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.
TrueType font embedding has come to iPhone and iPad, Hallelujah, brothers and sisters. That is to say, Mobile Safari now supports CSS embedding of lower-bandwidth, higher-quality, more ubiquitous TrueType fonts. This is huge. Test on your device(s), then read and rejoice:
iOS 4.2 is also the first version of Mobile Safari to support native web fonts (in TrueType format) instead of SVG. This is also exciting news, as TrueType fonts are superior to SVG fonts in two very important ways: the files sizes are dramatically smaller (an especially important factor on mobile devices), and the rendering quality is much higher.
TrueType is an outline font standard originally developed by Apple Computer in the late 1980s as a competitor to Adobe’s Type 1 fonts used in PostScript. TrueType has become the most common format for fonts on both the Mac OS and Microsoft Windows operating systems.
The primary strength of TrueType was originally that it offered font developers a high degree of control over precisely how their fonts are displayed, right down to particular pixels, at various font sizes. With widely varying rendering technologies in use today, pixel-level control is no longer certain in a TrueType font.
More about webfonts
If you’re coming late to the party, the following bits of required reading and listening will get you up to speed on the joys (and occasional frustrations) of “real type” on the web:
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).
Rich Ziade, creator of the popular reading tool Readability, guests on Thursday’stoday’s episode of The Big Web Show, co-hosted by Dan Benjamin and taped before a live internet audience.
Richard Ziade is the founding partner of Arc90, a consulting firm, product shop, and idea incubator based in New York City. Arc90 has a reputation as one of the best web application design shops around. Alas, nearly all their web application design work is for private corporate clients. Thus most of us don’t get a chance to see and learn from Arc90’s work. Fortunately we can get a taste of what they’re about by visiting the Arc90 Lab, where the company shares ideas, tools, and the occasional experiment in web technology.
During Thursday’s Friday’s taping of The Big Web Show, we will probe Rich (if you’ll excuse the disgusting imagery) to find out where his ideas come from, how Arc90 manages the balance between product development and client services, and how to build a reputation when your client services agreements prevent you from having a public portfolio. I will also try to force Rich to tell our listeners if he has any awesome future plans for Readability.
Prior to Arc90, Richard worked in various roles crossing disciplines in design, technology and product management. Rich shares his occasional thought on design and technology at his blog: www.basement.org.
The Big Web Show (“Everything Web That Matters”) is taped live in front of an internet audience every Thursday at 1:00 PM ETtoday at 2:00 pm! on live.5by5.tv. Edited episodes can be watched afterwards, often within hours of taping, via iTunes (audio feed | video feed) and the web.
A List Apart and .net magazine have long admired each other. So when .net editor Dan Oliver did me the great honor of asking if I wished to guest edit an issue, I saluted smartly. The result is now arriving in subscriber post boxes and will soon flood Her Majesty’s newsstands.
In .net magazine Issue No. 206, on sale 17th August in UK (and next month in the US, where it goes by the name “Practical Web Design”), we examine how new standards like CSS3 and HTML5, new devices like iPhone and Droid, and maturing UX disciplines like content strategy are converging to create new opportunities for web designers and the web users we serve:
Exult as Luke Wroblewski shows how the explosive growth of mobile lets us stop bowing to committees and refocus on features customers need.
Marvel as Ethan Marcotte explains how fluid grids, flexible images, and CSS3 media queries help us create precise yet context-sensitive layouts that change to fit the device and screen on which they’re viewed.
Delight as Kristina Halvorson tells how to achieve better design through coherent content wrangling.
Thrill as Andy Hume shows how to sell wary clients on cutting-edge design methods never before possible.
Geek out as Tim Van Damme shows how progressive enhancement and CSS3 make for sexy experiences in today’s most capable browsers—and damned fine experiences in those that are less web-standards-savvy.
You can also read my article, which asks the musical question:
Cheap, complex devices such as the iPhone and the Droid have come along at precisely the moment when HTML5, CSS3 and web fonts are ready for action; when standards-based web development is no longer relegated to the fringe; and when web designers, no longer content to merely decorate screens, are crafting provocative, multi-platform experiences. Is this the dawn of a newer, more mature, more ubiquitous web?
Today’s web is about interacting with your users wherever they are, whenever they have a minute to spare. New code and new ideas for a new time are what the new issue of .net magazine captures. There has never been a better time to create websites. Enjoy!
Photo by Daniel Byrne for .net magazine. All rights reserved.
The show’s over but the photos linger on. An Event Apart Minneapolis was two days of nonstop brilliance and inspiration. In an environment more than one attendee likened to a “TED of web design,” a dozen of the most exciting speakers and visionaries in our industry explained why this moment in web design is like no other.
Next up: An Event Apart DC and San Diego. These shows will not be streamed, simulcast, or repackaged in DVD format. To experience them, you must attend. Tickets are first-come, first-served, and every show this year has sold out. Forewarned is forearmed; we’d love to turn you on.
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.
Everything you wanted to know about web fonts but were afraid to ask. Richard Fink summarizes the latest news in web fonts, examining formats, rules, licenses, and tools. He creates a checklist for evaluating font hosting and obfuscation services like Typekit; looks at what’s coming down the road (from problems of advanced typography being pursued by the CSS3 Fonts Module group, to the implications of Google-hosted fonts); and wraps up with a how-to on making web fonts work today.
Above, page one of “A Scandal in Bohemia,” the first story in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, as seen in Stanza, a free reader for iPad and iPhone. Stanza has a simple interface for finding, buying (and downloading free) e-books.
Stanza lets you control font size and choose from a number of templates offering a useful variety of foreground and background color and contrast. As the screenshot shows, it also lets you set text ragged right, which is the most legible setting for onscreen text.
Below, the same page in iBooks, the reader that comes with iPad. As one would expect from the company that brought us iTunes, the iBooks application has a slick interface for buying (and downloading free) e-books. But as a reader, it is currently less feature-rich, and thus less usable and less pleasing, than Stanza.
In iBooks, one cannot turn off full justification. While full justification is lovely in carefully produced printed books, it has a long history of bad aesthetics and poor usability on the screen. Given a sufficiently wide measure, full justification can be used onscreen for short passages, but it is inappropriate for anything beyond a paragraph or two.
Combine full justification with a single high-contrast template, and you have a reader that is better to look at than to read. Indeed, the 1.0 version of iBooks seems more like a flashy demo intended to wow potential iPad purchasers in the store than an application designed to provide book lovers with a viable alternative to print.
One suspects that future upgrades of iBooks will address these concerns. Meanwhile, if you intend to do serious reading on your iPad (or iPhone/Touch), download Stanza for free from the iTunes store.
Addendum: One wonders what will become of Stanza given Amazon’s ownership of the parent company. More here. Best scenario: the Kindle reader incorporates excellent Stanza features, while Stanza continues to operate as an alternative to Kindle, iBooks, et al.
A Reading Heatmap: Key passages illuminated by layering all readers’ highlights for the same text.
LAST MONTH, he wowed us with Books in the Age of the iPad, a call to make digital books as beautiful as printed ones. This month, Craig Mod is back with Embracing the Digital Book, an article (or blog post if you must) that begins as a critique of iBooks and Kindle and moves on to discuss the e-reader of our dreams, complete with reasoned social features:
I’m excited about digital books for a number of reasons. Their proclivity towards multimedia is not one of them. I’m excited about digital books for their meta potential. The illumination of, in the words of Richard Nash, that commonality between two people who have read the same book.
We need to step back for a moment and stop acting purely on style. There is no style store. Retire those half-realized metaphors while they’re still young.
Instead, let’s focus on the fundamentals. Improve e-reader typography and page balance. Integrate well considered networked (social) features. Respect the rights of the reader and then — only then — will we be in a position to further explore our new canvas.
GEORGIA and Verdana, Lucida and (to a lesser extent) Arial and Times New Roman have served us well. For fifteen years, these cross-platform default fonts have been faithful stewards of our desire to read, write, design, and publish web pages. Yet we designers have always wanted more. As far back as 1994, we hoped for the day when we could brand our layouts as magazine and poster designers do, by setting our pages in Franklin or Garamond, our headlines in Futura or Rosewood. And since 1998, CSS2 has provided a standard way to embed any typeface, not just the fab five, on a web page.
In August, 2007, CSS co-creator and Opera Software CTO Håkon Wium Lie wrote CSS At Ten, reminding us that CSS provided a mechanism by which actual font files could be linked to and retrieved from the web. Soon after the article was published, “web fonts” discussions started popping up at interactive design festivals and my friend Jeffrey Veen got the idea for a product that would get web fonts happening without running afoul of inconsistent browser support, multiple format hangups, or type designer licensing agreements and piracy concerns.
Speeding up design acceptance
While browser improvements and web standards alone provided multiple partial solutions, Typekit offered a complete solution that just worked. And the people behind Typekit (including Bryan Mason and Jason Santa Maria) did everything right: they reached out to the type design, graphic design, and standards-based web design communities; they worked with vendor after vendor to offer as many fonts as possible; they spoke everywhere, marketing their venture one lecture and even one designer at a time.
Typekit excited the web design community about type and proved that licensing and hosting web type was a viable business, providing options and convenience for designers and their clients, while bringing new revenue to type designers and protecting their intellectual property.
Typekit is the tipping point
Publicly and truly, I support Typekit because it is getting us to the world of web fonts faster. We could wait indefinitely for type vendors to agree to industry-standard licensing terms and font formats. We could wait far longer for IE, Firefox, Safari, Chrome, Opera, Opera Mini, Mobile Safari, and the rest to support the same font formats. (Currently Firefox supports WOFF and TrueType, Safari and Chrome support TrueType, MobileSafari supports SVG, IE supports EOT, and on, and on.)
But with Typekit, we don’t have to bother our pretty little heads worrying about these inconsistencies, and we don’t have to sit on the sidelines, waiting for all font makers and all browser makers to support a single standard format.
Platforms and performance
Typekit works, and that helps web designers and type designers take “web fonts” seriously. Typekit’s success is even helping to make web designers and type designers more aware of platform problems that can make fonts hideous on various platforms. Georgia was designed for the screen. Garamond was not. Moreover, platforms vary the way they hint fonts (Apple throws out hinting altogether, Microsoft over-hints) and the way they render them (from purely pixellated to at least three varieties of sub-pixel anti-aliasing), making a font’s appearance on a given user’s system hard to predict.
If not for Typekit, we might have had to wait years for most or all type designers to license web fonts. Only then would we have discovered that body text set in anything other than Georgia and Verdana pretty much blows on many Windows OS, browser, and monitor combinations.
Thanks to Typekit, we all know about the problem, and type designers are re-hinting their fonts, and in some cases redesigning them for the screen.
For all this I and all of us can be grateful to Typekit.
They also understand that designers will only use “web fonts” if they have access to the fonts they need. Just as a huge selection enabled iTunes to dominate online music, Typekit’s makers know their service must offer pretty much every good typeface out there—and they are working on it.
Renting versus “owning”
All this said in Typekit’s favor, I have mixed feelings about their product because I’d rather buy a web-licensed font than rent it—and Typekit’s success at establishing the viability of a rental model means that individual type foundries will also rent their fonts—and those who succeed at renting their fonts to web designers may not be inclined to sell.
Of course you never really own the fonts you buy—you simply license their use. So the analogy of owning versus renting doesn’t exactly hold true. But a one-time font purchase as a line item in a design budget is easier to explain and sell to a client than an ongoing rental charge.
Web Standards and @font-face
My other qualm has to do with a preference for pure web standards over product-assisted web standards. I don’t know if my preference is ideological or just the way my mind works (or fails to). But, given my druthers, I’d rather see millions of websites using standard @font-face to link to self-hosted web-licensed fonts than see that same number of fonts using a service—even a brilliant service created by friends for whom I wish continued, deserved, great success. It must be a quirk of mind; there’s no other logical explanation for this preference.
For those who share this bias, possess the properly licensed fonts, and don’t mind using FTP and writing a little code, the CSS @Font-Face Generator by Font Squirrel provides an exceptionally easy way to automatically generate the font formats necessary to take all browsers (including mobile) into account—complete with automated Cufón backup and your choice of best-practice @font-face code strings.
“A collection of David Berlow’s prolific typographic work as co-founder of Font Bureau is showcased in this impressive booklet, a celebration of him receiving the Society of Typographic Aficionados (SoTA) Typography Award in 2007. Specimen pages show styles of each family for easy comparison of weight, width, copyfit and aesthetic.”
Pulling the trigger just got easier. Now anyone can have a beautifully designed, standards-compliant WordPress site. The 60-plus recently created free WordPress themes (AKA template collections) listed by InstantShift’s Daniel Adams are categorized by function and style: “Clean and Minimal,” “Artistic and Fancy,” “Magazine Style,” “Portfolio Style,” “News and Social Media Style,” “Showcase and Galleries Style,” “E-Comerce and Shopping Cart Style,” “Domain Parking/Coming Soon Style,” and “Other.” Something for everyone.
Not everything here is a winner or will appeal to every taste, but there is plenty of great work to be had here. If WordPress is your CMS (it’s mine), even if you are a designer, you may ask yourself if you really need to perform that next site redesign from scratch.