Friday, September 24, 2010

Font Squirrel

Finding quality free fonts is an arduous task.

A new website has popped up that culls through the trashier free fonts and presents the best of the best in the free font category.

While there are a few less than desirable fonts that have sneaked their way onto their database, a majority are nicely drawn and carefully rendered.

Take a look

Below are some of my personal favorites:

Bebas Neue:


Conqueror Didot:

AW Conqueror Carved:




Museo Slab Serif:

All Thing Typographic 9/10

September Salutations. Here's the typographic 411.
-- TypeTalk: You ask, we answer
-- Eight Tips for Type on the Web
-- A Visit to the Tipoteca Italiana Fondazione
-- Gourmet Typography returns to SVA in NYC
-- Upcoming Typography Workshops & Events
-- Bring Gourmet Typography to your company, school, or organization

TypeTalk: You ask, we answer
Q. If a character that would be most useful to know? Check it out...
Q. Do you have any suggestions or guidelines for the use of initial caps? Check it out...

Eight Tips for Type on the Web
These days, anyone can have their own Web site, whether for a business, a cause, or a club; a school or class or team; or simply a family or an individual. Whether you design it yourself from scratch, or use templates, or have it designed for you, type will most likely be a large percentage of its content.

To be effective on a Web site, typography needs to be: clean, clear, appealing, and readable. Good typography can attract, engage, and keep your viewer on your site. Here are some tips to get you off on the right track. Read on...

A Visit to the Tipoteca Italiana Fondazione
“There is a place in northern Italy where typography reigns supreme: Tipoteca Italiana fondazione. I was lucky to make a pilgrimage to the Tipoteca this summer and wanted to share some of the type marvels with you,” says Michael Carabetta of Chronicle Books, about his pilgrimage to Tipoteca Italiana Fondazione.

Located in the Veneto Region (Treviso Province) of Italy, the museum is housed in a deconsecrated church and connected via a graceful, sweeping ramp to a contemporary building that contains the printing presses, fonts, library and workshop. Read on...

Gourmet Typography returns to SVA in NYC
Once again, Ilene teaches her ever-popular Gourmet Typography class at School of Visual Arts in NYC. Take control of your type instead of letting it control you. Learn the typographic skills and secrets of type experts, including selecting the right typeface, mixing type, techniques for emphasis, fine-tuning your type, kerning and spacing, as well as typographic do’s and don’ts. This course will raise the level of your design and production skills and instill an excitement and passion for typography. Check it out...

Upcoming Typography Workshops & Events
Every creative professional, including the most seasoned designer, can benefit from learning to communicate more effectively with type. This workshop will give you the expert-level typographic skills and aesthetics necessary to visibly improve your type. It will sharpen your eye and reignite your passion for typography.

Gourmet Typography
AIGA Orlando
Orlando, Florida
September 17

Type Rules! 3rd edition book signing and talk: 10 Worst Type Crimes
New York, NY
September 30

Gourmet Typography
AIGA Philadelphia
Philadelphia, PA
October 8

Gourmet Typography
RGD Ontario
Toronto, Canada
November 13

If you'd like to see Gourmet Typography come to Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, or any other city, let me know! Ilene

Bring Gourmet Typography to your company, school, or organization
Gourmet TypographyIn today’s competitive market, you need all the edge you can get. Whether you are a student or a professional, having strong typographic skills should be at the top of your list.

Bring Gourmet Typography Training right to your company, school or organization! Workshops are customized for groups of any size and designed to fit your specific needs. Sessions are scheduled for your convenience — daytime, evenings or weekends. We will design a program customized for your particular requirements.

SUBSCRIBER DISCOUNT: $300 off workshops when you mention this enewsletter.
SCHOOLS & UNIVERSITIES: Special pricing, call 203.227.5929 for details.

“I want to thank you for the great workshop last Friday. You dusted off and reinforced all of those typographic rules that I have — and have not — lived by in all my years as a graphic designer.

Your down-to-earth approach to type made the session breezy and fun, and I couldn’t help but visually re-spacing all the headlines I had the time to linger on during my bumper-to-bumper drive back to home. Thanks again for reigniting my spark for type!”

For more info, click here or call 203.227.5929.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Typographic Land Mine That is Free Fonts

This article below comes from the lovely people at theFontFeed

Free Fonts: Technical And Artistic Quality

What comes next may sound biased to some readers, yet I simply can’t help it – it’s the reality of the situation. The vast majority of the free fonts out there are – to put it mildly – of inferior quality. And although a very small percentage is fit for professional use, statistics tell us you’ll more likely stumble upon – to put it mildly again – less successful creations. Because most free font websites are cluttered uncurated swamps, there is no quality control at all. An additional problem is that you don’t even know what you’re downloading. Is it a genuine free font? Or could it be an unauthorised clone, a pirated and renamed commercial font, or a stolen proprietary face? If this seems trivial to you, maybe read through my account of the tragic Hadopi story.

So proceed with caution. Here’s a list of things you definitely need to check when picking a free font for a design.

Artistic quality of the design

Say whatever you want, but the vast majority of the offerings on free font websites are poorly designed. Most of them are well-intentioned efforts by students, amateurs, and beginning designers. You may know what an “a” is supposed to look like, but digitising that “a” using Bézier curves is another matter entirely. To use a metaphor – I can perfectly describe the different parts of a shoe and know how they fit together, but I couldn’t make a shoe to save my life. Very often the design of free fonts suffer from typical beginners’ mistakes: awkward proportions, poor thick-thin contrast, missing optical corrections, clumsy transitions from curves to straight lines and inversely, ill-balanced and misshapen letter forms, … we can go on and on. Before using a free font, make sure to carefully evaluate the complete character set for quality and consistency.

I didn’t do anything to improve the spacing and kerning on the sample above; this is the font used “out of the box”.
The popular freeware font above is a perfect example of a poorly drawn typeface. It may seem acceptable at first sight, but examining the design more closely reveals its many flaws. Besides the fact that the overall design tries hard but ultimately fails – that lowercase “e” and “g”! –, the actual drawings of the glyphs are littered with mistakes. To pick just one character – you can see the bottom of the bowl of the “a” is too high (no optical correction), the lower left part of the curve flattens unexpectedly, while the top left part has a nasty bump. Both the thinning at the top of the bowl, the spot where it joins the stem, and the weight progression in the top arc are very awkward. And there’s another bump where the straight line transitions in the top curve.

Read more about type design on Unzipped:
An Introduction to Type Design | The Type Designer as Artist
An Introduction to Type Design | The Type Designer as Craftsman

Technical quality of the drawing

Of course tastes vary. I myself quite like awkward if it is done well, like Christian Schwartz’s delectable Los Feliz, modelled after vernacular signage found in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles. And the whole grunge movement thrived on DIY aesthetics – think for example of Barry Deck’s imperfect designs which were very popular in the late nineties, or the carefully balanced inconsistency of Mr. Keedy’s eponymous typeface. Personally I think there is a world of difference between voluntary and involuntary awkwardness, but truth is we can discuss about this until we are blue in the face.

Los Feliz was inspired by amateur lettering, and professionally digitised.

This free font is a true amateur design. Personally I think there is a world of difference between this one and Los Feliz, but I don’t expect everyone to agree.

However – disregarding matters of taste – technical quality can be assessed objectively. Professional fonts are well digitised, with economic and efficient outlines that adhere to the rules of sound construction. Many free fonts feature glyph shapes with superfluous vectors and node points, faulty combinations of elements, stray points, incorrect overlaps, bad connections, … These technical flaws can cause the files those fonts are used in to behave erratically, and produce errors when processing said files (export to PDF, output on film or direct-to-plate, integration in Flash, …). The font is automatically substituted by a system font, certain characters disappear, counters are filled in, accents are displaced and show up in the wrong spot, spacing is shot to hell causing characters to overlap, … all kinds of problems whose precise origins are difficult to track down, and solving them usually takes a long time and a lot of trial and error. Unfortunately this type of technical flaws is very difficult to detect for the layman. The only advice I can offer here is to run a bunch of tests beforehand, like converting text to outlines, doing test prints and conversions, and so on.

Available styles

Professional text faces always include all the necessary styles, and often many more. On the other hand, if you want to use a free font for text applications, first you have to consider if everything needed for producing professional text setting is included. Most free fonts are single fonts, not families. Is there an italic style available? Is it a properly designed italic, or merely a mechanically slanted roman? If a bold is included, was it artificially boldened? Is it bold enough, or too bold? Do you need an even heavier weight? Are the glyph shapes clear enough to remain legible in small sizes? And what about small caps and different sets of figures? It is of utmost importance to ask yourself these questions up front. This way you’ll avoid painting yourself in a corner when you notice halfway the production that the font you selected is inadequate. The available styles are very easy to check; however you need a trained eye to assess the quality of italics and bolds.

Read more about type weights and styles in Styles, Weights, Widths — It’s All in the (Type) Family.

Comprehensiveness of the character set

When acquiring professional fonts you can sleep on both ears. They will include both upper and lower case*, numerals, a complete set of punctuation, ligatures, mathematical symbols, and at least cover all North, West and Southern European languages, and often Central and Eastern European and Turkish, and sometimes even Greek and Cyrillic.
* A small numbers of display faces only have capitals.

FF Kava started out as a free typeface called Kaffeesatz, published by Yanone in 2004 during the early stages of his type designing career. When it transitioned from free font to commercial font, the character set more than tripled from 203 glyphs – which already is impressive for a free font – to 747 glyphs. Read the complete story and try it out in FF Kava With Extra Flavour.

Free and shareware fonts however are often restricted to the standard 26 letters of the alphabet, figures, and only the bare minimum of punctuation marks. It is quite common that suddenly you realise you can’t type that French name or that German idiom, nor put a ® next to a brand name nor a € next to a price, or that some punctuation mark is missing. So the first thing you need to do is go over the complete character set – for example in the “Glyph” window in Adobe Illustrator or InDesign – to see if everything you need is included.

Read more about the value of full families and complete character sets in FontShop’s Type Selection: Beyond the Look of the Letter.

Spacing and kerning

Strictly speaking anybody can draw letters – admittedly one typeface will look nicer than the next. However most people don’t realise the quality of a font is in large part defined by the “nothingness” between those letters – its spacing and kerning tables. Without proper spacing and kerning it is merely a random collection of glyphs, not truly a font. Spacing a font well is a painstaking, demanding, and time-consuming activity, and professional fonts also include hundreds of kerning pairs for all the exceptions. Proper spacing and kerning ensure that every single letter combination, every single sequence of characters – as diverse as they may be – are perfectly spaced, so that the text is well balanced and perfectly readable. And this is where almost all free fonts are found lacking.

The message here is again – do extensive testing if you want to use a free font. Set several blocks of text in different point sizes, and “feel” the rhythm as you read. Try to detect stuttering, gaps, anything that hinders the flow. And be prepared to do a lot of this if you want to stick to free fonts, because it will take some time before you find a properly spaced and kerned one.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Steps to Starting a Project

Your assignment for next week, in addition to making your type specimen books beautiful, is to make your swipe book.

The reason why is because swipe is an intregal part to beginning any project

Steps to Starting a Project:

1. Pull swipe
2. Get a color palate together
3. Deciding on typefaces

This will give you a secure foundation for beginning your project:

any questions?

email us

and please dont just post finished work on your blog, post your process too.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

H&FJ's Guide to Combining Typfaces

Here is a great, quick and very basic how-to guide to combining typefaces.

Check out the full H&FJ's guide here.

1. A palate with wit uses complementary moods:

2. A palate with energy mixes typefaces from the same historical context whose families maintain different features.

3. A palate with poise mixes similar line qualities with different textures.

4. A palate with dignity mixes similar proportions while giving each face a different note.