I am joining Dave Crossland and other type designers (depending on registration levels) to teach a 3-day intro type design workshop here in Portland at the Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA). I am really looking forward to this, even if I don’t know that I can live up to the hype from the initial teaser post about it. But I love type, and I have spent a lot of time thinking about how to teach the basics of type design. I am looking forward to helping do that in a workshop environment, and doing so with other instructors so we can divide up the material, and even dynamically discuss things in front of the class. Dave comes from a very different perspective than I do in some respects, but we share our love of type and type design.
Thanks to Paul Platosh at PNCA for helping make this happen!
Here is some of my own work:
Hypatia Sans poster on Adobe’s site, click for high-res PDF.
For a long time I thought of the PANOSE numbers in fonts as only used for things like font matching, without any practical impact in most day-to-day use of fonts. I am reminded this week of how dangerously wrong that belief is.
For those who are unfamiliar with it, the PANOSE number of a font is a chunk of metadata that describes the font with a sequence of digits, an encapsulated description. Here’s the PANOSE section in FontLab Studio’s Font Info pane.
This week, for the second time in the past 15 years, I discovered a WIndows font bug caused by improper PANOSE numbers in fonts, which I had never heard of before.
The first bug was simple: if you set the appropriate PANOSE digit to say the font is monospaced, Windows will ignore the actual advance widths in the font and treat every glyph as having the same advance width. This means that you had better not set the PANOSE to monospaced unless the font is utterly and completely monospaced. This may seem simple, but consider that some supposedly-monospaced fonts still have ligatures. If, say, the fi ligature is to have a different width than the i by itself, then the font is not truly monospaced and setting the PANOSE to monospaced will mess up that glyph’s advance width (at least, in many Windows applications, though not most Adobe apps).
If my understanding is correct, the new bug is also simple: if you have a style-linked family such as a regular and an italic, the general PANOSE class had better be the same for every family member, or else Windows will get very confused. In my case, the regular was of the “Latin Decorative” class and the very early build of the italic was “Latin Text” (because I hadn’t bothered developing the PANOSE number yet for the italic). Some very odd symptoms occurred for a user with an existing document in Word 2010 on Windows 7.
This is also a lesson in font testing. Even something as simple as coordinating family members for Windows, a mostly well-understood area, and one in which I have considerable expertise, can fail for unknown reasons. There is no substitute for actual testing in apps: this issue was not identified by Adobe’s fabulous CompareFamily test tool, probably because they had never encountered it. I had used the italic by itself in Word on Windows, and both the fonts together in Creative Suite apps, and all was well. That was simply insufficient.
Definitely a major error on my part. Certainly, this was not a final release, but even a pre-alpha build released to my Kickstarter backers, as the new italic was, should behave more reliably than this one did.
Some screen shots and info on the font production process posted as an update on my Kickstarter page, including some thoughts on why ATF called it “American Italic” instead of “Columbus Italic,” the transition to standard type alignment around 1900, and illustrating good vs bad curves.
Wow, it has just been a crazy time lately. I wrote most of this yesterday at 36,000 feet, on my way home from a quick tour of Europe for work: Barcelona, Paris, Hamburg and Munich. This included numerous customer meetings and three speaking engagements:
- Typo Week in Barcelona: I talked about some of my Font Detective work
- WebVisions Barcelona: CSS 3 OpenType support, the new web typography frontier
- Typographische Gesellschaft München (Munich): Fonts for eBooks
Now I have a break for a couple of weeks before my next conference, TypeCon in Milwaukee (Aug 1–5), where I’ll host a panel to talk about Kickstarter as a means of funding new type design. I’ll also be doing a talk on the same subject at ATypI in Hong Kong (October 11-15).
In the meantime, I have been hard at work in my off-hours on my Kickstarter-backed typeface, Cristoforo, with help from my fabulous intern, Andrea Harrison. The full details are available to my backers in an update on Kickstarter, but for public consumption, I’ll just say that work continues on the upright face, and has started on the italic, and I am predictably enough wishing that I hadn’t promised to add so much language coverage (central European, Greek, Cyrillic). But it’s coming along, and the extended language support offers some greater design challenges than just digitizing an old typeface.
My day job has kept me pretty busy, and has presented me with some one-sided decisions. Gee, I have exactly one day free in Paris: work on Cristoforo, or visit the Louvre? Okay, so I’m probably not going to collect a lot of sympathy votes here. But after spending less than 48 hours in each of Paris, Hamburg and Munich, then flying back to Portland, I am pretty beat.
Finally, I need to thank my backers for Cristoforo! Without them I would not have tackled the typeface, or would have done something much less ambitious and done it more slowly. Here is the backer listing (and yes, some of these are pseudonyms, it’s whatever they use on Kickstarter).
As I’ve been posting about lately, Cristoforo is a family of three fonts I am developing, reviving Columbus & Columbus Initials (Ihlenberg, 1892) and American Italic and American Italic Initials (Ihlenberg, 1902) as well as adding a symbol font. I am the lead designer, with the assistance of my new intern, Andrea Harrison.
I funded the development of Cristoforo through a Kickstarter campaign, which raised over $10,000 from backers. Woot!
Current ETA on finished fonts? February 2013. However, limited pre-release versions will be available to appropriate levels of backers starting in mid-July.
Here are my awesome backers, in tiers by their level of support.
Great Old Ones
Philip M. Payes
M Sean Molley
Juris L. Purins
H James Lucas
Sarah E Canzoneri
Alexander Y. Hawson, M.D.
Damon Loren Baker
Battlefield Press, Inc.
Fred Hicks / Evil Hat Productions
Derek M. Koch
Mark L Pappin
Galahad de Corbenic
David Occhino Design
Robert “Rev. Bob” Hood
Hans de Wolf
Stacey Van Keuren
Rt Andrez Mora
Elliott C. Bäck
Adam Hunter Peck
THomas W. Holt Jr.
Juan M. Escribano
Wayne A Arthurton
H. James Lucas
With about 48 hours to go (midnight Sunday PDT), my Cristoforo font project on Kickstarter is at about $9,300 in pledges from backers who want to get cool fonts and other swag. As $10,000 is my final “stretch” goal (the point at which I add Cyrillic support to the fonts), I was trying to decide how to both celebrate and encourage the last few pledges I need. I settled on releasing a free font that might be of interest to some H.P. Lovecraft / Cthulhu fans: Dark Symbols icons designed by Brennen Reece and Graham Walmsley, fontified by me, released at no charge under the Open Font License 1.1.
Download Dark Symbols font (Zip archive of .otf).
What are the Dark Symbols? Graham explains them on his blog, but basically these are rough-edged hand-drawn symbols, intended for folks to mark up Cthulhu-related role-playing adventures.
I may also incorporate the Dark Symbols in my Cristoforo Symbols font; that’s TBD. But in any case, enjoy this free font, and consider supporting Cristoforo in its waning hours on Kickstarter!
The current issue of Communication Arts has an article I wrote on a couple of recent attempts to make special fonts for dyslexics, entitled “Should Dyslexics Unite on a Typeface.”
Although the print magazine reaches a huge audience (yay!) it does impose serious space limitations. It also has a big lead time. I thought I would add a couple of possibly relevant thoughts here, as well as a new research link. Also, the online version of the article makes the graphics a bit small—here is a PDF you can zoom in on.
Here’s some new research showing that more generous letterspacing and line-spacing together can make text easier to read for dyslexics.
My biggest criticism was that despite some valiant attempts at testing, there was no evidence that these fonts really were any more functional in terms of reading than other reasonably legible fonts. Heck, they couldn’t prove that these fonts were significantly better than freakin’ Arial, which is a fairly low bar to clear in terms of improved legibility. (Not a slam against Microsoft, btw. They have sponsored both highly legible fonts such as Verdana, and lots of research on legibility. But neither Arial nor Helvetica is a great legibility typeface.)
One thing I didn’t get into in the article was that they could have chosen other things to measure besides the traditional reading speed and comprehension measures. Those are easily measured, but they are not very subtle. One really has to have a very large sample size of readers, or hose the typography pretty seriously, to impact those measures to a statistically relevant degree. People can read gothic blackletter without all that large a decrease in reading speed, but they sure don’t like it for running text.
Perhaps I am a bit hasty to discount simple user preference as a factor. But I am more interested in the actual impact on the reading experience and on people’s lives rather than what people say if queried afterwards. Luckily, there are things one can measure that get at this more directly than stated preferences, while still being a bit more subtle than reading speed and comprehension. I covered these in a previous article for Communication Arts, “How to Explain Why Typography Matters.” Check out the last few paragraphs on the second page, where I talk about measures like corrugator muscle activity (how much people wrinkle their brow), tension of the orbicularis oculi muscles (used in blinking, squinting and frowning), and even performance on creative tasks following a reading experience (it improves with better typography, even if that typography doesn’t impact reading speed or comprehension).
If at first you don’t succeed….
My first go didn’t quite make it, so I reconfigured the reward structure and relaunched my Kickstarter campaign to find backers for my new typeface, Cristoforo, a revival of some classic Victorian typefaces by Hermann Ihlenburg. It’s also known as the typeface of Call of Cthulhu (the H.P. Lovecraft roleplaying game), and as the original logo for Cracker Jack. The campaign will only last until midnight on Saturday June 17. Basically, people pledge money up front for the fonts (and other goodies) so I know the project is viable. Reward options for backers depend on their funding level, and include not only the fonts, but computer desktop wallpaper, T-shirts and posters.
Kickstarter is all or nothing. Only if the total pledges exceed the minimum funding target are people’s credit cards charged and the project moves forward.
If funding exceeds the minimum by enough of a margin, I can add more language support for central/eastern Europe (including Cyrillic), and even pay an intern! Otherwise, the intern will be an unpaid position. I hope to make intern decisions in a week, and just revised the job description again.
[Updated June 1 & May 29 on deadline and minor details, May 26 on time/duties/pay, previously May 6 on funding chances, possibility of part-time, clarified total working hours, and discussed what will happen if the Kickstarter campaign fails.]
Deadline for applications: 2 pm PST, Saturday June 2nd. (Though earlier is better, interviewing the week of May 29th.)
I’m looking for a type design intern, probably just for the summer, though I’m open to a longer period. This will be an unpaid position, but with an unusually good ratio of learning-plus-even-working-on-your-own-projects to ruthless exploitation. The duties of the position will be dependent on the success of the Kickstarter funding campaign for the Cristoforo typeface. I expect the project will be funded, but without enough money for a stipend. Assume it’s unpaid and you won’t be disappointed.
If the Kickstarter campaign fails? I am still considering that. I may still proceed to work on the typeface just to get it done. It’s nice to finish things. That would eliminate most of the graphic design work in the position, as that was all for the “rewards” for Kickstarter backers. I might still do the desktop wallpapers, and just maybe digitally printed T-shirts. It would also make a part-time situation make more sense, with less total work and less time pressure involved.
I’m located in Portland, Oregon. Helpful if you are too, or willing to relocate for the summer.
I’m open to negotiation, but as a starting point, I envision this position as roughly equal parts of the following areas of work:
- Helping me with font production on Cristoforo (in process) and especially Cristoforo Italic (not even started). There is room for some actual type design here.
- Helping create and deliver the rewards for the Cristoforo Kickstarter project (t-shirt, poster, 3 desktop designs; taking the lead on design, if possible)
- Reading suggested books from my substantial library on typography and type design. Expect to read at least one book every week, more if possible.
- Working on your own type design project(s) much as you would if you were doing a University course
- Receiving direct type design instruction as well as detailed and constructive feedback and critiques from me on your work, both on your own type design project and your help on Cristoforo
I initially viewed this as totaling a full-time position, but I had concerns that I will have enough work to keep my intern busy, given the limitations on my own time. Part-time is more plausible, maybe 15-25 hours a week. Mind you, it depends on how much you can do on your own type design as well.
The position will start in June. It could be remote initially if you are coming out later.
Salary is unlikely. If the Kickstarter campaign exceeds its funding target, then half the excess will go to my intern. It probably won’t be much, but I am hopeful the fringe benefits will compensate.
If you are working with me in Portland, you would likely be spending a significant amount of time in the finished basement of my home, in a small office area. (Perhaps not my existing home office space, we might take over the storage area for more space!) You’ll have a 24“ monitor to work with, and if you don’t have your own laptop I will provide a Windows laptop to use with the monitor. We could also meet elsewhere, as long as it is not too distant from my SE location.
I do not discriminate on the basis of age, race, gender/identification, sexual orientation, national origin, etc. If you do, we might not be the best match.
- Obsessive, detail-oriented personality
- Strong ability to follow through and finish lengthy projects
- Comfortable and able to both work substantially independently (for your own type design) and with considerable guidance/interference/supervision (on Cristoforo and possibly on the Kickstarter rewards).
- Some background in typography and graphic design
- Quick learner
- Very good English reading skills or ability to put in extra hours to make up for it
- Fair spoken English communication skills
- Solid computer skills. I am happy to teach type design and font production, but you need to be good on a computer already
- Either bring your own laptop or be happy working on Windows
- Be really sharp—brainpower is good.
- Able to work evenings and especially weekends. That’s when I’m free—though much work could also be done during weekdays when I’m busy at my day job. I am not talking about working more than 40 hours a week, it is a question of when we meet and work together.
- Able to relocate to Portland, at least for the summer. If not, we’d be doing a bunch of work by Skype and email and such. But a local (or relocatable) candidate would be preferred.
- Substantial graphic design skill/experience, able to take the lead in designing the poster, t-shirt, and desktop designs called for by the Kickstarter project. BFA in design, or working on a BFA, or equivalent experience, would be great.
- Do not require a special visa to work in the USA, or are willing to work for free. I am not inclined to deal with US visa/immigration bureaucracy unless you are an extraordinary candidate (in which case you ought to be getting paid more than I can afford to pay you!)
Bonus Points For:
- Quite comfortable with both Mac and Windows. I go both ways and my main box right now is a Mac.
- Have your own laptop to bring with you
- Have done noticeable reading or have real experience relating to type design
- Have some familiarity with FontLab Studio or other font development software (CorelDraw does not count)
- Experience with screen printing and/or letterpress printing
- Being a geeky intellectual type
Submit a resume, write-up, or whatever you like. References appreciated! Samples of, or links to, your previous work would be great, especially anything that shows your attention to detail and ability to complete long projects. If you have done any type design or font production, I’d like to see the actual font file, along with any comments you have on things you think are good and things that you know need work.
My email address is tphinney and the domain is cal.berkeley.edu.
[UPDATE 26 May 2012: The first try didn’t quite make it, so I revised the reward structure and re-launched! Link now points to the revised project.]
Yes, I’m starting a Kickstarter campaign to find backers for my new typeface, Cristoforo, a revival of some classic Victorian typefaces by Hermann Ihlenburg. It’s also known as the typeface of Call of Cthulhu (the H.P. Lovecraft roleplaying game), and as the original logo for Cracker Jack. The campaign will only last until midnight on Saturday May 19 [revised: June 17], which is 26 days from now. Basically, people pledge money up front for the fonts (and other goodies) so I know the project is viable. Reward options for backers depend on their funding level, and include not only the fonts, but computer desktop wallpaper, postcards, T-shirts and posters.
Kickstarter is all or nothing. Only if the total pledges exceed the minimum funding target are people’s credit cards charged and the project moves forward.
If funding exceeds the minimum by enough of a margin, I can add more language support for central/eastern Europe (including Cyrillic), and even pay an intern!