fonts.com blog
Archive for April, 2010

by Allan Haley

There has been a lot of buzz lately about fonts being delivered to your PC desktop that can dramatically improve how text is handled on the Web. Before Web fonts, designers faced a frustrating trade-off: either designing with only a handful of system fonts that reside on most computers, or creating images of copy set with fonts that are not considered “Web safe.” Now this is changing, and many typefaces are being made available for Web use. This is made possible through a bit of HTML code known as “@font-face,” a W3C compliant method for referencing fonts from servers for use in browsers. This code and a properly licensed font are pretty much all that is needed to put great new fonts in Web pages. With all major desktop browsers now offering @font-face support, the Web is sure to be a typographically more beautiful place.

But what about mobile devices? With more and more of us accessing Web sites from our mobile phones, will we also be able to enjoy the advantages of a full typographic palette for branding, searchability and improved readability on these devices?

I wanted to find out, so (in a completely informal and totally unscientific study) I did. Because of the FlipFont™ app (a little piece of software we developed to enable the standard fonts on some phones to be “flipped” to a suite of alternative designs) we have built an internal competency in testing font software on mobile phones. I asked our QA team to take a look at 14 publicly available Android™ phones from several different manufacturers and put them to the web font test. Ten of the phones passed, delivering the fonts and rendered them to the screen. Pretty cool!

The not-so-cool part is that not all the fonts looked like they do on my desktop. When we began to develop the offering of fonts for FlipFont, we discovered that font data needed a little help in performing optimally and that, in some case, even individual characters had to be modified to display well on small digital screens. We know that some fonts display much better than others in Web pages delivered to desktops. It seems that this is also true for fonts in Web pages delivered to mobile devices.

As much as things have changed in the world of fonts – some things remain constant. Not just any font will get the job done. It takes choosing the right typeface for the project and the best font for the task.

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

A couple of weeks ago, The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay announced that they were switching from the Arial® typeface they normally use to set email to the Century Gothic™ design. The move was part of the school’s five-year plan to go green – and save money. The school claimed that switching typefaces would save 30% in ink and toner consumption.

Maybe.

While it is true that the strokes of the basic weight of Century Gothic are about 30% lighter than those in Arial, Century Gothic has wider proportions than Arial and takes about 30% more space to set the same content. The end result is that there is probably no savings in ink and toner – and more paper is potentially used.

(click for full size image)

Many entities are jumping on the green bandwagon these days – which is a good thing – and the right typefaces can clearly help save toner and paper. But selecting just any typeface to accomplish these goals may be (typographically) akin to throwing out the baby with the bath water. In addition to varying in weight and proportion, not all typefaces are created equal when it comes to performing well small text sizes. Since the purpose of email, and other text documents, is to provide information, it doesn’t make sense to use a typeface that is not up to the job of providing that information clearly and efficiently.

Arial is a typeface that would be considered by most type experts to be high on the legibility and readability scale. Century Gothic: not so much. Arial has characters like the two-storied lowercase ‘a’ and pot-hooked ‘t’ that help make the design very legible. In addition, there is a slight modulation to the weight of the strokes that make up the characters – which improves the reading process. Century Gothic does not have these characteristics. In addition, Century Gothic is based on earlier designs like the Futura® and ITC Avant Garde® Gothic typefaces that were not developed for setting lengthy text copy. Both are designs that are best suited to setting headlines, subheads and very short blocks of copy.

(click for full size image)

So, in a number of ways, setting copy in Arial is an excellent way to be environmentally – and typographically – responsible.

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

Punctuation is vital to written communication. It creates the pauses, inflections, hand gestures and body language of the written word. If punctuation is not used well, typographic communication can be confusing, misleading, and difficult to read. There are some times, however, that punctuation can also be disruptive to the communication process – even if it is used properly.

Dashes and hyphens are often confused but are not interchangeable.

Hyphens are used to divide words that break at the end of a line and to connect parts of compound words such as go-between, ill-fated and run-of-the-mill.

En Dashes are used to indicate a range of almost anything with numbers, including dates, times and pages in a document. Please refer to the Chicago Manual of Style, pps 187–188.

Em Dashes are used for emphasis. Since they break up the flow of the sentence—only use the em dash to stress a point. An em dash can also indicate missing words or a sudden break in thought—confusing, isn’t it?

The problem with Em dashes is that they make such a strong statement. They can, in fact, be troublesome in text copy – stopping the reading flow altogether. A friend who lives on the other side of the United States recently told me about a particularly loud and obnoxious person in her design community. He always disrupts conversations and discussions with vociferous blurts and interruptions. He thinks that his interjections are more important than the surrounding dialogue. She calls him “Em Dash.”

Apparently not much can be done to change the behavior of this person. I’ve found, however, that emphasis can be indicated in sentences by using a punctuation mark that isn’t so noisy and disruptive. Sometimes – if space is added on either side – an en dash can be used in place of an em dash. Some style manuals support this idea—others don’t. If you want to try this copy-calmer, be sure that you are in sync with the style required by your client.

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.