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Web typography

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Original author: 
Yoshihiko Mano

It’s the nature of the beast that web design is always changing, and one of the many things that designers often lose sleep over is fonts.

Till recently web fonts were usually limited to ones installed on Windows or OSX, but these days you can choose a wide range of fonts available online. This means lots of choice for design but with more choice comes more woe. Which one to pick for which occasion?

Well, let’s put aside difficult decisions for a moment. We want to have a bit of fun with fonts! PingMag has scoured the plains of the world wide web for some funky Japanese fonts that are useful (okay, maybe not so useful!) — but always unique.

Fonts that are almost practical!

Imagine Yokohama fun-japanese-fonts01

This font was created to mark 150 years since Yokohama opened its port to the world and to remake the “Yokohama” brand. The designers researched the images that people associated with Yokohama, and then turned the character you could see in these into a font. The result is a harmony of classic and modern, and rather attractive too. You can write in Roman characters and Hiragana, but the Kanji is limited just to characters used in Yokohama ward names!

Yakitori Font fun-japanese-fonts02Photo by matsuyuki

fun-japanese-fonts03

This is recommended for all budding izakaya owners! You can almost taste the atmosphere just in the lettering. (Personal use okay. Apply for commercial use.)

Yoji Font

fun-japanese-fonts04

Perfect if you’re in need of some nostalgia. Do you remember how your handwriting looked when you were a young child (yoji)? Say three or four years old? Well, with this font adults can recreate that charmingly earnest look on their work documents! It’s Japanese only and, of course, there’s no Kanji. (Personal and commercial use okay.)

Fonts for sentimental train (and other forms of transportation) aficionados

National Rail-esque Font fun-japanese-fonts05Photo by tosimisi

fun-japanese-fonts06

So now you can turn any word into a railway station name! The font resembles the style of characters used in old (i.e. back when JR was still nationalized) railway signage. Actually, it’s not just for nostalgia. The font can also look super modern and smart as well. (Personal and commercial use okay.)

Handwritten Railway Type fun-japanese-fonts07

Okay, this one’s for the real train fanatics among you, recreating the handwritten station name signs as used on Japanese railway lines from a bygone age. The design quality is also still good enough for today. (Personal and commercial use okay.)

National Rail Font: Pictographs fun-japanese-fonts08

This time it’s not words but the pictographs used in stations. Saying that, we’re not totally sure what that onsen (hot spring) symbol is doing there… (Personal and commercial use okay. Requires device with Japanese language input.)

Highway Sign Font fun-japanese-fonts09Photo by Ryo Yamaguchi

fun-japanese-fonts10 If you’re more of a driver then check out this font that looks like lettering on the signs to be found on Japanese highways. Striking and easy to read (since you are in theory driving fast!), this is great for titles. (Personal use okay. Apply for commercial use.)

Ghosts in the digital age?! Yes, it’s horror fonts!

Onryo fun-japanese-fonts11

Do you sometimes want to give your text a scary or ghoulish look? Gothic type just doesn’t cut it, right? Well, you will find Onryo (which means “ghost” or “phantom” in Japanese) a very useful font for those days in the office when you need to cast spells and curses on your work enemies. (Personal use okay. Commercial use also okay but recommended to check with the designer.)

DingTheInsect fun-japanese-fonts12

No scary experience is complete without some creepy-crawlies. For such occasions, reach for this font, which might just send shivers up your spine as you type. (Personal use okay. Commercial use also okay but recommended to check with the designer.)

Pure unadulterated fun!

JoJo Font

fun-japanese-fonts13

For the uninitiated out there, this font is in the style of the cult manga ‘JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure’. Great for adding flourishes of onomatopoeia and the like, transforming dull text into exciting comic book scenes.

Neko Font fun-japanese-fonts14

Who cares about getting meaning across? If you’re crazy about cats (neko), then the felines are all that matter! This font isn’t available as data but you can type what you want on the website, and then get an automated code to display an downloadable image.

And there you have it for now, folks! The wealth of Japanese fonts available online is almost endless if you search around — and we’ve just scratched the surface with this quick intro. Happy hunting!

Okay, so please look out for future PingMag articles written entirely in cats.

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CSS Blend Modes demo. Image: Screenshot/Webmonkey.

We use the term “CSS 3″ all the time on Webmonkey, but technically that’s something of a misnomer. There is no spoon, you see.

In fact, the CSS Working Group, which oversees the CSS specification at the W3C, is cranking out draft specs of new features all the time — the monolithic “3.0″ or “4.0″ versioning was tossed out after CSS 2.1. Instead new features are developed as “modules” so that, for example, the Selector Module can be published without waiting for the Layout Module.

That means there are new CSS features coming all the time.

Adobe’s Divya Manian — who is also one of the developers behind HTML5 Boilerplate — recently gave a talk titled “CSS Next“, which highlights some of the exciting new CSS features coming soon to a browser near you.

Among the cool things Manian highlights are some impressive new tricks for web fonts, including better tools for working with ligatures, unicode and icon fonts.

There are also some impressive new layout tools in the works, namely CSS Regions and Exclusions. We looked at both back when Adobe first proposed them, but since then not only have they progressed to actual draft specs, but they’re now supported in Chrome’s Canary builds (rather than requiring a custom build from Adobe).

It’s still going to be a while before either can claim a spot in your CSS layout toolkit, but there are already a few demos you can check out to see the new layout possibilities Regions and Exclusions offer. Grab a copy of Chrome Canary and turn on “Enable Experimental WebKit Features” in chrome:flags and then point your browser to this demo of Regions and this “shape inside” demo of Exclusions.

Other things Manian covers that we’re looking forward to include CSS Filters and Blend modes. CSS Filters already work in WebKit browsers and allow you to apply effects like blur or grayscale to any HTML element. CSS Blend Modes work just like layer-blending modes in Photoshop and other graphics apps — allowing you to blend layers using modes like “difference,” “overlay,” “multiply” and so on. As of right now you still need a special build of Chromium to see Blend Modes in action.

Manian also covers two intriguing WebKit-only features that aren’t yet a part of any CSS spec, but could be one day. Be sure to read through Manian’s post for more info and a few other new things, including two Webmonkey has covered recently — CSS @supports and CSS Variables.

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For years you have been searching for it. You hear the question being asked in your dreams as you go on an Indiana-Jones-type-crusade to find the answer. When the answer comes to you, you know that the confetti will fall from the ceiling and the band will start playing your favorite song. You might even get a kiss from that special someone. So what is this question?

What is the secret to Web design?

A tough question and one that might not have an answer. In 2006, Oliver Reichenstein wrote Web Design is 95% Typography. Some people loved it, others were not so amused. If Web design was based that much on typography, then what was the point of learning anything else? All you needed to do is understand the elements of typography and you were good to go.

Of course typography doesn’t mean font selection. With the advent of @font-face and services such as Typekit, Webtype, Fontdeck, and Google Web fonts, your skills in typography won’t improve. You can easily create wonderful designs with one font for the rest of your life if you choose to—they had to do it centuries ago and they didn’t have Photoshop sticking things to guides for them. If anything, more font selection will make things worse for you because creativity and beauty become hard to achieves when more options are given to us.

More toys means more fun though, right? If you want to go that route, then by all means go for it. I love to look at the different fonts being used and admire anyone that can successfully pull off using newer fonts for the Web. However, I’ve seen too many times what can happen when development options are given to the masses, and it isn’t pretty (re: Myspace). Instead of having a user agreement it would be cool if Typekit made you read a book on typography before you could begin using a font—the Web would improve tenfold, if that was the case.

I’m not being sarcastic, saying that is all you need to know for a majority of websites. Try going through all of the Web designs that you love, strip out the images and ask yourself “how would that website look with just text and spacing?”. When designers say “text is the interface”, they really do mean it. The iA site is a great example of that.

Information Architects
Information Architects is based around strong typography.

One of my all time favorite designs is A Working Library. The site is a showcase of text being the interface. The spacing is just right and the typography is on point.

A Working Library
A Working Library by Mandy Brown.

Some people find design like this to be dull and boring, they feel that design should have more pop to it. At the end of the day some extra visual flair might be what separates your design from the rest, but you need to get the first 95% down. The website that you are reading this article on now has done a wonderful job of presenting a visual design that isn’t reliant on images to be beautiful.

Well That Isn’t Hard

It’s possible to create a wonderful design without the use of images at all. I know that sounds crazy, but it is possible. I’m not saying it should be done, but if we can create elegance simply with typography and white space, then why shouldn’t we be able to create greatness when we start throwing in images, videos and other effects?

With the use of images I’m not talking about images that are needed to represent something such as icons, but images that are there for flare. Sometimes a picture is worth at least ten better words than any word you could use, so it’s better to go with an image (but you still need to consider using white space with it).

Here are two more examples of beautiful websites that place a heavy emphasis on typography to control the design. The first is Blake Allen Design and the second is The Harriet Series (both use images to represent their typography, but you get the point).

Blake Allen Design
Blake Allen Design uses images, but with great typography.

The Harriet Series
The Harriet Series by OkayType.

What makes the two designs above so interesting to me is that the typography not only guides you along a journey, but it does so with personality. You almost feel as if the typography is an expression of the person that designed it. Blake Allen uses Helvetica which gives the website a Swiss, clean and structured personality. On the opposite side of the spectrum, the Harriet Series website is a bit more playful and experimental—there is beauty in the organized chaos that the typography creates.

For 99% of the designs out there, typography and white space are going to be your underlying foundation. So if you can’t get them right, then the rest of your design has nothing to stand on. Stop worrying about the pop of your design and first worry about how it will stand tall. Once you get that down then you can begin to dress it up.

Clear is a very simple to do list application for iOS devices. While the majority of the excitement around it are the gestures used to control the interface, you will notice that the typography does enough to get out of the way and allow you to enjoy the application. Sure it is nothing more than Helvetica, but what if it was Comic Sans and had bad spacing all around? Great typography doesn’t have to stand out in a good way, but that doesn’t mean it should do enough harm when it stands out in a negative way, either.

Typography In Other Disciplines

Art of the Menu
Art of the Menu is a great website on menu design.

The Art of the Menu does a great job of showing the importance of typography in menu design. While a lot of restaurants like to add images and illustrations to their menus to give them a bit more pizzaz, they fail in providing a decent typographical structure that allows you to easily browse through the menu.

If you are a designer you have no excuse to say you can’t come up with a decent design. When you create a design that lacks a strong foundation, anything else you add to it is just going to make it worse. Too many designers attempt to save their designs with fluff without understanding they are pouring gasoline onto the fire. If a design is not enjoyable to read then it is not an enjoyable experience, no matter how many images, colors or sounds you decide to add to it.

Looking to understand typography a little bit better? Not too long ago Smashing Magazine did a comprehensive overview of some wonderful typography tools and resources.

(jvb)

© Paul Scrivens for Smashing Magazine, 2012.

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Any -webkit- feature that doesn’t exist in a specification (not even an Editor’s draft) is not CSS3. Yes, they are commonly evangelized as such, but they are not part of CSS at all. This distinction is not nitpicking. It’s important because it encourages certain vendors to circumvent the standards process, implement whatever they come up with in WebKit, then evangelize it to developers as the best thing since sliced bread. In our eagerness to use the new bling, we often forget how many people fought in the past decade to enable us to write code without forks and hacks and expect it to work interoperably. Lea Verou explains why single-vendor solutions are not the same as standards and not healthy for your professional practice or the future of the web.

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We do more reading on the screen today than we did even a year ago. If we are ever to have a golden age of reading on the screen, this might be the start of it.

Tablets, Nooks and Kindles make buying a book or magazine for the screen almost unavoidable. With smartphones, we carry our reading material with us and enjoy instant Web access, enabling the reading experience to flow smoothly from one device to another. And those devices probably have stunning HD reader-friendly screens. Throw in companion services like Readmill and 24symbols, which allow us to share our reading experiences, and we have perfect screen-based access to all aspects of the written word.

So, why isn’t Web and screen typography keeping up?

Good Typography Cannot Be Handcrafted Anymore

In the past, typography was viewed as living only when it reached paper. Once a publication was edited, typeset and printed, it was done. Nothing changed after that. Good typography and readability were the result of skilled typesetters and designers.

Today, typography exists not only on paper but on a multitude of screens. It is subject to many unknown and fluctuating parameters, such as operating system, system fonts, the device and screen itself, the viewport and more. Our experience of typography today changes based on how the page is rendered, because typesetting happens in the browser.

In all of this, the browser is probably the most important part of the screen typography equation. Ironically, the lack of support in modern browsers is the single biggest hurdle to good Web typography.

Type-as-service providers are offering an alternative, with an increasing number of fonts that are fairly cheap and easy for us designers to use when typesetting text. But they, too, want better support of Web typography.

Identifying What’s Missing

Let’s look at some of the basic things that are missing from most, if not all, screen-reading experiences. When we say basic, we mean the things that you read and benefit from whenever you look at a book or magazine on paper or screen.

  • Kerning and spacing of individual characters;
  • Basic ligatures (fi, fl)
  • Other ligatures (fj, ffi, ffl, ffj and more);
  • Lining and old-style numerals;
  • True small-caps;
  • Replacing uppercase with small-caps for abbreviations;
  • Superscripted symbols such as © and ™;
  • Language-based quotation marks;
  • Correct replacement of en and em dashes, and the spacing around them;
  • Spacing of ! ( ) [ ] / ; :.

Doesn’t seem like much. Except that it is. The elements in this list are some of the things that help us read, process and understand information. They represent in many ways the difference between how a soulless machine would relate to text and how thinking, organic humans do it.

Those of you who were around during the desktop publishing boom might see similarities. In 1999, QuarkXPress did not support OpenType, InDesign was just born, and you had to use “expert” cuts of fonts to be able to work with small-caps and old-style numerals. So, we had to create workarounds for micro-typography — such as Apple-Script frameworks for QuarkXPress, where the script traversed documents and isolated hyphens, dashes, ligatures and small-caps abbreviations, replacing them with the correct typographical equivalents.

In many ways, 2012 is the new 1999. We have the freedom to work with any font we like via the @font-face selector. But our main tool, the browser, does not have any OpenType features to speak of. We have to create workarounds.

Can we use the same type of solution that we used back in the old days of print?

We say yes.

Time to Fix the Problem

We researched existing JavaScript libraries and found a ton of great stuff. But none focused on micro-typography as a whole. When we started the project, we laid out five clear goals:

  • Correct micro-typography, including as many of the elements in the list above as possible;
  • Degrades so that devices without @font-face or JavaScript support are not negatively affected;
  • OS independence;
  • Browser independence;
  • Correct markup;

We named the project OpenTypography, and we named the solution Typesetter.js.

JavaScript and @font-face and styles disabled.

JavaScript disabled.

JavaScript enabled and @font-face-enhanced Web typography.

Typesetter.js

Typesetter.js has two ingredients: a JavaScript and a custom font file

The JavaScript traverses the DOM, finding and replacing things like quotation marks, ligatures, en and em dashes, ellipses and more. It also finds ©, ®, ™ and wraps them in sup tags.

Most importantly, it finds uppercase abbreviations and wraps them in abbr tags, giving us true small-caps. This is possible thanks to a bit of CSS and the services of font-on-demand houses such as Fontdeck and Typekit.

Finding, replacing and wrapping.

Here is a rundown of how Typesetter.js works.

1. The JavaScript

The code is divided into two parts, giving you the option to use the small-caps replacement. But let’s start by looking at how the small-caps replacement works.

Here is the sample HTML that we will use to explain what the script actually does:

<p class="typo">The fine details of screen typography can be improved with JS-scripts and CSS.</p>

<p class="typo">That is the goal of "Typesetter.js" — an open-source solution by Andreas Carlsson and Jaan Orvet © 2011</p>

Our sample text rendered with Georgia and browser-native typographic features.

In this text, we want to find all-uppercase words.

The code starts by getting all elements of a user-chosen class, in this case .typo. These elements are stored in an array.

mainArray[0] = 'The fine details of screen typography can be improved with JS-scripts and CSS.';
mainArray[1] = 'That is the goal of "Typesetter.js" — an open-source solution by Andreas Carlsson and Jaan Orvet © 2011';

Each array element is then looped one at a time and split into a sub-array containing each word as a string.

subArray[0] = 'The';
subArray[1] = 'fine';
subArray[2] = 'details';
subArray[3] = 'of';
subArray[4] = 'screen';
subArray[5] = 'typography';
subArray[6] = 'can';
subArray[7] = 'be';
subArray[8] = 'improved';
subArray[9] = 'with';
subArray[10] = 'JS-scripts';
subArray[11] = 'and';
subArray[12] = 'CSS.';

Each item in the sub-array is tested to see whether the character count of the word and the count of the uppercase letters (ASCII values between 65 and 90) are equal. If so, the word is treated as an uppercase abbreviation.

The test actually checks the first and last character of the sub-array item. If they are uppercase, then it is fair to assume that the whole word is an uppercase abbreviation, and then we would run a more specific test. Here is what the script returns from our sample text:

  • “The” = false (do not run specific test)
  • “details” = false (do not run specific test)
  • “Andreas” = false (do not run specific test)
  • “CSS.” = true (run specific test)
  • “JS-scripts” = true (run specific test)

As you can see, the test also spots uppercase words when they are used with a hyphen or have an trailing period.

Our special uppercase test creates an index array that holds the indexes of the uppercase words (i.e. it identifies where in the full sentence they occur). After the whole sub-array is tested, we would have the sub-array and the index array containing the all-uppercase indexes.

indexArray[0] = '10';
indexArray[1] = '12';

Now that we know where all of the uppercase words are in the string (i.e. sentence), we can prepare them for small-caps replacement.

Small-caps replacement is done by extracting the word, converting the letters to lowercase, wrapping the whole word in an abbr tag and inserting it into the sub-array again.

subArray[0] = 'The';
subArray[1] = 'fine';
subArray[2] = 'details';
subArray[3] = 'of';
subArray[4] = 'screen';
subArray[5] = 'typography';
subArray[6] = 'can';
subArray[7] = 'be';
subArray[8] = 'improved';
subArray[9] = 'with';
subArray[10] = 'js-scripts';
subArray[11] = 'and';
subArray[12] = 'css.';

Now we only need to convert that array into a string and replace the original HTML element with the new small-caps-ified HTML element.

Before:

<p class="typo">The fine details of screen typography can be improved with JS-scripts and CSS.</p>

<p class="typo">That is the goal of "Typesetter.js" — an open-source solution by Andreas Carlsson and Jaan Orvet © 2011</p>

After:

<p class="typo">The fine details of screen typography can be improved with js-scripts and css.</p>

<p class="typo">That is the goal of "Typesetter.js" — an open-source solution by Andreas Carlsson and Jaan Orvet © 2011</p>

Our sample text set with Tanger Serif from Typolar, using the @font-face rule. Uppercase words are now wrapped in abbr tags.

Nice and neat. Now for the second part of the script, the one that replaces quotation marks, ligatures, en and em dashes, and ellipses; renders characters such as © in superscript; and converts numerals to old style by wrapping them in a user-defined class.

The code is fairly self-explanatory:

var charReplacements = function() {

/* Quotationmarks
‹ = ‹
› = ›
« = «
» = »
‘ = ‘
’ = ’
“ = “
” = ”
*/

var quoteCharClose = "»";
var quoteCharOpen = "«";
var triggerID = "#display";
var smallcapsClass = "old-style"

$(triggerID).each(function() {
$(this).find('*').each(function() {
	if (($(this).html()) != 0) {
		if (($(this).find('img').length) === 0) {
		// Performs replaces on any element that is not an

	  	$(this).html( $(this).html().replace(/(\.\.\.(\.)?)|(\.\s\.\s(\.\s)?|(\.\.(\.)?))/g, "…"));
		// Finds and replaces .. | ... | .... with an elipsis

		$(this).html( $(this).html().replace(/fl/g, "fl"));
		// Replaces fl with ligature

		$(this).html( $(this).html().replace(/fi/g, "fi"));
		// Replaces fi with ligature

		$(this).html( $(this).html().replace(/\s-\s/g, " ‒ "));
		// Replaces | space en-dash space | with: | space em-dash space |

    		$(this).html( $(this).html().replace(/"([\s\.\,])/g, quoteCharClose + "$1"));
		// Replaces | " space | with | » space |

		$(this).html( $(this).html().replace(/\s"/g, " " +  quoteCharOpen));
		// Replaces | space " | with | space « |

		$(this).html( $(this).html().replace(/(\d+)(?=((?!).)*(-tag with the .old-style-class but ignores digits within a a-tag. Read full explanation here http://www.phpbuilder.com/board/archive/index.php/t-10221442.html

		if ( (($(this).children().length) === 0) || ($('this:contains("u00a9")')) ) {

			$(this).html( $(this).html().replace(/\u00a9/g, "

©

") );
			// Superscripts (c)

			$(this).html( $(this).html().replace(/\u00ae/g, "

®

") );
			// Superscripts (R)
		};
	};
   };

});
});
};

Most of the typographic details in the script are declared in the variables at the beginning. This is the beginning of a “settings” type of solution that we are working towards building.

”Settings” is a pretty important feature because typographic rules change depending on the language; for example, quotation marks and the spacing of em dashes. English, French and German each use different quotation marks, so the designer needs to be able to easily change the typographic settings.

Now we have pretty decent typography in our example:

<p class="typo">The fine details of screen typography can be improved with js-scripts and css.</p>

<p class="typo">That is the goal of «Typesetter.js» — an open-source solution by Andreas Carlsson and Jaan Orvet

©

 2011</p>

Our sample text with much better micro-typography than what the browser supports natively.

We have covered a lot, but the most important part is still to come!

2. The Custom Font File

Let’s move on to the font file itself.

Putting Small-Caps and Old-Style Numerals in Place

Our text is now wrapped in classes; we can use CSS to set it in small-caps and old-style numerals. Since no browser supports OpenType, we cannot use the regular font-variant: small-caps rule, because this would only shrink the uppercase letters, resulting in thinner and lighter characters.

The font-variant: small-caps rule merely shrinks uppercase letters, resulting in thinner and lighter characters. To get real small-caps, we have to use our custom subsetted font file.

The font file we need is a subset of the regular cut; in it, the uppercase characters have been replaced with small-caps characters, and the lining numerals have been replaced with old-style numerals. (Remember the days of “expert set fonts”? It’s a bit like that. If you don’t remember, you’re better off for it.)

We can now specify in our CSS files to use the subset for abbr tags. This will give us true small-caps on the Web and allow us to choose between old-style and lining numerals in our text.

abbr {
   font-family: "Tanger Serif Expert", Cambria, Georgia, serif;
   letter-spacing: 0.15em;
   text-transform: lowercase;
   font-variant: small-caps;
   font-weight: 650;
}

Get the Font File

Fontdeck supports the OpenTypography project by kindly serving subsetted fonts in addition to its main fonts.

Other type services and foundries make subsets available as well. We keep an updated list with examples at OpenTypography.

Create Your Own Font File

If you have experience working with fonts, then creating your own subsetted font files is fairly straightforward.

Open the regular cut in your favorite font editor. Copy the small-caps glyphs, and paste them where the uppercase and lowercase glyphs are. Copy the old-style numerals to where the lining numerals are. Once this is done, you only have to generate a new font file and convert it to all the required Web font formats: TTF, OTF, WOFF, EOT, SVG.

You can easily create your own subsetted custom font file. Just replace uppercase and lowercase glyphs with the small-caps versions and the lining numerals with the old-style ones.

Now you have your own custom Web font ready to be used with Typesetter.js

But be sure to check the license to make sure you are permitted to adjust the font file and to embed it via the @font-face selector.

Get Involved In The Future Of Typesetter.js

We are currently testing Typesetter.js in our Dropbox- and Markdown-based CMS, Skrivr, but Typesetter.js is at a very early stage and needs more development in order to work seamlessly with all of the great things that the Web and digital-screen community is creating.

Mainly, we want it to be faster. Another question we’re facing is whether to use RegEx or not. Also, how do we create a better solution for targeting parts of the DOM and isolating those that shouldn’t be replaced?

You’ll find all the latest information, examples, code and more at OpenTypography, which is also the best place to get in touch and let us know if you are interested in bringing better typography to the screens around us.

(al)

© Andreas Carlsson & Jaan Orvet for Smashing Magazine, 2012.

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Every now and then, we look around, select fresh free high-quality fonts and present them to you in a brief overview. The choice is enormous, so the time you need to find them is usually time you should be investing in your projects. We search for them and find them so that you don’t have to.

In this selection, we’re pleased to present Homestead, Bree Serif, Levanderia, Valencia, Nomed Font, Carton and other quality fonts. Please note that while most fonts are available for commercial projects, some are for personal use only and are clearly marked as such in their descriptions. Also, please read the licensing agreements carefully before using the fonts; they may change from time to time.

Free Fonts

Homestead
Homestead is a very distinctive Slab Serif typeface that leaves a lasting impression with its geometric forms and a modern, progressive look. The family is available in 6 weights: Regular, Inline Display, One, Two and Three. Released by the Lost Type foundry with the “name-your-price” pricing scheme. Homestead can be used freely for any personal or commercial use.

Homestead

Homestead

Bree Serif Regular
This typeface is the serif cousin of the playful, charming and versatile type family Bree which was designed by Veronika Burian and José Scaglione back in 2008. Actually, Bree is also the typeface used in the Smashing Cartoons. An italic font weight of Bree Serif should be available very soon. Released under the liberal OFL license (via Typografie.info).

Bree Serif

Lavanderia
Lavanderia is a script font based on lettering found on Laundromat windows of San Francisco’s Mission District. It features numerous OpenType features such as swashes, titling alternates, figures, stylistic alternates, ligatures. It is available in three weights, with Uppercase, Lowercase, Numerals and Punctuation sets. Designed by the talented type designer James T. Edmondson and released by the Lost Type Co-Op foundry. Free for personal and commercial use.

Lavanderia

Lavanderia

RBNo2
This new gothic sans serif font was inspired by the late 19th century industrial fonts that contained german roots regarding straightness and geometry. Combined with other sans serifs, slab serifs and serif fonts, it catches the eye when used in headlines and short copy texts. Alternate versions turn the font into a perfect partner for modern, technical and contemporary impressions as well as high-quality, luxury and timeless environments. Free to use in commercial and non-commercial projects. Designed by Rene Bieder.

RBNo2

RBNo2

RBNo2

Cassannet
Cassannet is a geometrical art deco typeface available in Regular, Bold and Outline weights, based on lettering seen on Cassandre posters. This typeface contains ligatures, capitals, numbers, small capitals and also titling alternates. You can pay a random amount of money or alternatively send out a tweet or a Facebook post to download the fonts for free.

Cassannet

Valencia
Valencia is a condensed, art-deco inspired typeface that includes five weights, ranging from hairline to black, with matching obliques for each weight. The typeface has a nice corporate vintage look which makes it a great fit for large headlines and prints as well as any collateral or stationery. Valencia’s distinctive appearance stems from its low horizontal crossbars and its full-circle curves. Released by the Lost-Type Co-Op foundry with the “name-your-price” pricing scheme and hence freely available for personal and commercial use.

Valencia

Jura
Jura is an elegant serif typeface with narrow proportions and distinguishing details. The rounded, wedge-shaped serifs offer a contemporary feel and also achieve to maintain legibility even with its range of small sizes. This typeface is available in four weights: Regular, Italic, Bold and Bold Italic and is available for free download and use.

Jura

Nomed Font
Nomed Font is a free typeface that can help you achieve a modern and sophisticated look in your designs. The triangular geometric shapes may be a bit hard to read but that’s exactly the highlight of this particular style, and it makes the typography unique and original.

Nomed Font

Nomed Font

Carton
This typeface, designed by Nick McCosker, is a strong yet sensitive slab-serif inspired by letterpress. Its sturdy appearance makes it a perfect fit for posters, headings and taglines, in both classic and contemporary contexts. Released by the Lost Type Co-Op under the “name-your-price” pricing scheme.

Carton

Carton

Novecento (Registration on MyFonts is required!)
This typeface is an uppercase-only font family with some pretty impressive geometric forms that have been inspired by historical European typographic tendencies. It was designed to be used mostly for headlines, visual identities or short sentences — both in big and small sizes. The family contains 471 glyphs and 32 font weights whereas six of the font weights of the wide-version (Light, Book, Normal, Medium, Demibold and Bold) are available for free download and use.

Novescento

Novescento

Novescento

Fjord
Fjord is serif typeface that has specifically been designed for book publications. It is intended to be used in long texts and in relatively small print size. Fjord features sturdy construction, prominent serifs, low-contrast modulation and long elegant ascenders as well as descenders relative to the ‘x’ height. Fjord performs well in sizes starting from 12px and higher; nevertheless, it can also be a distinctive font choice for larger text headlines and in corporate design. This serif typeface include Cyrillic and Greek characters and is available at Google Web Fonts. It has been released under the SIL Open Font License, 1.1. Feel free to take a look at the designer’s free font Armata as well.

Fjord

Hero
Hero is a crisp geometrical typeface applicable for any type of use: print, Web, logos, posters, booklets. This typeface contains 162 characters and is free for personal and commercial use. Available in the OpenType format for PC and Mac.

Hero

Otama e.p.
Here’s a quite confident typeface to use for expensive and fashionable designs. Strong steams and thin serifs shows similarities to the well-known traditional Didot typeface. This typeface is free for personal and commercial use.

Otama e.p.

Ribbon
This typeface is a geometric display face which includes OpenType features for an alternate alphabet. The family contains sets for Uppercase, Numerals and Punctuation. Released by the Lost Type Co-Op under the “name-your-price” pricing scheme and designed by Dan Gneiding. If you decide to buy the font for $30 or more, you will get a beautiful Ribbon Specimen Book as well.

Ribbon

Movavi
Movavi is a sans serif font that is available only in the font weights Black and Black Italic. Obviously, the typeface wouldn’t work for body copy, but it might work nicely in short headings or “groovy” art works. Available for free download and use on PC and Mac.

Download free Movavi fonts

Satellite
Satellite is a geometric sans serif font designed by Matt Yow. The typeface can be a great fit for short headlines, short body copy or slogans. Released under the SIL Open Font License.

Satellite

Open Sans
Open Sans is a very clean font family by Ascender Fonts. It includes ten styles (Light, Regular, Italic, Semibold, Bold, Bold Italic, Extrabold) and each one consists of more than 900 glyphs: Latin, Greek, Cyrillic, many of the regular diacrytic letters as well as “hanging” numbers. Also available at Google Web Fonts and released under the Apache License version 2.

Open Sans

Mosaic Leaf
The glyphs of this expressive typeface are built out of leaves of different sizes. Mosaic Leaf also contains numbers, punctuation and currency symbols. The .zip-package contains PDF, OTF and TTF files; the fonts support Western and Central European encoding, and also Baltic, Nordic and Turkish. The typeface is free to use in commercial and non-commercial projects. Designed and prepared by Lukasz Kulakowski and Zbyszek Czapnik.

Mosaic Leaf

Mosaic Leaf

Amaranth
Amaranth is a sans serif font family of four basic styles (regular, italic, bold, bold italic) with individually shaped letter forms that makes typeface more playful. Suitable for both Web and print, longer texts and headings. Available at Google Web Fonts and licensed under the SIT OpenType License. Image credit and source: dersven.

Amaranth

Siruca Pictograms
A pictogram open source font made as a part of Siruca signage system designed by Fabrizio Schiavi. The font contains many picograms related to sport, signage, home, social meetings, free time activities and business.

Siruca Pictograms

Erler Dingbats
For the first time in the entire history of Unicode standard, the full encoding range for dingbats is now covered by a complete, contemporary quality font. FF Dingbats 2.0 features more than 800 glyphs and is mainly a tool for professional designers and has been created for everyday communication purposes. It includes a wide range of popular symbols and pictograms such as arrows, pens, phones, stars, crosses and checkmarks, plus three sets of cameo figures on round backgrounds. Free of charge. (via fontblog)

Erler Dingbats

Further Free Fonts

SD Sansimillia
SD Sansimillia is a playful, yet elegant typeface suitable for many different applications. Originally cut for a local advertising brand, SD Sansimillia is inspired by the Antenna Family built by Cyrus Highsmith in 2007 as well as Erik Spiekermann’s FF Din Family cut in 1994. It is issued in regular, bold and black weights.

Mimic Roman
Mimic Roman is a modern sans serif face with evenly balanced strokes and a counter on a slight angle, giving it a 1950s retro look.

Roboto
Roboto Family is a linear sans serif font, available in 8 different styles of which each includes more than 900 glyphs — Greek and Cyrillic, too. This font was designed by Google for Andorid and is licensed under the Google Android License.

Mate
An elegant serif font designed by Eduardo Tunni. This typeface was primarily designed to be used in longer body copies in printed material. It is simple in structure and has sharp as well as generous counter-shapes which create a medium texture that calls for page color. It can also be used as display typography and is available at Google Web Fonts.

Last Click

Shape Type
If you are passionate about typography and have fun experimenting with glyphs, then you will certainly like the rather unusual type-design game created by the interaction designer Mark MacKay. The idea of this JavaScript-based letter-shaping game is simple: you get 10 modified letters from various classic typefaces, and you have to try to make them right by dragging curves along their axes. It’s an engaging way to explore what makes or breaks a glyph.

Testing your Typography Skills

Font-Bot Project
It is time for your favorite font to stand its ground. The idea is to build robots out of a type face, showcase them and hope others put together a potential opponent. Once there are two font-bots ready to compete against each other, only thing left would be to “let the battle begin!” Participating is not hard, the rules are clear: all robots must be built of type alone (letters A to Z). Let’s see if your font has what it takes to defend its corner. Fight!

The Battle of the Fonts

Further Resources

  • Lost Type Co-Op
    The Lost Type Co-Op is a Pay-What-You-Want Type foundry. Users have the opportunity to pay whatever they like for a font; you can type in ‘$0′ for a free download. 100% of all funds from these sales go directly to the designers of the fonts themselves, respectively.
  • The League of Moveable Type
    The open-source type movement for bringing high-quality tyepfaces to the Web. The creators of the project keep releasing quality fonts every now and then so be sure to stay tuned!
  • Google Web Fonts
    A growing directory of hundreds of free, open-source fonts optimized for the Web. Google also provides ready-to-use snippets for integrating the fonts to your website.
  • Typography and Free Fonts on Smashing Magazine
    An overview of typography-related articles and free font round-ups on Smashing Magazine.

We sincerely appreciate the time and effort of all type designers featured in this post. Please keep in mind that type design is a time-consuming craft which truly deserves reward and support. Please consider supporting type designers who create and release amazing typefaces for all of us to use.

(vf) (il)

© Smashing Editorial Team for Smashing Magazine, 2012.

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Web typography used to be something of an oxymoron, but recent browser advances and tools like Typekit have helped bring web typography out of the dark ages with custom fonts. Thanks to JavaScript libraries like Lettering.js you can tweak those custom fonts — targeting specific words or letters — and adjust them to your liking.

Lettering.js even makes it possible to do custom kerning on the web. Kerning refers to the space between characters in proportional width fonts. CSS has long offered the letter-spacing property, but because it applies to an entire element — for example an h2 tag — what you’re really doing with letter-spacing is adjusting the tracking.

To actually control kerning you need to target each letter individually. Because Lettering.js can wrap each letter in your text with span tags, you can then target each span separately, adjusting the spacing of individual letters, or, kerning.

But, handy as Lettering.js is, tweaking the letter-spacing, hitting refresh, tweaking some more and so on is still a rather tedious way to improve your kerning. That’s why designer Brendan Stromberger created the Kern.js JavaScript bookmarklet. Used in conjunction with Lettering.js, Kern.js allows you to adjust kerning by simply selecting and dragging letters (or you can use the arrow keys). Kerning adjustments can be made in pixels or ems, so even you if you have a liquid layout there’s no reason you can’t get in on the kerning fun. Once you’ve got your kerning looking the way you’d like, just hit the “finish editing” button and Kern.js will spit out the necessary CSS to apply.

Kerning is admittedly a somewhat nerdy pursuit in a field that’s already pretty nerdy to begin with, but if you’ve developed an obsession with good looking typography, you know that there’s more to it than just dropping in some Typekit fonts. Thanks to Lettering.js and Kern.js, you can finally improve kerning on the web without the tedium of endless page refreshes.

See Also:

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Steve Souders

Our favorite ex-Yahoo at-Google web performance fast-driving all-around guru Steve Souders took a look at @font-face performance recently:

There have been a number of great posts about @font-face performance issues:

* Paul Irish: Fighting the @font-face FOUT
* Stoyan Stefanov: Gzip your @font-face files
* Zoltan Hawryluk (again): More @font-face fun

This blog post summarizes Paul, Stoyan, and Zoltan’s findings plus some very important discoveries of my own.

Among these discoveries is:

* IE doesn’t render anything in the page until the font file is done downloading.
* In all major browsers, ...no files were blocked [by font downloads].
* Busy indicators... are triggered [differently in each] browser

Steve also found that IE and Chrome didn't time out in their attempts to download a font, meaning in the case of the former that the page never displays while waiting for the font, and in the latter that the text doesn't display.

Steve's conclusions are interesting:

* Only use @font-face is you’re absolutely certain you need it.
* If you have multiple font files, consider sharding them across multiple domains.
* Don’t include unused @font-face declarations - IE will download them whether they’re used or not.
* Gzip the font files and give them a future Expires header.
* Consider lazy loading the font files, at least in IE.

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