On Friday I was lucky enough to get a ticket to this years Ampersand – the annual typography conference that focusses on the hot topic of typography and websites.
Typography is becoming an ever growing concern of designers and developers since the advent of ‘@font-face’ and, more recently, CSS3 declarations that allow us to both apply various typefaces to websites and also to control how they are formatted. Gone are the days of ‘choose from these 5 webfonts and make images of the rest.’ We are now completely free to use 100’s of webfonts that are rendered as HTML, but with this comes the responsibility of applying type correctly. Developers and web designers alike have historically been limited in their ability to apply all of the rules that hundreds of years of typography has created, so it’s of no surprise that the knowledge of these intricacies has waned somewhat. It strikes me that one of Ampersands goals was to remind people of Typography’s rich heritage; the rules and considerations of the craft, and that we must, as we move forward into an ever increasingly digital society, continue to practice and propagate this knowledge to retain the depth and quality that the last 1000 years has informed it with.
The day consisted of several presentations ranging from the foundations of type to hardcore technical applications – here’s a summary below and you can link to lanyrds fantastic site to view the decks (http://lanyrd.com/2012/ampersand).
Keynote – Phil Baines. A brief history of type highlighting where webfonts fits in with the big picture of progression of type.
Detail in Web Typography – Yves Peters. The intricacies of typography – using the correct characters in the correct situations.
Typographic Matchmaking – Veronika, José. A ‘what’s hot and what’s not’ from a humorous pair who may very well have ‘ruffled the feathers’ of quite a few designers by dissecting their typography to the audience!
Linotype the Film Q&A – Doug Wilson. A Q&A following the charming film of the history of the linotype machine which helped propagate the printing industry and therefore newspapers in North America in the 1900s.
Designing Fonts for Screens – Jason Smith Leading TV brand font designer –channel 4, BBC1 and more
CSS Font Stack Hackery – Laurence Penney Getting to the bottom of the depths of the ‘font-stack’
On Hinting – Lucas de Groot WOW! Who knew there was so much required to make a font work? – de Groot suggests it takes a day to ‘hint’ (tweak a font so its lines make it legible) 8 characters – that means about 4 months of work to release a fully fledged Calibri to Microsoft
In Your @font-face - Jake Archibald A hilarious (and potentially offensive) study of how webfonts are processed
Enhancing the Future - Elliot Jay Stocks A round up of CSS and JS options that allow us to make the most of type now
Special note goes out to Doug wilsons ‘Linotype – the film’ http://linotypefilm.com. I was sceptical about watching a 90 min film on a printing machine but the charm, warmth and depth of the characters completely blew me away. It highlighted the rich history of the machine and the craft that grew around it – in the end it was more about the innovations of individuals, the passion of craftsman and how the rise of the computer saw a dissolution of both. Surprisingly moving. NB. The first person who can explain the importance of ‘ETAOIN SHRDLU’ without using google gets a free doughnut.
The next day, infused with all of this typographical awareness, I attended Phil Baines’ ‘Brighton Walk of Public Lettering’ which had 40 or so people staring at intricate type of the city’s buildings’ – and many public onlookers bewildered by what on earth we were looking at! Thoroughly informative and enjoyable and it took me to a few local public houses that I’d never come across before. Three cheers to typography I say!