Saturday, March 14, 2009

Web Typography

Quit Bitchin' and Get your Glyph on! 

A Panel discussion on the role of typography in web design.

The panel is borne of an article posted April 08 AIGA site that said "Semantic type is ugly type".

Let the panel begin [my comments in brackets]

A critical set of questions? 

Why do so many designers bitch about web typography?

Stocks: Limited pallete of faces [online] is one...but limitations can drive creativity.

Tan: One reason is designers we want what we've done to be seen as we designed it...we want highest 'quality' [confusing quality with designer's desire?]. Designing for complexity is the other side of online type decisions. Having to design for the common denominator [embedded in multiple devices, screens and contexts online].

How do we get inspired then?

Coyle: Approach the web with the great fonts that do exist. Georgia and Arial allow us to execute great design with typography, great grids.

Stocks: I don't get inspired online...great stuff is in the print world [well. that may be more a sign of limited exposure...smashing is but one example that can inspire if you look]

Tan: Great content inspires me most [hear! hear!].  Finding type that accomodates the narrative that emerges from the content.

What are the best ways for implementing typography within current limitations?

Rutter: Embracing the web as the medium itself, not as print.  Times can be used beautifully when paying attention to hte making the information work properly. That's how we can view type. There are other faces beyond the core web faces. Clear type faces that come with Vista and Office on both PC and Mac (e.g., Camry)...and you have these faces with near universal penetration [the benefit of a de facto standard]. It's really about information design.

Warren: Often people get confused with mediums...if I can do it in print or tv, why not web?

Tan: Corporate brand consultants often request that brand typefaces on the web...but often the faces are not hinted for the's a different medium. Finding something comparable is a better approach. Faces that are used everyday by millions of people, these core fonts are places to look for comparable fonts.

Coyle: One of my favorite sites is questionable characters.  Don't use typography to make a good design. Use typography in a good design.

How will we implement web typograph in the future?

Rutter: Font-linking: @font-face {   CSS code that calls to download and render a font face from a server hs been around since 1998. Different browsers have implemented this in different ways, but not everyone has even been made aware of it. The other issue is that not alot of fonts cannot legally be handled this way [Because people could steal the font from the server, which becomes a licensing issue].

Tan: If your client is willing to pay to license the fonts for web use, I do it. But the need here is to standardized the font between eot, otf and open type.  There is a real disntinction between type designers and font developers. The issue is that web designers need to build trust that they aren't going to rip off the type designers. EOT (Microsofts version) is the protection standard, but it is like putting a flag on the type syaing 'come steal me'.

Coyle: I wouldn;t use EOT because I don;t see the benefit. Implementation in Safari and Firefox is poor. Have to wait for it to download before rendering. Javascript issue does not call back to let page know when the type is rendered.

Is font-linking death knell or renaissance for typographers?

Coyle: Personally, I think it's a viable approach. 

Stocks: Fan of forcing the browsers to adopt by using it...or they self destruct. While I don;t see it as the savior, it should have been there from the beginning. The fact that it allows us to set type the way we want makes it viable, even though there are those who will use it for bad.

Tan: has a great list of faces that have license agreements that allow you to embed them via font-linking. 

Rutter: It enables a wider audience for your work, so it can't be a death knell. Some technical issues may remain, but a wider audience should be seen as opportunity, not a threat.

[For the record, this blog post--like most on rkdna--is done entirely in a non-typographer].

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