At the dawn of desktop publishing, an acquaintance confided that she was writing a murder mystery about factions within a graphic design office. The younger, more tech-savvy employees were being picked off, possibly by a disgruntled Luddite. Or wait, was it the other way around—Luddites murdered? The industry changed so quickly, by the time the book was published, could anyone relate to her story?
Designers used to specify type and send it to outside type houses, who set it in galleys and delivered it back, usually the next morning. Now that we have the technology to set type in-house, typesetting expertise has had to come in-house, too. Schedules have collapsed—since we have the technology, we can turn work around immediately.
Without bemoaning the changes, bringing services in-house has had an isolating effect. Like a lot of businesses, graphic design used to rely on an interconnected hive of varied suppliers across the city. The universe now looks more like complete worlds revolving separately, with a few specialized suppliers (dwindling numbers of paper companies and printers) drifting in between.
The most exciting development is the profusion of really good typefaces being created, now that everyone has access to the tools. Sure, there are bad fonts, but that’s always been the case (Palatino…please). There are lots of winners. The more people pay attention and actually care about type, the better for all of us.
Down with TrueType, Up with OpenType
Magazines and newspaper publishers now warn: “Ensure that all fonts used are PostScript Type 1 fonts. We do not accept TrueType or Multiple Master fonts” in ads. According to Wikipedia, “With widely varying rendering technologies in use today, pixel-level control is no longer certain in a TrueType font…. OpenType has become the dominant ‘smart font’ technology.” OpenType fonts are cross-platform, so you can use them on your Mac and on your PC! They also offer expanded character sets, which is like opening a treasure chest full of wonderful glyphs and alternate letters. It can be tricky to access these outside of Adobe programs, but it’s well worth persevering.
Adobe helpfully offers, “Feature-rich Adobe OpenType fonts can be distinguished by the word “Pro,” which is part of the font name and appears in application font menus.”
So, if you can, avoid TrueType fonts and go with OpenType.
Are webfonts just another unnecessary expense? Why do we need to buy special typefaces for the web in addition to those for print?
When a web page specifies a typeface the user’s computer doesn’t have, browsers used to substitute another font from a limited number of humdrum system fonts.
The only other option designers had was to create a static image with the unusual font. Since 2007, coding developments have allowed designers to specify non-system fonts. It took another few years to develop secure hosting and a range of web-format fonts, but now web fonts are in wide use. Web pages can use fonts dynamically that you don’t have on your computer. The font resides on the server hosting the site, so can be seen by anyone accessing the site.
Fontshop provides six reasons to use webfonts in a nice, graphical representation.