LEAPS in WEBTYPE
As someone who designs for both print and web, June 2009 was an extra special month. Firefox 3.5 was released making all modern browsers supporters of font linking (@font-face). This meant that virtually any font could be used in web design. The standards including Arial, Times New Roman, Verdana and others no longer ruled the web pages. Previous CSS strides allowed for greater control of web typography in terms of kerning, leading, ligatures and more, but the widespread browser support of font linking was a giant leap forward in terms of controlling interactive design.
While the browser announcement was great news, there was a major drawback. Get Your Glyph On, my second favorite SXSWi panel of 2009*, was the first time I was exposed to the legality issues of font linking and the headaches that come with it. Virtually anyone with a little computer know-how can access unprotected, linked fonts, and in turn the type designer’s hard labor goes straight out the door.
So while this summer’s browser announcement was great news, it wasn’t until I caught wind of Typekit that I became really interested in the matter.
Typekit has received a great deal of attention from the design community. They’ve teamed up with some of the best type designers and foundries to create an impressively large and high-quality library. Typekit operates as a subscription-based service which seems to have some major advantages. To clarify, you’re not buying the fonts. You’re buying the right to temporarily use them, and Typekit will host the fonts in order to protect them. The subscription plans give you control over how many fonts you want access to, your monthly bandwidth and the number of websites you’re using their fonts on.
On the other hand, individual foundries are offering web-specific font licenses. Typotheque in The Hague, NL is a great example. Through the foundry’s site, you can purchase a font and select the license most suitable for your needs (web, print or both). In this case, it’s a one-time fee. However, if you purchase a font with a web-license rather than a full-license (both print and web), you don’t receive an installable font – it’s simply hosted by the foundry for your web purposes.
So while things are looking rather positive for web typography, there are still significant obstacles along the way such as dealing with FOUT (when you see a flash of unstyled text while a font loads) and the fact that not all fonts support a wide range of languages. And I have to admit, the designer in me is also a little fearful of stumbling across a webpage set in Papyrus. While there will be a lot of impressive web typography popping up, I’m sure there will be some serious eyesores to come too.
No matter what, it’s an exciting time for those of us who have longed to flex our typography muscles in web design.
Here are a few samples of great web typography with some nontraditional fonts:
*Few things can compete with the David Carson vs. crowdSPRING smackdown.