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Most designers know Helvetica & Arial are not the same, but hard pressed to tell you what the differences are.

 

Comparing Rs between Helvetica and Arial

One of the most pronounced differences between Helvetica (shown in black) and Arial (shown in aqua) can be found in the cap R. You can also see Arial’s slightly higher waistline in this example.

So Here’s The Inside Story!

A Bit of History

Helvetica, one the most widely-used typefaces for decades, has a long history. It was originally designed in 1957 by Swiss typeface designer Max Miedinger for the Haas Type. It was commissioned by Eduard Hoffmann, managing director of the Swiss foundry, to compete with other popular sans serifs of the day, particularly Akzidenz Grotesk.

This new design was therefore named Neue Haas Grotesk (translation: New Haas Sans Serif) to reflect this lineage.

The name was changed to Helvetica (an adaptation of Helvetia, the Latin name for Switzerland) by the Stempel type foundry, the parent company of Haas, to reflect its Swiss heritage. Its popularity soared in the mid-1980s when it was included in the core fonts for the Apple operating system and laser printers, alongside Times Roman and Courier.

Over the years, the Helvetica family was expanded to encompass an extensive range of weights and width variants.

Arial, on the other hand, is often viewed as the “poor man’s” Helvetica by designers. Although designed to compete with (and therefore be similar to) Helvetica, it has its own individual history and backstory. Arial was designed in 1982 by Robin Nicholas and Patricia Saunders for Monotype.

Although created for use in an early IBM laser printer, its roots lie in the 1926 Monotype Grotesque design. In 1992, Microsoft licensed Arial to be included in the suite of fonts supplied with the Windows operating system.

The family has since been expanded beyond the original weights, and now includes 28 versions: six weights plus companion italics for the regular width, four condensed, four narrow, four rounded, and four monospaced versions.

What’s hot? What’s not? Learn more about the latest font trends by downloading our  Font and Typography Trends Report

Many of the differences between these two popular typefaces are related to their intended usage:  Helvetica was designed for print, while Arial was designed for laser printers and then adapted for use on computers, both being lower resolution environments than print.

Helvetica has sharper, crisper, and more stylish details, such as the leg of the cap R, more curvy diagonal spine on the numeral 2, and horizontal or vertical end strokes on many characters.

In addition, Helvetica has a slightly higher waistline and an overall less rounded appearance than Arial. Arial, on the other hand, has a less elegant, blander appearance, most likely so that it prints well on the laser printer it was intended for. These traits also make it better for other lower resolution environments, including the web and other pre-retina and other hi res display digital environments.

Arial has softer curves and fuller counters, as well as a characteristic diagonal terminal on the t, and a curved tail on the cap Q.

Other differences between the two typefaces are noted in the next three illustrations.

Other differences between the two typefaces are noted in the next three illustrations.

 

D.HelvArial

The differences between Helvetica and Arial are most noticeable in larger sizes, while they look fairly similar in smaller text. Excerpt from 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, By Charles C. Mann.

The differences between Helvetica and Arial are most noticeable in larger sizes, while they look fairly similar in smaller text. Excerpt from 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, By Charles C. Mann.

 

Helvetica and Neue Helvetica

In 1993, D. Stempel AG, Linotype’s daughter company, released a reworking of the original Helvetica entitled Neue (New) Helvetica.

This freshened up version includes the refinement of some characters, strengthened punctuation, cap and x-height adjustments, widened cross bars, and a new numerical system to identify the weights, similar to Univers and Frutiger. It also has additional weights: eight upright versions plus italics for the regular width, obliques for the expanded versions, as well as nine weights plus obliques for the condensed.

There is also a bold outline version for the regular width. The resulting total is 51 weights in all – many more than in the original family.

 

The differences between Helvetica and Neue Helvetica are subtle yet significant: wider rounded shapes, a wider arm on the r, extended crossbars, and larger punctuation.

The differences between Helvetica and Neue Helvetica are subtle yet significant: wider rounded shapes, a wider arm on the r, extended crossbars, and larger punctuation.

 

Two of the most popular new weights are Ultra Light and Thin, which are intended for display usage.

For this reason, the spacing of these weights is a lot tighter than the heavier weights. The problem arises when they are used for small text (which has become a common usage), where their tight spacing makes the text look very cramped and hard to read. The solution is to open the tracking as needed to give the text more “breathing” room.

This will expand the usable size range of this still extremely popular typeface.

One of the biggest problems with Helvetica Neue Ultra Light and Thin (heading and text, respectively) is their use for text and other smaller settings, due to their very tight spacing (upper). This can be improved by opening the tracking as needed: +50 for the heading set in Ultra Light, and +40 for the text set in Thin (lower) in this example.

One of the biggest problems with Helvetica Neue Ultra Light and Thin (heading and text, respectively) is their use for text and other smaller settings, due to their very tight spacing (upper). This can be improved by opening the tracking as needed: +50 for the heading set in Ultra Light, and +40 for the text set in Thin (lower) in this example.

Not ready to quit reading? Take your font expertise to the next level. Check out our recent blog post about Abbreviations in Font Names and crack the code to various font abbreviation mysteries.

For more information on font trends, check out our Font and Typography Trends Report and get up to speed on the latest typography trends.


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“Does Ob stand for Oblique?” You’ll find out as we crack the code to this and other font abbreviation mysteries.

font management

A while back, we came up with a list of font name abbreviations. We’ve decided to provide that list again! Here are a few abbreviations that many of you may need help deciphering:

Kinds of Font Abbreviations

Font Abbreviations mostly fall in several common categories:

Foundry name: usually in the form of one or two letters at the beginning or end of the name (LT, MT, A, BT, FB, URW). “Foundries” are the companies that create fonts, a term going back to the days of metal type.

Language designation: comes at the end of a name (Cyr, Grk, CE). Generally this only applies to older fonts where a separate font was issued for different languages. In most cases, newer fonts put all the languages in a single font.

Font size as intended in print: (Text, Display, Poster/Caption, Small Text, Regular, Subhead, Display).

Read up on optical size for more on this concept. Note that this is usually a print-focused designation; if one is using print fonts for screen/web, using fonts designed for smaller sizes in print at somewhat bigger sizes on screen is often a good idea. A “caption” font might be great for body text on screen.

Download the complete list of font abbreviations here.

Extremely light and extremely heavy weights are generally only useful at very large sizes. The full names for some common weights, in approximate increasing order: Hairline, UltraThin, UltraLight, Thin, ExtraLight, Light, Regular, Book, Medium, Semibold or Demibold, Bold, ExtraBold, Heavy, Black, ExtraBlack, UltraBold or Ultra.

  • A: Adobe, the type foundry and software company based in California.
  • A2: Not an abbreviation. A foundry based in London.
  • AEF: Altered Ego Fonts Foundry
  • Bd: Bold
  • Bk: Book. A designation of weight close to “regular” which may exist in place of regular, or be slightly lighter or heavier, depending on the foundry’s preferences.
  • Bl, Blk: Black. A very bold weight, beyond Extra Bold
  • Com: Communication. Linotype’s name for fonts aimed at corporate customers, which are TrueType flavored OpenType fonts that have a specific extended character set (close to Western + CE, actually “LEEC”) and generally lack extensive OpenType alternate glyphs.
  • Dm, Demi: Demibold, a weight in between regular and bold.
  • IHOF: International House of Fonts. A distribution imprint of the P22 foundry.
  • LT: Linotype. A large foundry dating back to the 19th century (but see also Lt), later acquired by Monotype.
  • Lt: Light. A font with strokes a bit thinner than usual. (But see also LT)
  • LTC: Lanston Type Co. Originally the US counterpart of Monotype a century ago, recently acquired by P22.
  • M, Mono: Monospaced. A typewriter-like font in which all the characters have the same width. “M” by itself is URW’s abbreviation.
  • MT: Monotype. A large foundry dating back to the 19th century.
  • Ob, Obl: Oblique. A slanted counterpart to an upright font. Oblique differs from italic in that the design is essentially unchanged. In many cases there has not even been any compensation for the unpleasant optical effects caused by mechanical/mathematical slanting. Generally a real italic font is preferable. In most applications, hitting an “italic” button on a font that has no italic style available results in a particularly gruesome OS-improvised oblique, at about double the angle of typical designed obliques or italics.
  • URW, URW++: A foundry. No longer an abbreviation, as they no longer use their original full name at all (Unternehmensberatung Rubow Weber is a bit of a mouthful!). The original URW (1972) went bankrupt, and was revived as URW++ in 1995. The name is a play on the name of the programming language C++, a sequel to C.

Wait! There’s more. Check out our Abbreviations in Font Names – The Definitive Guide. You’ll get a comprehensive list of font abbreviations and acronyms to help you get on your way to font management success.

Or if you have a few minutes, read our previous post on finding fonts. We detail some great resources on finding the best fonts for a variety of applications.


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New Year’s tends to bring a few traditions you can always count on. Champagne, Auld Lang Syne—and the inevitable yearly predictions listicles. With 2017 around the corner, we’ve been anticipating these predictions and considering how to categorize and quantify what we’ve seen in the world of typography. Our conclusion for the year: track the technology and you’ll find the trends.

There are an estimated 2 billion smartphone users in the world, and the average American spends anywhere from 5 to 11 hours per day using electronic media. Unsurprisingly, typography trends have been influenced by the challenge to increase readability, aesthetic desirability, and language-accessibility across multiple media platforms. Most people in the U.S., for example, are not only using a laptop or smartphone, but a combination of many gadgets that have access to the ever-growing Internet.

Generally speaking, predictions articles fall into one of two categories: aesthetic trends and industry or functionality trends. We’ve seen technology heavily influence both. Here are five trends that we found particularly exciting to watch this year:

1. Custom Fonts

Custom fonts were a hit this year, as tech giants created custom typefaces for their latest devices. Readability was widely debated among techies, artists, and internet-users alike. Amazon created a typeface called Bookerly to decrease eyestrain for Kindle readers. Google launched Product Sans and Apple created the typeface San Francisco for the Apple Watch. Meanwhile, new tools like Prototypo and FontArk were introduced to help typographers create custom typefaces to meet the marketing, branding, and creative needs of clients who want to keep up technologically and aesthetically with these tech giants.

Amazon bookerly

Bookerly by Amazon

2. Responsive Typography

Another trend driven by increased consumer demand for readability and accessibility, responsive typography went mainstream this year—and with good reason. Not only are we spending more time online, we are doing so across numerous platforms, often simultaneously. Anyone looking to brand, market, or share anything on the Internet is now hard-pressed to ensure that their reader can do so on their desktop, laptop, smartphone, tablet, or any other tool they may be using to access information. Responsive typography has made major strides in solving for this issue, and has become more accessible to designers who must get their message across to large and diverse audiences.

 

Branding for San Francisco’s Social Innovation Week

Aurelio Sanchez Escudero designed the branding for San Francisco’s Social Innovation Week using responsive typography, bold colors, and icons.

3. Personable Font Selections: Watercolor, Handwriting, Script, Grunge, and Caps

So readability and accessibility are essential. But typography is still an expressive art form. Typographers have been tasked with utilizing technology to enhance the practicality of their art, while creating work that is inventive, fresh, and beautiful. 2016 saw an increased use of watercolor, script, retro fonts, grunge, hand-lettering, and titles in all caps.

summer-angela-southern

Most of these trends touch on how we are consuming—and, perhaps, feeling—about the greater technological advances. As we’ve spent more time on our phones and computers, and less time with older, more traditional types and texts, a sense of nostalgia seems to have grown. Some artists have been making their mark with handmade lettering, while others have paid tribute to the bright, whimsical signs and symbols of the pre-internet-boom 80s. In a time when many of us threaten to spend increasingly more time with machines than with one another, it seems that we’ve wanted to humanize our online text and media.

dont-stop-believing

4. Innovative Fonts & Accessibility

The public response to the hand-lettering craze has been significant enough to push many designers to digitize their work. These lettering trends coupled with new font technology and availability has brought the “font game” to a new level. From small foundries to larger corporations, a number of new and exciting fonts were released this year.

noelan-calligraphy

Even more thrilling, artists, creatives, and entrepreneurs were busy inventing and innovating in ways that were both cross-cultural and multi-lingual. A large Norwegian study was conducted on readability for the visually impaired; Comicraft artists took on the ambitious project of inventing hand-lettered fonts in Japanese, Taiwanese, and Chinese. And two Guinean brothers hit the ground running and invented a script that would make their native language available on every smartphone. As font accessibility grows, we expect this trend in font innovation to continue.

photo-6_comicraft5. Variable Fonts

Apple, Google, and Microsoft teamed up and launched variable fonts this September. The gathering of these tech giants marks the beginning of a new age in typography. Instead of downloading separate files for every font style and width, variable fonts allow developers to place everything in one, highly optimized file. We are eager to see how and when this trend will grow, and whether it will go mainstream in 2017.

Because that, after all, is the question of the hour: What will happen in 2017? What do we anticipate? What will take us by surprise? What trends are you seeing? What have we missed? Where will the technology and our typography take us next? Let us know! And—

Happy New Year from all of us at Extensis.

 

Want to learn more about type trends? Check out Getting Free Fonts From Google Fonts.


Fonts Like Comic Sans

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The Problem

Vincent Connare was trying to fix a communication problem: He was working on a computer program called Microsoft Bob that was intended to appeal to children—but the Times New Roman typeface being used in the word balloons felt too serious for the unsophisticated, cartoony artwork. He needed something more whimsical and silly to make the design feel coherent.

The Solution

Connare created a brand new typeface (based on the lettering style of his favorite comic books) that he felt would be more appropriate for the target demographic.

And that’s how Comic Sans was born! To achieve visual unity, to properly convey the right feeling to the right audience. (Oh, the irony…)

 

screen-shot-2016-11-03-at-12-15-00-pm

Comic Sans quickly became popular with educators and parents as the go-to typeface for everything kid-friendly.

That was 1994. Fast-forward to 2016 and no typeface has been used more frequently to convey the wrong message to the wrong audience than Comic Sans.

The Horror

You’re probably heard of the EPIC DESIGN FAILS. Comic Sans at the Dutch war memorial. Comic Sans on printed materials giving advice to rape victims. The salty Comic Sans letter that Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert wrote when LeBron James decided to leave Cleveland in 2010.

TragiComic Sans, indeed.

The internet went meme crazy with snarky delight. Artists everywhere created intentionally crappy designs with Comic Sans as the centerpiece. The much-maligned typeface (“most hated” by countless surveys) became such a punchline that eventually designers banded together to speak out against it, some even (semi-seriously) calling for its demise.

Here’s a witty excerpt from the BanComicSans Manifesto:

“Like the tone of a spoken voice, the characteristics of a typeface convey meaning. The design of the typeface is, in itself, its voice. Often this voice speaks louder than the text itself. Thus when designing a “Do Not Enter” sign the use of a heavy-stroked, attention-commanding font such as Impact or Arial Black is appropriate. Typesetting such a message in Comic Sans would be ludicrous. Though this is sort of misuse is frequent, it is unjustified. Clearly, Comic Sans as a voice conveys silliness, childish naivete, irreverence, and is far too casual for such a purpose. It is analogous to showing up for a black tie event in a clown costume.”

So naturally there was a rebuttal from “defenders of Comic Sans” who imagined an entire Comic Sans world because “Helvetica is so 2011.”

The Alternatives

It’s really fun to ridicule Comic Sans. We’ve all done it. But if you’re designing some artwork for a very casual event—a kid’s birthday party, school function, or lemonade stand—you might be considering Comic Sans. Or wondering where to find alternatives to Comic Sans that won’t incur the wrath of your judgmental designer buddies. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Our friends at Identifont, Fontspring, Typewolf, and MyFonts recommended several similar typefaces to help you broaden your design palette:

Lexia (or Lexie) Readable

screen-shot-2016-11-03-at-12-24-28-pm

Lexia was designed by Ron Carpenter in 2007 as an alternative to Comic Sans that had maximum legibility and clarity but without the comic book associations. The non-symmetrical letter forms are widely believed to assist dyslexic readers, though no official proof of this exists.

Short Stack

screen-shot-2016-11-03-at-12-27-45-pm

Designed by James Greishaber in 2011, this “low contrast, semi-geometric typeface” is a suitable Comic Sans replacement that works well for medium-large text sizes.

Comic Neue

screen-shot-2016-11-03-at-12-30-01-pm

 

Craig Rozynski designed Comic Neue in 2014 specifically to be a modern, more refined version of Comic Sans.

“Comic Neue aspires to be the casual script choice for everyone, including the typographically savvy. The squashed, wonky, and weird glyphs of CS have been beaten into shape while mantaining the honesty that made CS so popular.” -from ComicNeue.com

Some other options include Toms Pinky, Jolly Good Sans, Omniscript, and Fast Hand.

I hope these suggestions are useful in making your design elements feel more connected and complete. There’s a time and a place to be silly…and you need to be armed with the right typefaces to make sure that nobody takes those moments too seriously.

Vincent Connare didn’t create Comic Sans to be the laughingstock of the industry. He was simply ensuring that the message of his work wasn’t being lost because of a disconnect between visual and text. FWIW he also designed Trebuchet and Magpie and has a reputation as an excellent graphic communicator.

Looking for alternatives to Helvetica next? Check out my previous post here.


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Helvetica is one of the world’s most recognizable typefaces. Originally named Neue Haas Grotesk, Helvetica was created in 1957 by designer Max Miedinger with input from Eduard Hoffman (its name was changed 4 years later when it was licensed by Linotype). Helvetica quickly rose to prominence because of its legibility and versatility. 50 years later, it’s still going strong. In 2007, Gary Hustwit released a critically-acclaimed feature-length documentary (called “Helvetica”) about its impact and influence on the world of design.

But familiarity often breeds contempt.

Erik Spiekermann said “People use Helvetica because it’s ubiquitous. It’s like going to McDonalds instead of thinking about food.”

Wolfgang Weingart went a step further: “Anyone who uses Helvetica knows nothing about typefaces.”

Other well-known designers were not quite as harsh.

Steff Geissbuhler called Helvetica “still the most versatile, classic, and readable of all typefaces.”

And Hamish Muir joked that “We hate to like Helvetica.”

So…if you’re a designer, you might be looking for fonts like Helvetica that aren’t so overused. Good news! Our friends at Identifont, Fontspring, Typewolf, and MyFonts recommended several similar grotesk sans-serif typefaces that we’ve assembled here to help you broaden your design pallette:

Nimbus Sans

Created by the URW++ foundry in 1995 as an alternative to Helvetica, Nimbus Sans serves as an effective Helvetica doppelgänger.

Identifont did a side-by-side comparison of the two. Have a look for yourself!

Fonts Like Helvetica: Nimbus Sans

Fonts Like Helvetica: Nimbus Sans

Pragmatica

Inspired by Helvetica, Pragmatica was designed at ParaType (ParaGraph) in 1989 by Vladimir Yefimov (later styles were developed by Olga Chaeva, Alexander Tarbeev, and Manvel Shmavonyan with participation from Dmitry Kirsanov).

Again, practically identical to Helvetica and Nimbus Sans.

Fonts Like Helvetica: Pragmatica

Fonts Like Helvetica: Pragmatica

Volkart

Designed by Jeremie Hornus, Volkart is a Latin-script typeface that was published by Indian Type Foundry in 2015.

Fonts Like Helvetica: Volkart

Fonts Like Helvetica: Volkart

Looking for some options that aren’t so close to the vest? Richard Turgeon wrote this great piece about Helvetica alternatives that feel “modern, classic, and universal” without being quite so similar.

His recommendations:

Stag Sans (Commercial Type)

Open Sans (Google Fonts)

Avenir (Linotype)

Theinhardt (Optimo)

Proxima Nova (Mark Simonson)

Effra (Jonas Schudel)

Aktiv Grotesk (Bruno Maag)

Brown (Lineto)

LFT Etica (TypeTogether)

Franklin Gothic URW T (URW++)

News Gothic  (Bitstream)

So there you have it—several typefaces that are remarkably similar to Helvetica and a few that deviate a bit but still serve the same purpose.

Want to know more about which typefaces are currently the “most loved” or “most hated” by experts in the design industry? Check out James Kidwell’s informative and entertaining Trends In Typography Survey.

 


To Free Font Or Not?

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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, Linotype.com, 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 Fonts.com, FontShop.com, Linotype.com, Monotype.com, MyFonts.com 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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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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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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Avoid font copyright lawsuits

It seems easy. Just download a font and use it, right? Well, not necessarily.

It is easy to quickly download a font and utilize it without giving the process much thought, but that’s the problem. Forgetting or not understanding user license agreements or utilizing fonts incorrectly can lead to font copyright lawsuits. Many organizations are at risk due to font misuse, but your organization doesn’t have to be one of them.

Here’s how to reduce your chances of getting sued:

1. License fonts for their appropriate usage

Using desktop fonts as web fonts without purchasing a proper web license can place you at risk. Even using some open-source fonts for commercial projects without purchasing an appropriate license can get you in trouble.

Reduce the risk

Your organization can reduce the risk by implementing font management software that tracks usage and keeps everyone in sync, but it is crucial that a font purchase policy is implemented, reviewed, and followed. If everyone knows the policy, they are less likely to make risky purchasers or use fonts incorrectly.

Learn more about implementing a successful font purchase policy by downloading our free Server-Based Font Management Best Practices Guide.

2. Understand font EULAs

EULA stands for End User License Agreement. You agree to this when licensing a font, but do you understand it? Fonts are licensed entities just like any software. When you install most software, you get a window that displays the EULA that you must agree to that covers the software. EULA’s aren’t exactly the easiest things to read so many designers don’t read them thoroughly or don’t read them at all. EULAs vary by foundry and can vary based on types of use that you’ve selected during the process. Do you want to use the font on the web? In a logo? Embedded into a mobile application? All of these uses are likely to incur extra costs and there may be specific language regarding usage in the EULA that was overlooked.

Reduce the risk

According to Exensis’s Font Compliance Survey, close to 80% of designers don’t regularly read EULAs. So, spending time reading the fine print is the first step to understanding how you can utilize your font purchases. Unfortunately, even after reading EULAs, 78% of designers are still confused about the EULA terms. If anything in the EULA is not clear, contact the foundry for clarification.

3. Transfer fonts properly

Once you have gone through the proper purchasing and licensing process, you need to understand if and how fonts can be moved around your office. How many users can install the fonts? Can they be transferred to a printer for output? Can they be installed on a web server? Etc.

Reduce the risk

Fonts purchased for use in the office should stay at the office. Your team may feel the need to explore new fonts while at home for business use. That being said, your team should always get appropriate licensing for corporate use before any new fonts are brought into your office.

4. Create Comps with Licensed Fonts

Approximately 32% of designers surveyed admitted to “locating” a copy of a font online for use in the comping process. It’s understandable that designers may not want to purchase a font before it is selected by a client for use.  Some type foundries are offering new options for users to test fonts in comps prior to purchase, but this varies by foundry and technology.

Reduce the risk

Setup a thorough examination process before new fonts are brought into your team’s workflow. You must understand what you can and can’t do, and protect yourself by limiting the exposure of fonts use pre-licensing for comps. A thorough font purchase process and implementation of a font server can help save your bacon.

5. Do not assume your team knows your licensing policies

57% of those surveyed said that their employer didn’t have a clear policy for licensing fonts and integrating them into the workflow. This can and has led to font copyright lawsuits because designers can make assumptions.

Reduce the risk

Once you’ve got licensing under control, you need to track your purchases. This is where an effective font management strategy that includes a font server can help keep your licensed terms paired with the fonts themselves.

So, when you develop your internal policies, be sure that everyone on the creative team understands them and that you train new team members quickly.

Careful planning and communication can help keep you and your team safe. It just requires some time that can greatly reduce your risk of a font copyright lawsuit.

Server-Based Font Management Best Practices Guide

 

Want to get more information on font management strategies that can help keep your team safe? Download our free Server-Based Font Management Best Practices Guide.

You’ll learn:

  • How to organize fonts for your team’s workflow
  • Create a font licensing strategy
  • Assess your font needs
  • Avoid costly font copyright issues, and more.

Download your best practices guide today and get on the road to font management success.

 


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