Full Color Type? Yikes!!!
There’s simply no easy way to implement color fonts
today. It’s easy enough for designers to think of ’em, though. “Hey I wanna see a font made out of different colors of jellybeans!” Yes, it would be great, jellybeans are fun to look at. And yes, it’s pretty easy to imagine how a jelly-bean font might look on an iPad or a postcard. But there’s just no easy way to do it. Lots of clumsy workarounds for the diligent designer, but no simple way to do it.
In the old days of printed words, when people got most of their information from books, magazines and newspapers, there was a cost factor involved with getting your words in front of readers. Four colors of ink were more expensive than just one. So the vast majority of words people read were presented in just black ink on white paper for economic reasons. One color of ink on paper was the cheapest way to get your words out to the people.
Now you don’t even need paper to show your words to millions. There are so many more ways to read type. On tv, on your computer, on a phone or a tablet. And in all of these new media, there is no added cost involved with rendering type in your choice of color. In fact, it turns out with lighted electronic displays, white on black is easier to read than black on white. But you don’t need to use black or white, you can use any color you can think of. Designers have an infinite array of colors to set type in. Yikes!
There are at least three problems with full-color fonts:
- For designers, there’s no convenient method to use full-color fonts.
- For the font creators, there’s no industry-standard format for creating full-color fonts.
- They are hard on the eyes. Full-color type needs to be used sparingly. Even if there was a way to easily use them, it takes a keen eye and advanced typographic skills to use them in a tasteful manner.
There is a technology called Photofont
, developed by Fontlab, which allows you to type with photographic fonts using a plug-in for Photoshop, InDesign or Illustrator. I’ve tested it out and it seems to work pretty well in all three apps. But it is really optimized for web use, and it is somewhat clumsy to have to install a third-party plug-in to use photofonts. I’m glad they made this app, and I hope they continue developing it, but it’s really frustrating that it still doesn’t help with high-quality print images at all. If you want to make your letters even 900 pixels high, you can’t do it. Full-color fonts for billboards are out of the question.
Another way for websites to implement color in their type is to start with a good strong font and then apply your own text effects using new CSS3 text-shadow property
to add your own flavor of colorization. But fancy CSS3 properties aren’t gonna help with your print job much.
So I don’t know where I’m going with all this, but I thought I should get my thoughts out there to spur discussion and development on the subject. I really enjoy making full color fonts, even though few people ever use them. That’s all.
Do you have any full-color font success stories? Do you know of new developments in the world of color typography that I should be aware of? Send ’em on to me! You can tweet me @chankfonts on Twitter, or send me an e-mail. My contact is on the bottom of every page at chank.com 😉
Talkin’ Type Trends at FontConf
Here’s something you don’t see every day: four great Midwestern type designers in one place. The pic above shows Bill Moran, Chank Diesel, Mark Simonson and Stu Sandler coming together at FontConf which took place in St. Paul, MN this weekend. In addition to this quartet, about 100 other people also showed up Saturday morning at the CoCo workspace to learn and discuss new frontiers in typography at the event, which was put together by Kernest and sponsored by AIGA-MN and A.Fruit Design.
The morning started with a light-hearted, all-inclusive tone, with the creation of a fun, farmers-market-inspired alphabet made of flowers in a workshop led by Chank Diesel (that’s me.) The flowerfont workshop yielded a beautiful collection of flower glyphs which will later be assembled into a freefont to be distributed under a generous Creative Commons license. The fontmaking workshop, titled “Let’s Make an Open Source Font!” featured talk amongst participants about what “open source” fonts are and how more open licensing allows more freedom and protection for designers. Font licensing is a complicated subject that merits its own separate discussion, but it was good to at least know that a few more people have a better understanding of font licenses are and how they affect type designers and graphic designers alike. It was good to get a font license discussion started while we worked on the new font.
There were two tracks running simultaneously at FontConf. While half the attendees were busy making their organic flower alphabet, Jon Hadden spoke in the other room about “Font Replacement Techniques”. As I was busy working on the flower font, I didn’t get to see his presentation, but I did meet him briefly and he was hot. Bigger than me, athletic, half-bearded, wow, what a good-lookin’ man! After Hadden, Kyle Meyer spoke of ways for web designers to improve their web typography with the new rules for using type with the new standards of CSS and HTML5.
After lunch, things got a little more complicated when Richard Fink of readable web talked a bit more how type implementation is changing for designers, and how old business models of selling fonts may not work much longer. Bill Moran of Blinc Publishing gave a brief introduction and broad discussion of typographic history, going all the way from Gutenberg’s first movable type, to Samuel Clemens investing in early typesetting machines, right on up to modern implementation of fonts on the web.
The day concluded with attendees’ choice of something techy or more designee. On the aesthetic tip, Doug Powell led a group discussion on web typography with group-web-browsing so people could actually see fonts on live websites and talk about what works well. In the other room, Bram Pitoyo came all the way from Portland to talk about web font optimization and how fonts can be broken into subsets using CSS to create smaller, more efficient character sets to make web pages load faster.
The best feature of all of FontConf was the promotion of open discussion of contemporary type trends by a small but focussed group of concerned individuals, graphic designers and type designers alike, talking about all the exciting changes that are currently happening in the world of type. Licensing, implementation and consequently the fundamental design and release techniques of fonts are all changing at a rapid pace, and it was good to have a venue where people could meeet face to face and discuss the questions and opportunities that are arising before them.
Petals of progress: remains at the workspace of the flower fontmaking workshop.
Win a free iPad from Chank!
Hey, did ya hear we’re giving away a free iPad at Chank.com this week? Yeah, we are! The drawing is this THURSDAY, MAY 20 at 8pm. We’ll be drawing the winner’s name live at the Clockwork springtime jam in Minneapolis. So please put your name in the drawing if you’d like to win it. Only about 500 people have entered so far, so everybody’s odds are looking pretty good.
The iPad is an amazing new device that connects to a wi-fi network and lets you browse the internet, read eBooks, watch videos, listen to music and play games. And if that’s not enough entertainment and information for you, there’s thousands of other apps to choose from at the Apple app store. It’s a truely revolutionary, magical device, and I’m glad we’ve got the chance to give one away to some lucky fontlover.
Best of all, Chank Fonts look great on iPads! Which is such a relief considering my font frustration with both the iPod (only one stupid font on ’em) and the iPhone (my fonts aren’t optimized for 8 pt, grrr.) Fonts can go BIG on an iPad, and they look great in websites using Typekit. I’m really excited about people using my fonts on iPad apps and websites, and want to do my part to get an iPad in the hands of at least one lucky person.
All I ask for is that you join my mailing list to receive the Chank Fonts e-mail newsletter, so I can send you announcement when I’ve got new font releases. I only send out about 10 newsletters a year, so I try to make ’em helpful and include other font-related insights. You can opt out anytime, and if you’re already receiving it, I promise you won’t be double-subscribed. I’m just a simple font salesman trying to guide some more traffic to my website.
Please tell your friends who may like fonts they should come enter for a chance to win a free iPad. I’d sure appreciate it.
Webfont Embedding Comes to Life!
Such a thrill to see the new HTML5 “@font-face” standard being adopted so smoothly. The new web standards and webfont delivery techniques are just now starting to really change the way the www works. Websites are embedding fonts in viewer’s browsers, allowing them to see a broader selection of real fonts, displayed in the html of the web pages as selectable, scalable, searchable text. So smart and simple, once you learn how to do it, and so much more elegant than saving gif or jpg pictures of words for headlines and display type. That’s kinda silly.
Hundreds of websites are now using my fonts through the @font-face font call. The biggest proponent of the new webfonts is probably WordPress, which allows their 10 million users to easily implement Typekit fonts in their blogs. I’ve seen lots of WordPress sites using my fonts, and that’s just super. And just like my traditional print and desktop fonts, there are both free and commercial versions of the fonts that available for @font-face licensing through Typekit.
Different Chank Fonts are available for web embedding from a few different service providers. SF-based Typekit is the most popular, because they’ve got some of those smart people who worked with Twitter and Google previously. Plus they have the most attractive website (designed by Jason Santa Maria).
But there’s also MN-based Kernest who offers a thoughtful and extensive selection of opensource fonts. Another newcomer is Fontspring which offers the webfont service bundled with desktop (print) versions of the fonts for you to use in your offline designs. Different distributors offer different selections of Chank Fonts, but I hope you’ll find something you like from these new webfont service sites.
The new font-embedding services don’t work so well on mobile devices and the iPad just yet, but I have faith that they will some day soon. Until then, start using webfonts now! That’ll make your web site smarter looking. Here are my pages at some font-embedding service sites: