ATypI 2012 Hong Kong: Day 1 Morning Sessions

These are live blog notes from the 2012 ATypI in Hong Kong, 10 October 2012.

Usual disclaimer for live blogging: These are informal notes taken by 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 Dave mistyped it or misunderstood, and if anyone wants corrections, they should email him immediately ( – or post a comment.

09:30 In with the new: today’s font licensing landscape – Christopher Slye / Bryan Mason


09:55 Future challenges of font licensing – Ivo Gabrowitsch

[10 mins late]

Customers now offered mobile app font licenses, and they ask,

“Are mobile fonts printable?”

It may be technically possible but not allowed.

“In addition to iOS, Android, and WinPhone phones, can I use these fonts on Set Top Boxes”?

No. An additional license is needed for that use.

Desktop fonts are licensed a long time. Are there any open questions? Its 1-5 usrs, pay once and use in any print project. But then people ask, ‘Can I get a single user license, I don’t need 5’

Ebooks, people ask ‘can I embed fonts’. ePub 3.0 has font obfuscations, so its okay. For other things, users require an ‘editing/embedding’ license.

“We would liekt o know the costs to embed your OT fonts in our Kindle Fire app using HTML5″

We want to say ‘tahts what web font licenses are for’ – but while its HTML its not web, its an app. Web Fonts licenses are not for HTML its for websites, and we want to avoid web fonts being used in non-website environemnts without another license.

As we just learned, web fonts cna be made specifically for websites.

We want to move away from keeping track of each license. Customers don’t either. Its not a question of expense, its a question of too much admin work. So a big publishing house wanted many licenses, a perpetual license; they are willing to pay but not voer and over. THey want unlimited users. Most companies dont, they know how many users they have, and they just dont want to discuss licensing again. They want unlimited non-affiliate users, like print houses and consultants and so on. They want full cross media use, web, mobile apps, embedded apps. They want editable embedding. THey want all kinds of optimised formats, and permission to convert to any new format themselves.

There are people who will give them such a license for a cheap price. I don’t know what this customer ended up doing [but it wasn’t with FontShop.]

Things are getting more **complicated.** Users dont want to talk to you on a regular basis, even if you’re really friendly.

So licensing needs to become more simple. Its not price related but complexity related. If its too complex, they will walk. Eg,

‘AFter some internal discussion, we decided NOT to extend our use of FF MEta, but use Segoe UI which is a similar font and available as standard on Windows 7’

We want to give a good service and ensure our FontFont designers are rewarded with royalities. I believe this happens best with SIMPLE licenses.

So please, make your licenses more simple. I think this is win-win-win, win for users, type designers and publishers.

I look forward to talking to you all about this.

ADam Twardoch: The top floor of licensing is customer comissioning a custom font. They go away froma library to a custom font as then they can do anything they like. The pricing is to me simple. If someone wants to do all the things, they pricing and licensing terms should be competitive to commissioning a custom font. Your license can not be close to that price and simpler.

Ivo: I agree.

10:20 Crowsourced font funding: Kickstarter’s impact on type design – Thomas Phinney

Intro d

Predictor of success:

Size of your social network – nice Seth Godin quote

Low price goal

Short fund raising period with preparation work

Googel funding – Googel has funded open source kickstarters, often by 50%

Ethan Mollick on AppsBlogger, great research! Failed project really fail, only 10% reach 30%, only 3% reach 50%, and if they get over 50% its likely they will go all the way.

Delivery problems plague Kickstarter. 25% of projects are late and of those, 25% deliver after 9 months of their target. There is no guarantee the money will lead to the goal.

Success by Location graph of the USA. If you’re in NYC or Chicago, Portland, Chicago, its more likley (because of social network)

When I asked desigenrs, they said its hard to do large families because its hard to raise large amounts of cash. Natanael Gama said the STORY matters very much. The south american desigenrs all said the same phrase, ‘creating empathy for the project’.

‘Kickstarter is not a magic money machine’ – thes video took a long time to prepare.

KS gives you an admin panel with some analytics, here’s some graphs of the funding total over time.

Chatype, you can see it trickly up.

Folk, you see Google’s big 75% contribution near the start.

Montserrat hit 200% – it had a great story

Cristoforo – a victorian art neauvou. Why succeeeded on the 2nd time? My pledge levels were adjusted and the new $24 was very popular.

Stretch Goals are important to have, because it can help people contribute after you reach your goal. I put mine perhaps too close so that it created a lot more work than was justified, but having 1 or 2 helps a lot.

Lessons Learned

Scalability must be watched, if you have to package and send 200 items its a lot of work.

If you’re thinking of doing a Kickstarter for fonts, PLEASE contact me, I’d be very happy to review your project and help you optimize it.

Effects of KS? I think this will effect what kinds of typefaces get designed, because it allows for funding things that wouldn’t fly on the typical retail market.

Type and brands

11:00 Multi-script brand identity, harmonisation versus standardisation: the case for Air Inuit – Jean-Baptiste Levée

Air Inuit had old planes, an old visual ID, and the website, reservations, didn’t inspire reliability; they had newsletters and christmas sales and stuff with home DTP style design.

I started with a new logotype. I made the Inuit script harmoised with the Latin; its a plain sans serif and this was the base starting point.

Christian Schwartz told me to ask, do they really need a new typeface; it will cost a lot and take a long time. What other options did they have? There were some already available Inuit type, Nutaaq – Nunavik, the latin doens’t match the brand’s tone. Huronia, by Ross Mills at Tiro Typeworks, they do great work for Canadian Syllabics, and this is a great design. But its not for branding, its for literate and scholarship works.

Euphemia is another Tiro type, a sans with a similar tone; good character support but lacking in weights.

So it was easier to start from teh logotype and design from that. I was worried in the start that it would be Yet Another Helvetica. I wanted to steer the design away to something else. I started backwards with the bold weight first.

My method for non latin is to design both at the same time, make a few variants. The Inuit script isn’t bicameral, it has only one case, so there are weight adjustments you can see during development.

This was my first proejct with this script, so I could only trust my eye as a designer and read the documentation I could find, and thanks to Tiro for publishing a lot of that.

There is an old fashioned, romatntic thinking that you have to respect tradition in the way you engage the design; Arbaic type designers say you should mirror calligraphy. But I think Inuit is an invented script by priests 150 years ago during colonisation. It was to translate the bible and for everyday things. So for me this is a wide open field and I can do experimental things.

The shapes of the Latin and Non Latin script should influence. I avoid copy and pasting shapes. Each has its own form. You can see the latin C and a shape similar to a C in the Intuit script, there are slight variations.

I wanted the feeling to be serious overall but with little informal touches. I shopped prototypes quickly so the designers working on the graphic design could start to work with this type.

There are some shapes that produce odd shades of grey. A Latin wordspace in this script is too small. I could kern them against the latin wordspace to add space.

Before the Bold was finished I started the Light. Deadline, they needed to paint a new plane with the new branding, shown to the press and public, so numerals needed to be ready for the license plate of the plane! I learned a lot about airline companies, and if you Google these registration code you can find a lot of fun trivia.

So I can never underline the importance of a good graphic designer as a partner so type gets used very well. The designers feedback was essential; they said the light was not light enough. I had to draw a new extra light weight by hand, I couldn’t bring myself to quickly interpolate it.

Matching line lenghts is a key goal for designing multiscript type. I wouldn’t have bet that Latin was the longer script but it was!

These were my initial design glyphs – CEHIOV – and this was tricky for the Inuit script. There is a ___) and (””’ shape and one looks longer than the other when its flipped. So needs hand adjustment.

In all my type designs, I always add the little symbols like hearts, its not in the spec but its fun for me.

You know when the design works or not when the design is used. I’m a kid at heart and I love the idea of my type at 2,000pt on the side of an airplane. When this mock up arrived of the plane decal, I was very happy with the 16 hour workdays that I put into the project.

This project shipped 12 months ago. There are few options if you are a designer typesetting documents with the Inuit script. At the end of the exclusivity period, there are 80,000 readers of this script, and Google Web Fonts and Kickstarter would be good options for them.

11:25 Nokia Pure, or: how I learned to stop worrying and love the scripts
Bruno Maag / Amelie Bonet

Ted Harrison: This is a presentation about 16 scripts! A worldwide typeface before long!

Bruno: 15-16 scripts delivered so far, including Chinese, and in 20 mins we cant talk about all of them. Cheinese, Latin and Bengali.

China. Many if you know this script. Its a huge market. For Nokia as a mobile phone company, its 100M+ users, $3Bn market. THey want to be in there. The sheer size of the market, everyone wants to be there.

But China has restricitons [Great image of Mao saying “GB18030-2005”] – there is a state mandated character set that the government says your font MUST have if it ships in a computer or mobile. It must be CERTIFIED at a cost of $20,000 per font. And the process of certification takes 3 months, but the fonts must ship in 8 months.

So unusual problems there 🙂

We delivered the Nokia Pure fonts, 3 weights, 82,500 characters. Tencentype took 7 months to do these 3 styles, that is a record time for such a high quality product.

How did we do it?

Before we contracted Tencent through URW, we drew 50 glyphs in house at Dalton Maag to define the design to harmonize with our Latin. Everyone seems to respond to a design style.

Chinese friends, please dont be offended, but we felt the drawing quality was often not that great. We understand the character set scale demands compromises, but our ambition was to draw a high quality UI and print typeface. On the right, you see 3 variants with different terminals, strokes. We went from traditional to avante garde.

We then sketched 3 weights and tested it on print and screen. There can be dense symbols that become blotchy in a text block. We tested a lot of stroke weights in Regular and Bold to get a design that well harmonizes with Latin.

We also worked with various CJK type consultants to advise us. The font is for mobile devices with data limitations. We needed 27,500 character set that had a filesize no more than 3Mb.

Its a big achievement. We designed the font file with elements that should be repeated. We used TTF components to do this. This creates design compromises, that we will address over the next few months.


How did we design the Latin? 2 years ago, we worked with Nokia who needed a new brand. Their fortunes were down, they remembered what design was, and they wanted a BLAND type design, they felt Nokia Sans was designed 14 years ago by Erik Speikerman with so much personality that brand designers couldnt do anythig with it. Even the in house type designers. They wanted something that would form the foundation for brand work based on other graphic elements.

We did a lot of variation in ef the crossbar of the B or the Q tail, to add a little bit of personality back in.

We did 8 styles, 3 for UI and 5 for display, ExtraLight to ExtraBold, and the UI had increased letter spacing and some design tweaks to be better in a UI context.

Type makes you money!

Clients too, not just type designers. In March 2011, Nokia threw a big party for the typeface lauch, and an indepdenedet marketing study said the hype created about the nokia type craeted €1,000,000 of value.

That means we type designers should charge more than $1,000 – don’t sell your font to Google for $1,000!

Amelie; Bengali is a phonetic script, this has Bengali Devanagari and Latin on a street sign.

To create a sound, you have a few component glyphs for the component founds, and they conjoin into the final glyph.

Bruno: Look at it! They are on drugs!

Amelie: Fiona Ross and others helped consult for us to work out the linguistic requirements. There are 500 glyphs in the font. Its not as much as CJK, and a lot is built on the fly, but everything is decomposed outline; the position is mark positioning.

Here is Nokia Pure compared to Benda (?) a system font. Benga is a good systtem font, but we wanted to have a slightly more calligrpahic stroke. We built a lot of vowel arms of various lengths. We avoided collissions of strokes above the body of the type which we can see in Benda.

It was hinted with VTT.

We are Devanagari, Bengali, Tamil, Sinhalese, Kannada, and now we are working on Gujarati, Telegu and Oriya. A lot of work is coming up!

Bruno: its not just Amile and I doing this. Its a huge team, here is the team. Supporting such a team means you can’t sell them for $1000 to GOogle and make them free fonts. Type desigenrs have to charge reasonable prices. Tom Phineey said $5,700 could be raised. That won’t pay rent for 2 motnhs! I am very upset with this stuff, because it undermines the value of the work we do. A doctor won’t treat you, doing a social favor. Type designers study for years, we invest in design adn technology, we train people. That has to be paid for. This huge team needs a fair wage, and clients needs to pay me a fair price for the quality we delivery. Thank you very much!

11:50 How web-based fonts and dynamic subsetting improve brand performance in East Asian writing systems – Alan Tam

Web fonts!

CJK is much more complex than Latin especially for web fonts. Andy Payne, Interbrand Chief Global Creative Officer “Brand starts with the name, and the name is written.”

The digital medium can be a barrier for brands. Education, understanding how things work. It shouldn’t be feared, brands should extend and meet there customers. You can engage and enhance your customer relations, reaching many more people online than in the print world.

Fonts are at the core of a brand. So having the same type in print and on the web is important.

When you extend a brand globally, you recognise the brand by the type alone. Cocoa Cola, GOodyear Tyre, Cathay Pacific. Their message, their logo, brings trust.

Web fonts help reduce steps needed to bring your brand online. This makes globalisation local. Cosmopolitan cities like HK, Tokyo, Seoul, people wish to consume content in their language. Web fonts allow brands to do that.

East Asian writing systems have large fielsize. 6-50Mb! 10-30k characters. The average Big5 font is 13,000 fonts with 8Mb, and Unicode 6 has 109,449 characters can be be up to 50Mb.

MYuenHKSemiBold has 11Mb WOFF, 33Mb SVG, 11Mb TTF, 11Mb EOT. That adds up!

Mobile devices really can’t deal with that for bandwdith, memory or disk space.

Subsetting can help. That delivers only the characters used for the displayed content.

Raph Levien has blogged for Google WEb Fonts their text= parameter, and the example ‘MyText’. This is ‘Pre Subsetting’

Dynamic Subsetting looks at the content and extracts the glyphs needed. This is available on and uses a JS file that is part of the HTML/CSS/JS page.

What are the tradeoffs? Both give a smaller font file size.

Web fonts helps a lot with reinfocing brand indentity and this can even have security implications for helping with phishing.

Before web fonts, all this was done with static images. Its a huge load on designers time, bandwith, and its also a poor visual experience for users.

On the web, speed is everything!

Fonts can be so much faster than images anyway, but subsetting takes it to a new level.

Different screens and devices means having a consistent customer experience is important and web fonts makes it happen effortlessly but images are a lot of work. Its future proof about new devices and screens. Images will have to be redone in the future.

Content is searchable. Theres a lot of workarounds you can do for static images or even Flash workarounds that don’t work with this. They use a lot of static images of text and this ruined their search ranking. SEO would have cost a lot with that technology. But switching to web fonts, they got all 3,000 pages properly indexed and searchable very fast.

Accessibility is important, and in the EU and USA there are accessible compliance laws, and there have been lawsuits against JetBlue and Disney, over these laws. Web fonts is great for accessiblity.

**You get up to 90% savings on developer time. IU-HQ CEO Frank Lampen said “we estimate that ethere ia time saving (and therefore a cost saving) in excess of 90% by using web fonts over static images.”**

I’d like you all to try out seubsetting. Monotype made a demo site:

This is a great way to experiment and find out how subsetting works. I can select a number of fonts and a text and see the file size reduction possible with subsetting. The full font on a 3G network took 3 minutes to load, but the subset was under 1 second.

Who is using Font Subsetting today? Many top brands are:

Typography and reading

12:15 Reading expertise: what does it have to do with typefaces – Mary Dyson / Keith Tam / Brian Kwok

Mary Dyson: I’ve been interested for a while in how we read and how we process different typefaces. I’m interested in perceptual abilities of type designers and typographers differ from normal users. I’ve also added some CJK type.

Before I start, I should say this is about reading. Its not about the expertise at the University of Reading.

Clare Leake is the 4th person on this paper.

What is font utning. How we can look at so many different forms to understand the abstract Platonic Form. This has been researched by Sanocki. Psychologists think of typeface differences as noise, being things to get rid off to identify letters. But they might be the opposite?

Regularity is the similarity of letters within a word. Same font for each letter in a word, you are more accurate in teling the difference between 2 strings of letters. Tested with Verdana and Bodoni, Garamond and Bodoni.

Congruency is also a relevant concept. If a type style is consistent with the meaning of a word, we are faster to recognise the word.

Reading expertise, just means being able to read the language.

My research qyestiosn: Can type designers demonstrate font tuning in a script they can not read? We found people who couldn’t read Chinese and people who could (bilingual), and readers of chinese who were/not typographers.

Font Tuning may occur with meaningless shapes, when people have typograhic expertise. Typographers can separate the stylistic aspects from teh character’s essential shape. If we dont have that expertise, those 2 thigns are bound together.

THomas Phinney Q: How could this influence how we design typefaces?

Mary: Not really, I think designing scripts where we cant read, I threw this to an ex student, and they said its helpful if you can’t read the language. I’m not a type designer, you can answer that 🙂 It seems helpful to me to know how you percieve things, that you DO perceive things differently to those who do have that expertise.

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