Comments on The Rich (Typefaces) Get Richer

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  1. Excellent advice and resources on typography for the web. Thank you Jeremiah.

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  2. Great article. Well thought through and well written. It’s true: there are so many great and versatile typefaces, yet just a handful go mainstream. Result: missed opportunities to stand out and draw extra attention to your content. Hope designers (and site-owners) are inspired by this article to experiment more with type.

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  3. I think a great deal of the same reuse of typefaces comes from known quality.  I know i’ve found a cool font and tried to use it, only to realize it has bad character support or weird kerning when used on the web—or even worse (and all too common—i swear no one checks these things on windows machines), bizarre cross browser compatibility on google fonts…  Do you have some suggestions on good, quality typefaces, particularly on google fonts, that are underused but excellent?  I’d love to find some, but i just don’t have time to test them all out.

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  4. Your article made me think about something I’ve never thought about. Thank you :)

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  5. I recently noticed the popularity and widespread use of Lineto’s Circular, and considered using it myself, but so far I have not found a web font service that offers Circular in their catalog. Upon further investigation I discovered many sites are self-hosting Circular, yet at the almost $1,000 price tag for a basic web use license from Lineto, I find it very hard to believe that the typeface is being used legally on most sites. Are web designers just pirating Circular or is there a more affordable licensing alternative that I have overlooked?

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  6. dot wrote:
    “I think a great deal of the same reuse of typefaces comes from known quality.  I know I’ve found a cool font and tried to use it, only to realize it has bad character support or weird kerning when used on the web—or even worse (and all too common—i swear no one checks these things on windows machines), bizarre cross browser compatibility on google fonts…”

    I think a lot of designers share dot’s frustration. There are thousands of fonts that are, for one reason or another, unsuitable or, at least, very problematic for web use. But vendors leave the evaluation up to the customer.  There is no ‘International Society Of Web Font Engineers’ stamp of approval, there is no regimen of tests applied by the vendor to assess whether or not a font is fit for use as a web font, no, there is only USER BEWARE. Caveat Emptor. And there is only so much time a designer is going to waste before giving up the hunt and following the rest of the pack.
    So, I think it’s not so much the safety of “known quality” that has designers closing ranks behind a small set of fonts as much as it is fear of the “unknown quality” of the fonts in the seemingly bottomless pits at sites like MyFonts or Fontshop. Almost all of those fonts were NOT designed as screen fonts with performance in browsers being the top concern. Fonts are still, nearly always, conceived as graphic arts tools where the requirements are, in some respects, less stringent than browsers and in some respects, more stringent than in browsers. 
    In the age of system-fonts-only, designers had no choice but to use what they were given. What was in the font or how it was prepared was irrelevant. What difference did it make?
    Like a prisoner in solitary confinement, whatever was on the dinner plate they handed you, you ate. But in the age of web fonts, knowing what ingredients are needed to make a working web font is no longer useless information. It is expertise that must be acquired because the freedom to choose from among thousands of fonts is of potentially so much greater consequence than choosing from among the same old handful of web-safe system fonts as everybody else.
    As more and more designers become more and more familiar with fonts as tools engineered to meet specific requirements, the more they will be emboldened to break away from the pack. I hope.
    I believe it is mostly a matter of time.

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  7. Just chiming in to second self-hosting. I was an early adopter of Typekit and I respect the Typekit team immensely for their leadership and generosity within the web fonts space. Though the interface can be a bit kludgy and buggy, I find myself using Fonts.com more due to their greater selection of fonts available for both web + print (so useful for branding projects that span a variety of media) and the fact that I can choose to self-host fonts. In my experience, remotely hosted fonts don’t load reliably fast enough, certainly not as much as they used to — maybe as more people rely upon these services? I can get much faster performance hosting the fonts myself, even with the required remote script call.

    I sheepishly admit to have used Lato Sans in the last few years, but it was genuinely the product of 1) needing an open source font for budget/licensing/project reasons, and 2) Lato was the only typeface in the Google Fonts library of the time that was built with an acceptable level (to me) of craft, with a nice range of weights, a beautiful italic, and the welcoming, inclusive personality appropriate for the brand. I’ve watched it explode since with some chagrin.

    I’m glad you mentioned Fira. It’s on my short list given the right project. Erik Spiekermann Meta-ish goodness at a price anyone can afford. :)

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  8. Maybe one of the reasons is this: when someone wants to create a website, they search for the best Font…where?

    Open google.com, search for “best font for website”...and from this comes the “we can’t browse the web for 15 minutes without encountering Open Sans and Lato”

    People need to be educated, in order to understand that there is not “best font”, only “best font for your website”.

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  9. “there is no regimen of tests applied by the vendor to assess whether or not a font is fit for use as a web font”

    Well, that’s not entirely true and very much depends on the foundry or supplier of webfonts. I know that Webtype for instance has a pretty rigorous quality assurance routine for all fonts they offer—and so have other independent foundries—and the fonts work reliably well across all browsers in the sizes they recommend them. I guess it boils down to the trite phrase “you get what you pay for”.

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  10. In response to my:
    “there is no regimen of tests applied by the vendor to assess whether or not a font is fit for use as a web font”

    kupfers wrote:
    “Well, that’s not entirely true and very much depends on the foundry or supplier of webfonts.”
    etc…. and Font Bureau’s Webtype is held up as an example of rigorous quality assurance.

    Indra,
    First, thanks for writing webfont as a single word. I hope that becomes a universal trend. it helps conceptually because fonts on the web are, indeed, a different animal than fonts installed as graphic arts tools in the operating system. Second, I’m familiar with Webtype’s selection, and I admire the quality of the screen rendering quality of the entire catalog. OK? We good? I would expect no less from D. Berlow & Co.

    Shameless self-promotion: I’m giving a 40 minute talk at Sota’s TypeCon conference in Seattle this year that’s about one part of this problem: the need for more Unicode character points to support how browsers handle fonts, as opposed to how a graphic arts tool like InDesign handles fonts.
    I understand you’ll be there. So bring your boxing gloves.

    A parting shot: speaking of Webtype, take a look at the character set for the font Escrow Banner Compressed Roman at:
    http://www.webtype.com/font/escrow-banner-compressed-roman/#glyphs-tab
    Now, figure out exactly what languages are supported by that character set and, just as importantly, which languages are NOT. (I’m sorry, but the terms Latin 1 or Latin 2 don’t mean anything meaningful to anybody, if indeed, they ever did.)
    Then, after you know that. Put each character on trial for its life. Do you really need glyphs that show hands with pointing index fingers? Probably not and, contrary to every tutorial I’ve ever read - the size of a font is not tied to the number of glyphs a font has. All glyphs are not created equal. The size of a font is tied to the number of points and curves that it has - because that’s what determines the amount of data within it. And those faux engraved little do-dads like that take up a LOT of data.
    You don’t see too many grunge fonts - or any grunge fonts - being used as web fonts do ya? That’s the reason. Too many points and curves involved for even a rudimentary character set.

    I think like the network systems engineer turned web developer that I am - you don’t, that’s the diff.

    But dress British, think Yiddish, and you’ll be OK.

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  11. Note: Indra offers some additional reflections on this on her own site and over at Alphabettes.

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  12. Great insight to web typography. As a web developer working with designers, I constantly hear and see the same typefaces being used in projects which creates a mindset that these are the “best” fonts out there - “mere-exposure”.

    Your article has opened up avenues which I could take when it comes to selecting the right typeface for a project. In fact, I have taken in account your Proxima Nova sans-serif alternatives for a website I am currently working on.

    Cheers!

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  13. Great advice about typography, thank you. Great article btw.

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  14. Great article about Web typography, Jeremiah.

    You raised some insights I haven’t considered before.

    As far as decisions go selecting type, though, I have a sense that often, to quote Freud, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Aside from sites where design creativity is emphasized, it often seems (at least to me) that ruthless practicality is the rule, not the exception, when it comes to selecting type. With the multitude of other challenges to creating (and getting client buy-in) Web experiences, this may often come down to a simple heuristic of practicality for quick acceptance.

    Being multilingual (and thus is the content on my site), I know first-hand of the challenges of limited character sets for many webfonts other posters have noted. And this isn’t for an obscure language—it’s German. I can only imagine how it is for other languages, especially non-Indo European languages that use the Latin alphabet.

    Another constraint of Web typography is page load. Coming from a print background, it took me a bit of adjustment to becoming more creative in selecting site typography. Type families such as Knockout or Gotham offer a wide range of diversity within the family, but the bandwidth hit forces more limited set usage than in print. Just another creative challenge that needs consideration when approaching Web typography.

    It’s heartening to see that my own typographic brand choices aren’t listed as overused. But then, I didn’t have to negotiate with anyone on the license budget.

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  15. Thank you for the ressources

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  16. Great article thanks.

    Choosing the well trodden path may also come down to confidence.  There are many pitfalls in typography and it is easy to be scared of ridicule and scorn.

    Your article is a nice reminder to go out and experiment and perhaps not be too scared of failure or not knowing something.  Someone will probably point it out to you, and then you can learn.

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  17. I’m guilty of using all of the fonts you mentioned. As a designer you gravitate towards fonts with multiple weight choices. Google Fonts seems to work better on the web than Typekit does. Thanks for the heads up on Fira Sans!

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  18. Always a pleasure to read your work Jeremiah. A big fan of your website Typewolf.

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  19. thanks for article quality . discussions were very useful , especially for me who was working on the task

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  20. Thanks for giving most important information i will work help the help of this article on web services

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  21. Great article, I think Gotham has been over used now though…

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  22. Nice, Thanks!

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  23. Good insight. Good fonts list.

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  24. Sorry, commenting is closed on this article.