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The Brand Perfect™ Tour kicked off in London this week with a capacity crowd of brands, agencies and developers. I started the day with a brief introduction setting the goals for this new forum to establish best practice for taking brands across digital platforms. This is the start of a new cross-industry Think Tank on multi-channel branded digital experiences.
Doug Wilson set some perspective, showing how the advent of mechanical typesetting and the Linotype® typecasting machine “the Twitter of its day” revolutionized communications in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. He gave the audience a sneak peek of his ‘Linotype the Film,’ which includes interviews of Matthew Carter and Allan Haley. Doug drew comparisons with the current revolution in digital media and the fact that type has always been tied to technology.
Sonoo Singh, editor of pitch then took the platform as chair for the day introducing speakers Liz Ward, brand advertising manager at O2, Neil Christie, managing director at Wieden and Kennedy; Scott Ewings and Kon Papagiannopoulos at Fjord; Simon Manchipp, SomeOne; Nadine Chahine, Monotype Imaging; Phillip Clement, bemoko; and Maria Willer, executive creative director at Wolff Olins.
The lively and varied presentations including examples of cross-media campaigns, ‘Thinking of You’ by O2 which focused on personalizing the approach and the hilarious and highly entertaining ‘Cats with Posable Thumbs’ for Cravendale and ‘Old Spice’ by Wieden and Kennedy. Neil Christie of W&K felt brand consistency was redundant. What users want is something unexpected, something to delight them. Marina Willer talked about the need to be able to flex the brand according to the goals, platform and message – not to constrain the brand, but let it evolve.
Fjord brought many of the concepts aired during the day together in their talk with an overarching focus on user behavior when designing for digital media. Appropriate user experience is more important in digital than rigorous control over consistent appearance.
The role of typography in communications and brand expression was presented by our own Nadine Chahine with considerable humor and highly appreciated by the Twitterati.
The key takeaways of the day were: a need to design for user behavior, hot debate about the role of the logo in branding and whether brand consistency is of value. Simon Manchipp of SomeOne declared the logo dead but then showed a lot of examples of icons designed for use in branding that looked suspiciously like logos to me… this debate was continued by the panel chaired by Patrick Burgoyne, editor of Creative Review.
The three master classes following lunch were well attended covering basic typography by Jonathan Barnbrook, using and choosing Web fonts by Daniel Rhatigan, and Ken Soohoo gave insight into the world of UI design for devices such as fridges, dishwashers and ovens!
Lots of convivial conversation in the bar brought the day to a close and bookings were taken for the next LON event on October 4 of this year.
Sincere thanks to the entire team for all your hard work and amazing efforts!
Context is everything! Well, maybe not everything, but it can sure change the meaning of things.
Fonts are no exception. Font selection can often change the meaning of written words, and even a different glyph within a word can affect a reader’s response. A pay-up-or-else demand letter would lose its impact if written in a casual design like the Mistral® font, and who would think of sending wedding invitations using the Times New Roman® face? In connected cursive handwriting fonts, the context of the surrounding characters is crucial. But how we’re supposed to write is significantly different from how we actually write. Below are Schoolhouse Zaner-Bloser-style SmartFont samples from vLetter, Inc., based on the OpenType® Pro format. These fonts are used to help teach handwriting in schools.
Connected cursive handwriting can evoke a personal intimacy not possible with printed glyphs. The single flowing line forming cursive letters seems to open a window to the writer’s stream of consciousness. The cursive letters appear to morph from one form to another to assure a contiguous flow. Each character needs to be formed differently depending upon the preceding character – hence the context. But many problems need to be solved to create a realistic-looking personal handwriting font.
For example, just obtaining a handwriting sample seems to be an easy task. But if the finished font is to be contextual, many variations of each character will be needed. Plus the sample words must be quick and easy to draw; otherwise, pauses and hesitations will make the handwriting appear jerky. And to create the outlines needed in a PostScript® or TrueType® font, the form needs to be scanned to create a bitmap first. So the quality of the handwritten lines is important – ballpoint pens or pencils can create nothing but headaches! Fortunately, handwriting glyphs don’t have to be as perfectly formed as glyphs in an “engineered” font. In fact, if handwritten glyphs were too perfect, it wouldn’t look like handwriting! But the connections need to be perfect.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg in making a connected cursive handwriting font. More difficult mathematical and coding challenges still loom, such as making sure the connections from character to character line up without adversely affecting the “personality” of the handwriting. Or, that the slope of the outlines matches to make the transition between glyphs appear seamless. Or, that the width of the outline at the joints is always the same, regardless of the pen pressure used in the original sample.
Jumping all those hurdles and more will be the subject of a future posting. But even before thinking of those “minor” difficulties, a process is needed to solve the fundamental problem of how to provide the simulation of a free-flowing contextual stream of characters that are to be represented on a computer or in print.
Fortunately, system-level OpenType contextual alternative technology is now accessible through applications for both Mac® and Windows® systems, and it can now provide automated glyph substitution based on contextual rules.
Prior to Apple Advanced Typography and OpenType, one could manually select a glyph from a “palette” of alternate glyphs, or switch to an alternative character font. Or do what vLetter did in the early 1990s by coding the contextual alternative logic into a PostScript 3 font — which Type 1 fonts don’t allow. Or later, by providing a conversion utility or an application toolbar button to batch-convert selected text into an appropriate set of TrueType glyphs.
Now, OpenType contextual alternatives provide a more complete way to provide the contextual rules required to enable the automatic glyph substitution needed to form a connected cursive word. Among the many possible ways to simulate connected cursive handwriting using a font, vLetter categorizes character glyphs into groups depending on their trailing ligature connection. Then all that’s needed is a glyph variation of each of the characters with a leading ligature that matches each trailing ligature type.
For U.S. English, 26 glyphs are needed for each trailing ligature type – one for each lowercase letter of the alphabet. The more types of ligatures used, the more realistic and accurate the font is to the original handwriting. This particular technique has been in use by vLetter for decades and is covered in vLetter proprietary technology and patents.
For example, if the letter “r” follows the letter “o”, then the form of the “r” glyph will be chosen so that its leading ligature matches the trailing ligature of the “o”, as shown below using my handwriting font. There are “r” glyphs in the font that match all the potential trailing ligature types, just as there are for all the other characters.
The types of contextual replacements are determined by how many glyphs need to be replaced and how many replacement glyphs are needed. Usually, when looking at a potential glyph that might need replacement, the type of connection to the preceding character will determine the particular replacement glyph. But sometimes multiple glyphs are needed, or a new glyph needs to be inserted between two glyphs, or a replacement is made depending on the next character, such as what happens when an apostrophe is needed between joined letters in a contraction.
Of course, the lowercase connections (or disconnections, depending on whether or not a particular character is connected) are only the beginning. Numerals, capitals, punctuation and even whitespace characters need contextual definitions, too. Additionally, some common letter combinations have a unique character (pun intended) and could have interesting ligature substitutions. Examples include the common words “and,” and “the,” plus some common double letter combinations like “oo,” “tt,” “ll,” and “ss.”
Since everyone’s handwriting is different, all the rules that make up the contextual substitutions are different for each handwriting font. When I write a lowercase “s” at the beginning of a word, I use a block printed disconnected character. But my other lowercase “s”s connect at the baseline. Here’s an example of my handwriting of the word, “subsystems.”
Creating fonts from sources such as personal letters and correspondence is especially difficult, due to the lack of connection variations. Often, there are not enough samples in just a single manuscript. If multiple documents are used, then often the condition of other papers could be more degenerated, or perhaps a different pen could have been used. But that’s a subject for a future posting.
Imagine you’ve been tasked with delivering a design brief across multiple digital platforms. You’ve constructed a pristine template with evenly set grids and equally balanced guidelines. It looks perfect, but it only applies to print. How would it look on a mobile phone screen? You certainly can’t replicate it there. And what about the explosion in tablets? You quickly find it’s not as simple as you first thought. But you’re not alone – it turns out the ‘digital niggles’ associated with fonts are the most challenging aspect of digital design briefs today.
Monotype Imaging commissioned research with Opinion Research Bureau, which polled 600 designers, developers and creative directors located in the United States, United Kingdom and Germany to gauge their experiences of designing for combined print and digital briefs. Alarmingly, only one in five confirmed they have never experienced last minute bugs with typography and a staggering 70 percent said such complications impacted on the workflow of projects. The end results are higher costs, lower profitability and delays in getting the project out to consumers –issues no one wants to face.
So what’s the cure? Just use a different font? Compromise the brand’s integrity? Alienate existing audiences? Not a strategy many brands are keen to pursue and we’ve done the research to prove this approach doesn’t work. In 2009, a study carried out by Opinion Matters on behalf of Monotype Imaging found that from 2,000 UK consumers, nearly 92 percent would not give details to a site that had all the regular text in place but had a logo that contained a different font than what they were used to. This is a huge warning to brands – think carefully about typography or kiss goodbye to the consumers whose trust you’ve worked so hard to win.
So what’s the solution? It’s actually pretty straightforward: typography needs to be addressed from the very start of a project. Our research shows that although four out of five respondents received briefs that required them to implement typography for different media channels, almost one third still struggle to acquire the right brand assets and interpret the guidelines for digital media. This demonstrates two key things. Brands are embracing the opportunities offered by digital platforms which is great, but they’re struggling to present themselves reliably and consistently which is where all their hard work goes to waste.
To help combat this and create a forum to share knowledge about the wider challenges in design for digital media, Monotype Imaging has created the Brand Perfect Tour. This global roadshow combines a think tank with design master classes from leading experts to offer practical guidance on how to address design and typography on different media. The Brand Perfect Tour will be a driving force in spreading awareness in branding and marketing circles of best practices to ensure success when implementing brands across media.
We’ve just kicked it up a notch here at Monotype Imaging. Dan Rhatigan, a talented and seasoned type designer, has joined our type development team.
Dan has worked for the past two years as part of our Knowledge Transfer Partnership with the University of Reading in the UK, researching Indic type development with the Monotype Imaging type team. In his new role, Dan will undertake custom design in addition to library development projects.
Dan’s expertise extends to non-Latin (Indic, Georgian, Greek) type design. He also has a keen eye for typographic subtleties, including nuances that shape exceptionally clear reading experiences.
Previously, Dan worked as a designer and typographer in Boston and New York for 15 years before going to the UK for the MA Typeface Design course at the University of Reading. He also lectures on typography and branding. Dan recently spoke at the Future of Web Design conference in London and is part of the Brand Perfect Tour, leading a workshop titled, “Web Fonts: Type Choice & Type Use.”
Monotype Imaging is proud to join Font Bureau at a seminar devoted to Web fonts and Web typography hosted by AIGA Boston. The evening event is titled,“Designing with Web Fonts: The Evolution of Typography in the Digital Realm.”
Learn more about creative typography on the Web from a panel of experts including Web designers, developers, type designers and font technologists. The panel includes Monotype Imaging’s Vladimir Levantovsky, David Berlow (Font Bureau), Scott Dasse (Boston University Interactive) and Mike Swartz (Upstatement).
The event is open to the public and starts at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 24, 2011 at the Microsoft New England Research & Development Center in Cambridge, Mass.
For more information visit the AIGA Boston website.
Do you find yourself retweeting your own tweets from other Twitter accounts, uploading shots of your latest Foursquare finds to your Flickr account or friending your LinkedIn contacts? If your collection of social network accounts is a network in and of itself, you may consider Seesmic – a handy service for managing your presence on the social Web.
With a service aimed at helping companies manage their brand and its many touchpoints, it should be no surprise that Seesmic manages its own brand with precision. The company’s dominant logotype is built with the Trade Gothic® Bold typeface. Seesmic.com stays on-brand with a clean, open layout that relies on an assortment of weights of Trade Gothic for headlines and body copy, courtesy of Fonts.com Web Fonts.
After a year of R&D this week the Brand Perfect Tour launches in London. Featuring an amazing lineup of speakers and educators, the Brand Perfect Tour is designed to provide a forum for brands, creatives and developers to network, share knowledge, showcase best practice and debate what’s hot and what’s not about digital design and typography. The Tour will move on to Hamburg on June 14 and then to New York on June 22.
Rather than a formal conference format, the Tour is a think tank designed to stimulate discussion and debate about how to improve branded experiences in digital media. The agenda combines keynote presentations from leading brand managers and designers with a discussion session and design master classes on typography and user interface design.
The Tour was conceived by Monotype Imaging and realized with Tour partners Linotype, Creative Review, pitch, Design Made in Germany, Young & Rubicam Group, Fjord, bemoko and University of Reading.
To see the agenda and reserve your place for Hamburg or New York, please visit www.brandperfect-tour.com.
Last year we brought you the Web Font Awards — the design competition for sites using Web fonts. The competition received just under 200 submissions and culminated in a live ceremony at Future of Web Design New York where a panel of judges selected three winners. The competition provided our first glimpses of Web fonts in use and a preview of what the Web will look like tomorrow. Not even a year later, Web fonts have gone from an emerging technology to a critical design tool relied upon by major brands. We also see Web font adoption as a driving force behind a heightened typographic sensitivity on the part of today’s Web designers. Take a look at this video for a quick look back at the 2010 Web Font Awards and a peak of what’s to come from this empowering technology and the 2011 competition.
Imagine you’re a young typeface designer, and one day you find yourself working with a living type legend, someone so accomplished that his typefaces read like a list of famous movie stars.
That’s exactly what happened to my co-worker, Nadine Chahine. She has worked alongside such greats as Professor Hermann Zapf and Adrian Frutiger, who between them have made the world a better place with timeless faces including the Palatino®, Optima®, ITC Zapf Chancery®, Frutiger®, Univers® and Avenir® designs.
This year, Nadine won a prestigious design excellence award from the Type Directors Club of New York City. Her award-winning family was Palatino Sans Arabic – a project she spearheaded with a nod from Professor Zapf, who created Palatino more than a half century ago. This was their second collaboration; the duo created Palatino Arabic, a design that three years ago also won a design excellence award from the TDC.
Although she’s elated to join forces with such star power (as her own is on the rise), Nadine is even more exuberant that Arabic type is gaining attention. She explains: “There is this burst of creativity that has taken the world by storm. Designing Arabic type is very IN these days, but that is not the reason for the jubilation. The really amazing part is that we’re exploring new horizons for typographic expression for a region that is fast changing and really pushing forward toward modernity.
“It’s great to be able to step out of the clichéd views of the Middle East (camels, tents, and in more recent years, a lot of gold) and be able to typographically present different facets of the complex and fascinating societies that inhabit this region. Change has come to the Arab world, and this translates so nicely into typography.”