Archive for June, 2009

by Simon Rockman

Simon Rockman met with Bryan Rieger from to find out how he works to make mobiles beautiful.

Brian has a problem. He’s a developer and a designer. Now to most people that seems eminently sensible. You design a mobile application and then you build it, but the mobile world seems to think you should be a developer or designer. So he and his wife Stephanie broke from constraints and set up Yiibu which will craft mobile applications for companies. Free to design, develop or both.

Where he sticks with conventions is in not talking about his clients with whom he has signed non disclosure agreements so while you may have used his stuff he can’t lay claim to it.


Working for a number of clients over a number of devices means he often wants a commonality of experience. That can be difficult. “Specify something as eight pixels high on a two in screen with a 120 by 120 resolution and it looks fine, ask for eight pixels on an iPhone and you won’t be able to see it”. Brian laments how far behind mobile is. “In the web world you can specify ems or percentages”, but mobile is yet to catch up. There is some spotty adolescent progress. “Android has Device Independent Pixels which is equivalent to about 160 DPI”. But that’s just size, trying to change the font is even harder, Brian would like to be able to embed fonts. “We do it now to some extent with pixel fonts, you can use flash and SVG but they are not yet well enough supported.”

He continues on the thread of inconsistency, talking about how fonts look on a PC. “When you mock something up using Photoshop or illustrator you have Adobe’s fantastic font rendering. Even Nokia Series 60 Sans looks awesome. It has perfect kerning and hinting. Even with Adobe’s Device Central you have the amazing font rendering technology. Unfortunately phones don’t. Use any phone manufacturer’s font rendering engine on a three inch screen and it looks nothing like it did on the PC.”


Designers don’t bother looking anymore it’s been terrible for so long.

Brian has become pragmatic about doing creative things with fonts on phones. “Budgets are not usually there to do clever hacks with fonts”. Brand will be conveyed using logos while the body copy will be in a system font. This might be more comfortable for users, but few phones have anything where emotion has been a consideration. Even the Blackberry which has 14 fonts only has two you’d actually want to use. “Designers don’t bother looking anymore it’s been terrible for so long”. This is a man who clearly struggles to craft beautiful designs on mobile. He worries about fonts and enjoys making them do his bidding on non-mobile platforms.

He’s also worried about the lack of consistency at lots of other levels. “Where the font lives depends on the platform, with Java it has to be within the JVM or the phone OS, with Symbian it might be possible with QT, I need not just a font but its outline version, bold and italic. It needs to provide me with something more romantic”. As he switches from a developer talking about QT framework to a designer calling for a romantic font I start to get unnerved and understand how being the two can be seen as being quite so different. It’s the clash of art and science.

by Allan Haley

“I’m looking for a typeface to use for a brochure about my company’s line of automated sheet metal cutters – you know, something masculine.”

“I need a happy font for a party invitation.”

It seems that we are continually trying to assign personalities, emotions or other human traits to typeface designs. Perhaps it is a way to make sense out of the seemingly unending array of typeface designs. Maybe we assume that “personality style” is part of every typeface designer’s standard design brief for developing new typefaces. Maybe we do this because font marketers have learned that “humanizing” a design makes it more appealing and accessible to font purchasers.

The problem is that 99% of all typefaces do not have personalities – or any other human qualities. Sure, the typeface Party, as a result of its name and distinctive design traits, is used to set lots of invitations and festive announcements. But this pigeonholes the design and can prevent if from being used in other applications. Party is as appropriate for an ad for women’s shoes as it is for a brochure for educational toys.


In the 1970s, the typeface Souvenir was generally regarded as a “happy,” “friendly” design and gained the reputation of being the “smiley face” of type among sophisticated graphic designers. As a result, it became one of the first typefaces that designers loved to hate. Consider the fact that Souvenir first made its mark as the corporate branding typeface of a major airline. Think the design team behind the airline branding project picked the typeface because it was cute? Probably not.

Want the brochure, brand, or ad you are developing for a client to be memorable and to stand out from the crowd? Then don’t assume that typefaces have personalities. If the client is a tire store, you may gravitate to bold sans serif typefaces. They’re masculine right? Maybe, but they are also overused for automotive products. What if the client is your local church? A nice calligraphic typeface like Zapf Chancery might be good for their logo – and it would be about as distinctive as a glass of milk. A typeface like Perpetua Titling or Humana Sans would be just as appropriate – and would give the church a distinct visual identity.

Typefaces do not have personalities.

Allan Haley
Allan Haley is Director of Words & Letters at Monotype Imaging. Here he is responsible for strategic planning and creative implementation of just about everything related to typeface designs.

by Simon Rockman

What mobile phone do you have? If you are reading this in the UK you are likely to answer “Nokia”, “Samsung” or “Sony Ericsson”. If you are not in the mobile world and reading this in the US you might answer “Sprint”, “AT&T” or Verizon. The US is the only place in the world where the operator comes first to the consumers mind but it is symptomatic of the battle between handset manufacturers and networks, or carriers, for who owns the customer.

A good deal of this is the user experience and part of that is Brand. Of course this is the blog and we are interested in how fonts represent brand in the handset.

Ron Bird is the Lead UX Designer at Hutchison 3G where he is working on projects which help integrate the 3 brand and experience into the handset. He’s been around the mobile industry for a long time having worked at Nokia, Symbian, Fujitsu, Orange and Vodafone. At 3 he’s working on a service delivery mechanism that will help users enjoy the range of services 3 and their partners offer more easily.

You can have a look at some of his work, in particular some very effective shockwave animations at

The 3 network has built a very strong brand, and uses the fonts Verdana, Modena and Tahoma. While these haven’t made it into a phone or on to the keypads of devices the use of the fonts is a strong part of the 3 branding message.

by Allan Haley

Fonts and typefaces are very different things, even though people tend to use the terms interchangeably. Typefaces are designs like Bembo, Helvetica or Papyrus. Type designers create typefaces, using software programs to shape the individual letters. A few type designers still draw the letters by hand and then scan the drawings into a type design application.

Whether a collection of metal letters or a set of electronic files, fonts are the things that enable the printing of typefaces. Type foundries produce fonts. Sometimes designers and foundries are one and the same, but creating a typeface and producing a font are two separate functions.

From Design to Font

bodonipunches100The eighteenth century Italian designer Giambattista Bodoni created the typeface that now carries his name. Creating the design was a multistage process. First Bodoni cut a letter (backward) on the end of a steel rod. The completed letter was called a “punch.” Next he took the punch and hammered it into a flat piece of soft brass to make a mold of the letter. A combination of molten lead, zinc and antimony was poured into the mold, and the result was a piece of type whose face was an exact copy of the punch. After Bodoni made punches for all the letters he would use, he cast as many pieces of type as he thought he would need. The resulting suite of letters was a font of type.

Many Fonts-One Typeface

Over the years, there have been hand-set fonts, machine-set fonts, phototype fonts and now digital fonts of the Bodoni typeface. Currently there are TrueType, PostScript Type1 and OpenType fonts of Bodoni. There are Pro fonts of Bodoni, used to set most of the languages in Europe, and Greek and Cyrillic fonts of Bodoni, which enable the setting of these languages. All are fonts of the Bodoni typeface design.

Allan Haley
Allan Haley is Director of Words & Letters at Monotype Imaging. Here he is responsible for strategic planning and creative implementation of just about everything related to typeface designs.

by Allan Haley

From advertising campaigns and user interfaces that build brand to content that tickles the imagination, type is fundamental to the communication process. Typefaces establish hierarchy and evoke emotion; they make products more memorable, entice audiences, command attention and engage the reader.

Everything that type can do on a personal computer, on the Web, or in hard copy, it can also do on mobile devices — and it can do it today. Hierarchy can be brought to user interfaces; typefaces can bring drama and emotion to games and theme-based applications. Type can complement multimedia effects and take the mobile experience to a new level.

Finding the Right Fonts

The best fonts for use in a mobile device, regardless of the application, should have the following attributes:

  • Ample lowercase x-height
  • Open counters
  • Distinctive character shapes
  • Moderate contrast in character stroke thickness
  • Recognizable typeface design traits
  • Marked contrast between medium and bold weights within the type family

The x-height is an important factor in typographic legibility and readability — especially where screen real estate and available pixels are limited.

Open counters — the white space within letters such as ‘o,’ ‘e,’ ‘c,’ etc. — also help define a character and have a strong influence on ease of recognition. Typefaces with large, open counters are generally considered the easiest to read in hard copy, and this holds true on small digital screens as well.

Individual letter shapes can also affect typeface legibility. For example, the two-storied ‘a’ is much more legible than the single-storied design, and the lowercase ‘g’ based on roman letter shapes is more legible than the more simple, gothic ‘g.’

Typefaces with strong contrast in character stroke weights do not work well on current mobile devices. There are not enough pixels in this limited digital real estate to reproduce the contrast at small sizes.

Typefaces that can easily be distinguished from one another are also key for use on mobile devices. They help create communication hierarchy, establish brand identity and enhance a specific visual theme. Typeface families with a marked differentiation between their various weights and proportions also assist in creating hierarchy and logical graphical communication.

Fonts used specifically for operating systems and user interfaces should have exceptionally legible numbers and be available in a range of weights and proportions. They “stand out and fit in,” in that they should be distinctive and capable of establishing a brand identity while not being so idiosyncratic that they have a limited use.

Not all decorative or theme-based typeface designs will be effective on mobile devices. While there will be some trade-offs in small-size communication power for the sake of establishing a distinctive look and feel, the basic requirements of mobile device functionality still apply.

Legibility Requirements

Legibility Requirements

Legibility Requirements

Legibility Requirements

Legibility Requirements

Legibility Requirements

Legibility Requirements

Legibility Requirements

Versatility Attributes

Versatility Attributes

Versatility Attributes

Versatility Attributes

Distinctive Designs

Distinctive Designs

Allan Haley
Allan Haley is Director of Words & Letters at Monotype Imaging. Here he is responsible for strategic planning and creative implementation of just about everything related to typeface designs.

by admin

Monotype Imaging Introduces New Font License to Permit Use on Non-Commercial Web Sites

End User License Agreement Allows for Specific Use of Embedded OpenType Fonts at No Additional Charge

WOBURN, Mass., June 2, 2009 – Monotype Imaging Holdings Inc. (Nasdaq: TYPE), a leading global provider of text imaging solutions, has introduced a non-commercial end user license agreement, or EULA, that permits the use of fonts in the Embedded OpenType® format on the Web. Intended to extend font choice for Web page design, the EULA requires no additional fee for use on a non-commercial Web site when licensing products from the company’s Monotype®, Linotype®, ITC® and Image Club typeface collections from Monotype Imaging’s e-commerce sites:,, and

Historically, Web pages have been designed using fonts that exist on client or recipient computers, a scenario that has presented a limited typographic selection for Web page design. Through the use of Embedded OpenType, or EOT, fonts can be linked to Web pages and downloaded to the client’s machine, enabling Web designers to specify typefaces that are not present on the recipient’s computer. The use of EOT fonts opens opportunity for designers to work with a significantly broader range of typefaces.

Web designers should have the same options as print designers when choosing a font,” said John Seguin, executive vice president of Monotype Imaging. “Through our support of EOT, Web designers can now turn to our selection of high-quality typefaces to legally use on their sites, without incurring additional licensing fees.”

The Embedded OpenType format, which enables designers to specify EOT fonts for use on defined Web pages, was developed by Microsoft and made available as part of the Internet Explorer® browser. As with images and graphics, the fonts are downloaded to the client’s machine, allowing pages to be rendered using the designated fonts. Fonts in the EOT format can be linked to a domain – a step required by Monotype Imaging’s new EULA – which prevents fonts from being used on unlicensed Web sites. The EOT format acts as a wrapper around a font based on the TrueType® or OpenType format. The wrapper contains encrypted information that prevents the font from being used on a recipient’s computer beyond the ability to display the content of the Web pages. The EOT format also uses Monotype Imaging’s MicroType® Express compression technology.

MicroType Express minimizes EOT font file sizes, which helps reduce font download times and improves user experience by ensuring that textual content is displayed by a browser very quickly,” said Vladimir Levantovsky, senior technology strategist at Monotype Imaging. “EOT is particularly useful when delivering Web content in complex languages such as Indic languages, where a choice of resident fonts is very limited. As a member of the World Wide Web Consortium, our goal is to establish a universally supported Web font format, either through browser adoption of EOT, or other format with similar capabilities, in order to provide an abundant selection of type for everyone designing or viewing content on the Web.”


Monotype, Linotype, ITC and Image Club products can be licensed under the new EULA, available on Monotype Imaging e-commerce sites. In addition, customers may also contact Monotype Imaging in the U.S. toll-free at 800–424-8973, or in Europe at +44 (0)1737 765959, or 001781 970‑6020, option 2. Linotype in Germany can be reached at +49 (0) 6172 484–418. Customers from other parts of the world may dial 001 781 970‑6020 (U.S.). Like its predecessor, the new EULA covers personal and internal business use but has been expanded to allow use of EOT fonts specifically on non-commercial Web sites. Commercial use, including use of an EOT font on a commercial Web site, requires a separate license that can be obtained by contacting Monotype Imaging. Licensed fonts can be converted to the EOT format through the use of any publicly available utility.

Fonts that were licensed prior to the availability of the new EULA will need to be repurchased, if EOT rights are desired.

About Monotype Imaging

Monotype Imaging is a global provider of text imaging solutions for manufacturers and developers of consumer electronics devices including laser printers, copiers, mobile phones, digital televisions, set-top boxes, navigation devices, digital cameras and software applications and operating systems. The company also provides printer drivers and color imaging technologies to OEMs (original equipment manufacturers). Monotype Imaging technologies are combined with access to more than 10,000 typefaces from the Monotype, Linotype and ITC typeface libraries – home to some of the world’s most widely used designs, including the Times New Roman®, Helvetica® and ITC Franklin Gothic™ typefaces. Fonts are licensed to creative and business professionals through custom font design services, direct sales or e-commerce portals. Monotype Imaging offers fonts and industry-standard solutions that support all of the world’s major languages. The company is based in Woburn, Mass., with regional offices in the U.K., Germany (Linotype), Mt. Prospect, Ill., Redwood City, Calif., Boulder, Colo., Japan, China and Korea. Information about Monotype Imaging and its products can be found at

by Simon Rockman

When two industries collide interesting things happen. People who have been into design and typography appreciate the value of fonts but tend to know about them from print on paper and not about the implications of phone technology.

Those in the mobile phone world know lots about display technologies but little about the value of fonts. Traditionally they have been about making the phone display as legible as possible and little thought has been given to the design.

Technology however has now caught up with design. Mobile phones have a screen resolution that allows the font to do more than just represent the letters.

They can now tell an emotional message.

When you read something the font has done a lot of its job before you start reading. Just as you form an opinion on the taste of a meal by looking at it, chefs are taught “the first taste is with your eyes” you form an opinion on what you are about to read by how it is laid out and the font before you read it.

We spoke to Matthew Menz, head of user experience for Motorola in Europe about how he, and Motorola use fonts in and on their phones. He sees the important role that the font plays in building the brand: “A single custom font has been created across the portfolio of products to provide brand continuity. Several aspects affect the screen design from x-height variations, to available weights & impacts to text translations.”, but you need to remember that Motorola is an international company and so the font has to be reflected in places where non-Latin fonts are used “Consistent typographical treatment is crucial”, says Matt, and it’s not just on the screen that this matters “Screen and physical presentation differ to ensure optimal legibility in each context. The distinction provides the necessary flexibility as it is applied to multiple languages.”

Building a phone is a series of trade-offs and cost is an important issue all the way through. Fonts take up memory and memory costs money. When every cent matters a smaller font is better, but how does Motorola strike a balance between memory footprint, legibility and conveying brand? “Very carefully.” says Matt, they do it differently for phones at different prices, “The balance between these factors are always in review as the tradeoffs are unique across the portfolio.”. One of those cost issues is processor power, there are special challenges are posed by low end devices which don’t support Scalable Vector Graphics (which make a font look nice at different sizes or alpha blending which lets fonts overlay other graphics with different levels of transparency. To deal with this on cheaper phones Matt says that “Multiple font optimisations are necessary to accommodate the variations in device support. Memory management is key for resource constrained devices.”

As well as the internal pressures of legibility, brand, emotion and memory footprint, some carriers want to specify fonts. Matt is a little enigmatic on this “Support for multiple fonts and font customisation within a single device continues to be a topic of discussion across the industry.” It’s a new field and something that is just starting to play out. Even newer is the ability for users wanting to use different fonts. Matt agrees it’s an important direction. “Providing typographical diversity is important, both in core OS rendering & application specific areas like the browser. The ability to support this is directly related to device enablers. The more powerful devices will continue to be as the leaders in this area and these benefits will cascade to the more resource constrained products over time.”

It’s good to see that mobile phone designers are thinking about fonts. A mobile phone is an emotional device – in Sweden the nickname for a phone is the same as the word for teddy bear. Better use of fonts can only make you feel warmer to your phone. Even if it is a text message from your boss.

Great type makes sites stand out