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.
OpenType / PostScript font support killed in many apps (FIXED Dec 20, 2012)
(UPDATED repeatedly, first with more details and then because of the Dec 20 fix.)
Was it Fontmageddon? For users who use fonts in some applications (see below), Windows security update KB2753842 of Dec 11, 2012, caused more harm than good. Luckily MS got it fixed and re-released it nine days later. The current version of the patch does NOT have the problem, and can be installed over the original release to fix the problem caused by the original.
Kudos to Microsoft for fixing it quickly and including interested outside parties in testing it. I was able to seed Extensis tech support manager Romeo Fahl with the fixed patch, so we participated in helping verify it worked.
WHAT THE BAD PATCH DID
(1) installing the update breaks some very tiny number of fonts at the system level and for all apps, including potentially malicious fonts. That’s what it was supposed to do. BUT ALSO….
(2) with the original version of the update, for certain apps text set in all PostScript Type 1 (.pfb/.pfm) and OpenType CFF (.oft) fonts became invisible. This can even affect font menus when the app has a WYSIWYG font menu.
FIXING THE PROBLEM
Installing the revised version (2.0) of the patch from Microsoft will fix the problem caused by the original release.
If your computer is part of a domain administered centrally by an IT team, you should alert them that the issue is fixed, so they can decide whether to roll it out now that the patch is safer.
The apps that were especially affected are those that use the GetGlyphOutline() API to grab font outlines of PostScript fonts (both Type 1 pfb/pfm fonts, and OpenType CFF .otf fonts). With the bad version of the patch, that API no longer returned the memory size needed to get the curves, but instead returned a bogus value of zero. This effectively renders some apps unable to render the glyph on screen. At least, at 15 points and higher.
I gather there are other APIs apps can use, but that GetGlyphOutline() works all the way back to XP, unlike the alternatives.
AFFECTED OS VERSIONS AND SOFTWARE
I strongly suspect that in many more applications than those listed, “convert to curves” functions will fail or result in lost text. I also suspect that in most cases where a current version of an application is affected, so are older versions not listed. What we know is that affected OSes and apps included:
- Windows: All desktop and server versions of Windows from XP to Windows 8, it seems.
- PowerPoint, but only in presentation mode (an especially dangerous failure, as a user might think things were fine… until they tried to do an actual presentation)
- QuarkXPress 7, 8, 9.5 (but only affects fonts at 15 pts and larger)
- CorelDRAW X3 to X6. Workaround: view in “draft” mode works because it does not use the problematic API.
- Serif PagePlus
- Adobe Flash (authoring at least, probably not the running of Flash apps?)
- Flexi and SignLab (signmaking apps)
- Avid Marquee (video titling)
- Bentley MicroStation (CAD / information modeling)
- The Secret World (Alternate Reality Game)
- Inkscape (vector drawing)
- Xara Designer Pro X (vector drawing) and possibly other Xara apps
The MS Knowledgebase article has a standard section for “known issues.” On Friday Dec 14, 2012, Microsoft updated it to read: “We are aware of issues related to OpenType Font (OTF) rendering in applications such as PowerPoint on affected versions of Windows that occur after this security update is applied. We are currently investigating these issues and will take appropriate action to address the known issues.”
On Thursday, Dec 20, 2012, Microsoft released version 2.0 of the patch that fixes the problems in the original. The “known issues” section now reads: “The original version of security update 2753842 had an issue related to OpenType Font (OTF) rendering in applications such as PowerPoint on affected versions of Windows. This issue was resolved in the version of this security update that was rereleased on December 20, 2012.”
All sorts of folks are getting involved, but I’m one of those helping bring TypeCon to Portland OR for August 2013!
My colleague Jim Kidwell and I will be hosting a Town Hall for volunteers and interested parties 7 pm Tues Nov 27 at Extensis in downtown Portland.
I am doing a lot of fun talks and workshops I am doing in the next couple of months, starting tomorrow night in Chicago! If you’re in one of these cities listed below, I’d love to meet up with fellow typophiles and anybody who wants to talk fonts, over coffee, lunch, dinner, or a drink.
Chicago Tues Sep 25, 2012
AIGA presents: Font Detective, Extra Bold
7 pm at Harrington College, admission is $5 for AIGA members, $10 for non-members.
Probably nothing is more fun for me than talking about the legal cases I’ve been called in to consult on. Whether it’s a forged will, a pioneer mail bag, the NFL Hall of Fame, or the US Presidency, I’ve been asked to look into a bunch of fascinating cases involving fonts, printing, and logic. This long-form version of my presentation has only been seen once before, at the Type Director’s Club in New York City.
Chicago Fri 28 Sep 2012
WebVisions talk : CSS3 OpenType Fonts, the new web typography frontier
11:15–noon, WebVisions @ Siskel Film Center.
CSS 3 brings support for OpenType layout features to browsers. Most already have this support today. But what good is it? I show you everything from everyday workhorse typographic functionality like ligatures, true small caps, and oldstyle figures, through to the fascinating and bizarre: fonts that censor naughty words, predict the future, or translate languages. If you are coming to WebVisions, check it out!
Chicago Sat 29 Sep 2012
WebVisions workshop : Control the Web with Fonts & Type
1:30–5:00 pm, WebVisions @ Harrington College. Conference info here.
Join me for an immersive, hands-on workshop on using CSS3 typographic controls to create great web typography, from the basics of ideal type setting to enabling custom web fonts with @font-face. A live web site will be provided for each participant to practice and experiment on, along with access to WebINK web fonts.
You will also learn:
- How “real” web fonts are transforming the web, and exactly how to implement them.
- How to pick the perfect font for a web site
- How to choose fonts that work together
- The common crimes against legibility and aesthetics, and how to avoid them
- Issues around color, spacing, line length and font size
REQUIREMENTS: Laptop and basic familiarity with HTML and CSS.
Hong Kong, Wed 10 Oct 2012
ATypI talk: Crowdsourced Font Funding
10:20–10:40 am, ATypI “Research, Case Studies & Workshops” sessions @ Icon Hotel. Full talk description on the ATypI site.
All about the impact of Kickstarter (and similar services) on type design, from my own experiences and surveying everybody else using Kickstarter for fonts. What is involved, how should you structure your campaign, and what distinguishes successful campaigns?
Las Vegas, Tues 16 Oct 2012
PubCon panel: CSS & HTML 2012
3:10–4:25 pm, PubCon @ Las Vegas Convention Center
On this panel I plan to do an intro to web fonts and a small portion of my talk from Sep 28, above.
Las Vegas, Thurs 18 Oct 2012
PubCon Labs Q&A Session
11–noon, PubCon @ Las Vegas Convention Center
Meet with me one-on-one to ask questions about web fonts, web typography, or anything to do with fonts!
NYC, Tues–Wed Oct 23–24
Future of Web Design: booth & workshop
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).
My Kickstarter campaign for the Cristoforo typeface has passed half its $6400 target in the first week, with 16 days to go! That’s fabulous.
I will be making my intern decision no later than Sunday! I’ve been holding interviews, and I’ve only had a handful of serious applicants, but they have including some really awesome people. I’m still open to hearing from more people before I make my final decision, but I have at least a couple of great candidates. The absolute drop-dead deadline is tomorrow (Sat June 2) at 2 pm PST. Anybody else who applies at this point needs to be local or able to come out here, open to part-time internship, and ready to send me stuff right away to support their application, and to interview with me on Sunday (preferably in person).
I keep on seeing versions of Columbus (the source for Cristoforo) in interesting places. I was sitting having a coffee with one of my intern applicants in downtown Portland just this past Tuesday, next door to Portland landmark Voodoo Doughnuts, and realized that they use a hand-lettered version of Columbus for their slogan, “Good things come in pink boxes,” seen here on one of said boxes:
I’ve also in recent months seen it on the logo for Juju, a bar in downtown Seattle:
… and for the signage and logo of Brides by Demetrios, a wedding dress and bridal chain. I saw it in the upscale Buckhead suburb of Atlanta, but they have stores all over.
I believe the picture above is their Indianapolis location, but the Atlanta/Buckhead one had the same neon sign. I just couldn’t get a good picture of it with my cell phone at night.
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.