Tags: fonts

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Sunday, June 25th, 2017

The Equilateral Triangle of a Perfect Paragraph | Better Web Type

This is a fun game (I scored a measly 73/100). The idea is to develop a feeling for the balance between font-size, line-height, and line length …just like the three sides of an equilateral triangle.

Too many of them still set line-height, font size and line width as independent features when in fact they should all be considered together. The equilateral triangle is a perfect representation of how the three features work in harmony.

Thursday, April 27th, 2017

Font Map · An AI Experiment by IDEO

Fontlandia is yours to explore.

By leveraging AI and convolutional neural networks to draw higher-vision pattern recognition, we have created a tool that helps designers understand and see relationships across more than 750 web fonts.

Tuesday, April 11th, 2017

Color fonts! WTF? 🌈

I only just wrapped my head around the idea of variable fonts and now here’s colour fonts to really mess with my mind.

Friday, March 3rd, 2017

Small steps

The new Clearleft website is live! Huzzah!

Many people have been working very hard on it and it’s all looking rather nice. But, as I said before, the site launch isn’t the end—it’s just the beginning.

There are some obvious next steps: fixing bugs, adding content, tweaking copy, and, oh yeah, that whole “testing with real users” thing. But there’s also an opportunity to have some fun on the front end. Now that the site is out there in the wild, there’s a real incentive to improve its performance.

Off the top of my head, these are some areas where I think we can play around:

  • Font loading. Right now the site is just using @font-face. A smart font-loading strategy—at least for the body copy—could really help improve the perceived performance.
  • Responsive images. A long-term solution will require some wrangling on the back end, but I reckon we can come up with some way of generating different sized images to reference in srcset.
  • Service worker. It’s a no-brainer. Now that the Clearleft site is (finally!) running on HTTPS, having a simple service worker to cache static assets like CSS, JavaScript and some images seems like the obvious next step. The question is: what other offline shenanigans could we get up to?

I’m looking forward to tinkering with some of those technologies. Each one should make an incremental improvement to the site’s performance. There are already some steps on the back-end that are making a big difference: upgrading to PHP7 and using HTTP2.

Now the real fun begins.

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

Get started with variable fonts – Medium

Rich has posted a sneak peek of one part of his book on Ev’s blog.

Variable fonts

We have a tradition here at Clearleft of having the occasional lunchtime braindump. They’re somewhat sporadic, but it’s always a good day when there’s a “brown bag” gathering.

When Google’s AMP format came out and I had done some investigating, I led a brown bag playback on that. Recently Mark did one on Fractal so that everyone knew how work on that was progressing.

Today Richard gave us a quick brown bag talk on variable web fonts. He talked us through how these will work on the web and in operating systems. We got a good explanation of how these fonts would get designed—the type designer designs the “extreme” edges of size, weight, or whatever, and then the file format itself can extrapolate all the in-between stages. So, in theory, one single font file can hold hundreds, thousands, or hundreds of thousands of potential variations. It feels like switching from bitmap images to SVG—there’s suddenly much greater flexibility.

A variable font is a single font file that behaves like multiple fonts.

There were a couple of interesting tidbits that Rich pointed out…

While this is a new file format, there isn’t going to be a new file extension. These will be .ttf files, and so by extension, they can be .woff and .woff2 files too.

This isn’t some proposed theoretical standard: an unprecedented amount of co-operation has gone into the creation of this format. Adobe, Apple, Google, and Microsoft have all contributed. Agreement is the hardest part of any standards process. Once that’s taken care of, the technical solution follows quickly. So you can expect this to land very quickly and widely.

This technology is landing in web browsers before it lands in operating systems. It’s already available in the Safari Technology Preview. That means that for a while, the very best on-screen typography will be delivered not in eBook readers, but in web browsers. So if you want to deliver the absolute best reading experience, look to the web.

And here’s the part that I found fascinating…

We can currently use numbers for the font-weight property in CSS. Those number values increment in hundreds: 100, 200, 300, etc. Now with variable fonts, we can start using integers: 321, 417, 183, etc. How fortuitous that we have 99 free slots between our current set of values!

Well, that’s no accident. The reason why the numbers were originally specced in increments of 100 back in 1996 was precisely so that some future sci-fi technology could make use of the ranges in between. That’s some future-friendly thinking! And as Håkon wrote:

One of the reasons we chose to use three-digit numbers was to support intermediate values in the future. And the future is now :)

Needless to say, variable fonts will be covered in Richard’s forthcoming book.

Monday, January 9th, 2017

The Futures of Typography

A wonderfully thoughtful piece from Robin, ranging from the printing technologies of the 15th century right up to the latest web technologies. It’s got all my favourite things in there: typography, digital preservation, and service workers. Marvellous!

Wednesday, December 28th, 2016

Google Noto Fonts

Google’s Noto (short for no-tofu; tofu being the rectangle of unicode sadness) is certainly ambitious. It has glyphs from pretty much every known alphabet …including Ogham and Linear B!

Wednesday, December 14th, 2016

The typography of a web book

I’m a sucker for classic old-style serif typefaces: Caslon, Baskerville, Bembo, Garamond …I love ‘em. That’s probably why I’ve always found the typesetting in Edward Tufte’s books so appealing—he always uses a combination of Bembo for body copy and Gill Sans for headings.

Earlier this year I stumbled on a screen version of Bembo used for Tufte’s digital releases called ET Book. Best of all, it’s open source:

ET Book is a Bembo-like font for the computer designed by Dmitry Krasny, Bonnie Scranton, and Edward Tufte. It is free and open-source.

When I was styling Resilient Web Design, I knew that the choice of typeface would be one of the most important decisions I would make. Remembering that open source ET Book font, I plugged it in to see how it looked. I liked what I saw. I found it particularly appealing when it’s full black on full white at a nice big size (with lower contrast or sizes, it starts to get a bit fuzzy).

I love, love, love the old-style numerals of ET Book. But I was disappointed to see that ligatures didn’t seem to be coming through (even when I had enabled them in CSS). I mentioned this to Rich and of course he couldn’t resist doing a bit of typographic sleuthing. It turns out that the ligature glyphs are there in the source files but the files needed a little tweaking to enable them. Because the files are open source, Rich was able to tweak away to his heart’s content. I then took the tweaked open type files and ran them through Font Squirrel to generate WOFF and WOFF2 files. I’ve put them on Github.

For this book, I decided that the measure would be the priority. I settled on a measure of around 55 to 60 characters—about 10 or 11 words per line. I used a max-width of 27em combined with Mike’s brilliant fluid type technique to maintain a consistent measure.

It looks great on small-screen devices and tablets. On large screens, the font size starts to get really, really big. Personally, I like that. Lots of other people like it too. But some people really don’t like it. I should probably add a font-resizing widget for those who find the font size too shocking on luxuriously large screens. In the meantime, their only recourse is to fork the CSS to make their own version of the book with more familiar font sizes.

The visceral reaction a few people have expressed to the font size reminds me of the flak Jeffrey received when he redesigned his personal site a few years back:

Many people who’ve visited this site since the redesign have commented on the big type. It’s hard to miss. After all, words are practically the only feature I haven’t removed. Some of the people say they love it. Others are undecided. Many are still processing. A few say they hate it and suggest I’ve lost my mind.

I wonder how the people who complained then are feeling now, a few years on, in a world with Medium in it? Jeffrey’s redesign doesn’t look so extreme any more.

Resilient Web Design will be on the web for a very, very, very long time. I’m curious to see if its type size will still look shockingly large in years to come.

Saturday, December 10th, 2016

Accessibility Whack-A-Mole · An A List Apart Article

A fascinating piece by Eleanor on the typographic tweaking that the Wellcome team did to balance the competing needs of different users.

Monday, November 21st, 2016

Tentacular: Douglas Coupland on Helvetica, clip art and the gangly beast that is the internet

Douglas Coupland on web typography.

When I discuss the internet’s feel and its random rodeo of fonts, I think of the freedom, naivety, laziness, greed, cluelessness and skill I see there — it’s a cyberplace as wondrous as the bubbling cradle of pea-soup goo from which life emerged. The internet has a rawness, a Darwinian evolutionary texture. It’s a place where metrics totally unrelated to print typography dictate the look and feel.

Tuesday, November 1st, 2016

Web fonts, boy, I don’t know – Monica Dinculescu

Monica takes a look at the options out there for loading web fonts and settles on a smart asynchronous lazy-loading approach.

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016

The scorpion express | Butterick’s Practical Typography

This is easily the most wrong-headed piece of writing I’ve read in a long time.

“But cus­tomers ben­e­fit from smaller file sizes too, be­cause that makes web pages faster.” Cer­tainly, that was true in 1996. And some web de­vel­op­ers per­sist with po­lit­i­cal ob­jec­tions. But with to­day’s faster con­nec­tions—even on mo­bile—op­ti­miz­ing for file size is less use­ful than ever.

I’ll leave it to you to see the logical flaws in every one of the arguments presented here by Matthew Buterick. Meanwhile I’m going to get off his lawn.

Monday, September 19th, 2016

The Typekit Blog | Variable fonts, a new kind of font for flexible design

This is what Nick Sherman has been banging on about for years, and now the time has come for variable fonts …as long as typographers, browser makers, and standards bodies get behind it.

More details on Ev’s blog.

Monday, September 12th, 2016

Webfonts on the Prairie · An A List Apart Article

A good ol’ polemic in favour of using web fonts. It’s a good read although I strongly disagree with this line of reasoning:

The average internet speed in the United States today is three times as fast as it was in 2011.

But that americentric view is redeemed later on:

The World Wide Web may be a creation of the West, but now, at long last, it needs to get ready for the rest.

I may not agree with all the points in this article, but I think we can all agree that if we’re going to use web fonts, we must use them responsibly …otherwise users are going to treat them as damage and route around them.

Tuesday, September 6th, 2016

`font-display` for the Masses | CSS-Tricks

The font-display property is landing in browsers, and this is a great introduction to using it:

If you don’t know which option to use, then go with swap. Not only does it provide an optimal balance between custom fonts and accessibility of content, it provides the same font loading behavior that we’ve relied on JavaScript for. If you have fonts on the page that you’d like to have load, but could ultimately do without, consider going with fallback or optional when using font-display.

Until it’s more widely supported, you can continue to use a JavaScript solution, but even then you can feature detect first:

if ("fontDisplay" in document.body.style === false) {
  /* JavaScript font loading logic goes here. */
}

Wednesday, July 27th, 2016

FontShop | The Fonts of Star Trek

Yves Peters examines the typography of Star Trek. Unlike Typeset In The Future, which looks at on-screen typography, this article dives into titles and promotional posters.

Tuesday, July 19th, 2016

A Comprehensive Guide to Font Loading Strategies—zachleat.com

A terrific rundown of all your options when it comes to web font loading.

Thursday, July 14th, 2016

Legibility App

A handy tool for testing the legibility of different typefaces under all sorts of conditions.

Tuesday, July 12th, 2016

ET Book · Edward Tufte on GitHub

I’ve always loved the way that Edward Tufte consistently uses Bembo to typeset his books. Here’s a version made for screen and freely licensed.