This is the celebrated journal of Mr. Simon Collison A.K.A Colly

For the typographically challenged

17th October 2005

OK. I’ve had enough of ace print designer and soon-to-leave-for-London colleague Jamie taking the piss out of me for only knowing three fonts or whatever. I will not have him look round at me in his you don’t even know what kerning is way ever again. It’s time for me to become a better designer. It’s time to learn about type…

As a web designer who rarely does anything for print, I know sod all about typography. I know almost all there is to know about controlling fonts with CSS, but I’m perpetually confused by typography terminology - what is a glyph? For me, when it comes to font choices, it’s Verdana, Lucida Grande if I’m feeling adventurous, bloody Arial, and… erm, well, that’s kind of all I use. Oh wait! Geneva, Courier. Erm…

Getting my kit together

I’ve installed Type Tool, Linotype’s FontExplorer X (like iTunes for fonts, and free!), and had another look at Apple’s Font Book (seems universally hated, but it was always OK for me). I’ve set up some bookmarks including the ridiculously lovely TypeTester, but there’s little more at this stage.

Seeking inspiration

image

Last month I purchased Computer Arts Projects (the sister mag of Computer Arts) as I always do. In the absence of a decent web design mag, I always buy CA and CAP because what they lack in tutorials, they sure as hell make up for with inspiration. Generally, there’s enough focus on the web within the mag, and they always feature my Black Convoy buddies. It really is the only magazine I genuinely need.

Anyway, the issue I bought was a typography special: The Type Issue. Absolutely bloody perfect if you are at the same stage as myself, covering stuff such as a Type Glossary, designing your own typeface, using sIFR, a typography showcase, classic fonts and a brilliantly authoratative history of type. The latest issue is out now, but I strongly advise grabbing it from their back issues dept.

I now need many more resources

So you now know what I’ve collected, but I’m sure there’s more. I’m interested in great articles about using fonts in adventurous ways within websites. I want to know how to make fantastic curly logos for sites using Illustrator or whatever. I’m keen to find more useful apps that can help me customize, organize and categorize my growing font collection. I want to know what the rules are, and when it’s OK to break them. Basically, I wanna know what you know.

If you think there’s something out there that I need, drop a link below. Share that knowledge, kids…

I’ll leave you with a relevant joke

Comic Sans walks into a bar and orders a drink. The barman flatly refuses to serve him. “Why?”, enquires the font. The barman answers, “We don’t want your type in ‘ere.”

Ba-boom. I’m here all week.

Responses

# Jon Hicks responded on 17th October 2005 with...

How about taking a look around some good type foundries?:

http://del.icio.us/jonhicks/foundries

# Marko Dugonjić responded on 17th October 2005 with...

When talking about type in general, you probably shouldn’t miss Thinking with Type (also a book available), Typographica and Typophile forums. Also, The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst is simply a must.

Typography for the web, imho doesn’t differs much from the typography for the screen (design-wise, at least).

# quis responded on 17th October 2005 with...

A glyph is the visual representation of a digital character,  in case you’re still wondering.

# Simon Collison responded on 17th October 2005 with...

Jon and Marko: Awesome - all now bookmarked.

Quis: Ah, I did learn this from the mag, but thanks anyway - it was a term I would often here but only recently learned the definition. Read also ligatures, kerning, Gothic, fount, cursive, tracking, ball terminal etc etc…

# James Bowskill responded on 17th October 2005 with...

A quick and dirty free font site that lets you preview your text before downloading the font. Quality’s a bit questionable at times, but comes in handy: http://www.dafont.com

# Stephen responded on 17th October 2005 with...

Thanks to Marko for the nod to Typographica. I humbly recommend the FontShop FontFeed. Also, John Berry’s pieces at Creativepro is always full of useful type poop. The latest is a great guide to numerals.

# Stephen responded on 17th October 2005 with...

Whoops, I messed the direct link to the FontFeed.

# Andrew B. responded on 17th October 2005 with...

And you can practice your kerning skills here:

http://typography.art.udel.edu/

# Tim responded on 17th October 2005 with...

You should look at Mark Boulton’s Five Simple Steps to Better Typography.

# Matt Lindop responded on 17th October 2005 with...

Fancy not knowing what kerning is.
Oh, wait…

# Peter Costello responded on 17th October 2005 with...

About Face is an absolutely stellar type reference.  Beautifully designed and illustrated by Vincent Frost, I love this book and can’t recommend it enough! Sadly mine is back home in Aus :( but at вп?20 I might just get myself another copy.

# Si responded on 17th October 2005 with...

The best typographic resource on the web has to be Typophile… helpful to the max, although sometimes it can get a bit too in-depth and can be more than you actually need.

http://www.typophile.com

Generally I think the best overall advice is on type spacing: trust your eyes - if something looks right, it most probably is.

Hope this helps

Si

# Mike Stenhouse responded on 17th October 2005 with...

Working with type takes me BLOODY AGES! I really struggle. I think the Content with Style logo type took me over a day and all I was doing was tweaking tiny bits and pieces.

I have a few links delicioused: http://del.icio.us/mikesten/typography but any serious questions I have I ask my housemate, who just happens to be a typographer at a big ad agency. Handy that.

Oh, and I read http://typographi.com/ and http://www.typophile.com/ every now and again, too.

# Martin Smith responded on 18th October 2005 with...

Isn’t kerning that northern tradition of pulling a riduculous face whilst wearing a horses neck brace?

# Simon Collison responded on 18th October 2005 with...

Mike: I too always viewed it as a difficult pursuit, which is why I put off learning more for so long.

Martin: Are you hear all week also?

Everyone else: Many, many thanks. Excellent links - all now bookmarked. Bless you all…

# Andrew B. responded on 18th October 2005 with...

Soon you’ll be able to wear one of these!

# Nathan Pitman responded on 18th October 2005 with...

If you want to get to know more about type it’s also worth taking a wander round your local Waterstones Book Store, the larger stores have some fantastic books on typography, and even if you don’t find anything that’s directly relevant to type for the web, you can find a great deal of inspiration in books about typography for print.

I have a couple of of Neville Brody books about the office here which although pretty aged I still find useful in terms of sparking off ideas.

Regarding managing your fonts, I guess you’re on a Mac but on the PC ‘Extensis Suitcase’ is the best app for font management. :)

# Ryan Oswald responded on 19th October 2005 with...

try stop stealing sheep

and as marko suggested, The Elements of Typographic Style for in-depth investigation into type design and theory.

# David Horn responded on 19th October 2005 with...

This link has been going round the blogosphere this morning - a nice collection of licence free fonts:

Licence Free Fonts

# Sanne Knoester responded on 19th October 2005 with...

Hey, I have the same mag. wrigt here. great article about leterror. had a lecture of one of those guys at my art school. Check this site voor some other great fonts house industries

And maybe you can fint some great books here its dutch but I gues you can find some english books as well (Ah, I now see its international)

# Rob Waring responded on 20th October 2005 with...

If you can read it its a good font to use, if you can’t its not.

Up the font neanderthals.

# Ryan Oswald responded on 20th October 2005 with...

well that simplifies things Rob.

# Feaverish responded on 25th October 2005 with...

Typebase is an excellent online resources, with hundreds of links to foundries, type history, and more.

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