Setting up the first lecture of the second day | photo by Laure Afchain The second day began with a fascinating insight in typical problems current type designers face, problems that originated only quite recently. The development of Unicode and the OpenType font format have increased the possibilities of digital fonts to the nth degree – when it comes to the possible number of glyphs actually to the 256th degree. Whereas the number of glyphs in PostScript Type 1 fonts (the previous industry standard) was limited to 256 slots, now there are 256 squared = 65,536 slots available. While some designers and foundries stick to the the “normal” character set, others go all the way, and there are some scripts nearing the 2,000 glyph mark… per weight! Designing all those letters, numbers and other assorted signs is one thing, yet that’s only half the work. To obtain a font that seemlessly sets text, all these glyphs need to be spaced and kerned, the topic of the upcoming third Introduction To Type Design. And when a font includes a large number of glyphs, inevitably the number of kerning pairs increases considerably, to the point of overflowing.
Ben Kiel (left) and Brooke Elgie paying attention | photo by This topic was addressed by Ben Kiel in My kern runneð over: a case study of complex fonts and subtables. Ben used the recently released Studio Lettering fonts as an example, as the many initial caps, culture-specific stylistic sets, initial and final forms, ligatures, and contextual alternates make for very large character sets. When kerning those fonts the House Industries type designers and font technicians seem to run into an upper limit which is not documented – I think it was around 10,000; so you thought designing type was an quick and easy job? ;) Ben discussed the many strategies they tested to somehow circumvent this limitation. Although they found a number of workarounds and patches, they still haven’t managed to get to the root of the problem. This is why Ben ended with asking the question to the audience. Unfortunately it remained unanswered. Talking to Ben during the coffee break afterwards he admitted to being a bit disappointed, as he had hoped someone had run into similar problems and found a fool-proof solution.
Just van Rossum | photo by Erik van Blokland Just van Rossum’s presentation on TTX and FontTools was pure geek heaven, and a nice glimpse at what the previous Robothon conference must’ve been like. TTX is a tool to convert OpenType and TrueType fonts to and from XML. FontTools is a library for manipulating fonts, written in Python. It supports TrueType, OpenType, AFM and to an extent Type 1 and some Mac-specific formats. I am not going to go into specifics; let me just mention that the genius of this system lies in the fact that it turns fonts into human readable files and allows the user to literally rewrite the code to edit the fonts. Again I couldn’t reproduce any of it here, yet even with my limited technical capabilities I could read and understand big parts of what was shown on the screen. It also made me understand that this is a very delicate way of working, as the user hasn’t got much of a safety net and has to be very careful with the edits. I have the impression Just may be the one working a little more behind the scenes, but his input in the whole Robofab project is equal to the other more visible members.
Georg Seifert preparing | photo by Frank Rolf After the coffee break Georg Seifert showcased his Glyphs font editor. As mentioned in my previous post I must’ve misunderstood some of his presentation. Unfortunately it was marred by some technical difficulties – the application is still in the very early stages of development – which made it even more confusing for me. I saw some very nice functionality though for previewing glyphs while designing them, like mixing glyphs of different weights and measuring italics at an angle. Georg told me last week he’d try to put some information about the app online, but I haven’t seen anything surface yet.
Yanone loves morbid application icons | photo by Frank Rolf The last presentation before lunch was Yanone’s visual font auditing software Autopsy. I already saw it demoed at the FontFont designers meeting at Typo Berlin 2007 | Music and was quite impressed by it. Autopsy is a FontLab Studio add-on that analyses the design of multiple weights of a typeface and looks for inconsistencies. The various measurements of each glyph are compared with that glyph in the other weights. The progression of those measurements is translated into graphs, and any mistakes become apparent. This great tool is meant for multi-weight and -width families, and useful for not only type designers, but also foundries who wish to check font families that are submitted to them. Yanone’s presentation ended on a somewhat wry note, as he explained that despite Autopsy’s success nobody paid for a license. In response to that, he announced he slashed its price to US€ 49,- and would have the add-on go OpenSource as soon as 20 licenses had been sold.
Yuri Yarmola doing his best Adam Twardoch impersonation | photo by Eben Sorkin FontLab’s Yuri Yarmola had to stand in for Adam Twardoch who wasn’t able to attend due to illness. Fortunately he was sufficiently recovered to chime in via Skype. The title of the presentation The reason is not clear. was… errr… not clear, at least to me. ;) Yuri basically outlined the future plans for the FontLab products. New versions expanding on the current code named Leningrad are expected this year, including FontLab 6 which will have native UFO2 support, built-in AFDK 2.5, automatic OpenType generation, and a simplified font naming routine. Simultaneously they are already starting work on radical new versions including FontLab 7 which are rebuilt from the ground up in new Victoria programming environment. The ultimate goal is to gradually do away with stuff like toolbars and palettes and have the tools contextually adapt for the ultimate user experience. At the end of the presentation Adam answered some questions over a Skype video connection. Personally I was a bit underwhelmed by this presentation, as it all sounded hypothetical and nothing concrete was shown.
Frederik Berlaen (left) and Tal Leming. When listening closely one could hear electricity crackle from their synapses. | photo by Eben Sorkin Our very own Frederik Berlaen – hey, forgive me for bragging, he’s local and he kicks all kinds of ass when it comes to designing type and writing code – wowed the audience with his tools. RoundingUFO is an application that converts the corners of the glyphs in fonts according to user-defined parameters. It does so very intelligently, with independent control over black and white corners, and the possibility to add ink traps as well. Rob Keller remarks: “I really wish I had that rounding tool two years ago when I started Vesper. Now I have about 8,000 glyphs all with hand-made rounded corners! This could have saved weeks of work and headaches.” Next up was UFOoutliner which is still in development. It enables the user to quickly and precisely create outline versions of his fonts, and even in its unfinished form it did its job conscientiously. UFOstretch allows you to transform, translate and interpolate a specific set of glyphs. It provides a range of measurement tools that allow for a high level of accuracy. Frederik demonstrated how easy and fast the tool is able to create derived glyphs like small caps, different sets of figures and so on through intelligent shifting, skewing, tracking, scaling, and interpolating. Other things Frederik showed were OSFontBridge; the comprehensive Mini app for building mini-websites; the visual type design version control system TypeCast; and TypeActivator which remotely activates digital fonts: a revolutionary new way of previewing fonts or using them for a limited amount of time.
One of the important advantages of Frederik’s type-related tools is that they take away most of the guesswork involved in specific areas of type design, and allow you to adapt, finetune, and measure glyphs at an impressive speed. Furthermore they have an intuitive, primarily slider-based interface and lightning fast responsiveness in common.
Tim Ahrens | photo by Eben Sorkin The last presentation were the equally impressive RMX tools by Tim Ahrens. They are a set of macro tools for FontLab Studio that allow scaling of glyphs while preserving the integrity of the stroke characteristics. The fun part is that Tim – who has a background as an architect – uses “dumb” math to solve complex problems. The wow-factor came from the near-human intelligence his plug-ins display. It seems to go beyond mere calculation and starts to resemble human deduction and insight. Instead of explaining what Tim showed, head over to his website where he has cool little introductory videos showing the Remix Tools in action.
Coming up – awards, awards, and an exhibition.
23.03.2009 - 11.27.38
Posted by Unzipper
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