Digested on January 21, 2004
Posted by David Earls

This Saturday past, Stephen Coles over at Typographica posted his review of FontZone, Clive Bruton’s subscription-based typography magazine.

Clive’s site has amused me now for some time, and I certainly dont mean that in a condescending way. His coverage of typography news in highlight form is of a similar level to that of MS Typo, with fresh, moderately timely, free and informative articles. The real meat and potatoes of the site, however, lies in its excellent editorial base of articles, for which Clive reasonably asks for a yearly subscription. Judging from the responses just a couple of days later to Stephen’s brief review, it appears that many have problems with subscription sites - a viewpoint I had also held in the past. What is slightly more of concern though is the disdain for the site’s occasional partiality.

I thought it would be useful to add another perspective to the debate, as Mr Coles, Bruton and I all share a love of typography and appreciation of independent web publishing. A common root, if you will. For a couple of years, Typographer ran an almost daily news feed on typographic and graphic design. As I was not constrained by an employer, subscriber or sponsors, I was free to add an editorial slant where I felt appropriate. Many of my then readers emailed in to say that they appreciated this partisanship in the writing (and, naturally, others thought different, to the point of extreme offense a couple of times). Overall though, I never felt that impartiality was necessary or even desirable. This is perhaps a cultural thing - while we here in the UK feel that impartiality can be a good thing, and many of us hope to maintain such a valuable editorial stance within the media (I’m thinking primarily of the BBC’s output across television, radio and the web here), we also feel it important to have a balanced view within the media. Balance, by its very nature, requires a diversity of opinion, rather than mere desolate reporting.

We are all political animals, to exist within our respective cultures makes us so, no matter how hard we protest otherwise. Our diversity in thoughts and deed is surely what makes living rich, and our chosen fields so much fun. Without it, communication, whether it be verbal written or graphical in its nature, would become sterile - Imagine a world where all graphical communication was handled by Wolff Olins - no matter what your opinion of their work (it appeals to me, but then I am no longer young and hip), and I hope many of you would agree that it would be a world far less interesting, if rather better kerned. The world needs the occasional rant [or should that be Hrant?], and I applaud Clive for having the courage of his convictions enough to publish his beliefs a commercial setting.

Moving on to monetary considerations. Why have I changed my mind about Clive’s subscription scheme? Well, its simple really. I spend about an hour a day, every day for about two years working on Typographer.com’s now long gone news feed. It taught me much, and I hope that it taught others a thing or two in the process too. I hope that once in a while the site provided people with a new way of looking at this little niche which we all love so dearly, and if that meant speaking my mind, then so be it.

But short (some might say mouthy) news articles are one thing - to collate and edit longer pieces is considerably more difficult. These longer pieces are not simple affairs to produce, and when you have to fit it in with a busy workload designing websites, brochures, typefaces, or whatever else, it can be an exhausting process. Typographer.com occasionally ran larger pieces, but they were much to do with the generosity of others willing to contribute without recompense. To set aside considerably longer periods to work on a website of a more serious stature (that I believe Fontzone is, despite the moderatly naff name) requires the authors and editors to take time away from their paid life. While I would love to live in a world full of lofty idealistic artisans, the cruel hand of capitalism is fast removing any hope of that particular utopia. Put simply, for those who go beyond the hobbyist website to create sites that push the medium further, and help to educate, not just entertain, they need to be rewarded financially, even if moderately, not through greed, but through pure practicalities. Websites are difficuly to maintain - the one you are reading here costs hundreds of pounds a year just to host, and if I worked out a commercial hourly rate for its content, it’d be thousands.

For me, its fun. For Clive, it is in part his livelihood, and he can only continue if others respect and support that.

Good luck Clive, and keep up the good work.

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Digested on January 5, 2004
Posted by David Earls

Happy New Year to you all. Typographer is gently ramping back up after its break with a small collection of new year news.

Firstly, its a sad (or not?) goodbye to Adobe PageMaker. Adobe has announced that having InDesign, FrameMaker and PageMaker may be one DTP package too many for its product portfolio. And can you guess what they are going to do to for PageMaker users left out in the cold? Not hard is it... they also announced a set of plugins for InDesign, along with a special crossgrade edition of InDesign for a fairly resonable price. Bye bye PageMaker, and thank you for introducing me to the world of graphic design in my teenage years.

Being a vegan, the release of Tofu, a new reader application for MacOS X, naturally caught my eye. The reader differs in that it mimics newspaper multi-column layouts, making for a more efficient use of most computer's landscape format screen. An interesting and simple idea that, given it is free, is certainly worth investigating further.

ATypI 2004 is set for Eastern Europe, with the announcement that this year's conference being held in Prague, between 30th September and 4th October. There is barely more news of its major rival (well, sort of), TypeCon2004. This year its being held in the gay capital of the western world, San Francisco between 22nd and 25th July. Handlebar moustaches and/or tight tees at the ready then.

Other news, digested into pulp: Porchez Typofonderie has released an all new site which blows the previous effort out of the water - finally a site worthy of the foundry's output. T26 has also relaunched its website with a neater, more contemporary design, FontZone publishes Typographic Circle's Circular publication (for between 1994 and 1997), and Typophile has extended the deadline for submissions to its DIY 2004 calendar till 15th January in a bid for more submissions.

Good luck with your new year resolutions!

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