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How many emojis do you use on a daily basis? If you’re like us, you generally rely on a small number that you feel best convey your particular attitude, style, or tone. They can be used for punctuation, or for anything that the written word doesn’t quite convey.

apple-gun-emoji-2-1By now the new iPhone emoji, which come with iOS 10, are old news. Many publications have reported on the changes to emoji that came with the new iPhone operating system, from more gender equality among the professions to more options for different skin tones, and the controversial replacement of a handgun with a squirt gun (reportedly due to lobbying by the group New Yorkers Against Gun Violence). And the response has not been 100% positive.

Emoji, of course, were originally derived from emoticons. And emoticons were originally designed specifically not to be ambiguous. Rather, they were meant to clarify the tone of written language. If you know something about the history of the Internet, you may know that the computer scientist Scott Fahlman was the first documented person to use typographic symbols to express specific emotions. His original proposal was posted on the computer science general board at Carnegie Mellon back in 1982:

19-Sep-82 11:44

From: Scott E  Fahlman <Fahlman at Cmu-20c>

I propose that the following character sequence for joke markers: : – ) 

Read it sideways. 

Actually, it is probably more economical to mark things that are NOT jokes, given current trends.  For this, use : – (

Within a few months, those smile and frown emoticons had spread to the ARPANET and Usenet. Variations quickly followed. It was useful for people who were communicating primarily through text, rather than speech, to have a way to convey tone, in addition to simple information.

bn-cc138_emotic_d_20140326032830The first real emoji were created by Shigetaka Kurita, a developer on the team that created the mobile internet platform NTT Docomo. Kurita and his team’s 176 pixelated symbols include faces that not only expressed happiness and anger or frustration, but also worry, surprise, goofiness (winking with a tongue out), a music note, an umbrella, a penguin, phases of the moon, astrological symbols, and more.

By bringing in symbols that do more than convey the tone of a written statement, Kurita created a new role for images to play in written communication. As linguist and cognitive scientist Neil Cohn says, Kurita’s emoji filled “a very effective role for communication that’s natural,” but separate, from the role of language itself. “Because of that, they aren’t really going to be a (passing) fad.”

This may help to explain why the general reaction to iOS’s new predictive emoji is less than enthusiastic. The vast majority of people who text don’t actually use emoji to replace specific nouns and verbs, as the new iOS would have us do. Said another way, we’re not replacing words so much as adding an extra layer to our communications.

Zoe Mendelson of Slate is of the opinion that the new, bigger, shinier, simpler, predictive emojis of iOS 10 have ruined emojis altogether. The way the images have been simplified, she points out, makes them less flexible. Take the grin-grimace emoji, for example, which used to convey a “slightly-guilty-slightly-pleased-slightly-embarrassed-but-still-excited expression.” In the new operating system, it has become a much simpler smile. For Mendelson, the ambiguity of the original “made it a favorite, I suspect, because we often experience this dynamic maelstrom of feelings in real life.”

The evolution of the grin-grimace, image courtesy of Emojipedia.

The evolution of the grin-grimace, image courtesy of Emojipedia.

She also argues that the new predictive functionality ruins all the original fun of finding a funny image that added new meaning to one’s written communication, rather than just illustrating it. “More cultural fetish than a tool,” she writes, the emojis of iOS 9 were great because they were so random and decontextualized. “They were extremely unlikely everyday vocal candidates. Floppy disk. Fishcake. Space invader. Old-school mailboxes. Barely recognizable houseplant cactus. It was deliciously random.” For an English-speaker, because “emoji effectively did not have fixed meanings,” they invited testers to play with ambiguity, and with the element of interpretative surprise.

Like them or hate them, it seems that the new emoji are here to stay. But it seems to us that most people don’t have quite the passionate response that Mendelson and others have. According to a Twitter poll we posted this month, the response of the vast majority of folks to the new predictive emojis is… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

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To Free Font Or Not?

Top Three Ways to Build Your Team’s Font Collection

Earlier this year, I wrote an article titled “Top Places to Build Out Your Font Collection.” The article is relevant for graphic designers, as well as IT professionals, creative directors, and others in various organizations who want secure ways to build a font collection. Some fonts are marketed as “free fonts” or “open source fonts.” Do you know if these fonts are OK to use within your organization? Is purchasing fonts from a type foundry the only secure path to take? Find out in this way-back, blog reprise. Enjoy!

Typography experts estimate that there are more than 300,000 fonts in existence, and more emerging from designer’s workshops every day.

What font should my team use?

We explored MyFonts to get one example and a bit of a perspective on this number. The results blew us away. On that one site alone, you can find:

31,000 font families
4,000 individual type designers
2,000 professional font foundries*
*Numbers procured from this page.

…that’s quite a bit more than a drop down menu can hold. How many fonts are in your organization’s font collection? Is your team getting the most out of your library?

As the number of free fonts and type options ever-inflates, so does the time invested in curating your team’s collection. “Every good designer doesn’t use more than a few typefaces.” Have you heard this conviction from celebrated designer Massimo Vignelli? So, we suggest that before you skim through our list of hunting grounds for new, fun fonts, get a hold of your unruly tangle of fonts by exploring the Top Three Ways to Manage Your Team’s Font Collection including managing free fonts.

1. Free Fonts: Behance, Creative Market, Dribble & Google Fonts (Free Fonts? Wha?)
Some organizations might be apprehensive to use free fronts. However, these are some great places to see what creative people are experimenting with. You probably won’t find full-fledged font families, but you will find some fun display type. These free font sites could give your organization some new, fun, creative ideas and your designer a creative boost.

behance fonts

There is an extensive list of curated free font collections on Behance, each with juicy creations, new and old. With discoverable gems from an array of designers of all levels and geography, it’s an excellent place to find new ideas in type. Creative Market features over 7,000 fonts from independent creators and handpicks fonts for you based on your tastes. That’s a win-win. Also, if free is more of your price point, check out this Curated Collection of the 30 Best Google Fonts.

2. Type Libraries
One way to build your collection quickly is to license an entire library. There are many to choose from: Adobe, Ascender,, Bitstream, Monotype ITC, and many more offer up the option to license full libraries.

While it might not be a readily known fact, Monotype has steadily been purchasing many of the historical font libraries from around the globe. Monotype now owns,,,, and more.

3. Independent Foundries
Independent type foundries, often operated by the type designers themselves, offer some real typographic gems. Typewolf brushed together a list of his 24 favorite independent type foundries after the Monotype-FontShop merger. It’s still highly relevant.
Some of the highlights include:
• The Midwesterner Mark Simonson that gifted the type world with Proxima Nova
exljbris Font Foundry that bequeathed upon us the highly appealing, highly practical Museo Slab.
Grilli Type, the Swiss foundry whose GT Walsheim booms at us with impressive authority
Dalton Maag, the foundry from the early 90s whose international savviness easily translates to sleek versatility
• Renound type designer Tobias Frere-Jones is also now selling fonts directly as well.
Skim though the image below for more shoutouts to greats like Lineto, Type Together, Type Trust, Hoefler & Co. and more.

font foundries


Admit it: after simply scrolling through this list, you’re ready to download a wave of new fonts to onto your computer. Before doing so, read our free Font Management Best Practices Guide. You’ll learn effective ways to manage your organization’s font collection, avoid font copyright lawsuits, and enable your team’s creativity.

Server-Based Font Management Best Practices Guide

Where are your favorite places to build and maintain your font collection? Tell us on Twitter @extensis.

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4 Questions 4… Dan Rhatigan

Dan Rhatigan works with Adobe Typekit in New York as the Senior Manager of Adobe Type. He has over 25 years of eclectic experience in various industries as a typesetter, graphic designer, typeface designer, and teacher, including several years in London and New York serving as Type Director for Monotype. He has a BFA in graphic design from Boston University, and MA in typeface design from the University of Reading in the UK, and a very tattered passport. We’re so glad that Dan joined us for this edition of out mini-interview series, 4 Questions 4.


1. How did you originally get interested in typography and design?

Although I thought I wanted to draw comic books when I was growing up, my time helping with my high school newspaper really exposed a much greater love for design and playing with type. I went on to study graphic design, but the typography aspect of that was always the most engaging to me. It took quite a while to realize that it might be time to really focus that interest in typography and start designing typefaces themselves.

2. What typography trends are you loving most these days?

I am really, really interested in the prospect of generating type dynamically so it can better adapt to different environments or layouts. Interpolating font outlines is such a core part of designing typefaces, and I think once people who use type adapt to the idea that font outlines don’t need to be fixed items, they become as inventive with that idea as typeface designers have been.

3. Which of your projects are you most proud of thus far in your career, and why?

Pink MiceI’m torn about this question, as my career has been pretty varied. As a type designer, I’m most proud of Sodachrome, an experimental multi-color design I worked on with my friend Ian Moore. As a graphic designer and typographer, my best efforts have gone into Pink Mince, a zine I publish that actually lets my play around with type and illustration instead of just designing something for other people to use.


4. Describe your dream project.

thumbnailHonestly, my dream project would just be to finish Gina, the first typeface I ever designed, and my thesis project from my MA the University of Reading. It’s been so hard to find time to devote to it over the years, and my thinking about type is so much more sophisticated than when I first drew it.

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What do Jennifer Aniston, Thomas Edison, Cher, Andy Warhol, Steve Jobs, Steven Spielberg, Pablo Picasso, and Ozzy Osbourne have in common?

They were all diagnosed with dyslexia.

(Albert Einstein, Alexander Graham Bell, Galileo Galilei, and Leonardo da Vinci were also believed to be dyslexic but were never officially diagnosed.)

Dyslexia is a disorder that affects the ability to read, write, and interpret letters and symbols despite normal (or often above normal) intelligence. Researchers estimate that 3-10% of the population is dyslexic while up to 20% may suffer from some degree of symptoms.

The National Institute of Health identified many neurological and cognitive differences that contribute to dyslexia and the vast majority appear to be caused by genetics rather than environmental trauma. Dyslexia was first identified in 1881 but didn’t become widely known until 1980. For years, dyslexics have been dismissed as “stupid” or “lazy.”

A dyslexic’s brain is perfectly healthy but the frustration associated with dyslexia can cause emotional and psychological problems that last a lifetime. A dyslexic preschooler is typically unaffected but then pressure begins to mount in subsequent years as the student fails to meet reading standards and teacher/parent expectations. Dyslexic children frequently have problems with social situations, leading to poor self-image and less peer acceptance. Dyslexia can hinder oral language development, too: Affected kids might stammer, stutter, or have trouble finding the right words.

Heartbreaking, right?

Dutch designer Christian Boer suffered from dyslexia as a young man and decided to invent a typeface to help others like him. His Dyslexie fonts emphasize key differences in characters so that few of them are similar and/or easily confused with each other.

Here’s some of the design features that make Dyslexie easier for dyslexics to read:

Dyslexie uses heavier bottoms on fonts to "prevent them from flipping upside down."

Dyslexie uses heavier bottoms on fonts to “prevent them from flipping upside down.”


Similar characters have had their tales changed to reduce similarity.

Similar characters have had their tales changed to reduce similarity.


Letter opening have been enlarged, so they're easier to see as unique characters.

Letter opening have been enlarged, so they’re easier to see as unique characters.


Boer isn’t the only designer who believed that the presentation of text has a significant impact on its accessibility to dyslexics. In the past thirty years, many studies have been done about which fonts/typefaces increased/decreased readability.

A study by Luz Rello and Ricardo Baeza-Yates suggests that Helvetica, Courier, Arial, Verdana test high for reading performance. Sans Serif, monospaced, and Roman fonts were also favorable. Italic fonts were most difficult for dyslexics.

Other fonts believed to have “strong legibility” include Garamond, Myriad, and Computer Modern Unicode.

Herman Bouma and C.P. Legein did a study in 1977 that suggested crowding between characters limits recognition in dyslexic readers. “Difficulty recognizing letters occurs in the parafovea of the retina of the eye when visual objects are too close together in relation to their distance from the center of vision.” Based on Bouma and Legien’s findings, many type designers have tried greater spacing between letters as a way to reduce crowding and make it more readable to dyslexics.

In addition to Dyslexie, there are currently several other options available that were created specifically to aid dyslexics.

Read Regular is “designed with an individual approach for each of the individual characters.” For example, the ‘b’ character doesn’t simply mirror the ‘d’ character—each character is unique. Unnecessary details (like serifs) have been removed to create striking outlines. Ascending and descending lines are long and clean. Space inside of letters like ‘o’ or ‘g’ is open and free of clutter.

Read Regular typeface example.

Read Regular typeface example.

Most typefaces are tested for legibility after they’re designed. Rob Hillier refined and modified his Sylexiad (get it?) typeface based on feedback from dyslexic readers during a series of tests. He compared early versions of his font to Arial and Times New Roman. This manner of progressive testing raised questions over whether or not dyslexics read words as shapes, a core principle of type design.

An example of Sylexiad Serif Spaced Medium

An example of Sylexiad Serif Spaced Medium

OpenDyslexic is an open source typeface that includes regular, bold, italic and bold-italic styles. It’s updated constantly based on feedback from the dyslexic community and is free for commercial and personal usage. According to their site, OpenDyslexic is “inspired by Andika, Apple Casual, Lexia Readable, Sassoon, and Comic Sans.”

An example of OpenDyslexic

An example of OpenDyslexic

According to the Mayo Clinic, there’s no “cure” for dyslexia—it’s a condition that’s hard-wired into the brain caused by inherited traits—but most children with dyslexia are capable of succeeding in school with tutoring or focused educational assistance. Thanks to awareness, research, and technological advances, plenty of options are now available to help kids previously referred to as “stupid” or “lazy” achieve great things and be the next Albert Einstein. Or Steven Spielberg. Or Ozzy Osbourne.

Rock on.

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You might or might not remember typewriters, but their use is responsible for many of the type crimes committed today.

How so?

Typewriters had a very limited keyboard, and did not accommodate many of the typographically correct characters we use in professional typesetting. Quotation marks and apostrophes are one example of this: although different from inch and foot marks, they are all represented by the same keys on a typewriter.

But when setting type in the professional arena (as opposed to just “typing”), they are separate and different glyphs.

Quotations marks, also referred to as smart quotes, typographer’s quotes, and sometimes curly quotes (although they don’t have to have the curly design), are design-sensitive, that is, are designed to match the typeface they belong to.

Each typeface has different versions for the left and right (or open and closed) quotes. Apostrophes, which are use to indicate possession and omission, are actually the same, exact glyph used for the single, closed quote, and therefore are also design-sensitive.

Inch and foot marks, also called primes, are different from quotation marks in that they more neutral in appearance (as opposed to matching each typeface), and are either straight or slightly angled, and usually tapered. The glyphs used to set primes are most often the typewriter quotes (also referred to as straight or dumb quotes) available in most fonts, which are vertical strokes.

Note that true primes are slightly angled, but since they are not available in most fonts, the vertical typewriter quotes are the accepted glyphs for measurements in typesetting.


The differences between smart quotes, dumb quotes, and true primes are easy to see in these examples set in Arno Pro.

Straight quotes vs smart quotes. The differences between smart quotes, dumb quotes, and true primes are easy to see in these examples set in Arno Pro.


The design of both smart and dumb quotes (sometimes called "straight quotes") can vary from typeface to typeface.

The design of both smart and dumb quotes (sometimes called “straight quotes”) can vary from typeface to typeface.


How to Avoid the Wrong Symbol

If the differences between smart and dumb quotes are so obvious, why do we see so many incorrect appearances of these characters in both print and digital media? Part of the fault lies with writers who were taught to type using old-fashioned typewriter conventions, and are not aware of the differences between these characters in proper typesetting.

Either that or they know the differences but don’t know how to access the right character in word processing software. In other cases, copy is lifted from the web, a PDF document, or from an email – all of which can result in quotes and primes being improperly designated.

Even if the copy does contain smart quotes, there are some instances that might still be wrong.

All text should be reviewed for the accurate use of primes in measurements, which might have automatically – and incorrectly – been converted to smart quotes. In addition, be sure to check that abbreviations, contractions and omissions, or all words that should begin with an apostrophe, in fact, do, rather than an open single quote.


Take care to use the right glyphs for both quotation marks and measurements.

Take care to use the right glyphs for both quotation marks and measurements.


When importing, converting, or typing text, check that the correct glyph is being used for all instances. Primes in measurements can easily appear as smart quotes (upper), while apostrophes that appear in omissions are frequently set as open single quotes (lower). When these errors appear, they need to be manually corrected.

When importing, converting, or typing text, check that the correct glyph is being used for all instances. Primes in measurements can easily appear as smart quotes (upper), while apostrophes that appear in omissions are frequently set as open single quotes (lower). When these errors appear, they need to be manually corrected.


But no matter how copy appears, it is up to the designer, production artist, and webmaster/programmer to make it right. Here are some tips to help get it right:

  • Begin with typographically correct copy. The default setting of most design software is to automatically use Typographer’s Quotes when typing, but this is not true for all word-processing programs. Therefore, set these preferences to convert to smart quotes. Another way to correct these errors is to use a utility such as Tex-Edit Plus that can clean up a document in seconds.
  • Import text properly, using the Place command available in most design software. When using InDesign, select Show Import Options where you can choose the Option to Use Typographer’s Quotes.
  • Review imported text and make sure all measurement are set with primes, not smart quotes.
  • Check for apostrophes (and not open single quotes) in contractions.
  • Always proof the final text carefully.
Smart quotes in word. Microsoft Word preferences can easily be set to use “smart quotation marks”.

Smart quotes in word. Microsoft Word preferences can easily be set to use “smart quotation marks”.


Tex-Edit Pro is a great utility that allows for quick and easy cleanup of text, including quotes.

Tex-Edit Pro is a great utility that allows for quick and easy cleanup of text, including quotes.


Smart Punctuation in Digital Media

The same rules and standards for printed matter apply to digital media as well, but the process of applying them might be different. If the copy is formatted correctly, smart quotes might appear automatically when inserted in digital media such as web sites, but in other cases, they will need to be replaced with HTML codes to appear correctly.

When using content management systems (CMS) such as WordPress or Drupal, the ability to set these special characters (as they are often called) is often controlled by preferences in the back end. But even when set to display smart quotes, you might loose the ability to change them back to primes or apostrophes. Additionally, not all email clients (such as Constant Contact) support “smart” punctuation.

Setting type like a pro requires close attention to these – and many other details. No matter what role one plays in the process, it is important that all involved know the proper usage of quotes and primes, and review for their correct appearance.

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Richard Starkings and John Roshell founded Comicraft in 1992. Since then, the company has provided lettering for many comic books, and its collection of more than 250 font families has become a mainstay of the comic book lettering industry.


Richard Starkings

Founder Richard Starkings is the Eisner and Eagle award-winning creator and writer of HIP FLASK (with Ladrönn) and ELEPHANTMEN (with Moritat, Boo Cook, and Axel Medellin), now in development as a major motion picture. He has also written comic strips for DOCTOR WHO MAGAZINE, THE REAL GHOSTBUSTERS, and TRANSFORMERS. He lives in Long Beach.


John Roshell

John Roshell has lettered thousands of comic pages for Marvel, DC, and other top publishers; created hundreds of logos and fonts for the likes of AVENGERS, DAREDEVIL and ANGRY BIRDS; designed book collections and websites; and, with writer Starshine Roshell, co-created two boys who have no interest in comic books whatsoever.

We talked with Rich and John about font design, that elusive concept “the comic book font,” and more.

So if you wouldn’t mind, for those readers who may not be comic book geeks, could you give us a brief history of comic books and the practical and aesthetic evolution of their lettering?

Rich: Brief?! Ha! I think it’s true to say that comic book lettering evolved out of necessity. It was cheaper and easier for comic strips in newspapers to be lettered with a pen than for them to be typeset by someone not directly involved in the creative process.

The bold, UPPER CASE style that slowly became the norm was necessary so that letters could be easily read and didn’t fill in due to the inevitable dot gain of ink on cheap newsprint.

Exclamation marks at the end of sentences became the norm, in order to ensure that readers saw the period at the end of each sentence, which might otherwise disappear due to poor reproduction of the art in print.




John: It’s kind of funny that those limitations still define the look of comic lettering, even though they no longer apply! Digital tools have expanded the options, but the principal goal is still to tell the story as effectively as possible.

Sometimes that means grabbing the reader’s attention, and sometimes it means being invisible. Navigating that push and pull to keep the reader engaged is what the best letterers do, no matter their tools.

In his video for Vox, Phil Edwards raises the question: Is the so-called “comic book font” a font at all? When you’ve got multiple letterers out there with multiple different styles, how would you guys define the phrase “comic book font”?

Rich: For casual comic book readers there’s no real conscious awareness of different styles of comic book lettering.

Recently a comic book commentator who has what I’d consider an expert eye waxed lyrical about my pen lettering on a page of artwork he’d bought; in fact, it was lettered by another well known lettering artist—who I’d consider to have quite a markedly different style.

I think “comic book font” generally refers to an upper case style of lettering that is clearly made with ink using a pen nib or technical drawing pen.

They only occasionally include lower case lettering, and sit in white-filled balloons on pages of comic book art. I’m sure that if you showed comic book-style lettering out of context, some people would be hard-pressed to identify it as a comic book font.


John: It’s funny how the closer you look at anything, the more infinite variations you will discover!

Pen letterers’ styles change with the types of pens used, the way their hands naturally form each letter, and who taught or influenced them. When I create a font from someone’s lettering, I choose from dozens of slightly different As, Rs, and Ss.

Every decision I make in the assembly, cleanup, and fine-tuning affects the final font. I’ve created two families based on Richard’s pen lettering (Hedge Backwards and Richard Starkings) that ended up having a completely different look! So I feel like there’s still an infinite number of “comic book fonts” left to be made.

In that same video, John, you mention Artie Simek and Sam Rosen as a couple of letterers that, in your words, “Nailed it.” What makes their work particularly good?

John: Well, I’m sure it has a lot to do with the fact they lettered the majority of the comics I grew up reading!

When I look at their work now, I see a relaxed confidence in their pen strokes that just says, “I know what I’m doing, I’m getting the job done, and I’m having fun doing it.” And that still inspires me.

Rich: Artie Simek and Sam Rosen are two of my favorite letterers, also. They had such iconic styles; between them, they created the look of Marvel Comics lettering in the sixties.

They were the masters of creating atmosphere with soft rounded or ragged titles and sound effects… and they rarely used rulers, because the deadlines they were working too probably didn’t allow that kind of finesse!

Later, letterers like Tom Orzechowski, Steve Craddock, Bill Nutall and Tom Frame created more precise looks in their lettering that brought comic book pages alive in whole different ways.

But, generally, I think they had a little more time to get their work done.

Tell us about Comicraft. What was the inspiration behind starting your company, and how did it become what it is today?

Rich: I was working primarily as a pen and ink lettering artist over here in the States, and I realized that it was almost impossible for me to get projects that allowed me the kind of time I needed to make a healthy living and feel proud of my work.

I’d worked at Marvel UK in London as an editor and designer, and was comfortable with the idea of working with a team to get stuff done. I’d also been made aware that top Marvel artist John Byrne had developed a comic book font to letter his own work on his book NAMOR. I thought this was the writing on the wall for pen lettering, and was lucky enough to find a couple of friends who helped me create a font using a program called Fontographer.

These friends helped input scripts, so that I could speed up the process of digital lettering. But it wasn’t until I looked for someone more permanent that I came across John, who had just graduated from UCLA with a degree in graphic design. We were working out of the back of my Santa Monica apartment at the time, and John asked me what he should say when he answered the phone.

A friend of mine had a carpentry business he called ProudCraft; I quickly came up with Comicraft, and the name stuck.

What considerations come into play for you when you design a new comic book-style font?

Rich: Originally it was necessity. We had a dialogue font, but no title fonts. Then we needed fonts for particular logos, then we were asked for a specific font for a book called ASTRO CITY.

BATMAN artist Tim Sale wanted one based on his pen-lettering style. Then we made fonts that evoked the lettering of Rosen and Simek… and then John decided we should make twelve fonts a year. Perhaps he can explain that particular rod he made for his own back…!

John: I decided pretty early on, working for Comicraft, that I really wanted to make a living making fonts. And that meant expanding our catalog. So I set a goal of twelve a year, and sold subscriptions in advance, so that I knew I would have to meet it! We’ve achieved that goal every year.

The past two years have also been spent “remastering” another twelve—that is, going back into the catalog and improving and expanding on our early releases.

Requests from customers and clients usually dictate what’s on my front burner, so often I’m filling an immediate need, which is great. When nothing’s pressing, I have folders full of partially completed fonts and letter files and graphics to dig through. Sometimes it’s, “Okay, what’s nearly done that I can wrap up?”

And sometimes I find a file or graphic with only four or five letters that sparks an idea. I’ll get going on it, and the hours just roll by. Those are my favorite kinds of days.

Daddio, Maladroit, Atomic Wedgie, Girls in Genes, Urban Barbarian, Incy Wincy Spider… your fonts have such great names. How do you name each font?

Rich: Enthusiastically! I feel that the names of our fonts should make you think of comic books, whether you use them for fonts or not!

There are also a LOT of fonts out there, so it has become increasingly difficult to come up with unique names. But it’s still a lot of fun to try!

John: We spend a RIDICULOUS amount of time jockeying back and forth on font names, and names for each of the weights. But it’s part of the fun. I feel great when we finally find a name that both totally captures the spirit of the font and sounds like it belongs in our catalog.

How are your fonts used? Put another way, which of your fonts tend to be used in which contexts?

Rich: We see a lot of our fonts on candy and cereal packaging—and toilet paper rolls! I think our customers are looking for bouncy, fun styles. They gravitate to our catalog because we have so many loose-looking character sets that have that pen-drawn feel to them. And, obviously, we are the number one resource for comic book letterers all over the world!

John: I love seeing designers use our fonts in ways I never would have imagined. And I like applying the principles of comic lettering—make it readable and fun!—to creating fonts in other realms, like apps and video games.

The fonts I designed for ANGRY BIRDS have probably been seen by far more people than all the ones I’ve done for comic books. But they came to us because of our comics work, so it all relates.


Of all your designs, do you have a favorite?

John: Whichever one I’m working on at the moment! I love ’em all. Even the ones that don’t sell. ESPECIALLY the ones that don’t sell. Every one of them has an idea behind it that I thought was cool and worth making.

Rich: I’d have to go with ZOINKS because it’s based on the natural way I draw display lettering. I’d add in MONSTER MASH, too, which John created to look very much like sixties comic book title lettering.

What do you think is people’s biggest misconception about you, Comicraft, and/or the work you do?

Rich: I think a lot of people think we letter EVERY comic out there—which is fine, LOL! I also think that people generally think that selling fonts requires little or no work, which is not true at all.

There’s a lot of hard work and thought that goes into it. Anyone who runs an online business knows that there are all kinds of hidden costs involved. Some customers think fonts are expensive, but I always like to remind them that back in the day graphic designers had to buy sheets of dry-transfer lettering from companies like LETRASET at twenty bucks a pop.

When you’d used them up, you had to order more—and more, and more. Pen letterers had to buy ink and nibs and new technical pens and vellum and drawing boards and all that stuff. When you buy a font, it never runs out of letters! Plus, you get a license to keep using it until you die!

John: For a long time, most of my friends thought I drew the comics. But I think people’s daily interactions with computers and screens has created a growing understanding and appreciation for fonts.

Everyone’s aware of them now, even if it’s just “oh, you mean like Comic Sans?” To which I reply with a descending “NOOOOOOoooooo….”

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Because software upgrades can be disruptive to a Production environment I’m frequently asked which best practices a company should employ when upgrading Universal Type Server.

Here are ten basic ideas to help guide you through the upgrade process.  Please feel free to share your own tips with us or any others I may have forgotten to mention.

  1. Forward with a Backup – starting your upgrade out with a way to quickly restore your environment in the event of unforeseen problems is always the best way to lower your stress level. Backup first, always.
  2. Keeping up with the Joneses – Often customers jump into the latest operating systems or other application updates before ensuring their software and plugins are compatible. Compatibility information is generally available on the Extensis website so be sure to look before taking the update plunge.
  3. Testing, is this thing on? – Whenever possible, we recommend you review upgrades in a “testing” environment before upgrading your Production environment. This helps you identify and deal with unexpected issues without bringing your business to a halt.
    Did you know? The Extensis software agreement enables you to use your licenses on a separate testing environment at no additional cost. So setup a test environment to ensure everything works as expected.
  4. Keeping up with the times – We realize that it’s very challenging to stay on top of the latest versions of all your software. But just like the rest of the technology world, critical changes occur every day so if you don’t stick to a regular upgrade schedule you’ll fall behind.
    If you want to be certain Universal Type Server upgrades go smoothly, we recommend you lag no more than one full version behind.
    For example, Universal Type Server is currently at version 6.x so if you are running Universal Type Server 4 or older it’s time to get updated. When it comes to databases, upgrading from two (or more) versions back to the current version may not be directly compatible. Upgrading may require extra steps to to ensure you’re current. Staying updated will save you time and energy in the long run.
  5. One step at a time – Remember it’s much easier to ensure a successful upgrade when you use a stepped approach. Complete one installation at a time then validate its results.
    For example, if you need to upgrade systems to Mac OS X, Adobe Creative Cloud and Universal Type Client all at the same time take it slow and implement one change at a time. If you don’t, how will you know where a problem lies when things don’t go as expected? I can assert you will not know and neither will our technical support team.
  6. Server upgrades first – In the Universal Type Server world, client versions are often optimized for their intended servers. Therefore, it’s best practice to upgrade your Server before the clients. This ensures any new database schema updates get handled before connecting new client versions.
  7. In-Place upgrades (over a restore) – Universal Type Server offers two upgrade options. We recommend performing an in-place upgrade over a backup restoration (whenever possible).
    In-place upgrades ensure your current server data is updated quickly and users have the least disruptive experience. Remember as a safety net, run best practice step #1 before doing an in-place upgrade.
  8. Stagger client upgrades – It’s often recommended larger organizations upgrade their client versions in smaller chunks. Doing so minimizes the first-time work Universal Type Server is required to perform when syncing newly connected clients. Many of our customers will schedule client updates by office location, floor, department, or publication so their users have advance notice. Also if an unexpected issue occurs, the number of affected users is manageable.
  9. Contact us, really – Many customers don’t think to reach out to us before they upgrade until something goes haywire. Next time, email or call us first. You’d be surprised how much useful information we can share before you begin.
  10. Finally, do not contaminate the crime scene – In the rare event you encounter an issue, requiring support assistance, please do not make additional changes until we can gather the information needed. Often times we are unable to resolve the issue quickly because important application files, databases and logs are no longer available.

I hope this article was helpful for you. On behalf of the Universal Type Server Team, thanks for being our customer and good luck with your next upgrade.

Feel free to reach out and let me know which other topics you’d like for us to write about.

FREE Guide: Server-Based Font Management Best Practices Guide

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4 Questions 4… Ludwig Übele

The founder of LudwigType Foundry, Ludwig Übele studied graphic design in Germany and Finland. Today Ludwig creates award-winning type designs and works in brand development. Ludwig collaborates frequently with the great type designer Georg Salden, of TypeManufactur. We’re so happy that Ludwig Übele joined us from Berlin to participate in our newest edition of 4 Questions 4.

Ludwig Ubele

1. How did you originally get interested in typography and design?

My uncle, who worked in small company which maintained copy machines, gave me an old photocopier when I was a kid. I used my sister’s typewriter, and made little magazines for the family. I also cut words from magazines to create new headlines. I guess this was the beginning of my typography career.

2. What type trends are you loving most these days?

In the beginning of my career I never found designing typefaces for websites a particularly attractive idea, because rendering quality was so bad, and the average typography looked awful. This has changed a lot recently. Layout and typography on the web has become more and more interesting, and rendering quality has improved enormously. Thus nowadays I really enjoy designing typefaces for the web, and solving problems of onscreen legibility. The quality of use releases creative energies!

3. Which of your projects are you most proud of thus far in your career, and why?

I still really like my typeface Marat. It’s one of my first type designs, and I like its fresh and friendly appearance. I’m still surprised how well it works, even in very different environments. It looks nice in small, long text in books, but also in big, tight headlines. Marat, incidentally, was the reason I started my own type foundry. It got quite a bit of recognition back when I released it.


4. Describe your dream project.

“Hi, it’s Costa Rica calling. Would you mind coming over for some weeks to design a new typeface for our tourist board? We have a beautiful apartment for you at the sea….”

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sfioswithmainui-ss-en-large-940pxDid you ever wonder why you weren’t able to manage fonts on your iOS devices (Apple iPhone and iPad) like you can with your Mac or Windows machine?

We asked the same question and that’s why we built the brand new Suitcase Fusion application for Apple iOS.

This application is free on the iTunes store, and connects your Suitcase Fusion font library to your iOS device.

So, whether you’re designing with one of the fancy new mobile design applications from Adobe, building and presenting Keynote and PowerPoint files, or just want to use your quality font collection on your iPad, you’re good to go.

It’s easy to use your font collection on iOS. To get started:

  1. Install Suitcase Fusion onto your Mac or PC.
  2. Load your fonts and sync your font library using TypeSync. Choose File > TypeSync > Enable Library Syncing.
  3. Install the Suitcase Fusion iOS app on your mobile device.
  4. Use Suitcase Fusion for iOS to activate your fonts!

Get Suitcase Fusion 7 and then download the iOS app from the App Store today.

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Instant font collection? Why thank you Google.

We love Google Fonts. They provide a big collection of open source fonts available for any use.

We’ve built a dynamic connection from Suitcase Fusion 7 to Google Fonts. This connection automatically downloads all of the Google Fonts, and keeps them up to date as new ones are added. Pretty nifty, eh?

Want to make the connection yourself? It’s easy to do.

Download a free 30-day trial of Suitcase Fusion 7.

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