Fonts These Days!

This Chart gave me some laughs…

click for larger image

But seriously, fonts these days!! For us old-timers, we’ve lived through pixelated, then Postscript fonts. Then came utilities to help us manage the technical and artistic confusion: Suitcase and Adobe Type Manager.   TrueType and OpenType came along trying to simplify how software and printers processed font data.

Today we have Google fonts and all their digital cousins, and an open-source bonanza of new fonts, free and for hire.

How do you manage your fonts?

Here’s an article that reviews a number of options from Spoon Graphics. I’m looking forward to exploring some of these in more detail.

I have been relying on Font Book for a while now, and longing for something that would let me use a limited set for every day but ‘go shopping’ for styles and font faces by category when I needed them. I plan to try the free version of Font Explorer to see if it might help, and I’ll report in.

But I really want to hear from you. Let me know what font managing solutions have worked for you, or if you try any of these recommendations, how they work out.


The Gift of Typography

jensong-giftWe lately herald our digital culture with much pride; well deserved, it is a  significant achievement. I recently saw The Imitation Game, a film which will give you a great appreciation for the dawn of our data-driven age. But there is another powerful and under-appreciated media, and it’s right under your nose every day.

That marvel of human ingenuity would be roman typography: a standardized letterform for written European language. A mere 550 years ago, all of your books and papers were hand-scribed in precise blackletter calligraphy by highly skilled scribes. The first printed books including Gutenburg’s bible were printed with blackletter fonts that mimicked the blackletter style.

Biblia latina, with handwritten Lombardic capitals in red & blue. Rome: Sweynheym & Pannartz, 1471. Image courtesy of Austrian National Library

The first known Bible printed in roman type is at left, from 1471. Not until early in the 16th century when the Reformation took hold were roman-print Bibles produced in any quantity.

‘Roman’ type is the first font family designed specifically for printing technology. It was derived from the inscriptions on Roman architecture, and, with the development of lowercase letterforms and refinements for readability, became the alphabet we consume today, and take for granted as written language.

So this holiday season, if you read the Holy Bible (or anything for that matter!) take a moment to appreciate the futurists of the 1400s who brought us the printed book. They laid the groundwork for your Kindle and this very blog.

The Two-Space Debate, and other technology hangovers

Articles have been circulating this week about the ‘controversial’ two-spaces after a period. Many of us picked up the habit somewhere, but typographers are adamant: no, no no! One space between sentences. Period.

Every modern typographer agrees on the one-space rule. It’s one of the canonical rules of the profession, in the same way that waiters know that the salad fork goes to the left of the dinner fork and fashion designers know to put men’s shirt buttons on the right and women’s on the left. Every major style guide—including the Modern Language Association Style Manual and the Chicago Manual of Style—prescribes a single space after a period….

from Slate Technology blog

However, when a remarkable labor-saving device —the manual typewriter— ‘invaded the American workplace’ at the beginning of the 20th century. Typewriters used the same amount of horizontal space for each character, regardless of its width. Monospace typography leaves random patches of open space within lines of type, and adding a second space to the end of the sentence improved readability.

I remember raising up my mother’s home office chair so I could peck at her fascinating spidery old Underwood. It had a faint scent of oil, and a strangely stylish red and black ribbon, and made the most amazing clatter when she used it. The demonic thing vexed me with crossed keys when I tried to use it. Now it’s hard to imagine what a technological marvel it once was.

The ways in which we communicate have evolved to allow us clever primates to converse over vast distance and time. We’re already laughing at the first desktop PCs and their skimpy processors. Keyboards have become virtual now as we poke at our touchscreens. A mother I chatted with yesterday in a grocery line noted her child could type faster than her with only three fingers. He’s been texting since he was two.

And so, we can expect our devices will continue to evolve, all the while our passion for sharing information burns brightly , and the inventiveness with which we pursue this will continue to flower.