Digested on April 18, 2005
Posted by David Earls

Today it was announced that Adobe has taken over Macromedia. I am sure this will come as a surprise to many people, and not the kind of surprise that involves cake, jelly and ice cream either. Unless you’re a Adobe or Macromedia shareholder, of course. CEO Bruce Chizen cited cost savings of a streamlined (a nice synonym for “sacked”) workforce and by integrating their respective product lines. I think we can all take educated guesses as to what “integration” means in this instance.

So there is a good chance that this may be the end of the line for many of our industry’s applications. Dreamweaver and Flash will surely survive, but what about other applications that more clearly clash with one another. Freehand must surely now be under threat – not only would it take sales from Illustrator, its natural competitor, but also it takes sales from their DTP packages too. Many of us who cannot afford a top-flight DTP package as well as a vector package have come to rely on the multi-page abilities of Freehand to save our financial skins.

Maybe it’s not all doom and gloom. Flash may well yet get a user interface that people can actually use – After Effects lent its far more usable interface techniques to Flash’s defunct competitor LiveMotion, and one can hope that some of that timeline interface experience will also make it over to Flash’s development team. On the subject of Flash, we should all watch very carefully to see how it all will be made to work with Adobe’s existing PDF and SVG technologies. Macromedia had been making inroads into eDocument technologies, and while Adobe maybe king of that arena, Macromedia was the vector web king.

I’m afraid I rather keep seeing dark clouds. To me, this is akin to Coke buying Pepsi - another industry where two major players hold the dominant share of a market – at least they could compete against each other, fighting for many of the same customers but also relying on differing tastes and market segments. Now, we’ll all just drink coke, and maybe we’ll be lucky and they’ll release the odd vanilla or lemon flavour variety.

Other news, in brief. Right Brain Left Brain has published an interview with Mark Simonson this week, MS has started flogging Verdana, Georgia, et al (fonts they once gave away free for download on their website, so I’ll be buggered if I’m giving a link to the sales site), Shelley Gruendler and Caroline Archer have become the new executive directors over at ATypI (and who also happen to be half of TypeEvents, who also just happen to have won the contract to run future ATypI conferences), and finally, a new sentence. St Bride are running a lecture and book launch entitled “Harry Carter – Man of Type”. Written and presented by Martyn Thomas, its £5 to get in (£3 for concessions) and is on Tuesday 26th April. Easy to remember – it’s the day after my birthday. Which reminds me, Yves shall be taking the floor next week while I enjoy the pleasures of the Netherlands, but for now, over to the Belgian omnivore himself, who this week tells us blatant lies about a time when he wasn’t bald in a land where cojones is French...

Sources: The Register, MS Typo News, Typophile.com

Bald Condensed
by Yves Peters

Before I get to the meat of it — sorry ’bout that David — I have to get something off my chest. Thank you! Thank you Sumner Stone, for at last providing an alternative to that icky lowercase ‘a’ with the newly released ITC Stone Humanist Sans. I know, I realise this is not exactly fair of me. ITC Stone Sans was very much a product of its time. Don’t we all wish we were dressed by today’s fashion standards in those embarrassing twenty year old photographs? Don’t we all cringe at the sight of our silly hairdos? (Especially me: those were the days I still had hair.)

But still, thanks for taking care of that long overdue repair. It’s pretty impressive how a simple enhancement can salvage a face. Now if only you could do the same thing with ITC Stone Serif...

Then another thing, and I do hope you don’t mind me bitching and whining. Why doesn’t anyone tell me about their new releases? A friend just pointed me to Peter Bil’ak’s latest addition to his delightful Fedra that I didn't know of. Having about one hundred foundries in my bookmarks makes it difficult to keep track of all of them on a weekly basis. People might start to question my objectivity as I seem to review mostly Veer releases. Truth to be told, that’s only because my Typophile buddy Grant gives me a heads up every time Veer’s got something new coming out. If you want your typeface reviewed, just notify me within a month after its release and send me something to work with: hi-res PDFs, outlines, review copies... whatever enables me to properly study your face. It is free exposure and should cause extra traffic to your website, so you can’t lose. Unless Peter’s right and I’m turning into the most feared type critic on the Northern hemisphere. Yeah, right.

On to this week’s review, which took a surprising turn I must say.

There was quite a bit of a excitement surrounding Xavier Dupré’s new Zingha, released through The Font Bureau, Inc. This might have to do with the news that his stunning FF Absara took honors in this year's TDC2 type design competition.

So I headed over to the Font Bureau, Inc. website to meet this new typeface. It was obvious right away Zingha shared a lot of stylistic characteristics with FF Absara. The design crackled with energy and displayed the trademark curves and angles of a Xavier Dupré creation. I found it all looking very fresh and vibrant, until I clicked through to the second sample page and discovered — shock horror — what I experienced as a complete mess of varying serif shapes and aggressive protrusions; a very disturbing sight. Believe it or not, I even got angry over it. That pointy tail on the a, the sharp ear on the g, the crude triangular serifs, all those different angles that defied logic and historical reference were a very disturbing sight, and I also took exception to the obvious Matrix references in the italic and Deco weights.

As I clicked through the sample pages I gradually calmed down, to finally, at the last page, come to the conclusion that this seemingly unholy mess actually worked really well. The PDF I downloaded and printed confirmed my final verdict, which in turn confirmed my original impression (talk about going back to square one). Not only is Zingha a very strong, energetic design and does it perform brilliantly, but most of all it's got personality in spades and — pardon my French — some serious cojones.

Afterwards I felt quite elated. It's not often that the review of a typeface turns out to be such a roller coaster of conflicting emotions. A design that has the power to move people is quite rare. Oh sure, you can get overcome by the beauty or cleverness of a typeface, no big deal. But I honestly can't remember when was the last time I actually got angry at, and then fell in love again with a collection of friggin' glyphs!? How nerdy can you get?

As I'm finishing this review I'm listening to Fennesz' latest album Venice. Oddly enough this helped me understand the intermediary stage where I got disturbed by the design details of Zingha. Fennesz makes very sensitive, melodic, dreamy music. Yet, for all its beauty, it is entirely made up of static, dissonance, noise — intrinsically unpleasant sounds. So although you could be disturbed by its base components, the overall impression you get is one of harmony, and the tension created by this contradiction makes the music so much more remarkable. Therein lies the special appeal of Zingha.

Digest Permalink | Atom Site Feed

Digested on April 7, 2005
Posted by David Earls

In the April edition of Creative Review here in the UK there is the first part of a multipart interview with Matthew Carter, entitled “A Life in Type”. Simon Esterson joined him in St Bride Printing Library for a general discussion on his career and his thoughts on the industry. It is good to see CR aiming at longer pieces recently, so nip out to the shops now before they’re all sold out.

Interestingly, the article also points out Typographica, providing me with a contrived but useful link to the next item. A couple of weeks ago over there, Stephen Coles posted a neat article on the use of Flickr for typographic imagery, from found type through lettering in the environment. Spend a few minutes with that article, it's fun. Well, that is not all Flickr can do when people put their minds to it. Spell With Flickr is a neat bit of coding that takes your words and creates typographic montages from Flickr user libraries. Fun stuff.

April 1st came and went, with a few fun typographic spoofs including Porchez acquiring Fonderie Olive and Fontographer MX making an unscheduled appearance over at Typophile.com. Personally my favourite goes to The Register, with their report that Steve Jobs was to join the board of Ikea. Give it a few months…

Release news time. P22’s Lanston Type Company has announced the release of the Lanston Collection B, a collection of 32 remastered in digital form, including amongst its ranks four OpenType families (Californian, Goudy Heavyface, Goudy Oldstyle and Village #2). More details on the collection can be found here. Font Bureau have released their Zingha family, a range of 14 styles designed by Xavier Dupré, winner of the Certificate of Typographic Excellence two years in a row from the TDC. An impressive range of styles to keep in one family, and definitely worth a peek.

Before I hand over to Yves, one final piece of news. Adobe has announced InDesign CS2, complete with mandatory product activation. Hurrah!

Sources: MS Typo News, Typophile.com, Typogaphica, The Register, Flickr

Bald Condensed
by Yves Peters

Veer released through its Umbrella typeface collection two type families and a type system by the two Brians — J. Bonislawsky and Jaramillo of the collaborative digital type foundry VersusTwin. I was fortunate enough to receive review copies of all three families.

The schizophrenic Ink Gothic is something of a strange beast. On one hand it's a slightly awkward looking heavy industrial slab serif — its mix of straight lines and simple curves creating a similar tension as the one found in the highly popular Rosewood Fill. Allow me a brief digression: why on earth did they even bother to design the Regular weight? I mean, nobody uses it! On the other hand the skeleton of the character shapes reveal a more delicate typographic approach. This is hinted at by the unexpected plunge below the baseline made by the leg of the lowercase k, and becomes fairly obvious in the alternate weights with their loopy ascenders and descenders. The family comes with a distressed version which emphasises the industrial feel, and a nice 'n' butch shaded 3D version.

I must say I initially didn't think much of the Fuel type system. This modern update of the techno sans looked too blocky for my taste, and above all I didn't quite know what to make of the weird horizontal ink traps. Don't get me wrong: I'm a sucker for ink traps as an artistic device; it's just that I'm really fussy about which shape they come in. Blunt, quirky shaped traps as found in Eunuverse, Tang and FF Hydra are the ones I prefer, yet I don't care much for spiky ones like those in Amplitude. Fortunately, as this review has been delayed due to last month's hiatus, I had the opportunity to test-drive the Fuel faces more thoroughly. The ink traps gradually started to make more sense, lending a notion of speed and motion to the faces. On a second level they also convey a sense of volume, as if some parts of the characters were chiselled out and created little drop shadows. Mind you, I'm still not so hot about certain glyphs like the square lowercase a, but I've come to appreciate the family as a whole, my favourite being the retro-looking script variants.

Discovering Occulista was the typographic equivalent of munching magic mushrooms. This all caps Op Art tribute comes in nine variants of inline and outline madness and simply is truckloads of fun. At first I was a teensy bit disappointed that the different variants were predefined and that there was no possibility to create the overlays of my choice, but upon close inspection the configurations proved to be well thought out. Not only are the combinations of inlines and outlines very inventive, the basic character shapes as well are really nice. I was also particularly pleased by the attention to detail that was given to the non-alphabetical glyphs and the creative solutions that were found for specific design problems in the punctuation and the likes.

Digest Permalink | Atom Site Feed

The masthead is currently set in Sabon Next, by Jean François Porchez.

homepage digest archives recommended reading about typographer.com