GNU project has made in its 30 years is to shirk away from supporting and promoting projects that pay full time labor wages for the development of free software, without compromising and also distributing some non-free software.

Just as “the future is here but its not evenly distributed,” there are some people in the software freedom movement who have financial skills to complement their technical skills, but while the software freedom movement is having great success at distributing technical knowledge about how to use and develop free software, it is having great failure at distributing such financial knowledge.

But we can fix this.

At many of the public speaking engagements by RMS that I have attended, and in my own experiences as a public speaker presenting software freedom, the first question from the audience is,

“I understand the ethical issue of software freedom, but how can I earn a living developing free software?”

This is often asked first, and is often asked repeatedly. Both have happened to me when the focus of the presentation was on this topic; I believe many people’s default assumption, their deeply held belief, is that it is not possible.

Demonstrating unequivocally that it is possible, that many people do it, but you just haven’t heard about them, is, I believe, the most important strategic improvement the movement can make.

At RMS’ presentations, his reply will vary by the phrasing of the question and his mood, from a brusque

“This is an irrelevancy, your freedom matters more than your rent check”


“Many companies develop free software, take an employee job at one of them”


“You can charge for development services, support services, branded goods, or other complementary goods.”

I believe he is shy of this because attempts to develop free software commercially are usually attempts to develop free software for profit, and that often leads to proprietary software.

For example, the first piece of commercially developed free software was GhostScript. The GNU project started in 1983, and in late 1986, following RMS’s suggestion L Peter Deutch began developing GhostScript as an evening-and-weekends hobby project while working for proprietary software development company; the year of Adobe’s IPO. Len Tower’s announcement of its inital release in the gnu.announce usenet group in 1988 included a ‘doing business as’ alias for Peter, and he soon quit his day job to work on GhostScript full time.

Peter said,

“as the author of GhostScript, has done what very few people have managed to do: he has managed to work on a project of his choosing, to release it as free software, and to do so while generating a sufficiently positive cash flow that he can now consider retirement,” –

And he has only done so by maintaining a single-party development organization that sold proprietary licenses to the latest version ‘Aladdin GhostScript’; he had a written agreement with RMS to always release a free version, which became ‘GNU GhostScript’, although the agreement didn’t say when.

This may have been the first time that commercial development of free software would go awry for the software freedom movement, but it would not be last.

Indeed, perhaps the default outcome of attempts to develop free software commercially is to distribute proprietary versions.

But there are some ‘success stories,’ some ‘case studies’ we can make of organizations that only distribute free software, that charge customers fees, and that pay people full-time wages to do so. This doesn’t necessarily mean for-profit companies, and it is something the FSF has done; indeed it seems this was one of the primary purposes of the FSF in the late 80s and early 90s, when all GNU projects were ‘high priority.’

In 1989 Cygnus Solutions was founded with capital saved from proprietary software development at SUN Some of the early marketing material is available from cofounder-investor John Gilmore which offers insights into how to sell free software. While Cygnus eventually succumbed to distributing proprietary software, I mention it because of EGCS, the commercial fork of GCC v2 in 1997 That was the first time I know of that the multi-party, full-time-funded developers of a GNU program had accelerated development to point that unfunded leadership of GCC by GNU was untenable. While this was reportedly acrimonious at the time, eventually EGCS became the next major version of GCC.

I recommend that any GNU project or other free software project that is developed by multiple parties who pay developers full time wages is a high priority project – not for development support, but for promotion to show that it is possible to make free software full time.

My favorite contemporary example of this is although I have not been in contact with those developers for a couple of years so I’m not sure how they are doing, but a few years ago I heard that they employed a small team of developers in NYC and paid them around US$100,000/year wages – which a starting salary in NYC or the Bay Area in 2015.

Videos like are incomplete without addressing this. I wish that the video will be edited to say that it is possible; that gas has to be put in the vehicles and pay for with money, and its possible to earn money by developing free software, and here’s examples of people who do it today and started back then and here’s a simple memorable slogan for the model.

Some people in the software freedom movement know how to set up their finances and how to set up organizations such that they can work on software freedom issues full time. Many people don’t. That’s what I mean with the “The future is here but its not evenly distributed” stuff.

RMS is naturally the first person to have done this. First, his lifestyle is an early example of the ‘early retirement extreme’ – – model, where you (a) avoid having children and possessions and cut your spending and (b) save a lot of a regular salary until you have enough savings to generate enough interest that you can stop working and live this extremely low-budget lifestyle indefinitely. Second, he set up the FSF (which doesn’t pay him a wage) to raise funds and page wages to developers to develop high priority projects.

There are some active free software projects today which have attracted venture capitalist funding. What’s the diff between what typical proprietary software founders must do and what the founders of these commercially developed free software projects do?

I believe this improvement has direct practical benefits for the movement. The biggest category of ‘missing’ free software I see is end-user applications with pleasant user experiences; this video says something about free software being invisibly ubiquitous, but that is because a lot of free software is developed for computer industry companies and very little free software is developed for end-users.

I believe that many developers grow up loving the principle of software freedom, but after graduating find employment with proprietary software developers because they do not know how to earn a living developing free software.

I believe that it is strategic to spread the understanding of how to earn money developing free software, from the scale of an individual sole proprietorship to that of a multinational corporation.

I propose that what success looks like here is when this knowledge is as widespread as that of how to license software freely, or, indeed, how to write programs that run only on free software. (I remember a time when most developers did not, and I’d like to think that the situation is now flipped and there are not many developers left today who do not know any free systems…)

I wish there was an active free software job market website. There was a project within GNU to make a job site software for this, mentioned at nearly 10 years ago, but it was abandoned.

There are ‘per issue’ funding sites, like and – but these (so far) don’t raise a full time wage; also is worth mentioning which is the inverse, where you pay someone for nothing in particular except you like what they do and want to send them a tip.

The most well known model for funding projects is now the ‘street performer protocol’, thanks to the business. But this protocol is from a game-theory or economic-math model point of view not ideal for funding projects that create non-rival goods: it suffers an inherent free rider problem… “why not just bookmark the project and have everyone else pledge and come back after its funded and fetch a copy?”

To overcome this, seems interesting, although its base format is not FSF-approvable because it involves a period of time where copying is monopolised, it does have a subscription format that might work for uncompromisingly for free culture projects. A similarly motivated response is the model, and that is actually an active project.

However, I’m skeptical of the implementation of the model, because I think its core messaging and framing is too stringent, and implicitly and explicitly it requires people to share values other than software freedom. That is itself something that happens often, and I think drives people away. A concrete example is, which I read as saying “The opinions expressed by [an open source developer] are incompatible with those of [the FSF]. Users and developers of free software are strongly advised not to use [his #1 worldwide most popular source code hosting service] for any of their projects.” I think this is not a positive attitude and does not help advance the cause of software freedom; I think a better response is to ask, how can we use this source code hosting service using only free software? And then to write what doesn’t exist yet. Also, both snowdrift and libreboot folks will be at libreplanet, so I hope to discuss these ideas there in person : )

I wonder that the FSF could certify projects in a similar way to hardware; certifying that they only publish all their work under an appropriately free license, and additionally certifying that people involved in the project make free software full time. The FSF’s first organization would be the FSF itself, so its clear that it isn’t asking anyone to do anything which it doesn’t do itself. However, I fear that this could risk further diluting the FSF message but implicitly and explicitly requiring people to share values other than software freedom.

I have a memory from a long time ago (2004) that I asked RMS about marketing, and he said something like, the FSF doesn’t do marketing, because marketing is a euphemism for lying, and it is what for-profit companies do, and it harms society, so he won’t have the FSF do it. The FSF now has campaigns managers, and I think they could learn to be more effective if they studied (and the FSF hired people with experience in) for-profit marketing and advertising management for tactics to use for the not-marketing the FSF does.

So, finally, my best practical recommendation is that the FSF put projects on the HPP list that enable anyone to run a small business using only free software. Software to run a business that enables a young hacker and their friends to develop free software full-time. Accounting software like and seems like a start. Billing software. Direct marketing software. Customer support software. Whatever fits the narrative.

The 2nd big category of questions I am asked about the software freedom movement is about its inherent hypocrisy, when most people are not actually running a 100% free software system despite 30 years of trying. This makes it seem like a impossible utopian project which has already failed and its just crazies hanging on to keep the dream alive. When actually, we have real progress on this front – certainly since the last time I attended Libre Planet in 2011. In 2015 you can say “I run 100% free software on this hardware” by paying a modest fee for a X200 – – and I have high hopes for .

I wonder that in the 5-10 year time frame, a similar project to Librem for a phone could be possible. makes a good case for what practical steps the movement must take to make the software platform for such a phone to be useful in a way compatible with the GNU manifesto’s vision; the current era of ubiquitous high speed internet and hand held computers that can make phonecalls could not be foreseen in 1983, but the ideas are strong and I think will carry through.

Whew. Since then a friend on the FSF’s HPP Review Board mentioned that a handful of other HPP opinion pieces have also been blogged so far, and asked me to post the above publicly, so here we are.

Also a friend who was a GNU contributor in the past wrote of the initial version of the above:


I still say there is an economic role in waiting for small businesses that serve between 2 and 50,000 customers. These businesses would be the suppliers of trusted installs to their customers. Roughly speaking, these small businesses would replace corporate “app stores”.

There is a natural scarcity of trusted-to-download-and-run software. You don’t run binaries from just anyone, so to speak.

Corporate proprietary software types compete to eliminate the natural scarcity of trusted-to-download-and-run software. For example, Apple competes to make its costs-per-download from their app store close to $0. They want the store — everything from vetting apps for placement in the market to actually delivering and activating an app — to be as automated as possible. To cost nearly nothing. Then when they divide up the $0.99 price of an app, most of it is profit (for them).

They do a bad job. They have to do a bad job. They create a massive single point of failure for society. They also can’t “curate” the collection of software with any real concern for customer needs and interests. Also, they can’t keep that shit safe — it is a series of IT disasters waiting to happen. So they do a bad job.

The small-provider model is more robust. Instead of one mega app store there’s many small ones and so automation is less critical. Single-points-of-failure are at least reduced. There is competition for how to curate the software collection.

Now on the one hand that cottage-industry approach sounds like something the right hustlers could do today, given a little inventory. I’m not sure what the right HW to support would be. I’m not sure what free software to support. But I would guess there are niches that could grow.

Any brave hustlers doing that would probably be drawing off debian or something close to it but that isn’t going to be a generalizable or high quality solution for the long run.

Therefore (I am thinking) if there were some of these small guys starting up anyway and if they are smart and serious about this that this would create an opportunity to begin to think about how to turn them into a kind of syndicate. On one level they compete to dominate “service areas” of 1..50K customers. On another level they collaborate to keep the supply of trustworthy and quality software coming.

This raises the question of what forms that collaboration takes.

One form might be for these small providers to pool revenues to create something akin to royalties.

Schematic example: I have a libre phone (let’s imagine). I have a libre software supplier for that phone — a local small business. I pay some subscription fee and I can download apps from the library. My phone’s software supplier voluntarily pays out some of my subscription fee as “royalties” on stuff in the download library.

Given the potential existence of these “royalties” I hand-wavingly say that there-in lies the answer to software with a high quality user experience. In this system I have described people will, much more than with existing proprietary systems, be able to reward quality with their pocketbooks.

I don’t know how to bootstrap it. I like your mention of GNU Cash as a possible priority, in that regard.


Later on 2015-02-06 I sent a second email to HPP, and this version is slightly edited:

I just came across is a great article that specifically mentions RMS lectures having a material impact on the software freedom movement – and it is his lectures that led me to spend the last 8 years working on libre fonts – and that shows the lectures ought to spread the idea that you can uncompromisingly develop libre software and raise a living wage for yourself by doing so.

In 1997, Koch attended a talk by free software evangelist Richard Stallman, who was visiting Germany. Stallman urged the crowd to write their own version of PGP. “We can’t export it, but if you write it, we can import it,” he said. … [ 2 German government grants funded the work full time ] … But in 2010, the funding ran out.

For almost two years, Koch continued to pay his programmer in the hope that he could find more funding. “But nothing came,” Koch recalled. So, in August 2012, he had to let the programmer go. By summer 2013, Koch was himself ready to quit.

This is as fine an example of the pervasive, general lack of understanding about how to raise salary amounts of money to pay developers to work on free software full time as I could imagine; it proves that it is possible, that our community can do it, but that we don’t understand how to do it reliably.

Fortunately in this case, some ‘Rich Uncles’ have stepped in to fund Werner for the next year, because of the publicity the article raised, it seems — but the problem of funding a usable GnuPG looms:

“Looking forward, however, I think of GPG as a glorious experiment that has run its course. The journalists who depend on it struggle with it and often mess up (“I send you the private key to communicate privately, right?”), the activists who use it do so relatively sparingly (“wait, this thing wants my finger print?”), and no other sane person is willing to use it by default. Even the projects that attempt to use it as a dependency struggle. These are deep structural problems. GPG isn’t the thing that’s going to take us to ubiquitous end to end encryption, and if it were, it’d be kind of a shame to finally get there with 1990’s cryptography. If there’s any good news, it’s that GPG’s minimal install base means we aren’t locked in to this madness, and can start fresh with a different design philosophy. When we do, let’s use GPG as a warning for our new experiments, and remember that “innovation is saying ‘no’ to 1000 things.” –

“Any solution that isn’t easy to use and easy to understand is a poor solution. And GPG is neither.” –

But after the Snowden news broke, Koch decided to launch a fundraising campaign. He set up an appeal at a crowdsourcing website, made t-shirts and stickers to give to donors, and advertised it on his website. In the end, he earned just $21,000.

Perhaps with a better model like or the results could have been higher, but really the problem is a lack of understanding the craft of the salesperson.

The campaign gave Koch, who has an 8-year-old daughter and a wife who isn’t working, some breathing room. But when I asked him what he will do when the current batch of money runs out, he shrugged and said he prefers not to think about it “I’m very glad that there is money for the next three months,” Koch said. “Really I am better at programming than this business stuff.”

The business stuff isn’t more difficult. Its just more obscure. Here’s a book I enjoyed on the topic:

And finally, since you read all this way to the end, here is a copy of my 2008 MA dissertation on the history of the software freedom movement (I think this is pretty solid), how that relates to typography (I think this part is… okay), and some of the ideas I had about what I intended to do about it after I graduated (I think this part is rushed, and lacks my best thinking at the time, which has since evolved…) Here’s the file: dave_crossland_matd2008_dissertation.pdf

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Liveblog Notes: On minimum quality in typeface design

These are live blog notes from the lecture by Gerry Leonidas at the 5th Encontro de Tipografia, Barcelos, Portugal, November 29, 2014.

Usual disclaimer for live blogging: These are informal notes taken by me, Dave Crossland, at the event, and may or may not be similar to what was said by the people who spoke on these topics. This is probably FULL of errors. What do you want for free? 🙂 If something here is incorrect it is probably because I mistyped it or misunderstood, and if anyone wants corrections, just should tweet me – @davelab6 – or post a comment. Thanks!

[ Slides at ]

We were talking about industry yesterday [the usual libre font fight – dc] and we had a good discussion. I thought of the car industry in the 60s and 70s. This Renault was a hatchback. This renault was a joke, badly powered, badly made, and none survive. They did the Citroen na, a rust bucket too. But they also did this, the most interesting car in Europe.

An industry that makes really good and really bad quality things is unfortunate. We all want a minimum level of quality in things. What is the minimum level we can achieve in type? That is something we can all work towards. We can not always makes works of genius, but things that are good enough.

For European cars this has happened… Reviews, magazines that look at things, standardisation, collaboration… You can buy a car now and it will not be terrible. It will be good enough.

Lets consider 3 key ideas and some extensions to them.

  1. Industry and ownership.

  2. Value and visibility of it

  3. Information and quality, to judge it by

Then trends, genres, and creativity, and an intent to act.

We touched on this in the panel discussion. This is the manchester drawing office of Linotype in the 40s. The people there are little cogs in a big gear. This is Joana’s desk; could be anyone, anywhere. There are no longer limits on the supply of type.

The early DTP equipment was expensive by today’s standards. The printer was thousands of euros. The drawings people made were a lot of work, a lot of decisions, and they kept some memory of the process. They were the output of a highly organized process. This contains a lot of value; the company sees this as a product to print books and magazine with, and that is one part of the nature of typeface; what a typeface is.

This is Victorian technology: High Victorian technology that lasted a very long time. It relied on centralised machines. They are glorified lego pieces, they are merely machines and you could understand how they worked and fix them.

In the 20th century, the technology became opaque, first as electronics and then as computers. The machine may not have any connection to the way you use it. Who really understands how my intentions translate into the machine? We have a different world, we operate in abstractions… but the old ways determine the language we use. That drawing from the 40s is an outline contour, and its no coincidence that this drawing in a computer it also an outline contour.

The pace of change in the type industry in the late 80s was astonishing. In old company the board rooms minutes and ATypI records you can see plans for growth, for development in the late 80s of the pre-digital technology, and how it was a total surprise how quickly the industry was disrupted by computers; new kinds of machines that changed how cheaply and quickly things could be done.

What tools like fontographer and pagemaker did was allow people to take forms that were captured in a physical medium and capture them instead in a digital, transferrable medium. PostScript, platform independent technology, severed type from printing.

The browser is a typesetter. Webkit is a typesetting engine, it is the engine behind Chrome, Safari and Opera. A web font service’s server machines somewhere that serve the font files are like the floppy disks with font files for the first platform independent technology.

When industries open up, existing ideas about ownership and contribution change. There is no longer a physical object that you can patent and own and secure.

Next, visibility. You could store drawings, there was a Monotype Collections Room, and when the pre-digital Monotype collapsed as a hot metal company, those drawings were the key thing that was preserved. Machines were saved too, but they were secondary to the type designs captured in the drawings.

Linotype survived the transition to becoming a digital type technology vendor, but in the process everything for the typesetting business was destroyed. Linotype survived as a rightsholder.

Also in Germany at that time, URW’s Ikarus was a digital tool for the previous technology; the original fontographer, and then fontlab, for many years, and today there is glyphs and robofont and fontforge. There are also people working on metafont and similar technologies, and web based versions which are still interfaces to data somewhere.

What is a typeface in the world of data?

What I see when I hit print? Is it what is seen on a web page? What is the typeface? Can you point at it and say, “this is it.” Which is truer to the forms? Is my intention in the font editor’s drawing environment the ‘real’ thing? When I scale it down and color-in the outline contour black, it looks different.

Having a good answer to this is important if you are trying to make a living making typefaces.

The growth of tools has another effect. Font making environments themselves become commodities, and that means their price trends to zero. We are not there yet, but in terms of investment in software, it is negligible for someone to start making fonts. Soon anyone can go to any internet cafe, open a browser, and start designing type. I think in a few years we will have reasonable web-based font editors.

Improving font editors impact the speed of type development. For many Fontlab was annoying and cumbersome, but the move to alternatives like Glyphs and Robofont has not improved the quality of type. What has changed? The speed of production, the speed designers can learn to become type designers. It is a distraction to talk about the tools themselves – what are the typefaces?

The marginal cost of a new font trends to zero, too. (That means, the cost of the next typeface is zero.) If you need to spend x days to make a new type, is that too much hassle for the revenue the type can generate for you? There will be someone somewhere who will design a typeface for a smaller fee, and they will do it. So will typefaces become valueless? But I am talking of typefaces in the most generic sense. A font file. Everyone has the means of production. to manufacture type, to generate font files.

That leaves me to think that if we look at the files we miss the point. The type isn’t to be judged by the files. We must look outside the type to make sense of them. Which are good and which are bad?
Information and quality… How do you evaluate quality? If one thing costs zero, and then another costs thousands of pounds? In the presence of something that is free, how do you justify a market of people charging a lot of money?

I love this font, I love these shapes. I would like them 3d printed so i could touch them!

So what we need to do is look at this separately, to look at it in the content of other things. To look at that font in relation to 8 others.

What was it intended for? There was a brief. It is not a piece of art, it serves a purpose, for a client – imagined or real – and made within a budget of time and money. There are documents intended for it to be used it in, and those inform its decisions. This is a typeface for continuous prose. This is interesting, this is normal, this is not good, and so on. Now I can judge a thing with references outside it, even if in my memory and not in front of me – and if so, even that that is a subjective and hazy process, as we all have different experiences and awareness of what is out there.

A typeface does not have enough information to explain itself. You can say the curves are well formed. It is easy to hit that mark. A typeface can only be evaluated in relation to a context that is external to the typeface.

There is a famous book, “Godel Escher Bach,” a book about A.I. that talks about the meaning of the self. The author Douglas Hofstadter worked with typefaces, and asked, “What are the patterns that people use to recognise letters?”

  1. Ownership and contribution change with the means of making, but our language and ideas span technologies

  2. Value of design is disembodied

  3. Evaluation relies on context

This car, who remembers it? This is Citroen in bed with Mazarati! They made a beautiful car, but it is totally useless. You must take a great deal of care of it, it is temperamental, all the things a car should not be. It is build for one thing: Gazing at it.

So if you want to make a text type, Minion is hard to beat. Then there are types like Cardea which are a bit individual, and then things like Capucine which are outliers. You can graph this in a cloud.

Trends. The dense core of this “context cloud” changes slowly over time. Normality in text type 40 years ago was serifed, but today my kids see sans as the normal. The smart designer tries to second guess this, and capture something that will be desirable in a year or two when their project reaches publication.

Genres. These change, as screen resolution changes and our ideas of what is comfortable to read changes.

Motivators. Things that are in a genre that make you aware there is something different, that motivates you to use it instead of something you already had. That something may not be as unusual as Capucine, but it will be something interesting. Types in this area often win competitions.

We can set objective criteria for well formed shapes, spaces and behaviours. You need to have a fair set of evaluation criteria in a university. I already have a deck on speakerdeck about this; pointers for type reviews.

When I sat at the ATypI Amsterdam Type Crit, reviewing Rui Abreu’s work ( I found this to be a stressful experience. At the University where I teach, people have weeks to get to know me, but an on-the-spot review with someone for the first time who does not know what I am like, or will think about or say, is a challenge.

This is the list of things in my mind:

  • fit of typeset text within the brief

  • key dimensions within a paragraph body. A poem needs lots of space. A dictionary is compact. So, ‘it depends’, on the context of use. What is regular? What is bold? How to decide? If you superimpose all regular fonts, there are the 2 strokes in an ‘n’ and the thickness of the stroke to its height, or the proportion of stem to counter – these are in a narrow range. The bold has similar constraints.

  • stroke thickness range. So the generation that grew up with super hinted screen fonts, have really heavy bolds, because regular was 1px in stem, and bold had 2px stem. Double! Because you didn’t have the resolution. Verdana bold is really extrabold or black. We had a silent agreement, that its not really bold, its what we need at at that time. And now screens are different and we wish for a semi bold Verdana.

  • stroke modulation

  • in/out stroke recipes

  • alignments in h and v axes. This is something you come back to again and again during the development of a typeface.

  • transitions between letter elements.

  • relating of inner and outer strokes

  • letter shapes within key patterns

  • integration of exceptions. There is one letter that sticks out. The galliard lowercase ‘g’. The f of bembo. You look at it and you think about this. Is this intentional? Done so i would notice it? Does the type say ‘look at me!’? The raygun fonts were doing this a lot. You make the reading process appear to the read, you had to try hard to read raygun. But when is the f arm to get long enough to give identity without catching the eye and distracting a reader. That is something a type designer can spend a lot of time on.

And now everything is global. How do we support this on a global scale?

As the collapse of the industry did away with us and eu centric industry, that have control of means of production, then you get people like kris sowersby who have an international impact from new zealand.

Verdana and Georgia embody Microsoft’s first moves away from print in 1996. They put a lot of money into moving reading from print to screen. They saw dial up modems and early web as being important medium of reading. A lot of effort was spent to make the rendering crisp.

The Cleartype collection in 2003 represented a bet in portable, flat screens. 8 years later, Microsoft put a lot of effort here too. Flat screens were becoming cheaper, we had these massive screens. You had a computer your dad bought, desks, towers, cables around the back. That stuff went away. It became cheaper, flat screens and then laptops led to mobile. The tablet had 3 attempts, and this was one of those failed attempts. Laptops with a screen that flipped and turned back on itself. The idea was portable computers. Microsoft found limits to how much people would read on screen before hitting the print button: If someone sent an article over 1,500 words they would print it. They knew you had to have type you could read on screen for long texts, and the subpixel rendering and the Cleartype collection was an important attempt to do do just that. The fonts were made for Windows Vista in 2003, but only shipped in 2007 – when Windows had a different Cleartype engine.

The idea of type given for free that would be …

Adobe Source Sans and Serif are notable examples in a very long line of fonts that set baselines. You need to enable people that work with texts. Before that there was Vera, Lato, and a lot of fonts made freely available by Google and other large companies or institutions with specific agendas. Brill made a font available freely for all academics, that has all the academic typography glyphs they need for their complex documents.

Businesses that are not type businesses are a critical enabler. People will always put money into new type.

Google is one participant in going global. I hear Google say, I want to make something that sets a base point, not to threaten anyone, and in the same way Verdana and Georgia transformed reading on-screen for the scripts they support, I want people to be able to read on-screen globally.

I’ve talked to people associated with Google about responding and supporting this initiative. I have 2 phases planned for it. I want people to understand the basics, publishing a list of things that people need to keep in mind when designing a typeface. So if they are in the middle of nowhere, in a village in India, and they discover they can make a type for their own script, then they can meet their need to know how to think about type in context.

Some things are general. How to set parameters for a typography brief, is another way of saying, what will this be used in? Here you have a text with levels of hierarchy, so you need type family variants for annotations, main text, captions. You may need different numbers for different contexts.

The web uses CSS to define visual design, and we need to map family styles to their CSS structures. There are 9 weights per family. This is interesting: How many things can you fit in to the 9? Do you really need all 9 weights for text? Is 9 different styles what typographers really need? Or is it 7, or 8, or 5? I don’t know. But CSS is out there and it says you can only reliably address up to 9 styles at a time.

A type designer can draw interpolatable ‘master’ styles, and spit out anything in between them as an ‘instance.’ Should the instances be equally spaced? Should they be based on the same recipe, with point parity?

For a typographer, the very light styles are used sparingly and in very large point sizes. The black may need to have another receipt because it is used for headings, and the regular has again other forms for long-form reading. So I think that the way CSS has 9 weights in a line is not an intelligent way of looking at this stuff.

How do you plan the weights? …

Are newspapers dying in Portugal? A broadsheet spread typically has 8 entry points to reading; 8 things a reader can choose to start reading. So there is a typographic hierarchy to match that. In tabloids or berliners which are smaller, there are 5. When you go to tablet size, you lose the space to have the objects themselves declare the hierarchy. All the articles look more similar. There is an external hierarchy; lists of things to pick from outside the page.

A newspaper on a tablet is using a sidebar for navigation which drives reading order. And on your phone, you can not see the list and the content at the same time. Its either/or. The designers are counting on the short term memory of their audience, and mine is about 3 seconds 😉

So, here are a set of problems. Changing the typographic environment, a changing environment for type making, and some ideas for things to link them. I think this is important because we have communities that do not share our livelihood and our interests, who make decisions that affect us.

There is now very good OpenType support in web browsers, and that will effect Google, Microsoft, Apple and their businesses and other businesses. You can open a web browser anywhere in the world and it will work with your writing system.

Wherever you are, the type you see should not offend you.

We have a simple scripts in the West. You can reliably spell-check all European languages. Typographers have well-established and widely understood rules for typesetting these scripts. But globally this is atypical. Many Eurasian communities have their script, that is connected, with regional variations, and its another world for their typographers.

Early typography machines were made by Europeans, for Europeans, and then later they were adapted to the scripts used by other communities. People wanted to sell things in Thailand, so they wanted Thai typewriters, and how do you fit a script into a typewriter when it has letters you can not fit into the physical restrictions of such a machine? Hot metal also had similar limits – the hot metal would cool before the entire matrix could be created, putting a physical limit on the size of the glyph set.

So what do you do when you have 350 letters and the engineer says that you could only have 250? How many Germans give up the umlaut (diaeresis), or Spanish give up the Ñ (eɲe/énye)? To simplify the script to accommodating the technology, well, maybe you can do it, but it is not ideal, and it would be better to respect the script. Yet the people who make those decisions are not aware of the importance of such issues. We always talk to communities that are not type designers or typographers.

What next?

That’s the easy part for me 😉 I have some suggestions.

Be perpetually curious. We are lucky to be in a world that is changing, with constant innovation. Type designers are actively engaged in making our world better. With better phones, they are making things that enabled someone who buys a smartphone in Africa to do microbanking with a better experience than traditional banking. Someone in this room may make the font that makes that possible. We go from the metal machines to a smartphone in africa doing banking, this is amazing progress. It is amazing to live in such a world. How can we move things along?

‘The next billion’ is a big phrase in business right now. There are about a billion people online today, and that’s a small part of humanity, and the next billion will join us soon. That matters. The young generation will grow up as professionals in this world. This is a privilege and a responsibility. You must be informed, to fight the curse of “design is making things pretty.” That aspect of design is just the top, the cherry on the cake; design is making things work well in context, then making them exciting and fun to use, and then making them look good doing it.

That’s your job to do.

Thank you.



Pedro Amado: thanks for that, was nice. I have 2 questions. Designing with a specific environment in mind. Frutiger made univers for the lumitype system. The drawing was motivated by that tech. Once emigres fonts were outliers …

Gerry: 2 things. Well, telephone directories are cost driven, if a typeface saves a line per a page, on 800 pages book, and then printing 100k books, that’s a valuable typeface. They are designed for a specific image setter. They design the dots the image setter places the ink. Its like verdana, designed by bitmaps, and then drawn to vectors, and then hinted to recreate the pixels. … I think depending on the project, you have type made for a platform, or not. Emigre’s types can be seen as design research and practice integrated. The confluence of the mac, of pagemaker, fontographer, and postscript, that allowed people to make things they could throw away for the first time. Type specimens look a certain way at that time, as they said, lets play. But quickly they released if you wanted people to read, you needed to respect conventions somewhat. They saw you could make type to look at and type to read with. They saw some type was only useful for some display usage. They could have no impact, or impact you could not anticipate. Emigre were questioning conventions. Its like your naughty cousin who does a terrible thing, then what you do wrong is not so bad. So after emigre we saw a wave of new humanist sans serif, and so syntax was odd at the time it came out but it became became very typical.

Pedro: what is next?

Gerry: Anyone can take my list, and I welcome all feedback. The idea that there is a black box in a teachers or a senior designers’ head? This is nonsense. There is a lack of language to express things we have in our head. We need to have words to say why we do certain things. We should not say, Oooo I like it, or Hmmm it is interesting, we should be able to say exactly why and how that is the case. I take part in competition juries, but without giving feedback about why x got a prize and y did not is a missed opportunity. It is a time commitment that is hard to make. Anyway, I want to put what I have so far online, for free, for anyone. I would like to see tools for comparison. Something i do when i go to web design conferences, is to take an on-screen rendering of text and superimpose an old manuscript. Too often web designers are like ‘wow, we changed everything,’ but no, this comparison shows they didn’t, the rhythm and darkness of text is the same as ever. Then, if you are a beginner, and you can upload your font and compare it, that will help. I think I speak from a position of privilege, as I am paid to work for a year with 15 people who are really motivated to learn type. Anyone is lucky if they can spend a year doing what they like. But ought it to be that or nothing? It would be like aristocrats and peasants. No, I want this stuff online so people can do as much as possible. I can not give you all the things, but I can make good pictures of them, and that can be online. That is the plan. The point is to work myself out of a business by the time I retire.

Q: thank you Gerry for a full hour, it was not exhausting, it was very nice. Again, isn’t there a trap for us all designers and people working on this area to take or confuse popularity with quality? Sometimes things are popular and all a sudden the quality standard first determined or granted by experts and expertise, with self publishing means, became more irrelevant with popularity. Ranking on downloads or true designs.

Gerry: Take good fonts, they are notable for attracting attention by people because they are good quality. Say that someone puts online, for free, a good text typeface. Good enough. Not fabulous, just good enough. So, in the communities that use such fonts, those people who do not see typography as core, they see a need that is high enough that say Merriwether is good enough for them. A commercial type designer might say, “ah, there is a need for a typeface like this!” and make something even better. Perhaps the sales or usage data of distributors can show that the world needs type of a certain kind. What is good enough? I will not spend 800 euros on a typeface. I will spend 150, as I will get enough value for it. A type library subscription for 10 euros? This is beer money for me. Where there are collections of type without the friction of cost, I think they can show where the bigs trends and demands will go. The user community of such collections is not restricted by quality concerns, and they may not know how to determine quality. There are more and more ways to learn about it, though. Also, popularity in the type world is not the same as popularity in the graphic design world. So graduates of a course may pat each other’s backs, but the market can be fickle. I can think of popular type which is popular not because of its design features. I bet that any low contrast slab serif that looked okay small and big, could be as popular with the same marketing and positioning. So, there is a shift in what people expect to see, and as people realise they can choose the type they use, they will learn and change their choices. What is quality? Typographica’s list of popular fonts is not the same of what is popular in the real world. What is used in the streets?

Q: Gotham!

Q: Neo Sans was very popular in Portugal.

Dave Crossland: Lobster!

Gerry: Dino is still here? Ah, well. When a political party needs to rebrand, what do they do? Or what about banks. All the banks rebranded in the last few years with softer typefaces. They had serious fonts before, and now its all italics and nice ‘we are friendly, so, give us your money.’ You know, there’s someone at the brand agency who went to school with the type designer, and they say, a new typeface is 80,000 euros, and its 30,000 for a custom version of a retail type, so the bank says, we stole a lot of money but not that much, we’ll take the 30k one thanks, and then it is seen everywhere, and retail sales pick up. Here is a semi fictional example. Who remembers Heathrow airport signage? They did once have a typeface for the signage system. It was Bembo Bold in black on yellow. No one would pass a project at undergraduate level with such a choice! But you surely knew you were in Heathrow when you landed because of that. Then the companies changed, one company came to own all airports, and maybe they looked at a custom typeface to get away from Frutiger that all airports use… but that cost for a custom type had not earlier been made a separate line item in the budget: when the project was imagined, no one thought ahead about the need for a custom typeface. The 100,000 euros that it would cost is peanuts in the cost of an airport. They said, oops we just cant do it, so we’ll just license frutiger, just like everyone else. Now Heathrow uses Frutiger. And was a business decision, not a design decision. Monotype have put on a branding event for london agencies to discuss this recently. The largest problems with any brand roll out are font related. The brand managers know the least about it. They budget the least time for it. They think, ‘fonts just work,’ but then they don’t work. And then they have to go back and fix the fonts expensively. Its common.

Yves Peters: Brussels airport is using a fontfont design for their branding. I will ask them about why they chose that font.

Gerry: yes, what is Brussels? Just another city? Or something meaningful? The Belgians have a dual language requirement in the same script. A country in the middle east got a FIFA championship, they build airports for it. 6 regional airports, 1 international, and all the rail and bus systems. This went to london agencies. Architects, agencies, sign firms. That means signs in English and Arabic, left to right and right to left. How to balance the scripts? How to present the hierarchy, airside and landside? The symbols? All need to localised. If you have a growing sense of pride and joining the international community of nations that host world class events, do you want your signs looking the same of everyone else? Or something that shows the growing maturity and identidy of the region? The brief says,”Not Frutiger!” People arriving need to find their way, the arrows, the symbols must look different too.

Q: Do the people making a new airport really understand that type can make a difference?

Gerry: Any parent who buys books for their kids, you see type with a single story a and g, and you feel better about buying the kid version of the book. It may be in Georgia or Plantin but with a single story a. The people making the decisions are not the kids. They are the parents. We know from research that kids can read both forms just as well; kids know that there are letters for learning to write with and to read with. The kids do not care about the single story form. But the buyers, the parents, do care, because it signifies that they thought about their kids’ needs. Also, typefaces that are made for dyslexics. Its proven not to be the case that these have a lot of impact. But if I stand here and say, I am very smart – which is impossible to verify – and I say it makes a difference, then the onus is on you to disprove me. The book with the a and g makes no difference to the child, and paying attention to the illustrations is much more important – are they nouns, adjectives, or verbs? Verbs are hard to illustrate. Tom has a house. Fine. Tom likes his house. Hard. But that is too much information for an average parent to know.

Q: It is needed for education, to show people that good typefaces are important

Gerry: I think we will find typefaces are not as important as we think. If the language of a blog is not good, you tune out. Even if the typography is great. Or if you apply the Guardian’s typography to The Sun’s content, it will not be more readable. So if we keep close to the …

Posted in Knowledge |

Nina Stössinger on Libre Fonts panel at ATypI

The liveliness with which these duos passed content (and mikes) back and forth deflated in the anemic panel on free/libre fonts comprising six figureheads and no critics. Their scripted-sounding exchange about the quantitative successes of Google Fonts et al seemed rather out of place in a conference so centered on learning from each other to further the craft; it felt a bit like an (uninspired) housewares sales event, and controversy was dodged even in the Q&A: “Yes, we could talk about business models all night. Now, does anyone have a question on … collaboration?” Nobody did, and we rushed off to drown our frustration at the apparent impossibility (or indesirability) of real dialogue between the libre types and the type scene proper in coffee and really good pastries. To me, the low point of the conference (not the pastries).

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Unicode Conference 2013: Day 2

These are live blog notes from the Unicode 2013 conference in Santa Clara, Day 2.

Usual disclaimer for live blogging: These are informal notes taken by me, Dave Crossland, at the event, and may or may not be similar to what was said by the people who spoke on these topics. Probably if something here is incorrect it is because I mistyped it or misunderstood, and if anyone wants corrections, they should email me ( – or post a comment. Thanks!

In fact I didn’t even read this document once before posting it, so its probably FULL of errors. What do you want for free? 🙂


(slides are using merriweather)

Wikipedia scale! It started a a microcosm andhas become a macrocosm.There is a lot of activity from users around theworld. 30m articles, 4.3 in enlgish. 287 languages, and more in incubators. 796 production websites,567 incubator.

500M unique monthly visitors. 24b monthly page views. 3.7bn mobile pageviews, that is growing very fast.

30m articles, its the world of content. how much is english? not even 15%. 1m-100k articles in 37 languages; arabic, european ones, cyrillic ones. its a big drop,but the level of activity is different. 99k – 10k, 73 languages. these are vibrant communities, we dont push a language to production unless there is an active global community contributing regularly. these have crossed the bar in terms of maintaining regular contributions and adding content to the web and wikipedia. 10k-1k articles, 102 languages. these are new language communities coming online.

its the power of the web, net, and broadband, fuelled by multilingual support in software, to make this happen.

the engagment by billions of users globally who access the web on a desktop and afford a smart phone or tablet. thats the activity here.

who are our users?

Early adopters: large langauges, europeans.

next genration: those underrepresented on the web and with mobile access, and where the language tech isn’t good. what langauges have 100Ms of users and poor tech? 1.5Bn people in india, 1.5Bn+ in CJK. Arabic, other RTL languages from India to Middle East? Those are the next generation. That’s where the growth of the web is happening.

We see the long tail languages. Native American languages have tiny but passionate communities. Latin America, Venezuala, Brasil, Mexico, there are indigenous langauges that ‘didnt matter’ but now emerge online as they can come together freely and addresss topics they are interested in and share and learn.

wikipedia is seeing the next generation of web users come online. 1Bn is a small number in that.

What are the Factors igniting this growth?

The euro languages were early adoptors. What is missing in the space beyond that? Look at a content world, wikipedia, twitter, facebook, quora – in these contnet communities, do we have growth igniters?

  • 1st class user experience

  • broadband net connection

  • abundance of devices to access net – in japan its common to have 3+ devices, this room averages 2…

  • seamless language support – we take it for granted in English.

  • high quality fonts to read with – you can’t imagine how frustrating it is to have poor quality fonts to read with. we take it for granted.

  • input keyboards to write with – you dont think twice about text entry.

  • search – this drives the web today. all content in engish, we assume that bing or google or yahoo will find things we want.

Where are we headed?

Wikipedia is becoming a teenager. It could become a pleasant person, or a pest.

The level of engagement by users around the world, we could see a content commons for the web emerging, that makes online education uniquitous, and enabled all people to generate high quality content that is rich, and creating a cycle of brining people online, often with mobile computing (Android, iOS, others)

COmmoditization of langauge software is something I want to see – I wanted to see libre and open langauge software. we must facilitate every user of the web and mobile platofrms. there is no room for proprietary software in this space. it must be as seamless as you buying a smart phone for everyone.

We must keep the web open and free. Or we can not see content grow in new languages equally on the web.


It is a world of transitions, things are changing.

Keeping things libre and open licensed. The licenses must allow people to use their own languages on the web.

Supporting 287 languages, we must have high quality langauges assets for web and mobile. ADobe did a good job for the desktop, but we need web fonts and input tools. These are SERIOUSLY LACKING today. The wikipedia langauges under 100k articles strogly correlates with language support out of the box in the most popualr OS.

We lack libre language tools: spellchekers, suggestion engines, content development tools, machine translation tools (terrible), multilingual search (its poor). Overall we have a broken multilingual UX.

The MAIN wikiepdia user base’s experience is TERRIBLY broken. we are so dismayed, syaing for the last 15 years of computing that we can’t take language support for granted. wikiedpai has to go find things to make itself possible, and find libre software.

unifying the language selector. wikiedpai addded a universal lanague selector, so a german reading japanese can happen.

smart handling of scripts. how to type and search my own script?

we have called out for collaborators across the world for libre fonts. we have released libre fonts, you can download and use them for any time. there are 63 languages with 83 styles.

we have 139 input methods for 64 languages contributed by our users. we want onscreen key maps for every mobile device. we need these libre licensed, so any user can easily type any language. i am happy to work with anybody on that 🙂

jsvascript i18n support need to be improved for grammar, plurals, gender. we do this for 287 languages today, but we can do more.

traslation tools, side by side proofreading for software UI and message localiation.

we want transltion tools and language aids.

Industry Collaboration

Google Noto Fonts, Web Fonts

Red Hat Indic Fonts and IME support – the first libre fonts project, since MS and Adobe didnt want to do libre fonts at that time

Adobe and Google’s libre font rendering initiative is great, thanks for that collaobration, its an important project and I hope wikipedia can help with it

I applaud the open standards efforts for non latin langauge support. w3c, unciode consortium, these really matter in this space. The w3c japanese layout specification led by richard isida is a great exmaple. wikipedia and red hat are working on indic layout specs. there is no information for a font designer to build a font for another language from the OT spec alone. we need language specifications that any technical developer or font designer can use to start making lanugages. please contact me about that.

we are working now on better onscreen keymaps, and will welcome collaboration with that.

The multilingual UX must be first class. – collaborate and contribute here.

I understand the need to monetize, I come from industry, but libre software is the way of the web, you need to be with this. if we dont have fundemental building blocks to seed the market, who will use the fonts you are trying to sell? they will pirate them anyway. who cares?

we need to create open dictioanties and glossaries for people to use. we need to make machine transation work for all language pairs.

The BiDi work that unicode consortium has taken is great!

we need to be able to share our knoweldge and contribute togehter to seed the platform that we all see will change the world more and more.

it is important because the energy of the few 100 people working to make multilingual support better will help so many other people come online and contribute.

we need touch input and other features on devices that we take for granted to work worldwife.

we are doing a collaboration summit with redhat, and googel and mozilla, KDE and GNOME, all come to our lngauge summit. every 2 years, we do it at Red Hat at Pune, India. We do one in the valley too.

We do cross platform language assets. fixing bugs, triaging issues,


Q: funding?

A: We raise $40m annually in $10-20 payments from the global public. we are a distributed community supported platform. we never felt the problem was money. it was mindshare, getting the best language engineers to work on our problems.

Q: biggest obscatcle for very small langauge communites? those with 2k articles? these language communties with 100s of mative speakers. we are the main obstacles for them?

A: One language, there are 10 people who are superusers. they make it for their kids to learn from. If there is interest from a community, that is driven and passionate, they can make more content than a much large community that is complacent. the population effects going to 1M articles, but to 10k its something a small group can do. but lack of language assets is a technical issue. it is a real issue.

Q: You mentioned what wikimedia is doing. wiki data effort, to make strucutred information, that can help machine translation.

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ATypI 2013 Day 3

These are live blog notes from the ATypI 2013 conference in Amsterdam Day 3

Usual disclaimer for live blogging: These are informal notes taken by me, Dave Crossland, at the event, and may or may not be similar to what was said by the people who spoke on these topics. Probably if something here is incorrect it is because I mistyped it or misunderstood, and if anyone wants corrections, they should email me ( – or post a comment. Thanks!

In fact I didn’t even read this document once before posting it, so its probably FULL of errors. What do you want for free? bahaha

[ 5 mins late ]

We need people who value knowledge more than things. that uncertainty and doubt is valuable in a company.

what do we need?

Education for people to create and solve the problems we face at any level of complexity. what do we educate? how can we teach things that will be relevant in 10 years?

what skills should they have?

how can they educate THEMSELVES in their professional life?

we need design skills with classes for research, and appreciation for the knowledge of making, who ask for more instead of ‘do we really need to know all this?’

we need explorers much more than design students who stay on the beach using Facebook

scripting and programming is a formal way to describe design decisions. better to write a conditional program than do it in your head to create a photoshop image

thinking in algorithms is the only way designers will survive. like lego or pantone colours of typefaces. reduce an infinite amount of choices to a manageable range.

devel the skills and doing research are seen as opposites. skills and research are x and y axes, that together mean making things. you can plot in a 2×2 grid these things.

such a graph is a model, a simplification of thought to understand the unthinkable.

the name of a font is a model to represent the ideas in the type.

the outline of a font is a model.

the programme of this conference is a model, a prediction of time.

the map of amsterdam is a model is a model thatreturs you safely home from the red light district

a model is an amount of relevant details. what is a sketch meant to do?

text as used is commonly understood symbols.

design is the management of details.

a useful definition, popular with students and clients. this simplified communication.

designers create models. many to choose and many ways to choose. models can be abstract. based on insutioin – i feel this is the right way – but some approach with cultivate opportunism. we pretend we can do it in a given amount of time, even thought thats not true.

there are models for making models. i like recursion.

tools are models that understand the task to be done. we need design tools

where is the python powered indesign? why were designers unable to prove adobe that would improve their production of pages? how was it possible to adde python to fontgorpahy many years ago while properiaty page layout tools still didn’t do it.

InD, Ill, PS, SketchUP are not design tools.

RoboFont is. The 150 tickets for RoboThon are sold out in 1 hour. Why not python script all the things?

Designers don’t ask for this.

They think doing repetitive labour work is a great accomplishment, and programming is not design.

we need web tools going beyond HTML/CSS/JS.

Check Bret Victor’s future of programming. I give away the secret, its a recent lecture, he talks like its 1973, and you see how stupid the future has become. CHECK IT OUT!

So we need web tools that are beyond assembler, postscript and css. we need CSS3, SASS, HTMl5 to be better. Watch Bret Victor.

We need designers that know the difference between idea space and tool space. You’ve seen Erik’s drawing, and most designers live on the crowded beach of known tools. Those who escape built their own ideas islands, and can do what they want.

we need tools with a single source. what is that?

replace files with databases. you all work with files. its stupid.

working in the cloud is a good start, but far from adequate.

anyone seen a dropbox file disappear because a friend dragged it to their desktop? dropbox is a stupid program.

we need applications that solve the versioning of design work.

where is the type design eversion of git? programmers solved it for themselves. even working on the same source file. we need programmers to solve the problem for the rest of theowrld.

designers think they are ok copy and pasting. heir little gated immunity, theyr well secured office.

but we need with testers, hinters, programmers and marketers use the same source. to make the same type we need.

this is the landing pattern of type. desirer requirements, then generate all fonts from a central set of sources.

we need designers who can understand ‘kinds of’ not ‘a single one’ – make algorithms that can design.

we need AI. there’s not enough design capacity for human designers to do all the work. how to design programs that design?

few designers know that. where did they learn? what tools do they use?

processing, prolog, python?

the solution is in studying multiple things at the same time. combine things in interesting ways.

this is true for any area. even if they appear too remote at first glance.

is butte rick a lawyer with a knowledge of design, or a designer who knows copyright?

is frederik baerlan a designing programmer or a programming designer? their combinations makes the unique in the world by picking 2 remote specialisms.

take these 6 extremes. concepts for AI, but perfect for designing any process. values in left col are easy to solve.


fully observable. all pieces can be seen. its deterministic, no dice. its sequential, can’t go back to change past moved. static, rules don’t change. discrete, one meaning. and it has multiple agents.

design a page with no grid?

can see it, no dice, episodic not sequential – designer can go back and recontinue. dynamic, client can call any time to change the rules. no grid so element positions si continuous. and usually a single designer does it.

adding a grid changes it from continuous to diskette. designing a page with a grid is easier.

making a car drive through traffic on its own is hard. all the right hand side col items apply. where did google think about what if a door from a 747 falls down? their car program doesn’t have that explicitly.

we need devices with quality type. we need osx, iphoenn ,i podad, design, android, windows, print.

css is not a design language, because i can’t tell it what i want more or less, i have to be exact. and remember all brewer differences. making websites work well on many platforms is like magic.

we need tools to hide the legacy from view.

think the unthinkable. watch bret victor explain this in his videos.

why isn’t everything an application, interactive?

tap and erik and just made a library of tools that todays type design students use to their advantage. this is all based on open source python, by guido, just’s brother.

txx is used by EVERYONE, the cottage industry and the big corporations. what would the world be like without this tool?

there is vanilla and woof and robofont and the GN cube and superpoatro.

we need more programs like eriks superpoaltor.

we need people who are not satisfied with these tools.

we need people who can jump in and improve the existing code and make it even better.

there are many important areas that we did not talk about.

we didn’t mention print.

setting up accompany. architecture, art.

you must explore yourself.

we need atypic, where this all happens.

its good to see the paper proposals, but the chats between the lectures are very valuable too.

lets go outside the landscape we habit in. what needs to be solved? what can be solved with type?

i wish you an interesting time here.


Q: what do you mean by AI if not computers who think for themselves?

A: there are levels of AI. the problem is that its a loaded idea. 40 years ago they said in 10 years we’d have robots doing housekeeping. it didn’t work out. they found simple stuff is hard to program. making something behave like a person naturally is very complex. otoh, google does a good job selecting adverts. its a learning system. we’d like something that you can train. you can train it by writing it yourself. you can imagine an application and the program says ‘this is the thing you may want to do so lets put that at the top of my suggestions’. the problem is exponential growth. you can not foresee everything that happens. if you go to the 6th or 7th level of chess, its more moves than a computer can calculate. but chess is some 24-30 moves. you can’t say ‘if they do this, you do that’. its fuzzy logic. design is too fuzzy. but you can get somewhere, applying ai tree search techniques to what designers can do.

Q: are you arguing for design to be contingent? i mean, something that is without having to be so. design presented as an ontology?

A: i don’t have a definition… i use for students, the management of details. another is, if you don’t do it it won’t be there, if you do, it probably will, and if you do it again, it will be better. its vague. or, is design everything you do for the first time? second, hmm. 3rd, well. 4th, either hire someone or write a program. then its production, not design. when you give it to a person, they do a lot of design too. even the printer who adjusts the ink to respond to the paper. again, making the choice of what to design is design.

* * *

1335 Don’t Design Web Fonts | Cyrus Highsmith, David Jonathan Ross

[ 10 mins late ]

I use serif for html text and sans for tags.

a coding typeface family for coding typography.

responsive design can change the type based on the window size, e.g. changing the drop cap font with different levels of complexity. we can make the borders change.


I’ve been thinking about the theory of things. you can look at my sketchbook on the slides if you’re bored wit theory. at RISD i saw typography shrink as strategy design and programming and writing classes crowd in. this is good for preparing students for careers as graphic designers.

risd has held on longer than most schools to typography. michael beirut from pentagram said he would take someone who can read over someone who can draw to become a graphic designer.

lexical skills are more important than visual skills to design now. knowing the structure of a text is more important than knowing how to make nice balanced white space.

like many type designers i taught myself at the start. in the lsat 10 years, the type courses at cooper, reading, kabk, and type design electives are now as part of graphic design programs all over the place.

its very popular lately. at RISD i used to do 2 classes, basic type, ‘type 1’, and then in spring, type design elective. i put a lot into the type 1 curriculum, it needed updating. a couple years ago, the dept head said that not enough seats available int he type design elective. so i should teach the class twice, in the fall for another group of students.

i agreed to teach just type design; not basic typography any more. i was happy to do that, but it makes me wonder why. why as general typographic education is in decline is type design so popular?

many reason. one might be the changing relationship between type designer and typography.

David Jonathan Ross:

technical reasons. instead of setting a font at a size, the range of fonts at a range o fsizes for a range of devices.


right. so no one is using less type. yet. typography is more complicated. the thinking skills you need to make typography, the type designer and the typeface has to do more and more.

like open type features. built into a font are dozens of choices about when to use an altnerate. the type design becomes the typography. is this emergent, or started 20 years ago?

the more the graphic designer understands about what type works than by experiencing type design yourself. I’m not suggesting to replace typography classes with type design. but i realised i could teach typography from the type designer’s point of view.

my book sees typography as a collaboration of the typography and type designer. that made the most sense to me. there is a broad potential in this strategy.

what about web fonts?

this past year, the similar trajectory. web developers weren’t used to sophisticated typography.

type design was an extension of typography. this is the heart of type design.

imaging typography and figuring out parts to express it. david and i and others talk about this. we make web fonts and we show them, we push the possibilities we can do with them. we have a hard time imagining type on screen.

type on screen is limited. we practice things. so its hard to make things interesting. when tech is limited, its a funnel which makes things the same.

as much as i’d like to embrace the limitations. i’d like screen typography to be stupidifying.

its had to have perspective on something you’re in the middle of. we are figuring out web fonts.

we are in a tricky time. right now. web fonts are right now.

i found a quote of Elements of Lettering by John Benson: “you can’t expect good work without knowing your materials nature…..”

He talked about wood or stone or bronze, and they aren’t my materials. not paper and ink, now its ixels and electrons. maybe i stretch it too far. i have an abstract interpretation.

a type designer’s material is typography. a willingness to work with it, and type designers must imagine typography. that is our material.

the good news is that the supply is infinite. is this a perfect storm?

is this the end of tyrpophray?

in fact I’m optimistic for th efuture of typography. DO DRAW web fonts. our title was a joke.

we two here will do!

but lets not limit what we can do, lets make smart web fonts.

Q: you taught type design only, did you get type design students who never took a typography class?

A: No, type 1, 2 and 3 are core, and my class is elective. they have a background in typography. i might get a sharp student who didn’t set type who wants to take my class. they don’t get out of my class as much as they should.

Q: what does it mean for typography to be the type designer’s material?

Cyrus A: I’m being poetic. its what we imagine. you make the type to express that idea.

Q: you’re saying thats how all type designers start?

Cyrus A: I’m saying thats where we 2 start, and the best way to start.

Q: Isn’t that like saying alcohol exists to make you drunk?

David A: I don’t understand that. I don’t drink…. 😉

Gerry Q: Commednation, thanks for raising the idea to raise a type use before drawing; people talk about tools but type must be used to have a meaning. correction, please stop talking of matd and kabk as where type is taught, its taught around the world in mexico and argentina, at least 30 places where it is taught, so please lets be less eurocentric. my comment: the way type design used to be made, it was done by expert typographers. it was big industrial stuff with much business risk. with the marginal risk of the next typeface trends to zero, people who have insufficient typographic education comes along. people who know how complex typography works are not the whole room here, even. i was at w3c workshop on ebooks, and it was like web font early days, when type designers met web browsers and there was a big conversation about different interests and finding common interests. there are bigger industries. we must change our attitude to the big business of making books, newspapers and educational materials. we must tell what our quality perspective is. the quality language gets very wooly and imprecise. we need to do more of this as teachers. i worry we are a smaller discipline and more people are making typographically structured content. in the end we are left in our own room complaining to no one but ourselves. sorry i silenced the room.

martin major q: thanks, interesting lecture. when people say they want to be a type designer, i think you must be a graphic designer as well. must i also become a web designer?

daivd; for us it has, yes. i spent as much time drawing as looking at how MSIE renders it compared to Firefox. does a graphic designer expect their typography given to them by specialists?

Roger black q: it sounds like type foundries should do a better job of putting out specimens, showing the typography intended for the best cases for real typography. we are not doing a good job of that.

daivid a: i show the vertical borders to show its not just the font, but the CSS and JS to implemetng the gyproaphy. because the thinking inside and outside the font must be used together.

* * *

Posted in Knowledge | Leave a comment

ATypI 2013 Day 2

These are live blog notes from the ATypI 2013 conference in Amsterdam Day 2

Usual disclaimer for live blogging: These are informal notes taken by me, Dave Crossland, at the event, and may or may not be similar to what was said by the people who spoke on these topics. Probably if something here is incorrect it is because I mistyped it or misunderstood, and if anyone wants corrections, they should email me ( – or post a comment. Thanks!

In fact I didn’t even read this document once before posting it, so its probably FULL of errors. What do you want for free? bahaha

Ana has a pen

[20 mins of 25 late]

This is Sofia Oslislo’s Quadrato and the ink traps are used as a feature and appear like double strokes or outlines, its a wonderful typeface. Its important to me that students learn to make readable typefaces. You can see the process by the 6th and 7th session.

Paulina Urbanska’a Chiva.

This has these incredible corner point counters. She started with black letter and every session she urned up with something neew and interesting.

Michal Pawlowski’s Yabu is great. He worked night and day on this, an advanced student, and I encourage everyone to publish them. THis is the evolution of his fonts.

The students own the copyrights.

Victoria Grabowska’s Rymex, she’s now an instructor, and its so light it shows the fraktur skeleton in body form. She can do OTL alternates and she made a lot for this. She even did Cyrillic last year. She’s working on a heavy weight too.

Its now breakfast time. I have some copies to give away for people who are teaching type design, or who want to support us publishing the books.

* * *

JB Levée

Amiens extended its course to improve the type design projects that students do. This presentation is a DIY type design course, how to make your own course from scratch.

Put that in context, teaching type today is not he same as teaching it 10 years aog. the situation is different, we had the main schools in EU and that was it: KABK and Reading and back then Ecole Estienne was also active teaching type design.

5 years ago also different! many many courses around the world: cooper type in NYC, a MA in Lausanne CH, Liepzig was there, Argentina, MExico, so we could see a global spread of global type design education.

What was the situation in France?

The same path. Estienne was still active, and ANRT, it died some years ago, and rebooted with Thomas Huot-Marchand (?) as head. With new schools opening their own course, how could amiens differentiate its own course from what is on offer?

You need experiences and know how and thats what the most distinctive thing of any course is. its not dogmas, or ideas. its not research like other places.

its made with a staff of VERY DIFFERENT backgrounds. this is a key aspect.

Sebastien Morlighem, a publishing editor, at Ypsilon.

Patrick Doan is a book graphic designer based here in amsterdam.

Titus Nemeth and Alice Savoie are Reading MATD graduates doing PhDs there. And then me, the only one not doing a PhD 😉

I do retail and custom typefaces. THis is the basic crew.

We have various approaches.

Its good for students to pick form different opinions between teachers. Some focus on research and theory, others on practice, some are well trained in globalised type design.

All of us are Estienne or Reading graduates.

An important thing when teaching type design is working with a small group of students. I can’t imagine teaching a hand to hand skill in a big hall.

its FOUR or FIVE students for 18 months. its a sort of awkward time, but its focused and offbeat and alows them to be well awake to find jobs or pursue their education.

The main thing, I could’ imagine learning type design without learning calligraphy. i don’t think you need to stay close to it, but thats how i was taught and how i am teahing.

calligraphy is not more than a beginning. students are encourage to get engaged with chancery, humantic minisucle, and models afterward to use not as formal reference but to see and feel the quality of strokes, made with a feather or bezier.

you need to feel what a stroke is, expressive. gestural calligprahy helps that.

other tools are used like plain paper with scissors. we focus on aPRECISE shape. you need to work big, simplify, and make choices. paper and scissors don’t allow for imprecision.

this exercise helps to explore parameters and ideas in type deign. weight, width, grey.

letter carving should normally be done in stone or very hard surfaces. the letter carving one of us does here in amine is done in foam, so there is no hard boiled carving. its cutting into a 3D shape. we stuck with it so far but i hope we get to stone later.

and then drawing! a lot of drawing, every day, again and again. its not a bicycle, you must practice and entertain as a skill and you will forget it much sooner than you think. if you have 1 week or 18 months, you must practice.

you can not achieve anything without practicing.

i use the type cooker tool, a type design exercise generator. its done early in the course, students work hard and step up their drawing skills fast so we don’t lose time using beziers.

we also focus on using other people’s work as a basis for new designs. the amiens library was giving a gift by a 50s-60s type design active in book design, recontrue de lour, and other type associations. we got his library including some of his owwn type designs.

the interesting thing about revivals is that its a pretext for learning TOOLS AND TECHNIQUES.

so thats what the students do; step into the feet of another person and understand their work, not just reproduce it but understand it.

as i sai dibefore, i think its important to be realistic, type that is not used isn’t good.

i like to make a newspaper masthead exercise, a common task in the professional life, and for students to act as if a client popped in and omeone asked for their logotype to be redone in 3 sways

1. correct it, fix any minor flaws

2. enhance it, retain key factors but change things a little to make it a new style

3. redesign it from the ground up

This helps introduce students to what is originality in type design. students think they need a new form of serif, or find a new way to use ink traps. i steer them away from the idea, to just find interesting and beautiful shapes as well.

This is a exampe from Italia, an Italian newspaper. L’Arena. haha **I** get to pick the mastheads and i pick the most interesting ones.

For teaching teyp design you need a library of books to support seeing shapes and hearing concepts. we have a library with the help of the school, we get to acquire a good set of books old and new, old meaning pre 20thC specimens.

this is useful for saying ‘this idea reminds me of this type from 100 years ago’

we use masterclasses and workshops. students like to hear more opinions, someone who is not from the teaching staff. someone last year, we had albert boton who still draws but isn’t active any more, and older type designer.

Having older people in good to enrich the global teaching.

we have a LOT of visiting people [long list, Reading staff, lo Celso, Kai Bernau, lots and lots]

ANother initiative we like is to organise the life of the type design. exhibitions, lectures and conferences for the last 4 years. we set up 1 or 2 conferences on specific topics, in november normally. we have specialists lecturing on some topic. a designer or a time period.

last year was about Fournier. This year, Albert Boton (?) and you can see these images oft he fascinated crowd.

There isn’t one this year as Sebastian is busy with his PhD but in 2014 we plan something about Didot. We borrowed books from Amiens City Library… and its good for reference.

You may ask, whats the results? of the last 5 years students made a few designs public, one you will hear more about next.

Who are we teaching? future type designers? typographers? art directors?

i don’t know

There is a need for new designs and a consistency. we are here for that need and greeting a new set of students every 18 months.

Sandrine Nugue:

Ganeau: A latine family with three optical sizes.

AT the start i wanted to set out a project for 18 month. ‘to break down open doors’  is a french phrase to state the obvious.

so i wanted to make an expressive running text that is not distribution, so readers focus  on text meaning not the letters.

i read excoffon personal letters and this was inspiring for me. for small and medium text you need legibility, but in the display, the type isn’t so functional but pretty, so the optical size decides the balance of conventional or unconventional shapes.

i made a display, text and caption size for roman and italic.

I have some references: Swift by Gerard Unger, used for many legible typography. we are all recognising his work as it has his signature style. excoffon epxloreated a lot of different styles, many display, some text like antique olive. AO had reversed contrast as he felt we read the top of the letter. he changed traditional proportions of stoke but kept the traditional overall shapes.

i find that balance is important and AO has a daring balance that is still popular today.

Vendome was made in the 50s and that influenced me. vendome was the idea of modernising the garamond. its an alive design, full of vibration, and it was a hit for 20 years, not for running text. typographers didn’t really know how to use it.

i wanted to look at the latins. in the 19th C that painters and lithographs were used. they gave freedom to the letter forms. how with these shapes i can design a running text?

its a challenge to make a lot of choices. in exercises i made these shapes, cutting black paper with scissors is like a sculpture. my tutors said my work was like gerard angers! i had to find my personal approach. we have massive shapes. we have in mind a latin serif.

i made some early digitiziations. i like to make bold letters thirst to defiane the shapes. i started my optical size, but it wasn’t the best way, as i had to change things 3 times in an ‘adhesion’ – tarts the test word we draw.

then i continue on the caption and display size. in may we went to University of Reading. Gerry told me a sage advice, he said too many ideas,  5 ideas, retain just 1 and use the other 4 for the next 4 fonts.

So i made the shapes quieter. i make connections stiffer, …, changed curves, homogenised counters. its faster work and you can see the result in text size.

you see the italic and it was the trickiest part of the family. you put the shape part and you have to make it quieter. i didn’t know what to expect, so i tried a lot of things. i chose the smiler width for roman and italic, and an same typographic colour or grey.

now the text size is stabilised i moved to caption size. i questioned the utilisation of the caption. it will be more for notes and discontinuous reading. so i wondered about the utility of serifs.

so i tried a lineal thing. i thought about a flared stem too. this gave me problems. with a laser print at home or school, the serifs are rounded. but at the end i had the opportunity to use offset printing and there it is sharp.

here is the final caption size. I”m quickly trying to make a combination italic.

then the display size. its something like a gift or something to design. i don’t need to mind legibility so much.

i saw vendome, make it quickly, and thought something more different; on the left you see the roman serif and italic serif less, and the opposite on the right. but so many combinations was a mistake, a hice exploration. then i looked again at a flared stem and one of the first clssications fby thibaudeau was based on serifs. you see the 3 different terminals in the family.

Hoefler said, “one size never fits all.” I am a big fan of that.

Of course the sans structure is across all 3 sizes. i used tim ahrens’ 9 steps definition for optical sizes.

caption needs

1. larger width and more spacing for more white

2. we need a larger x height

3. we need lower extenders

4. we need more stroke weight

5. we need larger counters – this can totally remake a K or J

6. caps need less classical portions, more uniform.

7. they need lower contrast

8. they need skeleton changes to reduce complexity

so we need a complete family that i think bout the size and the utility for reading. to do this at amiens is nice, we have time and the support of teachers.

it was perfect.

finally, my idea at the start, the solution was to make a personal typeface.


* * *

Reading Arabic

Arabic is a connected script, some glyphs look the same in the 4 positions (start, middle, end, on its own) and others change a lot. … There are dots on vowels. ….

Old manuscripts have a rich tradition, elaborate formations, lovely work over many centuries, and if you look at this character and the formations varying on what comes after. THis is context aware forms that change and react to what comes before and after.

This is Thuluth and Naskh. The small text is Naskh. Its a calligraphic style from the ARbaic word for ‘to copy’ and its used for text settings mostly. Long texts for reading are in Nashk style in calligraphy and typography.

You can find nice calligraphy, but most books in stores is like this. Very static. the Books written by hand are lovely and what we read in schools growing up is SHOCKING.

This is the book typography i grew up with. you feel the loss between the two.

Thanks to Thomas Milo and family, you can do typography in the rich tradition of arabic writing. This is the range of variation possible in reading arabic text.

So, when reading Naskh there are 3 main typographic integreprations of the style. Each bring in an almost numerical approach.

A arabic typesetting book says the 4 positions, you design them and you are done. That was a compromise for metal typesetting. this is argued too simple, but its what i call the tradition. linotype simplified this further, to 2 forms, so middle and end were 1 form and medial and singleton were 1 form.

you have traditional and simplified. then you have dynamic. you don’t have this sat next to that, you have awareness of what is before and after. its not 4 forms per letter, its looking at the letter string and understanding how it is put together.

we can discuss the names but there are 3 kinds of ararbic type, traditional, simple, and dynamic.

You have a few examples of this. Lotus from the LInotype library is a popular simple style. this is Decotype Naskh, a dynamic one.

When I was finishing my MA diseration at Reading, i went into the simplification script reform. i concluded we can do various designs, but to recommend what to do, we ned legibility studies of arabic. until we have science to back up arguments, we just have opinions of designers.

so i wanted to see what is changing; to measure complexity and vocalisation. the 3 kinds go from from 2 to 4 to many. the effect of vocalisation is a linguistic question.

with normal reading you don’t have the vowels.

Hypothesis: The complexity of word formation decreases readingg speed, and this effect is expected to eb more profound in younger readers. the presence of vocalisation marks will reduce regressions in eye saccades.


I wanted to reduce variables in the designs of different families, so i made this family with varying levels of complexity but evenness in other aspects of type.

Its based on this specimen from Istanbul from XXXX AD.

I started in the middle with Afandem Traditional. I looked at Lotus and other traditional designs. I was inspired by the manuscript for the forms.

At the top is Afandem and under is Lotus. You see the similarities. This is intended. There are some differences, you ave these ‘blind’ characters with blobs not counters. I added an eye to them. I kept some traditional details.

Now these 2 fonts are in paragraph setting. You can see these 2 types are overall the same style. That’s the point.

This goes back to the manuscript. I kept the same look and feel and spirit of the manuscript for a consistent design.

You have open counters, think to thick transitions….

So then I made Afandem Simplified.

You can clearly see the simplification of the forms by comparing them here. You see the fluidity of motion is disappearing. There are some changes that need to be done so characters can fit together.

Arabic fonts must FAKE the continuity of stroke movements. If you can’t do this, the type doesn’t work.

So we had to change some shapes so letters could connect.

This design is MEANT to be very simplified, and you can compare this to another simplified design and see they are similar because of this simplification. the Afandem bottoms are not so flat as Yakute (?) but they try to keep the same spirit of word formation.

Its not easy to make a sophisticated typeface like this. The reference was the DecoType Naskh. I then typeset my test text, converted the Afandem Traditional to Outlines and then made it into a piece of lettering. So no layout coding complexity.

So here are the 3 designs. you can see i changed the spacing. the definition of a complex style is that the spacing varies. I tried to minimise this, so if some part is close another part is far. This is a 4 letter word.

So, who has a background reading in eye movement? if you have questions, ask me later.

we have a perceptual span that is asymmetric, forward scanning, we can see 7-8 letters at a time clearly, see 3-4 behind and 14-15 letters ahead.

in a fixation, the recognition happens in the first 50-60ms to pick up on that. we are doing other processes in our brain to see after that.

[DC interpretation: this was tested by fucking with people and fast computers, they have cameras on peoples eyes cordinated with the screen, and as people read their eye saccade fixates on a word or word part, and the computer then disappears that word after so many milliseconds, and we did this faster and faster until people noticed]

Are we reading in parallel as we fixate, or is that mechanics of fixations? thats what psycholingustists research. There is one theory i like, the E-Z Reader model.

fixation position is influenced by what you are reading. what happens in the average 250ms of a fixation? you have 50-60ms of ‘visual analysis’ which happens in parallel.

then you have the level 1 and level 2. l1 is, do you know this word? l2 is lexical access, you know what the word means.

then I stage, you integrate that word into the meaning of the other words.

so when you saccate you tell the eye to move, a start stage where it can be cancelled. then it moves and the previous process runs. all in 250ms.

legibility isn’t just visual, its about other factors includigon cognition. the process of reading must be understood before knowing how legibility works.

Slattery & Rayner in 2009 (these guys are some of my favourite researchers) talk abut how easy it is to extract the fixated word from the letterforms to start processing the word. you can read a spanish word if you don’t know spanish, but its perfectly legible because you can decode the letters.

this shows comprehension is not a method to test legibility.


So, the effect of complexity type style on reading speed?


are you familiar with crowding? we saw this at atypic 2 years ago.

the retina has a little space. when you put a cmpex visual shape there, you might not recognise everything. things are so close you can’t see them separately. so glyphs with many strokes take more time.

so, strokes that are too close are less legible. complex shapes take longer to decode.

i go from linguistics to arabic and back 🙂

you can’t imagine reading arabic if you can’t. we have many joining glyphs, sometimes vowels and sometimes not. we usually read without them unless it drastically changes the meaning. to kill or to be killed. or you can easily make swear words without the vowels. imaging reading english with the vowels removed.

so we have a grammar for vowels that helps. when we make words in arabic, we use 2 morphologies. derivational and inflectional. we have a root, 3-4 consonants, k t b, then you have a patterns and apply it on top of the consonants. when you put three sounds … this means the action ‘to do’ and when you put that on k t b it becomes katana means ‘he writes’ and [DC: this was too fast to note, arabic grammar is cool! 😉 ]

so you need to have an idea about what you are reading to guess what it means.

there haven’t been many studies of reading arabic. roman and pavard in 1987 was an early one. they said when you put the vowels on, reading will go slower. i agree with the hypothesis.

342ms is average fixation compared to latin 250, but often a phrase will be found in a fixation as its a dense script.

most studies of arabic were done in israel as they have research universities there. they have people who learned arabic first and then hebrew as a second language. and people read hebrew faster. both are RTL, both often don’t have vowels. the difference is that its not a joined script.

arabic’s connecting nature make it slower.

the fixations in latin are left of cneter. why? maybe direction of attension, its left to goto right hemisphere, but in arbaic its more variable.

there it depends on the root. the fixation follows where the root of the word is. there was a study in french script too thats similar findings.

when you read in general, left hemisphere does the work. but after 500ms both are used. in arbic its needed as a word shape ‘m l k’ can be 9 other words as there are all possible and if you keep reading, you’ll understand which word it was. so the right hemisphere is used to keep all 9 possibilities around in parallel.

in arabic the RH can’t tell the difference is there is just 1 dot.

so we did a beirut univeirsyt study with 72 students, we used the 3 types, the independent variable to measure was style and voclaisiatoin and age. the dependent variables were reading time, etc etc.

we did the sme text, 3x2x2

i have a video but no time


reading time.

we have averages, but we use inference stats to validate its not just chance. for reading time totals, the only main effect was that of age. so good we measured this.

fixation duration. there was an effect. simplified faster than traditional than dynamic.

same thing for vowels. when you have them, it takes longer to read. 4.7% difference.


the more complex, the less legible. vowels give clarity but take time. for kids its useful.

when you are older you read faster 😉

the extra cost to word decoding

the benefits of …

the question of authenticity? do we use the elegant style that looks better, or do we see the beauty of a simplified style that can be read quickly, or the beauty and enjoyment of text. there is a need for all styles, and there is now technology to do all.

this is not about one style for all.

there is a crisis of literacy, we need to design more types! 🙂


* * *

Freatures of glyphs, whole glyphs, and words are important to reading.

reading a paragraph

I think reading all caps book text is annoying only on convention. but at distance when you compare 2 styles at same point size and blur, uppercase performs better. but uppercase takes up more space. so if you make the uppercase equal the x height, then the legibility is equalised in tests. and uppercase is more condensed.

The big thing in legibility history is the question, is sans more legible than serif? helvetic versus times… they are equally legible. serifs play no role in reading, they say.

that tells us nothing. there are so many variables in the 2 types. but if you just test the presence of serifs in a design, with same metrics.

mary dyson said about the rapid presentation of text on screen, at text sizes serifs were better and large sizes there were no differences.

then compare univers 689, baskerville 168 (?) and gill sans medium.

the hypothesis is that in a h and u the aperture closes, but in a ‘ij’ it sets the stems apart.

So i wanted to look into this. i took a sans and added slab serifs. i compared them for distance reading.


* * *

Type and Emotion

I teach in the UK at Camberwell and run my studio.

When you go to the London olympics, there’s all this branding stuff and when you get there they just did the signage on a whitebaord. 10 years ago i would say ‘ITS WRONGGGGG WRONGGGGGGGGGG’ but now i think its full of life and I’m drawn to that sort of visual communication.

This is a textbook. its on a grid. i like monotype grotesque. Its a bit wrong.

The caps are too bold.

The space is weird.

The number are all really weird.

Its sort of great.

I use it a lot. I want a letterpress feel.

As a student I used William Sandberg’s style, I liked to make things that look old.

This is ok. its what we used to do.

A few years ago I found a type specimen, an Ampersand that is like an hour glass with a comma on the bottom right. i don’t know much about its history, i will not tell you about that.

the research and the journey i go on is not academic. it exists as I’m doing work in the stuiod. i would love to spend 6 months finding out where this is from. but i run a design studio. so my research is curiosity driven.

it looks like an egg timer. or a dog. i have no problem using it in my work.

it gives off a curiousouty and says an emotion.

again, there is more graphic design where ei used this. other things in this layout, the time is, 3.30pm, and the arms of the T make the clock face of that time.

strangeness makes my work now. modern typeface as SO FANTASTIC.

So in many ways the soul goes a little bit. they feel a bit cold.

this feels more, warmer. gives off a warm emotion.

this is a print i did recently, of a concrete poem from the 60s, ‘This is a square poem’. Each sentence is a whole sentence on its own. Its laid out in a square paragraph block. its badly printed. blurry.

i was asked to redesign it. i came to the conclusion i couldn’t make it better. so i reset the poem over itself, to make a new-old design.

This is more typography from my studio.

£ensure – a naff book about making money from hobbies.

these ideas get into my head and get remixed.

this is another example. a letterpress card with the letterpress dept at camberwell.

* * *

So the web allows interactivity, and typography leaves something to be desired. it emulates print.

i want it to be better. but we stub our toe, i don’t see new things.

i see typography receipes:

50-80 chars per line

1 modular scale

1 typographic grid

2 awesome font families

combine all these into 1 page, add leading to taste.

so could you reduce typography to a formula?

no. i tried once. failed.

these are JUST guidelines. they make the same boring designs over and over again.

your friend wants to make an interesting typographic work. what do you tell them?

‘it depends’

or, whats a good line spacing for my document?

it depends

or, whats the best text font?

it depends

we can go on and on about that. humanist, versus modern, always:

it depends.

what does it depend on?

we give the sme answer over and over. in other areas of life this wouldn’t be cool. how much is that car?

it depends!


typographic depends on the RELATINOSHIPS between all these things. we don’t WRITE or DESRIBE that. its like a cake.

imagine desiring the ingredients for cake and their amounts. even the steps to make it.  but not what it should taste like. so cook book receipes always work best in the authors kitchen.

the best cooks can improvise based on a target taste with any ingredients.

this means context. relationships. suitability. expressoin. good quality ingredients.

this sounds familiar.

what document are you margin type for? what relationships between type size. suitability, quality of materials, etc you know what that means for type.

its hard to describe relationships in a broad way that is specific.

the interaction design community has been looking at this. the airbnb UX is good, they have the sme problems, layout, visual information design, and a new thing in typography:


You lead people through pages for creating an experience. they don’t have a general theory for good designs every time. like engineering or material science which are more concrete.

software is a bit more liker hat. in the 1990s, a few people asked what good software developers were like, who made bug free programs?

it wasn’t they were so smart. they were seeing patterns and reusing solutions for multiple problems as they come up. how to re use them and relate them to toehr problems.

they have abstract relationships to convey.

christopher alexander created ‘pattern language’ for architecture. this focuses on a language to describe relaiontships, and a process to make thoughtful descisoins to solve a problem.

software and UX communities picked this up and ran with it. these are from erik gamma, ‘designing patterns’ – bridge, composite, decorator, adapter, singleton, factory, proxy….. are all code patterns.

ux patterns: extras on demand. centre stage. escape hatch. visual framework. global navigation. clear entry points. illustrated choices. titled sections. progress indicator. overview plus detail.

this made UX not an amorphous design.

so design patterns, what are they? they have 4 things: problem context, a solution of relationships, examples, and a name for the pattern.

e.g., architecture entryway. CA said you want queues to show you are in one place then in another. e.g. a gravel pathway feels different to pathway, sounds different. plants give a smell sense. revolving door takes attention but is smooth to pass.

so you can take examples, case studies, and unite them. a pattern needs a name.

my research found many teams in software and interaction use these names in everyday conversation. this makes a design temrinpolgy, reduced confusion, and disagreements in teams.

tahts a pattern. a pattern language is a set of them. you take a problem, fit it to patterns, when you find a fit, you apply it.

imagine a cook book. a cook book with no receipes. just flavours and relationships between flavours. e.g. you want popcorn – salt, butter, truffle oil. you may see wine goes well with that. then you add cheese. dairy, starch. so want something sweet not salty as pop corn is salty. exists and is like this.

what is a pattern algnauge for tyopgrpahy?

newspaper -> news deign, economic text setting, typographic identity, variegated type family. reading typeface, headline typeface, newspaper proportions, malleable letterforms, economic widths, large apparent size, and duplexed widths.

bigelow and holmes did some research related to this.

we could make a classficiaton system that uses the patterns in the document or type.

i think with digital media becoming default, its like introduction of guternburg bible. huge change. digital is infinite free canvas, an interactive medium to think about. we must think about so many new things going on.

right now, we treat digital type as fancy paper. i want to go past that, whats different about digital? to do that, advance the digital medium, what are our hidden assumptions? make them explicit. A pattern language helps to find assumptions and make them known.

a newspaper type influenced by many factors. economic; print small, low leading. lot of cols, so proportions must be a certain way. the proportions of news type are driven by a business model, not aesthetes. that is a print business model. this means hidden assumptions.

a pattern language makes clear why are we doing what we are doing. so we can reevaluate things.

thats my pitch. i think a a pattern language would be great for typography. what do you htink> email me, or @robmck

homework, please eat dinner and think about the relationship of flavours and talk about that. don’t tweet some typography is cool, talk about the relationships that make it cool.

bon apetite!

Q: how to encourage creativity after a pattern algnague is set up?

A: matthew carter has a good name for it. they help you define a parameter for your design you HAVE to meet. then you see what parameters are free form. MC made a diagram for olympian. you need stems that are HERE. then you are free to design the serifs. you’re requirements are locked and denied, so you can focus on what you can build and go wild with.

Q: I find i do better design when i can feel a constraint. having no constraint makes designing hard. i try to translate what you say about teaching. i teach relationships, thinking about the whole. where i am blocked, is the phrase ‘pattern language’.

A: what i describe is, sit down withe experienced people, create a book with the patterns. like software and ux and architecture have done. ‘designing patterns’ for coders did this. you have a name for the pattern, and i work at microsoft, and people say ‘make a decorator for the output of that factory’. its a terminology, a design language that is specific. thats why CA said it is a pattern LAGNUGEA. its a domiain specific terminology, a lgnague. UX uses this too, and people learn concepts faster with this teaching. solve this problem with these patterns, its fast. they refer to each other. it makes you walkt the process. they help you think through things well.

Q: so its like decoding intuition?

A: its encoding expertise so you can decode that as intuition.


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ATypI 2013 Day 1

These are live blog notes from the ATypI 2013 conference in Amsterdam Day 1

Usual disclaimer for live blogging: These are informal notes taken by me, Dave Crossland, at the event, and may or may not be similar to what was said by the people who spoke on these topics. Probably if something here is incorrect it is because I mistyped it or misunderstood, and if anyone wants corrections, they should email me ( – or post a comment. Thanks!

In fact I didn’t even read this document once before posting it, so its probably FULL of errors. What do you want for free? ho ho ho


Google Fonts

[late by 10 mins]

David Kuettel from Google:

Analyse alexa top 1M sites and beyond, using ‘big query’

Thisis the top 1M, 35% web font usage, but top 100 have 62%. This is a great signal of whats to come!

In analysing the entire web, we found 1 Bn pages using web fonts. this has been in the works for 20 years and its a huge milestone for the whole industry

There are 35 million domains using web fonts on 1+ pages

John G from Monotype

Tom Phinney has done research, and enterprise usage of web fonts has SPIKED in the last year. pan european support has gone up 5x in the last year. the demand for responsive demand is driving the adoption of web fonts. there isn’t a better way to do typography on the web. has seen font requests increase by 20% in the last 6 months, you can see this on this unmarked graphed, the curve rising. This is billions of requests per day, its very exciting.


Whats really fun is that as adoption has taken off, its hard to relate to these numbers. this is the most viewed video on youtube, gingham style, and its 1.7Bn total views. but open sans has 139.5Bn, its 15Bn per month now. Sorry Psy! 😉

We’d like to spend more time analysing this, its font views around the world by country; north and south america, western europe and russian and india are the early adopters, and there’s a big opportunity for the rest of the world.


Lets look at Flash. this is the web archive graph of top 200k sites using flash, you can see this is 2 lines, and there’s an extrapolation of the 2 trends, and i see them crossing over around may 2014.

There is a spike in june-july this year, we’re not sure what that was but we saw a spike in web fonts use.

Q: Was it Google IO?

JG: not sure about that, it was earlier in the year…


So, extensis said there is an explosion in pan european. says graphics are converting to images to web fonts, and WOFF2 will streamline interations with better copmression/lower latency.

Googel fonts see over 10B web pages using web fonts within 2 years.

And now the best part!

We are making the database available. we went through privacy review with a senior VP, and its a database you can use in many ways.

Here’s a query to see how Source Sans Pro is being used across the web for more than 50% of the text on the page.

here’s the schema for the database.

Here’s a short link to how to access it:


JG: So the rate of adoption in the last 3 years is amazing, and its very exciting

DK: 1B pages is a big milestone for the industry

JG: The majority of top sites are experimenting with web fonts, and so the future is really bright, but we’re not done

DK: so we call for initiatives to make the web better! Thanks everyone. Questions?

Patrick from Canada Type Q: How to the page requests count?

DK: WIth the large analysis, we loaded 10Bn web pages through Chrome, and we looked at REFERENCE resources – did the browser pull a font over the web?

Patrick from Canada Type Q: Right, but what if verdana is being used as a web font?

DK: so we are defining web fonts for this purpose as fonts that are loaded by @font-face.

JG: Do you think this is a big factor?

Patrick from Canada Type Q: Say Helvetica, it ships on Mac but not Windows, so people do use that as a web font but its not for a lot of mac users.

Raph Levien Q: Blogs were the early adopters of web fonts. What is category #2 and what is lagging the most?

DK: Good question. I haven’t broken the data down that way. Large scale integrations are sites like GOogle Maps, Google Play, and for Google there are Ads integrations coming up that have billions and billions of views.

JG: Thanks!

* * *

Victor Khark

Mixing hebrew and latin raises some issues, contrast and stem direction, solved by changing the angle of the broad nib pen.

How should hebrew look in latin italic? ashkenazi cursive is a 15thC european style of hebrew, and is used as a cursive style of handwriting in isreali schools today. i collected samples of it to use as a base for hebrew italic.

We can find greek venetian style in Griffo’s types for Aldus. I got 3rd prize in Granshan for my text greek based on this. This is released by Paratype.

Granshan inspired me to work on Armenian script, using Lagoda’s braodnib style.

Modern Georgian script doesn’t mix well by default with latin. it is causeless and has different x height and asc/desc proportions. I consulted with a Georgian palaeographer who is really a cocreator.

* * *


Can we choose fonts objectively?

Type cooker, a parameter is a thing you can measure. If there is a feature that can be measured, its a parameter. These are useful for type design – e.g. type cooker.

And then there’s Computer Modern, a big family of type designed by Donald Knuth, and its important because each letterform is defined by 60 parameters. That gives you power of varying shapes. It doesn’t matter what the final form is, its in the math. the shapes are refined with these 60 parameters.

Type deign is pure mathematics, Its numbers, coordinates. There is lots to measure. So answer the question, can we make fonts with receipes of algorithsm?

This is a close up for a graphic made by a designer, Alan Burmahuse (?) on the web. Its explaining the PANOSE system. I think its intesting to reduce to numbers, a small bunch, the possible shapes in a typeface. SO you can have a code and each typeface has a code, and you can use that to substitute fonts when you are missing the font.

So its another set of parameters, not for type design but for use of type.

Oscar in Colombia designed a game, i’d like to show you, its a card game to teach students what a high contrast type is, what one has the highest x height. its a fun way to introduce the topic of font selection. even though its learning.

These are more pictures of the game. The players compete for the highest or lowest values of certain parameters.

So, lets go to the topic of font selection. On the website, you have the Tags to select type. its become more widespread. this semantic approach doesn’t use parameters, its just qualifying these shapes. you put a tag on a font, an equivalence in a language, so the user can easily choose fonts.

but this approach has its problems. if i click ‘friendly’ then it means different things for different people

I am a teacher, so this isn’t a commercial thing really… i made th experiment of selecting a font for footnotes in a book. lets see how it works!

I took my font library, these are font in my library in OS X Finder, and I made a biased decision, lets use what I call ‘text’ typefaces – no single style fonts, nothing i think is hard to read. text fonts i made, system fonts, fonts from friends.

then i made this spreadsheet, measured the values – first, UPM, so i could normalise things to compare. then i calculated the upperase, relative uppercase to lowercase ratio %age, uppercase stem width, etc etc.

So i think type design is about comparing requirements with specifications. its like 3 overlapping requirements, in a venn diagram: stroke width, contrast amount, copy fit index. this reduces your options a lot.

This is the process:

1. define what you need a typeface for
2. see what options are available, how they look like
3. compare attributes in (2) with requirements of (1)
4. repeat until you find a sufficient match

When you compare parameters you can find things you didn’t expect. This is the x height versus stroke width graph, sort of typographic colour versus size. this was inspired by an astronomy graph that shows stars across their attributes like this.

so you can see relative x height versus contrast amount, and again you see a relationship between the contrast amount and the x height.

These 2 attributes have areas i think are best for e.g. caption use. and looking at what fonts are in the graph in that area, some fonts came out for caption use, that i didn’t expect.

1. define the parameters subject to evaluation
2. quantify the values – imagine what they could be good for (graphs help!)
3. match specifications when requirements, what you have with what you want to do
4. …
5. …

So this graph, relative x height against contrast amount, for caption text, running text or display?

I realised that picking fonts is matching speficiations versus requirements. What you drew versus what you wanted to draw.

So i made another spreadsheet showing what you can do.


Somethings can be measured, some things not. its fun to try! and fun to not conform with what you know. perhaps there are more complicated ways, interesting ways, to select and evaluate type.

Scarcity of  data was a challenge for me. If i didn’t use PANOSE numbers, I had to make my own. they are limited. they don’t have the richness  a measurement can.

I’d like to study the PANOSE system more, and if all the designers would study it more, perhaps the measurements wouldn’t be needed and it could be more refined and useful not for substituting fonts but selecting them too.

This could be used to TEST classification systems.

If we can do this, the implications could be huge. if there is a way, if we can design an application that compares typefaces like this and helps to deal with big amounts of information using parameters, the implications are huge – so many things we  can do automatically.


* * *

On Digitization, by Erik van Blokland

This is small, fun science.

Capture a shape in a series of points, line and curves. Its numbers, it has to be exact. We all do this, most of the room draw beliers, a few quadratics.

Drawing these curves is mathamerica, it has to be eact?

Its not really so exact though. so i devised an experiment. i wanted to find out how to do an expeiemtn with the scientific method. this is a ‘n’ from an ecnschede specimen, its some point size, i forgot, its an n and its a bit fought, you can see the paper texture… Some caslon, i could pick nothing.

i sent it to all my students and friends, i got 90 differetndrawings so far. i said digitise it like any other letter as good as you can. theres no context, nothing else, its limited, but it means ai can focus on the numbers that came in.

this is not a map of stars, its a map of on curve (red) and off curve (orange) and start point (blue). These are the outlines.

RoboFont defaults to an x-height of 500 units. you can see this by overlaying. Many people didn’t set any metrics, so the coordinates don’t mean much horizontally. the baseline is safe, btut the other heights are nebulus.

to show, i used python and robofont to visualise this. i drop any UFO in and it makes these graphics. these drawings are all unique, like fingerprints. with 90 results, not a single matching point strucure.

the data so far, people didn’t know what i was doing. if i find a duplicate, i’ll ask about it.

there are skinnier ones, rounded joins, sharp joins, so much difference, amazing.

how to compare these?

no human interpretion? not depending on landmarks? what to process, bitmaps or outlines?

so i found Procrustes Analyses, a method named on a greek bandit who kidnapped people and ‘adjusted’ them to fit his bed. this takes the scale out, so they have the same scale/rotation/offset. by scaling them to the same surface area.

so the video shows the before and after of that transformation; after this, you can see the origins are scattered, the baseline is fuzzy too, but the top right is now much more together.

The connection between the stem and curve varies a lot.

(no remove overlap?)

If we do bitmap comparison, we can see the points overlaid on a bitmap grid, and we see the clumps of red points that are on curve, an the clumps of orange off curve points. but even after Procrustes Analyses, not a single point is copositioned.

If you take the groups, their extremes, and place a point in the mean, you get an outline that closely matches the original bitmap shape.


Procrustes can be useful for omparing glyph data.

Path contrusttuion records a unique a HUMAN interpretation of the shape  (DC: Thus copyright in outlines)

Closeness is not spread evenly.

So, if you have stats experience, I have questions for you.

If you have outline drawing experience, go to and get the image and send me a UFO.


Toshi: Need to use Robofont?

Erik: You can use anything, send me an OTF is fine.


* * *

Roboto: Faster than a Speeding Bullet

We typically get 4 styles in font families, we ‘d like to have a full range of  (18) styles

You can see Arial used in Google+ and it feels really heavy when used at large point sizes. We use the ‘light’ weight of Roboto now, it looks better, a poor mans optical scaling.

We want fast web fonts. G+ switched to using Roboto light on May 15th, and other Google sites have been followingslowly.

under good conditions, unbar area with broadband, you have 1-10ms per kilobyte for downloads, so you get a 200kb font load, 0.2 to 2 seconds. this is not a ‘show stopper’

But a 30Mb CJK font could be a 3-60 second delay, where no text is displayed, or where you see the page for 30 seconds in one font then it flashes to another

The BBC feels that passim is so much better for Arabic, that a 100-1000ms load time is ok

But many people refuse to use web fonts because of the download delay. maps and g+ are now ‘slow’ sites.

I use google search as a spell chcker,  its so fast. if it took 3s i wouldn’t use it like that.

And we don’t want just 1 font, we want to up 18 fonts per family, a couple of families, it really adds up.

What is being done today?

AppCache is one option. load once, its cached after that. See the blog post ‘AppCache is a Douchbag’ for details about why this doesn’t work well.

LocalStorage is a similar thing, it looks great for latin fonts, but in production, a few % of users, see very long delays. So its not something for production. And its too slow for CJK fonts. I tried a 20Mb CJK font and browsers could hang for 90 seconds.

Subsetting. This is common. I initiated the sfntly library, I got Stuart who became my boss to take on most of the coding for that. If you look at the core of Google Web Fonts, its the library we built. The subsetter has problems. Many Latin fonts heve Cyrillic and Greek, you can reduce a font to Western Latin to go from 200k to 80k. But this can be problematic for e.g. place or people names that are outside the western latin char set, giving a ‘ransom note’ appearance due to fallback.

You can subset to a single page. The is the best reduction for Latin fonts, things like blog titles, you can often reduce a CJK font by 90% for a single page. This is best for the ‘Drive By Web’, who has heard of this? no one. okay, this is a term for visiting a website once and never return. This is great for that kind of usage. Its a lot of work on the server side. I think Monotype has done something in this realm. Its not trivial.

Then there’s the HTML5 FileSystem. This maps special URLs to a local ‘sandbox’ filesytsem. Its similar to AppCache, its fast, but it requires a lot of JS code. It only works in Chrome today.

However, since a lot of G+ users use Chome, being Chrome only could be okay. We still server Arial to MSIE 8. We saw great performance results during development. But in production we saw very long delays. We couldn’t reproduce them in development. I proposed this paper not knowing if I would resolve this or not, and to date I have not.

Is there a future?

Work is on going to replace AppCache. There is NavigationController, like ServiceWorker or EventWroker, that prognoses to have the performance of AppCache but more reliable.


Q: What is causing the delay in AppCache? Will we repeat the same mistake with NavControl?

A: First, AppCache is not about delays, its about being hard to control whats in the cache. they get cluttered. I know Googel Docs has been trying to use it and its not working well. Could NC have this? there are more engineers actively working on appachace now, but with javascript, you have to start the threads and switch them. AppCahce doesn’t have that problem, NavControl does, its something I’m working with them on at the moment.

* * *

Miriam Somers

Decotype secrets

Our technology makes compound glyphs, its not character based.

Its archigrapheme based, separate dots and vowels

Its procedural, not static typography.

we produce templates for type designers with automatic reuse of layout information, with Karsten Lucke.

Tasmeem for Adobe InDesign, and lately, SVG web technology. So there is no typeface at the end, the type is on a server

Tom: is online for the duration of the conference, you can play with what we’ve made

This is me working in my office. I do this work with my brother Peter, an aircraft engineer who did all the programming, and Tom Milo, my husband who interrupted me already 😉

This work started in 1985.

The first point, we are glyph based not character based. We are content based though, the content is searchable unicode, its not a 1:1 glyph:character model as OpenType is. We have glyphs that are pen strokes. This is DecoType Naskh. These characters are already compositions. This is the DT nastaliq. This started in 1992. This is finalised in 2004. The Ruq’ah was first designed in 1985 and we remade it in 2011, with full unicode coverage for arabic script.

Here is the same word in the 1985 and the 2011 versions. The end user software at the moment is Tasmeem.

Here you can see the 4 ways of writing this specific word, 3 ways of shaping the final part. Again you can compare the old and the new versions of the same choice of ways.

This is the nastaliq. This is a context sensitive analysis, based on script grammar. Typeface dependent settings mean user configurable features are possible. To show what it means to be archigraphemic, you can see the same word changing in shaping and vowel positioning. You have kerning for both horizontal and vertical positioning. The end user can adjust these too.

This is fast and effective, you can handle huge amounts of text without crashing or slowing down.

Here is some Urdu text, the spacing is wide, so we change the internal horizontal spacing, and do this with the word space too. it gets tighter and tighter but will never collide. The shapes know how big they are. We can decrease spacing more,a nd the line width is now like a headline for a newspaper.

Here is a real Urdu newspaper. You can save all these setting as style sheets.

Here is a page or Urdu text. With different settings, the page looks totally different. This allows the user to control their typography. This is the Urdu count, you see with the 2 dimensional way to shape the letter, the medial letter maintains its form.

This is a nastaliq for the persian market, and then another for the pakistan market. Persia initiated the style of script, and Pakistan extended the grammar. The persians prefer the kaff connected at the top, the pakistanis prefer it connected from the bottom. With our technology you can easily choose.

Here are two ecotype naskh typeface compared: The handwriting nasty and a cold metal type naskh. You can superimpose our Naskh and Emiri. You can see the problem a metal type has, and handwriting positions the dot correctly, and digital type should be able to do so too.

A couple more comparisons. We can see smiilariaries, but the Emiri has a different line width which effects the shape. The DT Emiri can add elongations easily to compensate.

Bringhurst said, ‘Tasmeem  is a wonderful tool, its based on a very close and careful stuy of a classical script. Its a modern tool, a very sophisticated tool …..’  – Thanks Robert! 🙂

This was at IS Type 2013 in Istanbul this summer. He made 2 samples, he showed the default naskh …

RBringhurst, ‘Its not made for dummies … for people who like to think while they work, its very pleasant to use’

Some famous typographers (list) have used DT to do their typography. Archteyp in Cambridge, Brill in Leiden and Boston, Mage Publishers in Washington …

This is the book by Robert Bringhurst that was sold at ATypI in Dublin.

Then Titus Nemeth produced some scholarly work for Brill, and I took this picture from Titus’ website.

This is an autobiography by a 90 year old Persian diplomat. You can imagine his life in 90 years of that work; its all set with Decotype technology by Titus.

We produced a few years ago, a Royal Book for …

The first one was not produced with Tasmeem and InDesign; the latest editions use all the features of Tasmemm.

Lara Capton, she produced our nice T shirts for ATypI Iceland. This is the map of Iceland made with Arabic type, and this is a image of the northern lights made in the same way.

Here is some typography by Thomas Milo

Here is a new poster by Lara

So making the tech is fun, but making real things with nice people is the best part of my work. “Karel always said, I have Gerrit, Alexander and Chris Brandt in my mind, they are my best friends and the best typographers in the netherlands.” I like this idea.

So now you can see the Decotype on the web with SVG, you can see how our shapes are box elements completely PostScript compatible outlines, positioned with coordinates on a baseline.


Q: How did you get started?

A: I like to do work that is so involved you become friends. you get people who admire the work, you can not choose any more than following the line that has been set up. the first line was looking for any proper arabic typography available, and int he 1970s there was none. there was metal typeset books that were nice, only them. I had studied in art school, and i had made a wooden sculpture, you could take apart the character to reveal its pen strokes. Thomas saw that this could work for Arabic. It was a huge challenge at the start. We took the arabic ‘H’, a rich letter, and it has a lot of varied shapes, and gradually it became a lifetime’s work.

Thomas: open the SVG website, we call it kerning, but kerning is normally a fixed table. this is a dynamic spacing system. www,

* * *

1150 Reinventing digital type design | Yuri Yarmola, Adam Twardoch

Adam Twardoch

We’re FontLab, we made the 3rd and 4th most popular font editors on the market today. we’ll see 😉

We didn’t reinvent everything yet. But we are in the process. We now want your feedback. In the next few days, talk to us. We started a forums section, this is the beginning of what we are doing.


Many people asking me for new font lab, or adding features to old font lab and fontgrapher.

we are not adding new features to either for a few years now.

many type designers draw on paper, they take it to the computer. we want that workflow to be great. we want to reinvent paper sketching.

we want to make the path from this to a font as simple as possible.

adam: we’ll show you the application, the codename for the project is Victoria, the application isn’t likely to be the final product. we’re in the middle of heavy development.

uri: you see a piece of paper, a white thing you can zoom in and out. its a huge paper with no limits. This is the main UI for vicotira. its like paper. You can paint area, you can draw line. this is from fontographer.

you can bring in any assets you have like a photo, you can change the blur or contrast of the image.

you can auto trace the image. the quality of the outline is quite ok.

the paper is flexible, you can zoom in and out a lot. scroll to a new area and draw something new.

Then you can put it on the font. how you do it?

lets open some font.

here is a zip archive with some fonts.

adam: we are shipping in the next few days, transtype 4, which is the first finished product from the victoria project. we finished the production side.

So we see the fonts side panel listing the fonts in that zip. you can drag them into the paper area and you have a table view, you can align these frames easily. we have a hand icon, we can click it to activate the glyph, then cut and pate the hand into the glyph like an accent.

you can not just copy the hand drawing. you can clone it. If I paste that into the glyph, you can see it is there by typing multiple isntanes of that character.

we have a typical font view table, you can see the codepage. you can search. we have a history panel that records all the searches you do. you can bookmark these searches. so instead of codepages or filters or such, its all just searches that are saved.

you can copy paste, all the normal things.

adam: what about outline editing?

yuri: what we like is that idea of zoomable UI. you zoom out, its like seeing the text in a book or publication. zoom in you see more controls. you don’t see controls when object isn’t selected.

we can split the window.

adam: you can have multiple views on the area

yuri: so we have 3 levels of zoom. the preview of a font. the 2nd is medics .you see the H and V metrics, and you DONT see the nodes. then you zoom more and you see the nodes. you smoothly move from one to another by zooming.

As you can see, we have interpolation of points, by default. you can see we have smart guidelines. if i move a lot there is no snap, but if i pause, there is a snap. so we use smart guides in space and moving in time.

You can select points in multiple glyphs and edit them together.

You are not limited to rectangular marquee selection, you can lasso too.

We have a new tool, a screw.

ADam: Tim Ahrens told me, the best node removal algorithm is in Fontographer, Tim said, its so that I can not improve the result manually. I remove the node and the shape is the best I have.

Yuri: I wanted to improve my algorithm to be better, but I gave up and I used it.

ADam: So we rewrote a lot of new stuff, we use fractional co ordinates like fontographer for good transforms and boolean operations.

Yuri: Speaking of boolean operations, you can see we do Remove Overlap a lot. We decided its not needed to do in a fixed way. we have dynamic boolean operations now. this is the shape built with 2 shapes that are still accessible and editable. its not just a fill of the outline. if i DECOMPOSE the shape then its a classic single outline.

Adam: what about working with frames? Miram was working with shape based design for arabic. we have been thinking along the same lines. designers use the same shapes throughout their design.

Yuri: This paper has 3 frames, a few little decorative graphics for fun. If you look at the font, some elements look similar. I select a glyph, select some points in the descender of the ‘p’ and its like a shape, a ‘subroutine’ for some people. So I copy this, and connect it to another glyph, the q, and flip it – you can see they are still connected. We have a  View, Show, Shape Relations, that shows their relation like a global air routes map.

You can join the shapes and it keeps the connections, no problem. You can sset the 2 end points used to connect the shape to another shape, and these can be smooth curves or corner points that don’t change the shape.

You can see a structure pane, with the data strucures under this.

ADam: now i want to see numbers. masure the stems.

Yuri: We have a ‘beam’ that show shows measurements. as you zoom in, it will show you the full float, zoom out and it shows you the int value. a zoomable UI shows you only what you want to see at that level of details. here is another measuring line that is at an angle.

Adam: These are not complete features, these are parts that we will put into some tools you ail see soon, and others you will see later. talk to us, we started and you can see more information there. thanks a lot!

* * *

1215 Speed Punk | Yanone

This is a quick overview of this UI I made. I’ll go into the theory.

This is a straight line. no curvature. this is a perfect cirlce. its curvature is the same all arund. i didn’t invent this tool. if you draw a circle in a font editor and turn on my illustration, you will see another large circle.

a circle quarter with 2 lines would have a similar halo.

these 3 circles, the small one has the most dense curves, the halo is larger, the cirlces get bigger so the curves are less dense so the halo is the same size.

bezier curves were made for CAD of cars for citroen. citron decided to keep the development a secret, but thats why we know it under the name bezier because renault didn’t keep it secret. we use it for designing many things, airplane wings, and type.

we have a  zero level of curves. e.g., 2 curves that don’t connect.

g0 continuity means 2 curves and they do connect like a corner points

g1 means the curves connect with a common tangent but no curve continuity – a corner point

g2, what you aim for with type design, the curve halos meet!

g3, acceleration continuity, the 1st or 2nd derivative of the common cubic bezier, is also continuous. this is not always what you want in type, its a design decision. by using this tool I’m’ not enforcing how to design type. its on you. but this tool helps you understand what you are drawing.

why is this important? if you ride a roller coaster, and you drive form a flat to a 1/4 circle, it would hurt you entering the curve and exiting it. we need it for designing roads, you need to smoothly turn into the bend in the road.

we want something more like this, the curvature starts at zero, increases to a maximum and goes back down to zero slowly.

If you draw a curve on paper it is continuous, beliers are made of these sections, and if you place them on extremes…. tarts arguable if its needed or not. take this braodnib ‘o’ and here are some extremes that are not HVCurve style extremes but are LOGICAL extremes.

This is an old RoboFont. in the drawing tool, you go to the anarchist A button,a nd say if you want the illustrations inside or outside the glyph. you can them adjust the beziers to join up. the colour varies to show the lowest or biggest  amount of curvature in the glyph to help you make similar curves.

We have a histogram so you can fade out the effect of very small curves that have a very dense curvature but are not very important in the overall design.

The tool appears to have no bugs, so I don’t think there will be any new versions.

This is now in glyphs. Its the same tool in both. This is visual proof of the fact you can not draw perfect cirlces with bezier outlines, you see the curvature is a little off, but then with ‘snap to grid’ it distorts the circle.

This is an inflection: a ‘s’ bend, the curvature crosses from one side to another of the curve.

Q: You had the idea of harmonising things the way you’d like automatically?

A: There is the Tim Ahrens Harmonizer that does exactly that. This tool and my previous tool Autopsy just illustrates, so you can understand better what you see and make informed decisions. Ify ou use a tool like harmoniser it does exactly that. you have to believe that tool does its job, and it does it well – with this you can see it doing the job.

* * *

Free Fonts: Threat or Menace

* * *

Glyphs App

So we have automatic accents, you don’t need to do the mark to mark positioning.

and we have auto binary generation so you can run InDesign and have it reload the font as you make changes in the editor.

We have expand stroke, so you can make a mono line script typeface, she turned it into 4 masters, then you go to Font Info, Instances, and you can apply filter to each instance, so Martina Fior (?) made this single master into like 50 styles.

[Someone] recently released Starburst. it has a think stroke that is 0.3 points wide. OpenType can have non integer points. If you set Grid Spacing to 0, then Glyphs will use the floating units when it generates.

* * *

Fine Typography

What is OpenType? Its like a swiss army knife for fonts, you can do small caps, ligatures, you have cross platform stuff, its a great situation compared to 15 years ago. OpenType was introduced 10 years ago. All the problems with PS fonts are gone, we have everything in one format. Is it true?

As type designers know, you care about ligatures, programming opentype features, testing they all work, and you hope your customers and friends can easily play with your font software and hopefully find the opentype features.

We think its normal to use OpenType features, but its often hidden. Here is the way to access the features in InDesign today. I’d like to hint to our friends in Adobe, we could improve the UI for accessing this.

What about the use of OpenType features in Microsoft Word?

Who knows about this. [like 3 people raise their hands in a room of 100] Simon Daneils from Microsoft doesn’t count! [lol]

Now in Office 2011 it possible to use OpenType features. Like InDesign, its hidden. So I’d like to hint that it would be wonderful for application developers to make it easier to access OpenType features in fonts. has a great table that shows you browsers support,and you can see OpenType feature support in browsers now looks promising!

What about standardisation? In CSS level 3, recently, just october 3rd last week, the CSS v3 Fonts module got the status ‘candidate recommendation’ which is the 2nd stage after ‘working draft’ status. next is ‘proposed recommendation’ and then the full bore ‘recommendation’ 🙂 So its still a few steps away but its coming along. personally i think this is a milestone and the syntax for opentype feature use on the web is now quite solid.

So here is a test document that shows if things are working. I recommend doing intense testing of your OT features for the web.

I asked a monotype web developer for tips, and he said define classes for the small caps, then just use that class, so you don’t deal with the complexity.

The main problem:

You aren’t preparing your website for the newest browsers. you must expect people to use older versions of MSIE 8 or 9, or perhaps Firefox.

Web fonts are all about latency. Smaller files can be made by subletting and REMOVING opentype features.

As OTL support in browsers increases, how can we manage this? the balance between latency and OpenType rich fonts?

With increasing performance of the net, I expect this period will pass in a few years.

Browser differences continue to be annoying but that will also pass as the CCSv3 Fonts module beomes a Recommendation.

Or we could do the old PostSCript approach, remapping the features to standard unicode positions. this is not that helpful for web developers, if you want to play around with features its pushing the complexity to managing the CSS.

So Monotype made a JS solution. we analyse the GSUB and GPOS tables of the font and generate new GSUB table based on rules with new remappnig, and a small JS file, which comes with the web font to the browser. So from the end user perspective, you set up a sample, and then the software knows which features are supported by the font file, and turn on the features you wish, and copy and paste the css code to use those features that is made for you.

What about OTL ‘kern’ feature support? Its not robustly implemented yet. Custmers expect text to render the same in all browsers.

So this JS positions

Sampo is the engineer behind this technology, and I asked him if this would be worthwhile in 2 or 5 years?

He said, we still face many web rendering engines. Google just started with Blink forking from WebKit. So we see this as a rock solid fall back solution. Supports most GSUB features, kern goos.

Cons, the load times of the asset could be higher, and it uses Private Use Area unicodes.

Challenges for the type industry?

We and all foundries should care about OT features, be aware of them and access and use them. Something for all of us.

How can we help users EASILY use these features on their websites.


The potential of fine typography on the web with OTL is promising. The CSS3 syntax is coming along nicely, and good work arounds exist today from Monotype. Thanks!

Raph Q: On Android the Chrome browser does support this, so mobile is looking good. As we test on browsers, Blink is open source, if you test and find a bug, if its not rendering a font right, we can get that fixed.

Erik van Blokland; You said text to speech is broken thanks to PUA glyphs. Does that mean Copy and Paste is broken, and does is break search?

Joerg A: I think its okay but lets ask the engineer, Sampo

Sampo: The JS jumps in before the text is displayed on the screen. A search engine doesn’t execute the JS, just reads the HTML, so it should be okay.

Patrick CAnada Type: THis isn’t available for self hosting.

Joerg: Right, you need the server.

Sampo: We have a  compiler, that reads the OTL in the font and spits out JS that does the layout, and it puts the glyphs needed in the Private User Area. The substation features don’t have unicodes.

Patrick: These glyphs are in the PUA?

Sampo: Not usually. We have to assign PUAs when the Unicode value is -1.

Joerg: When we produce OT fonts, we use PUA unicodes, its an old technique.

Q: On you’re kerning slide, you emtnioned inconsistent results. Is there a max for kern pairs?

Joerg: The natural speaking high level approach for CSS files

* * *

David Lemon

There wet primitive fons on early computers, but DTP started with PostSCript printers. People called the fonts for PS, Type 1, ‘post script fonts’ and the next gen version of the format is OpenType CFF. Thats where the action is today.

the other main format is TrueType. The 2 differences is the math they use for curves. This has little impact on a type designer, you convert PS to TT curves.

The other differences hinting. This is information added to help rendering of fonts. PS hints are simple, pointing out glyph features for the rendered to deal with. TrueType hints are actually programs that can control rasterising, that nwas needed for black and white rendering. being programs they can be a security risk, leading to e.g. iPhone jail breaking.

TureType puts smarts in the font file. PS puts the smarts in the rasterisiers. This means pasteurisers are different, and a PS rasterisier is hard to do well. Both have evolved over time and become more similar.

Mobile devices used hand edited B&W bitmaps fonts. TrueType was good for that environment, so it was a logical choice as mobile got better. And now most mobile devices use TTF fonts. Most mobile platforms don’t have good CFF rasterisation.

Why should I care about mobile readers? Most readers are on the desktop?

But mobile users are the future of type. Content creation will happen on mobile, and the desktop will be a niche.

There are benefits that would come with CFF on mobile devices. Selection: there is always a desire for more styles and faces. The biggest selection of fonts are in CFF and many fonts don’t become TTF as the designer won’t do TT hinting. PS htinign is easy to learn and leverage. For mobile, font size matters. Large numbers of fonts or fonts with large numbers of glyphs are problematic.

But no one was doing much to make CFF in mobile happen. So I did.

Adobe’s working on its pasteurisers for 30 years, and we think ours are the best our there. PFR is the mobile font rendered we hate today. We recognise there are times when its better to give something away than make it proprietary. We contributed code based on ATM to Microsoft for Windows 2000 in 1998.

So to make CFF for mobile, I had to convince adobe management to make their most valuable technology open source. googol was enthusiastic to add our code to free type, and we signed contracts with GOogle and Freetype.

First, I want to emphasise that the work with Google and Aodbe was a joy. 18 months ago I was asked if I shall do this, if I would accept adobe CFF code into free type. I was happy to do it because freeytpe was not able to do it in a good way. To show the difference, this is the old code of freeypte and this is the new one. Look at this glyph. you can see the horizontal stokes are not even in the old one. This is critical for reading CJK. Here you see this stroke is too low and with adobe’s code its positioned very good.

the integration took 2 months. i was contracted by google and got financial support from google and adobe. then the project was dormant. lawyers had to do something. then we continued.

here is the code from dave arnold, who fit the CFF engine into FreeType, so it was an add on but not a serparete module. You see the CTS engine that contains the PRF engine. So my job was to do this: it looks trivial but it took a long time to rename variables and reformat and finally bring the code into shape. This is my usual approach for coding.

During the process I removed dead code specific to Adobe’s engine, and tried to reuse more of fretype’s existing features, for memory and math handling. essentially after doing all these changes, the adobe stuff compiled into 60kb of code. this is small. if you look at modern applications, they are megabytes. its nothing.

If David Lemon talks about a rasteriser, but for me, I am talking about the last end. There is a parser, a hinting engine that transforms the font space into a device space to rasterise properly, and finally there is the conversion of the hinted outline to the screen. Adobe delivered the hinting engine. The other parts free type already had.

AFter much discussion and delays caused by various reasons, I got the cod win January, and it took me 2 months. Dave Arold gave me a private git repo, and in April I published it in the main free type git repo. At the end of April, we released a beta version, so Googel and Adobe could announce the CFF engine to the public. IN May I released v2.4.12 with the new engine turned off and a few weeks later in June, 2.5.0 was released with the new CFF rendered enabled by default.

We found a small bug, but besides that it works very fine.

David Lemon:

Now we have good CFF in free type, we an see good CFF on all computers. Thats normal on the desktop, its getting there on the web, and soon the mobile world will be there too.

We’ll be around, and

Dave Crossland Q: Would making the FDK libre software help spread the adoption of CFF?

David: I question the premise that there is problem with CFF adoption. We hope to have a libre version later this year.

Q: Will … ever improve?

David: There is a way to get around that. We released CID fonts that we use for East Asian CJK fonts. THey can have several hint zones for different glyphs. Sadly, there are too many applications that make incorrect assumptions about CID fonts. It was not working reliably enough for non asian fonts. I’d like to see that happen very much.

Q: Looking at past releases of free type, how long will it take to arrive in consumer devices?

David: I don’t see anyone raising their hand. Its not mine to speak to.

Raph Levien A: I am tech lead on text and font rendering on Android. I can’t say anything about future releases on Android, but I believe in this technology, its fabulous. Interpret from that what you will.

Simon Daneils Q: With TrueType very popular and big res screens and WOFF 2.0 compression here, is this too little to late?

David Lemon A: With the higher resolution screen, the less important that hints are. We think APple displays would look better by using hints again. I think its still worthwhile, yeah.

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Tom Lord on how far the GNU project has come in 30 years

Tom Lord writes:

I think it’s actually pretty damn impressive how much the thing has evolved and grown. Your mileage may vary, of course but: Here’s a list of the FSF’s current campaigns: There’s some shift in concerns there from back in the day towards: HW restrictions that get in the way of free software; software patents; attacks on privacy due to centralized web services; helping the many other organizations that are starting to collectively become the majority of the free software movement. The GNU system itself is considered to be pretty much “done” and the FSF stays out of the software development business itself except for vary focused, technical issues (like paying someone to reverse engineer a peripheral … that kind of thing). Here’s RMS’ speaking schedule: That’s not an anomaly. He’s tremendously popular in large parts of South America and, also, Europe. You’ve probably seen news reports about a growing internationalist movement to oppose neoliberalism, globalism, and western imperialism — it turns out that free software as a paradigm and tool for that resistance is pretty popular in academia, some governments, and with some of the kids these days. RMS publishes a “newsletter” on other-than-software political issues. It’s comprised solely and entirely of an RSS feed of quick notes: We’re long-since past the point where RMS hands-on runs the FSF. They moved to a professional mgt. team a while back. His lawyer friend, Eben Moglen, who helped to author the GPL, spun out the Software Freedom Law Center: The FSF no longer much being in the business of hosting software projects, one of its former executive directors (and a “kids our age” guy) spun out The Software Freedom Conservancy: For many years there was an industry-driven thing called “The Open Source Initiative” whose main role seemed to be to try to delegitimize RMS and the idea of Copyleft. We caught them having several years of screwed up financial reporting to the IRS and California FTB and, huzzah, that led to their temporary suspension as a non-profit, years of financial struggle, and a real “cleaning house” of its board of directors. Today they’re much more friendly towards the FSF and RMS than they used to be. One doesn’t much hear, these days, the kinds of anti-software-freedom arguments that were so popular back in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Too many companies and contractors have made too much money *because* of software freedom for people to take seriously the idea that software freedom is necessarily anti-capitalist. In the video at (internetistschuld.ogv) RMS’ talk starts about 1h39m. At the end of the talk there’s a Q&A and there you *can* still find some idiocy. To paraphrase: “But… but … but… if everything is free software then doesn’t that deprive people of the freedom to choose certain business models? ” To which, of course, the answer (aside from the eye rolling) is “Yes! Exactly!” I wonder if such questions might not still come up purely out of a sense of tradition — sort of the RMS equivalent of calling out for “Freebird” as an encore. For me, this is the coolest thing at the moment: which gives rise to projects like:… (Which, OK, involves some non free software vintage ROM images but it shows off the capability of these $35 boxes.) Here’s the non-sweatshop factory where they make the things: I have a few of them to play around with including one that serves as a dedicated media center.

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TypeCon, Portland, OR

These are live blog notes from the TypeCon 2013 in Portland, Oregon.

Usual disclaimer for live blogging: These are informal notes taken by me, Dave Crossland, at the event, and may or may not be similar to what was said by the people who spoke on these topics. Probably if something here is incorrect it is because I mistyped it or misunderstood, and if anyone wants corrections, they should email me immediately ( – or post a comment. Thanks!
Font LIcensing

Jim Kidwell

Designers use Suitcases or other FM software, and there are many large collections; largest is 231,994 and average is 4,5XX.

I set out to answer,

* Are EUALs understandable?
* How do desigenrs USE fonts?
* Something else

I’m not an academic…

Who recived the survey? 10,000s in the extensis mailing list, spread in social media and forums online, and 2,250 responses – good total for a niche topic.

Mostly Graphic Designers, highly educated, in the job for 15+ years, a suprise. Most did NOT get font licensing as part of formal instruction; and Font Manager users who are font nerds.

Print Design for 94% of users; logos for 82%; web fonts about 20-30%

Font trading hand to hand, about 30% said never! But 50% of people said they regularly (7%) to occassionally to rarely took personal fonts to the office. That’s a big opportunity to educate users to increase revenue.

Out of office (to service bureau?): 62% yes

How to create design comps in photoshop? 92% use the fonts they already have; 56% download new free fonts, and 26% wh opurcahse fonts before client approval; and 32% ‘locate’ a copy of the font online. This creates problems for designers who do a comp with the found copy, when its approved, the retail font isn’t quite the same…

Who reads licenses regularly? 80% said occciasionally – 25% NEVER, 29% rarely! Some even said “I don’t know what these are”! The heavy legalese doens’t help.

When they read them, they feel confused. Only 9% said ‘Yes’ and 78%  ‘somewhat, not really or no’. Lawsuits usually result after a long drawn out discussion to settle amicably.

Yet, designers move onward, as 42% said they SOMEWHAT understand licenses even if they dont often read them.

55% said they have problems tracking what fonts are licensed to do. Extensis make software to help manage this on corporate desktops.

Most companies don’t have established processes for managing font licensing.

Users say about licensing: it is a mess; i want fonts to just work and not get in my way with licensing. I WANT BUY ONCE USE EVERYWHERE. There needs to be an easy way to license fonts for all use cases. I want to use my print fonts for web use. I want to convert my entire legal library of fonts into web fonts.

Cost vs Quality? 90% of designers know how to tell quality from junk.

67% of users said fonts were fairly priced. But they’d like free font catalog for mockup purposes, font rentals and trials, and microtransactions (one off uses.)

They want more stable quality; fonts look the same in photoshop and in all browsers, better quality of rendering in browsers, and an easy way for CLIENTS to know the value of fonts.

What to do about all this?


2. Communicate simple terms very clearly. Don’t bury the EULA in the ZIP file, have it in the website as an active part of the purchase process.

3. Encourage info sharing and tracking by the purchaser. If you tell the purchaser what the usage restrictions are and its simple and they pass it on to their internal users, that message will travel.


* * *

Kevin Larson

First improvements, TNR at 10pt on a 96dpi screen.

B&W rendering, the default on XP. We rarely see text like this, we all see some sort of anti aliasing technique.

Old Win greyscale that isn’t so good for text sizes but is good for larger sizes.

1st ClearType that uses LCD sub pixel rendering

Then the MSIE 7 8 9 and 10

7: Metrics widths are the same as B&W rendering, good for backwards compatiblity.

8: We get heavier stems, like in the T, and the shape of ‘x’ is more true to the vector outline.

9: We give up the dense heavy stems to get better spacing between letters. The spacing around ‘i’ and ‘o’ in the 2nd line are spaced to much to the left.

10: We retain the space information, but we give up the color fringing as its greyscale. Its VERY FAST to render, so for touch screens that is good. Its not ideal for reading but its fsat.

And then we look worldwide.

Here is MSIE 8 9 10 and vector for a traditional chinese font. There are big problems here too.

So, how to make the best rendering environment?

We hear from the public about the changes, some like then and some don’t. How do we make the best rendering possible? Here is a list of 8 things we can optimize for.

What should we optimize for?

* Luminance contrast
* Edge contrast
* True letter shape
* Even Spacing
* No Color Fringing
* Even Weight
* Visual perception differences
* Pixel geometry

Audience: Even Spacing, followed by Even Weight.

KL: Weight that is true or just heavy?

Audience: Evenness of color overall.

John Downer: Look at big building signs; sans serif and bold weight.

Q: Spacing, edge and contrast are closely related.

We know there was a difference from B&W to ClearType, a 5% reading speed and comprehension improvement, but then the 4 iterations in MSIE are more subtle, and even though in our team we have clear preferences we couldn’t find this in testing.

Legg (?) found that pixel type can be VERY small and just as fast to read; and blurred quite a bit and just as fast to read.

Un a letter recognition test, we put either a single letter or a trigram of 3 letters and recognise the middle one. We use common Enlgish trigrams like igh that are 3 letters, not a word, that really do occur. We place a crosshair in the middle so you know where to look, then we put up a trigram and take it away briefly and then put up 3 letters you are meant to ignore. THat makes it hard. We try to force up the error rate. We need to make an accuracy difference.

500ms for cross
200ms for blank
50-100ms for the trigram
then after their response a dummy text

[The above might not be what KL said]

So here are 3 greyscaled ‘igh’ trigrams that show that recognition was like 36%, 44%, 47% – matching what designers in the room show of hands say.

Now we look at Segoe UI Semi LIght at 50cm from the screen at 10pt, normal reading condiatoins MSIE 8 9 and 10. Darker stems you can see in the left stem of the ‘h’; MSIE 9 has good spacing, and MSIE 10 has better spacing but no color fringing. The show of hands is about even, and the results are also the same! 51% 49% 52%.

This was the accuracy rate for identifying the letter.

So we made a version that has extreme color fringing and a grey that is even more blurry, to go with the MSIE9 and 10 versions.

So we have 8pt Georgia, 10pt, Xpt and Xpt bold (?). 41%, 36%, 32% and 38%! Why would 8pt be better? Simplified forms perhaps?

I tested with 10 people which is enough for statistical reliability.

[Had to miss last 5 mins]

* * *

But but Pony: Adventures in Open Source Font Design, by Paul Hunt and Miguel Sousa

@pauldhunt @forcebold


Lets start to introduce some concepts you might not be familiar with

What is open source?

It means free access to components that make up a product, so people can modify things.

Why has Adobe released an open source font fmaily?

We make more and more open source software, and that always needs type for the UI. looking to fill that need, we didn’t want to open source existing type families, so we looked at what existing options we had, and we didn’t find anything suitable for our needs. So we made Source SAns.

The brief was, a typeface family to be open source, sans serif, simple and work well for UIs. We wanted the design to hold up well in continuous text settings too. Initially it was suggested I might take Adobe Sans, but I rejected that idea, and looked at American Gothics, especially News Gothic, which you might see in there.

The first projects you see here, are the strobe media playback software. This used the fonts as ‘Playback Sans’ and if you look at the project and dig the fonts out, they are open source.

That was an initial version. We have Brackets, another internal client, a browser based code editor. This was the webpage announcement, that is using the font for its text, and here you can see it applied in the Brackets UI of the left and top nav bars.


Paul talked about the design considerations. This is the production environment: we use FontLab Studio 5, used for many years here, and we used Adobe Multiple Master technology to make extreme wegihtsn and interpolate the weights inbetween. These sources are then made to process with the ADobe FDK, used widely, and we kept our sources with Perforce, the commercial version control system used at Adobe.


We released whem in August last year, and released these 6 weights in 12 styles of roman and italic, from extralight to a heavy. We annouced the release on our typeteam blog, typblography, Thomas Phinney started this at aadboe and we try to keep it going. We announced it there and host it initially on SourceForge, where adobe puts a lot of our projects.

One thing we wanted to do was make all the fonts available plus all the source files needed to compile them. so if you want to spin the fonts off and make your own project you could. or you oculd look at it to learn how to make your own font fmaily with the same production environment.

we also made them freely available on our web type service typekit, google fonts and web ink.

the reception was immediately positivie, the most viewed blog entry, twitter and other social media. i tried to engage with people there, and it was also covered by wired, other palces, and DIGG and Upworthy and Standford has specified its sytle gude for branidng to use Source Sans Pro.

We also immediately got feedback saying ‘we like these fonts but you made some mistakes’ so we could quickly respond and fix things.


So in the release we started with SoruceForge. But the feedback was “Adobe, you fools, we use GitHub” – we had not heard of it 🙂

So we learned a bunch of lingo, new tools, processes, watched many Linda videos to get up to speed… it was great to see the whole program illustrated in this way.

So we went from sharing ZIP bundles to this, GitHub showing the folder structure. Developers say this is great, they can see the layout and how to use the FDK.

We made that transition within one month, while repsonding to feedback and addressing bugs. I think it was an impressive accomplishment.

This transformation sparked an internal revolution, a good one. We started with a new workflow.

So I mentioned, we used Perforce. That was replaced with Git. THat was needed to post the files on Github. We soon learned to love git!

Espeicallyw ith a GUI, like SourceTree. Git felt easier and more flexible and once we got the hand of it, its distributed architecture allows everyone to have the master files without being permanently connected to s aserver. With github, we can share our changes and collaborate inernally and externally.

This is not just with open source porjects, we use the same process with our retail fonts.

We found that font sources that are binary are not useful for version control because you can’t see the difference between versions.

FontLab files are binary black boxes. You know its a new file but there is no easy way to know what changed from one version to another. Here is what binary data looks like. Yikes.

So we went to UFO sources.

Here is a XML plain text representation of a glyph. This is transparent to version control systems.

UFO is a public format, which is nice, anyone can build tools around it. The UFO workflow also allows us to have a design space with intermediate masters.

We imrpoved the FDK a lot. We now have more than type1 input, we now support UFO directly.

The FDK is public and gratis.



We felt we had a good perception and we hoped people interested would feel invested in it and want to contribute. We hoped releasing the fonts would foster a community that is typical of open soruce projects; usually interested parties come to the project and want to help.

We were told, if you build it they will come, sort of thing… here is a quote from a blog comment,

> put the code up on a public version control site like github. Here’s what will happen:
> 1. …
> 2. …
> 3. the font benefits
> 4. You find people who have been contributing form a good pool of talent

We hoped for design contributions from the community, people can sponsor extensions, bug finding, and suggesting new things, and +1s.

Sadly there have not been significant contributions from a community around this project.

We have had some sponsored development; Logos Bible SOftware sponsored the development of small caps, our initial blog post showed a teaser of a monospaced verison that is now released as “Source Code”. This had box drawing characters that Frank G will present tomorrow.

Other requested developments are greek, cyrillic, italics for the monospace… This work is in the earliest stages.

We see a lot of +1s on the issue request for the monospace italics.

That brings us to the pony. This is the magical Plus One Pony.

Why so little contribution?

We discuss this internally a lot.

Many of you here have the skills but you are not motivated to give your work away for free.

Fonts are visual, not like many software projects, its hard to compare versions without building them and comparing them which is not as easy as code.


Maybe the people interested in contribution don’t know how or where to start. They need guideance. So I would like to appeal to all the open source community leaders in the room who have type design skills, people who run workshops, to help those who want to contribute to Source but don’t know how.

When these projects are enhanced, it benefits everyone. ALthough this was started by Adobe and we maintain it, and we have our staff working on it, this font belongs to the community. WE have features we want to implement but we are slow for many of the users.

We really want you to understand that this project will become a lot better if more people help, not just us.

Lessons Learned

There are a few things we learned:

Fonts with such broad exposure than our retail offerings, we had a lot more testing and bug reports. We made decisions on how we make our regular fonts based on what we learned.

We rethought our traditional tools and workflows. This led us to be more transparent and collaborative in all our projects.

In Conclusion

We share our experience, we want to remind everyone that these fonts are open source, they are available on github and sourceforge, you can use them and contribute to them


Q: Why you saw limited contributions from existing type designers was unfamiliarity with github?

Miguel: Yes, I think so. When I appeal to you, its both font tools and github. We know ourselves of learning push and pull and all that lingo. Its not just easy.

Paul: ANyone who wants to contribute, ask us now and we can help you get set up on the path to contribution.

Q Behnam: A major issue is versioning, and especially when you decide to add more scripts, the metrics change… how do you dela with that?

Miguel: If we make a drastic change, we try to avoid it, but if we do, we will announced. And you can always go back to previous versions.

Paul: The earliest bugs was that the font metrics were not working for people and we tried to patch that ASAP to minimize the hassle. If we made a big change, say adding arabic to the fonts so you needed much different proprotions, then perhaps thats a seperate related project. These are things that can be dealt with in different ways.

Q Eben: If you have people at a workshop, what would you like them to add?

Miguel: ANything you are interested in. We have a roadmap. Arabic, Hebrew, Greek, Cyrillic in development. If you tie intot hat, great, but if you do coptic, anything liekt hat, please do it.

Q: The first adobe contribution was 1992 Slimbach Utopia. Also, what did you learn about open source fonts that Google didn’t already show? And why isn’t the FDK open source?

David Lemon: Well yes, we did donate 4 wights of th type1 verion sof Utopia to the X Consortium. We extended that license a bit. Its still donated but its not open source as the SOURCE sin’t free. Its a free distibution license to accomopany some software. As some people know, we have been working towards the FDK, it is gratis now and we have internal work to do before we can open source key components in it, but we are working on it.

Miguel: Its just a side… its an excuse, you can still contribute to the sources if you want, they are UFO that works with anything, and let us do the builds. In the interium, before the FDK is open source, still ocntibute. Don’t let that stop you.

Paul: what did this do that Google Fonts does not? We felt that it didn’t set up to be very collaborative. You go to get the source to one of the fonts on google code, you can get the sources, but then what do you do with them, how to submit that back? We wanted to make the sources available as part of our project so people could see how to modify them and spin them off as they needed to.

* * *

Pureosseugi: Script reform for a new page, by Aaron Bell, a program manager at Microsoft

Hangeul is a script made of 10 voewls and 14 consonsants, they combine in 9 ways. This is the ‘chinese square’ when the script was invented in the 1400s to unify better with chinese writing.

That’s how korean works! 🙂

Ju Si-gyeong, a foremost korean linguist in the early 1900s, worked to standardise the script, and coined the name ‘hangeul’ in 1912.

It was invented in 1400s but not widely used until the late 19th C when china and japan inspired more korean nationalism.

He tried to standardise grammar and spelling and also wanted to improve writing; the rotary press and printing distribution was new technology, but you had these old typsetting methods.

He invented ‘linear hangeul’. The consonant voewles look very different. The circle in the chinese square style writing is more round and better looking.

You can work well with linear h on latin centric systems, its simple, and that simplicity means you can make more typefaces!

There are low 100s of official typefaces in Korea. A simple form can create a whole new type community.

The syllablised form was made for interwomen typesetting with chinese. if we don’t do that in our texts, why use syllablic form?

There are some other attempts to latinise korean, Ch’oe Hyonbae in 1937 had a pretty crazy thing. Kim Zong-su in 1990 made something more familiar but rotated 45′ 🙂

In the 1960s the UN wanted to mechanise all the worlds scripts, and Kenneth Ross in the USA ICA worked with LInotype (Jackson Burke) who made a linear form of Hanguel, with 2 versions, 1 has ‘lowecase’ style vowels that make it a little more economical in paragraphs. Its kinda crazy.

I showed this to a group of koreans, and they couldn’t READ IT AT ALL, they had to sound it out like a small child 🙂 Guess that’s why it never caught on. The Korean man involved in the project refused to support it and it was shelved.

So, what we read best is what we read most. The korean occupation, war and rebuidling meant there wasn’t energy and time for script reform.

Where to go?

There is still formal experimentation going on, but there is a playful graphic design that happens that linearises hanguel. I think these are the people who preserve the script…

I saw this twitter post, which uses Pureosseugi to give a slower pace to the text.

I think Pureosseugi will never become main stream

* * *

Fonts by Subscription: Threat or Menace? Panel

Thomas Phinney

Greg Veen


Patrick from Canada Type

Thomas Phinney: David Lemon did a propsal inside ADobe a long time back. Fonts by subscription is common for web fonts and in japan, but now its happening to western desktop fonts, the bread and butter, and this is a little scary. Will the total revenue to type designers go up or down? the total revenue may go up by the revenue to designers may not.

I’m going to move down the panel now to speak for 5 mins on the point of view.

Greg Veen

I’m a cofounder of TypeKit, acquired by Adobe. That has been a really great home for typekit, an organization like Adobe that had type in its DNA from the start.

Typekit is a web font service, we can take care of integration details for you and make web fonts simple. We recently added the ability to sync your web fonts to desktop. So, unconventionally, I will quote Louis CK. A comedian, writer, actor, well known. “The Woody Allen of our generation.” Thoughtful and hilarious stuff. He has a quote about the stock market relevant to the subtitle of the panel, threat or menace: “I don’t trust any of it. … Its not real money, its just ideas. When people get richer without producing anything, it can’t end well.” This gets at adding value and extracting value. Anyone in a transaction has got to ADD value, not just be a middleman. That has been a core value at typekit. We see an opportunity to make a bigger pie. I don’t mean to be cliche or trite, but we’re working on making it easier and more appealing for users to do the right thing automatically, to use fonts legally. TypeKit Desktop is a huge addition to that. With Creative Cloud, a user clicks a button and its so much more convenient than Bittorrent and the foundries get paid. That’s what we’re about.

Bill: We are a foundry and a distributor. We have our libraries and we distribute fonts for many of the folks here in this room, on and and – that is run separately, a acquisition rather than a merger. Monotype introduced a subscription based web font service, we want to make it easy and convenient to use fonts on websites. A year ago we launched SkyFonts. Its a technology. A desktop syncing technology; you can obtain a font from the cloud, and sync with your desktop. No need to download, unzip and install. When we first launched, it was part of a rental service. You could download a font for 5 minutes to try, you could license a font for a day or a month. Skyfonts is a technology to download a font securely to up to 5 comptuers. We hooked SkyFonts into the Web Fonts service, so you can download web fonts for mock up purposes. We’re continuing to evolve the technology; we license it to Google and now Google Fonts are easy to download as desktop fonts too. The SkyFonts have a lot of potential. What I like to have you think about is, as users, designers look for ways to conveniently use and try fonts and explore how a font will work in their project or design, whatever workflow they have. We want to improve the tools they use, and that’s a technical piece and then there is a business piece. We want to make it healthy for type designers to make a living.

Patrick: I’m skeptical of all this. Its all buzzwords. What does subscription mean? In the public mind, it means a renewable thing. You don’t subscribe to a watch, or a hat, you subscribe to things that renew; maagazines for new content. I understand what you are doing, but don’t use that word.

Thomas: Rental?

Patrick: Right, that’s closer to the reality. You subscribe to netflix to see new movies. But we tried this on our own, Canada Type, we tried the rental option. Some went for it. 428 companies rented from us. They paid yearly for the use of the font. Every year to keep using the font; its royalty managed photos. Similar to Adobe’s Creative Cloud applicatoins. 3 years ago, we had those 100s of companues. 1 year later, we had problems: credit cards expired, people leave, companies acquired, they cut off the rental. Designer turn over rate is high these days. If a designer thinks renting to use a font in a game or a tv series is a good idea, the replacement guy may not agree. There is design logistics issues to take care of. We now have 120 people still, and this year, 34. So I think its not a viable model. Its maybe viable for a specific kind of large company, they want to have font management done externally as rental… But thats only a few clients. We have 18,000 on our mailing list, we surveyed 11,000. The analogy of a hat is not mine, its from customers. Just because technollogy makes things possible, doesn’t mean users will go for it. We can forget the user, we see tech can do this or that. Look at web fonts, when that idea started about 4 years, foundries all saw dollar signs, wow, web fonts will be used and thats a huge opportunity for us. But the payment models that distributors put out there, had lots of restrictions, and only a few users went for it. Regular Joe designers didn’t go for it.

Thomas: Could Bill and Greg discuss DRM?

Bill: When you buy a desktop font you buy a license that is perpetual. To use on X workstations for Y uses, forever. Companies can lose their licenses. We help people straighten that out. We have those problems with traditional licenses as well as a rental model. But, how do we restrict our fonts? SkyFonts has a restricted folder, hidden from the user, so it will appear in your fonts menu but the fonts are not in the system fonts folder. If you want the font unprotected we can do it that way too. We’re using it in both ways; Google Fonts are deployed in an easy way to get at.

Greg: Typekit is similar, the fonts are installed in a non-system fonts folder that is obfuscated a little, not where people normally look. PS and AI are installed in the same way. To respond to the question of a rental model, the Adobe creative cloud has 700,000 subscribers who are renting software and fonts are software, so this is a thing that people are open to. Adobe has a uniqe position with their platform that makes it easy for that to happen. So there is openeness to it from users.

Patrick: Are fonts software? Perhaps. But people subscribe to the programs, and adobe is a quasi monopoly. What other choices do people have? CorelDRAW?

Greg: well foundries still provide the fonts, adobe has no similar position there…

Patrick: I was a font user for 18 years before I became a font developer. I see you try to do the DRM thing to combar piracy. Most fonts sold are display fonts, people see the name in the font logo, they make their poster, turn to outlines, and say they dont want the font afterall as they got their use they wanted. So you have to police that. You can’t.

Greg: So I totally understand what you mean, but our fonts sync system, a user syncs to the desktop and the foundry gets paid then. If the user only uses it for a day, its not the same as the perpetual license, but so many more people see the fonts, use them in a limited way, but they do use it, then type designers will earn more money with the larger audience.

Patrick: I hope these models work, if they work, you’ll make us money, that’s great.

Greg: Our tools need fonts, we don’t want to see you go bust.

Patrick: But for web fnts, you have these distributors, they allow unlimited use for a 1 time payment. If I see that choice, will I prefer a rental or a one time payment. Self hosting is reliable, why rely on 3rd party infrastructre. ADobe Cloud was down for 30 mins and the whole design world stopped. All the privacy issues in teh news recently. Or I pay $70 and that it. Same as buying a screwdriver.

Greg: A web font is more complicated than a screwdriver. We have ‘bullet proof CSS’ but its always changing for new brwosers and OS. A hosted service can take care of taht content negotiation by the service and you don’t have to worry about it.

Patrick: A watch is full of gears just like a font 😉

Thomas: But the timezones don’t change on us under our feet, like browsers do 😉 Audience?

Gerry Leonidas: There is no one model. Some text types are used for decades, some script font is trendy and dies out quickly. This is reflected in the diversity of licensing options. You may find MOnotype renting some fonts and retailing others. Think about the various users for fonts, and try to mitigate piracy and enahnce ease of use. …

Patrick: 100% of the survey said is, people like the handshake, one time transaction, give money get thing done. We come to these conferences to network and build relationships and if customers visit these events that would be nice. But customers don’t want that. The handshake model is proven for a long time. People are fine with that. Liek Thoams said, its another option. My skepticism is that I doubt users will pick it up. I hope they will.

Greg: Being sensivitie to losing things when you unsubscribe, well, people lose things when they aren’t backed up, and if you get a new computer with a sub service, you just resync. Its more reliable.

Patrick: MYFonts, you redownload your history of purchases, no problem.

Q: I see this shift in other parts of our culture like HIgher Ed going online. Going from manufacturer, to a land lord. Do we trust land lords? To fix the plumbing if it needs to be fixed? Its a profound shift in the relationship that maybe we don’t understand the consequences of.

John Hudson: I have no problem seeing the subscription model for web fonts, as you pay for the servers to run, the conversion on the fly. Some might prefer self serve. I dpn’t see the value added for desktop rental. It seems like a model that benefits the rentiers, those with large libraries of fonts, which we might imagine trickling down to type designers. Patricks’s example of someone renting the font for 1 day for a poster, and that happens 1,000s of times a day, is good for the central library, but not the 1,000s of designers who get pennies per day as they only have 100 fonts, not 50,0000 that the middleman has.

Bill: Desktop syncing, designers have the ability to try a font, pay for it for a while, to experiemnt, and if they want to get the full license they can do. It seems something that our customers want to be able to trial fonts in a new wya. We think this will lead to more font sales.

Greg: I agree with that. We have been considering Font Updates. We want to add features to a font? The user has ways to get the updates, or they might want to keep on their current version. A subscription makes that easy. You have a customer who subscribes to the font as a PROJECT.

Patrick: comping is hard now, its not hard for display fonts… getting samples, you can get PNGs from easy to place, and other foundries have neat type testers… but for text type, you need the whole font to comp. Text users email me and ask, can I get a copy to test in my project? And we worry that they will have ADD and forget about us… its a dilemma. I am all for comp tools online. Payments… when you bundle payments, there is this fraction of a penny revenue to the designer.

Q: I bought a font 20 years ago and couldn’t prove I had done so. What I like about rentals is that you are able to track it, that I could fully know what i use and for how long. …

Q: Its not a binary, you have to do a rental service or a retail sale. You can rent out a whole library or one font at a time. At the current time, it seems hard to pay a type designer from a large library situation.

Patrick: Font Bureau has a large library. It took us to be able to make a living, it started with Goudy, and then it took 150 years for that to become mainstream. It took a long time to go from the time that deigners just got 20% of the revneue. Now its a desigenr’s world. There are many distributors. You say large libraries, well, FB is around since 1991…

Thomas: we have wrpa it up, hope this has raised interesting questions for you to think about 🙂

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