Bald Condensed


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    Web font embedding, points missing
    Tuesday, April 21, 2009
    Google’s latest iteration of Chrome is prodding people about web fonts all over again, and once more debate is stirring on Twitter, on Blogs, and everywhere else about why people can’t embed a $399 typeface into their know-it-all webpage or PDF curriculum vitae.

    I can’t help but think people are missing quite a big point. Most typefaces that cost a small fortune are certainly worth the money (I’m currently saving up for a couple of families - I’m guessing that in Autumn, when I get to download those precious beauties onto my hard drive, they’ll seem that bit sweeter for the wait), but only to a point. Or more accurately, an em.

    With some notable exceptions, modern typeface families are print tools. The designers of them spend three weeks in a cubbyhole creating hundreds (or thousands) of kerning pairs because they’re being used at 1200dpi, not 75, 85 or 100dpi (or whatever nominal DPI rate your OS uses). Those traps he or she slaved over aren’t going to be worth a damn on your LCD, wether it be a lowly eeePC or a Mac Pro, as they’ll be displayed at 11pt on a browser who’s developer didn’t give two hoots about its type rendering capabilities. And you can kiss goodbye to those subtle shifts in line contrast, or those delicate little serifs. Those hairlines will recede faster than Ian Hislop’s before a high court judge.

    These are tools, I repeat. They are high resolution tools that are primarily designed for printing onto paper, something that costs money to reproduce, and puts a stringent barrier to copyright infringement by its inherent physical qualities. They are investments in the production of a quality, tangible physical product. Web is not print, so why are people so intent on using the wrong tools for the job?

    There are plenty of great options, designed for screen, that people can use for online work. Whether those come installed on your computer already (the MS Core web fonts all over, Lucida Grande et al on the Mac, the C fonts on Windows Vista, the Liberation series on Linux), or whether they are screen fonts acquired by download, paid or otherwise, that are designed and licensed for on-screen and web settings. Surely these options are more appropriate to web work (they’re designed for it, after all), the vast majority of which will be pretty standard text settings anyhow?

    Use the right tools for the job, and if you all like capitalism and so-called free markets so bloody much, vote with your feet. If the highbrow foundries are so wrong as many of you suspect, they’ll “wake up”, no doubt, when the invisible hand of the market slaps their faces. Personally, I would rather they continue to get a good night’s sleep, before awakening refreshed and ready to resume their autistic craft.

    Now, if you want to discuss embedding fonts into PDFs for sending artwork to the printers, that’s another matter entirely…

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