Cure for the Common Webfont, Part 2: Alternatives to Georgia
For nearly fifteen years, if you wanted to set a paragraph of web text in a serif typeface, the only truly readable option was Georgia. But now, in web type’s infancy, we’re starting to see some valid alternatives for the king of screen serifs. What follows is a list of serif typefaces that have been tuned—and in some cases drawn from scratch—for the screen.
Designer Flow Chart Picks Typefaces For Your Projects
Tired of staring at your font collection, wondering what a trained graphic designer would do with all those typefaces? Unsure whether Times or Miller is the more appropriate choice for that vaguely left-leaning newspaper you have to design? Want to make sure that info-graphic you’re designing looks hot? Then, friend, you need So You Need a Typeface, a large, hot-looking info-graphic suitable for printing and framing (or at least taping to the wall of your cubicle).
Dear Apple: It is a triumph of engineering and marketing and general cause for joy that Apple provides highly functional iPad versions of Keynote, Pages, and Numbers for a mere $9.99 apiece. Alas, the iPad versions’ inability to import or transfer fonts diminishes the apps’ value and utility.
You, Apple, have done much to foster today’s design culture, so it is no surprise to you that we designers are particular about the fonts we use. One font is not the same as another. Helvetica is not the same as Franklin or Gotham. You know this as well as we do. Which means you also know that, in transferring Keynote presentations and Pages layouts between the Macs and iPads you sell us, our joy gets dented when the iPad replaces our fonts with “a close match” or Helvetica.
And it’s not just a matter of joy. I sometimes spend weeks on a Keynote presentation, and so do my colleagues. We’d love to be able to work on them whether we have a Mac or an iPad at hand—that, after all, is the promise of the devices we buy from you; frankly, it is the promise of all computers. But when the iPad loses my fonts, it loses me. A Keynote presentation with substitute fonts is of no use to me, except perhaps as a rehearsal tool—and I can just as easily rehearse with a PDF.
Please either add the ability to retain fonts (and all their settings) when importing Keynote, Pages, and Numbers documents from computer to iPad, or else please create a simple font management tool for the iPad that allows us to import a reasonable subset of our fonts to the device.
More information about this remarkable program is available at coopertype.org.
The gorgeous typefaces used on the Coopertype website are FB Franklin Web (Benton Sans) designed by Tobias Frere-Jones & Cyrus Highsmith, and Farnham, designed by Christian Schwartz. The site design is by Nick Sherman of Brooklyn and Font Bureau.
And now, Google
THE long-planned inevitable has now been announced. With open-source-licensed web fonts, web font hosting, and add-a-line-to-your-header ease of configuration, Google has joined Typekit, Font Squirrel, Ascender, Font Bureau and others in forever changing the meaning of the phrase, “typography on the web.”
The Google Font Directory lets you browse all the fonts available via the Google Font API. All fonts in the directory are available for use on your website under an open source license and served by Google servers.
Jeffrey Zeldman and Dan Benjamin grill Ethan Dunham of Fontspring and Font Squirrel and Jeffrey Veen of Typekit (and other sites, too numerous to name) about one of your favorite subjects, “real fonts on your website” in this, our inaugural episode.
Verdana Pro (and Con)
Although Matthew Carter is overseeing the project and David Berlow of The Font Bureau is leading development, I’m feeling twitchy about Verdana Pro, a new print family from an old screen face.
Start there: Verdana was born of the screen. In particular, as all reading this know, it was born of the needs of the crude, non-anti-aliased, 72/96 ppi desktop screen of the mid-1990s. At Microsoft’s behest, Matthew Carter created the original cross-platform Verdana with its generous x-height so computer users, whether PC- or Mac-based, would have a sans-serif that was easy to read at small sizes.
Verdana is a font that looks gorgeous at 11px in a non-antialiased environment, and handsome at 9px and 10px in that same setting. Make it any bigger than 11px, and it looks grotesque. Set it via ems or percentages rather than pixels—as most accessibility-conscious designers do—and you ding its perfection. View it in a sub-pixel antialiased environment (i.e. on a modern platform) and, if it is small enough and near enough to an exact pixel size, it still looks nice and reads well … but not nearly as nice or as well as it does in the environment for which it was originally created.
Yes, if you are a genius like Matthew Carter or David Berlow, you can take a screen font, even one of the two definitive screen fonts of the 20th century—the other being Carter’s Georgia, which also looks best at exactly 11px in a non-antialiased environment, though it survives handsomely in modern environments and at inexact, percentage-based sizes—and build a true print family around it. But the idea makes me twitchy.
And that screen guy’s twitch I can’t quite shake makes me start to understand how type designers may be feeling as they watch their gorgeous high-resolution creations, rooted in hundreds of years of craft and technology, take the first small steps toward a new world of web fonts.
Clark on Apple’s weak type
Apple has a typography desk. It is not exactly crowded with developers vying for every square centimetre, but it really exists. Have you ever heard of it? …
Then compare Microsoft, which has two divisions focussed on type and reading (Typography and Advanced Reading Technologies). Esteemed colleagues Simon Daniels and Kevin Larson are but two of many people with a high profile in the type business who work for Microsoft (in those departments respectively). MS Typo itself does a great deal of work. Apart from commissioning the confusable Microsoft C-fonts, the department does everything from creating box-drawing characters for teletext fonts to designing Liberian symbol systems….
As you’d expect, I urge Apple to get back into the business of type design. The chief lesson of the Web must be observed: Do what works and don’t do what doesn’t work.
Worth reading in its entirety, rereading, bookmarking, and sharing (especially with friends at Apple): Where Microsoft beats Apple on the Personal Weblog of Joe Clark, Toronto. Nobody does it better.
Friday Font: TeeFranklin
Gloriously available for @font-face embedding, TeeFranklin by Suomi Type Foundry at Fontspring is a family of 14 weights/styles that may be perfect when you want to offer something a tad different from Helvetica and Franklin while retaining many of the qualities that make those fonts great.
Brandon Grotesque is a sans serif family of six weights plus matching italics, designed by Hannes von Döhren.
Influenced by the geometric-style sans serif faces that were popular during the 1920s and 30s, the fonts are based on geometric forms that have been optically corrected for better legibility. Brandon Grotesque has a functional look with a warm touch.