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Type designer Tim Ahrens and typo­graph­er Shoko Mugikura founded Just Another Foundry in 2004, which is both a retail library and provider of custom­ typefaces. We’re delighted that Shoko and Tim have joined us for a special twofer edition of 4 Questions 4.

Shoko studied Visual Commu­nic­a­tion Design at Musashino Art University in Tokyo, and Book Design at the University of Reading (UK). She has worked on various information design projects, such as re-designing bills for major tele­communi­cations companies and utility providers, and on editorial design projects for Polimekanos. Shoko has spoken about multi-script typo­graphy at many conferences, including the ICHLL5 at Ox­ford University, ATypI in Dublin, Typotag in Munich, TYPO Berlin, and TypeTalks.

Tim has a degree in archi­tec­ture from the University of Karls­ruhe (Ger­many), and holds an MA in Typeface Design from the University of Reading (UK). He created the programming project Font Remix Tools, a set of plug-ins that allows a user to harmonize glyph shapes, tune width, and more. A specialist in web font technology, Tim has worked as a consult­ant for Typekit, and lectures regu­larly.

jaf_ahrens_mugikura

 

 

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

Shoko: I am from Japan, where arguably one of the world’s most complex writing systems (employing 4 different scripts!) is used. As a design student in Tokyo I gradually became obsessed with Latin typography, which to my eyes looks extremely simple and systematic—the opposite of Japanese. I decided that what I want to do is Latin typography, and left the country for Europe. I am a typographic immigrant.

Tim: I started designing type in 1998, while I was studying architecture. Drawing a font by myself felt completely natural to me. I didn’t even know there were type design courses, and I did not know any type designers or typographers personally. Looking back, I believe this isolated, unbiased beginning in the subject—simply studying other fonts in order to learn from them—helped me realize that looking very carefully is more important than background information or “rules of the craft.”

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

Both: It is really great to see webfonts becoming so widely used. Designers no longer need to make a compromise in terms of type choice. It was a very different situation in 2010, when we became one of the first foundries to offer webfonts. Web typography is no longer just trying to imitate print, but is developing into a culture of its own.

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

We think JAF Bernini Sans best illustrates our collaboration as typographer and type designer. It represents our most important aim, which is to create a design that is unique and clever, but also so skillfully implemented that people don’t notice the genius of it at first glance.

4. Describe your dream project.

The dream project for any designer would be a custom font for a big, famous, design-conscious brand, such as Apple. It’s a pity they recently made their own typeface. We still think we could do something that better fits Apple’s ambition to lead in design.


4 Questions 4… Donald Partyka

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Donald Partyka is the Creative Director of the Latin American policy and culture journal Americas Quarterly, and teaches typography at City College. A graduate of RISD and Cooper Union, he has worked on numerous magazines, including American HeritageTime magazine, Poets & Writers, and Perspectiva, and he designed the monograph Typography, Referenced. Donald has taught graphic design and typography at Parson’s and Pratt, and lectured on typography at NYU. His art direction, typography, and graphic design have been recognized widely, and is featured in the book Typography Essentials by Ina Saltz. Thanks to Donald for participating in our mini-interview series 4 Questions 4!

donald_partyka

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

Drawing was my first love, and I thought I would be a fine artist, but I majored in Graphic Design because it seemed more practical. It wasn’t until my senior year at RISD that I fell in love with typography. I had to cram a lot of type requirements into that year because I had taken the previous year off to study abroad. It was like type boot camp. My teachers—Jan Baker, Doug Scott, the late Malcolm Grear—really opened up my eyes to good type and the history of typography.

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

I still love the renewed interest in hand-lettering. Especially lettering that doesn’t look vectorized. Also, reviving classic fonts and expanding them for open type. I was excited to see Monotype’s Gill Sans Nova and Joanna Nova. Although some beautiful stencil fonts have been recently designed, I’m getting a little tired of that trend. There’s also a lot of impressive type design being done in Latin America.

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

The typeface I drew when I was a student at CooperType. I love Czech type, and my typeface is a revival of a specimen by Jaroslav Benda.

BendaSpecimenFinalCMYK0806

I’ve done a lot of magazine work that I’m proud of, but the typeface was a lot of hard work which took me out of my comfort zone as an editorial designer, so there was a great sense of accomplishment when I finished. I also take great pride in teaching, especially seeing how my students respond and then do their own terrific work.

4. Describe your dream project.

 

AQ0215_HYLAI’m used to working with constraints, and I do enjoy that. But any project that allows me to get into all the details of typesetting, from page numbers to footnotes, is always a joy. AQ0316_CULTURA_COVER

Often in magazines (and in design in general), you inherit systems and styles to work with. So when the opportunity comes to design from the ground up, it’s especially satisfying. I recently got to redesign the Latin American policy journal Americas Quarterly and its new supplement Cultura, and had a lot of fun picking out the new fonts: Espinosa Nova, Chaco, and Azote.


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In this installment of 4 Questions 4, we’re featuring Jackson Cavanaugh, a young freelance graphic designer, independent type designer, and the founder of OkayType, a type design studio in Chicago.

Jackson Cavanaugh

1. How did you get into the business of type design?

I started out as a graphic designer who really only cared about the type. Every project I worked on became totally focused on the typography. Sometimes I was able to convince my bosses to let me draw new letters. Eventually I decided to make a real typeface. It took three years to design Alright Sans, which immediately made me a full time type designer.

2. What fonts or type design trends are you loving these days? 

Graphic designers seem to be moving past the super-clean, corporate sans-serifs. You know trends have expired when the low end catches up with the high end, and everything looks the same. Instead, I’m seeing an increase in more interesting designs. Typefaces that are still able to put in a full days work, but are slightly off-kilter and interesting. Designers are looking for more expression and authenticity, and this is opening the door for some people doing really interesting (and great) work.

Some of my current favorites:

3. Which of your designs are you most proud of, and why?

I’d have to say Harriet. I think the design is pretty good, but mostly it is because I’m constantly amazed by the work being done with it. Websites, magazines, books, brands, just lots of good work. The second most rewarding thing to a type designer is seeing customers use a font really well. The first most rewarding thing is being able to pay rent.

4. Describe your dream project.  

It’s a little cheesy but I dream about working with my favorite hockey team, the Detroit Red Wings. They have a historic brand, one of the most timeless in sports. They’re also building a fancy new arena in a city making a big turnaround. I couldn’t think of a more perfect time to look at the typographic atmosphere surrounding that team. I actually have nightmares about going to a game at the arena and seeing all the signage set in a boring hockey cliche like Agency Gothic, or something lazy like Clarendon. Hey, Red Wings people, send me an email and let’s do something worthy of the team!


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Michael Shavalier, Director of Creative Operations joins us on September 14th for a live webcast to share SANDOW’s font management success story.

During a recent interview Michael talked about the critical role font management plays at SANDOW, and how finding the right font management solution has helped him and his team improve their efficiency and productivity.

Join us live on Wednesday, September 14th, 10:00 a.m. Pacific; 1:00 p.m. Eastern, where he delves deeper and shares best practices he used from planning to implementation.

Michael will talk about

  • the importance of brand consistency and font license compliance
  • challenges that led to the need for a font management solution
  • the most critical components to SANDOW in a font management solution
  • learnings in preparing for and implementing a font manager
  • SANDOW’s continuing journey with font management

Michael will be available for a live Q&A session after the webcast. After the webcast a recording will be emailed to everyone that registers.

To register, please follow this link.

Hope you can join us!


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Dir. of Creative Ops at SANDOW talks about font manager.

 

Font management plays a key role at SANDOW, a rapidly growing global publishing and media company with brands spanning design, luxury, fashion and beauty. SANDOW’s rapid growth not only brought an ever expanding list of brands, but with each brand their own sets of fonts. This skyrocketed SANDOW’s font collection into the tens of thousands making the need for effective font management critical.

SANDOW recently joined the Extensis family. They were using a different font management solution, but when they experienced limitations in their ability to manage groups effectively, instability with other key applications and technical support that was non-existent, they made the switch to Universal Type Server.

We sat down with Michael Shavalier, Director of Creative Operations at SANDOW to get a deeper look into his experiences with font management.

 

To hear more of Michael’s story live along with best practices he used to prepare and implement a font management solution, sign up for our webcast on Wednesday, September 14 at 10:00 AM Pacific / 1:00 PM Eastern.

 

Extensis: Can you tell us a little about your role as Director of Creative Operations?

Michael: When people ask that I tell them that I’m a former creative director, which evolved into a creative operations role. I don’t design too much anymore. In my life before SANDOW, I worked for the Village Voice’s corporate entity as their design director. I gained lot of experience there with managing art departments and production work flows across the country in 15 locations. So, I had some creative operations experience with setting things up for a lot of users, across remote locations, and adding governance and things like that.

As SANDOW evolved, they brought in a Chief Operating Officer that was looking at everything and trying to combine it into more of a universal workflow where we could gain greater efficiencies. My role at SANDOW naturally evolved as well from being involved strictly with the creative and design teams to where I now I report to our COO. I’m in charge of “creative operations,” but I have a lot of things that involve just straight up operations now.

 

Extensis: Why are fonts and managing them so important to SANDOW?

Michael: Being a publishing and media company with magazines and websites that span the globe, fonts are a key component to our business. Brand consistency and license compliance are at the top of the list where fonts are concerned.

Each brand has its own fonts, which they should be able to manage. Even though the brands are well separated, there’s a lot of synergy and cross-pollination between brands. There are separate design groups, but at the same time there is some overlap.

One of the biggest problems our designers had is when they were asked to do something across brands.  They had to load the other brand’s version of the font, and may have conflicted with other fonts on their system. Sometimes they had to spend a good deal of time trying to work through the glitches of having font conflicts which wasn’t productive or efficient. Now, with a centralized system that manages our fonts, we’re able to identify the font right away and make sure everyone is using the same version. It’s one less thing for everyone to manage. We now know across all brands which font is needed, where it is, or where it should come from and if we’ve got enough licenses. I don’t see many emails anymore saying “this brand is using this weird font, and I don’t know where to get it from”.

Designers and art directors are half of our font users with an understanding and familiarity with font management. The other half are editors, brand leads and such. Typically, the second group is where we’d find we had issues because they had the access to install fonts on their machine without the understanding that fonts are software requiring licenses to adhere to. For about eight years, it was pretty common for an advertiser to send in a font that somehow landed on one of our servers, and no one knew whether they could use it or not. It became time to think about licensing and the legal implications of using these fonts. Now, I can have a lead in each brand, usually a design director or art director, who manages the fonts for that brand by adding or taking them away. It’s allowed the non-design teams not to worry about fonts. They’re there for them.

We’ve done a couple of redesigns here in the last year. We made sure we bought enough font licenses for the brand. The nice thing is I could say, which I wasn’t able to before- when we had that redesign, the brand spent money on these expensive new fonts for their redesign purchasing the correct number of seats, and then was able to remove anyone else from being able to see or use them to maintain license compliance.

 

Extensis: What were the biggest challenges that lead you to implement a font manager?

Michael: As the company grew and became a little more corporate – taking on more and more smaller companies and brands – we had to integrate everyone. One of the problems we realized pretty quickly is, like so many startup companies, we had buckets of fonts. They were either on servers or people’s desktops, or you’d find 15 copies of the same font, or 30 copies of Helvetica but they weren’t the same. I’d venture to say we had tens of thousands of fonts. That’s including things people pulled offline from free font sites, or got on discs or from the different brands. If some designer was asked to put a cowboy style ad together and they grabbed a Giddyup, it ended up on our server, along with whatever else they grabbed at that time. Any designer here, could just get what they needed and move it somewhere because it wasn’t really locked down.

It was really causing a lot of havoc with the design teams, and it was also causing concerns about compliance.

 

Extensis: Why did you choose Universal Type Server as your font manager?

Michael: The font manager we had been using previously fell short in critical areas, in particular control in setting up users and groups, serving out fonts to them and in addition lack of technical support. Universal Type Server has given us the control we need and has excellent technical support.

 

Extensis: What are some of the features that are most critical for SANDOW?

Michael: We have a lot of remote editors in different parts of the country. A big feature for us is the ability to provide remote access to our Universal Type Server so editors can synchronize and manage fonts locally lessening the traffic load to our network. The Universal Type Client synchronizes with the Server automatically so an IT person doesn’t have to remotely access each system. This makes the process extremely efficient and saves hours of valuable IT resources.

Managing users in Universal Type Server is easy. With the way the admin console is set up, and by allowing us to tie it to Active Directory; it’s easy for our users to login with the same credentials they use for everything else. While I’m not doing full group mappings, because our security groups are a little different, using Active Directory does allow me to see any new users in the system, and to pull them through.

So more efficient access overall, and less taxing on our system, because we don’t have a bunch of people logging into the VPN to get their fonts.

 

Extensis: Where are you today with fully implementing font management at SANDOW?

Michael: Our first phase was basically to replace the other font manager for every user that was on it. We’re replacing it all now and we’re pretty close to being done. That would be at least three of our main brand groups.

 

Extensis: Looking a bit into the future, what are your next steps?

Michael: The next phase is going to be adding additional groups and users that weren’t using the other font management software, they are literally using folders of fonts. Our goal is to get Universal Type Server Clients installed across all brands. I’ve actually already built out a system to support the new users.

I have a feeling the next part of the project will be doing a lot of licensing and auditing. Utilizing the reporting features in Universal Type Server will help us sort that all out.

 

Extensis: Any parting advice for someone who needs to solve their font management challenges?

Michael: I’d carve out time to set it up for success on both the technical level and the user adoption level. There may be pain points in figuring some things out but it can be simple. I think a lot of companies, if they thought they had to go all in at the beginning, it would be too daunting. I realized early on in the project, it doesn’t have to be all in at the beginning. It’s been an ongoing project.

 

Extensis: Michael, thank you for your time and sharing your story with us.

 


4 Questions 4… Roger Black

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Roger_Black_Berlin

Roger Black has been described as a titan in the design industry. Since 1972, he has been the chief art director or design consultant for publications all over the world, among them: Rolling Stone, New York, The New York Times, Newsweek, Esquire, The Los Angeles Times, MSNBC.com, Bloomberg.com, The Washington Post, Semana (Colombia), Panorama (Italy), The Straits Times (Singapore), Kompas (Indonesia), The Nation (Bangkok) Tages Anzeiger (Switzerland), Placar (Brazil), Svenska Dagbladet (Sweden), and Scientific American. He’s been involved in many startups, some of which—like Outside, Fast Company, and Out—are continuing success stories. Currently, Roger is a director at Type Network a new firm that exclusively offers the typefaces of  leading digital type foundries, including Font Bureau, which Roger co-founded in 1989. A co-organizer of the Typographics conference, this year Roger is starting a new magazine about type, by the same name: Typographics. Thanks to Roger for being a part of our mini-interview series, 4 Questions 4!

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

My dad, J. J. Black, was an architect. He taught me simple lettering when I was learning to read and write. He pointed out the simple proportions of Latin capitals, and explained the “two-story” lower-case a and g of the Renaissance. While grounded in history, my father was always an individualist, and he said that good designers should have their own styles.

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

The new interest in wood type is wonderful. I got excited by it when I was a teenager, and I love the combination of the big bold grots and fanciful barbed slabs with old-style metal type. That contrast was the spark of my own design style. Second, I am delighted that the digital tools have made it possible for individual designers to support their own foundries. We are just at the start of an amazing explosion of great type design. Luckily for us, there is exponential growth in the market for type.

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

Well, I’m still happy about the work I did at Rolling Stone 40 years ago. It made my reputation as a publication designer, and I learned a lot in four short years. My work is traditional in the sense that I try to exploit classical forms (including letterforms) in a new context. Much of my approach, however, is experimental, though it may not look that way. At Rolling Stone we had the luxury of failing. There were many pages that were complete disasters. But there are others that hold up, after all this time, and I’m sure we would never have reached those heights if we were afraid to try.

Rolling-Stone_10

Sometimes I show people an old design and ask them what year they think it was done. I love it that they usually guess a date that’s decades later.

4. Describe your dream project.

It’s always the current project!

Right now I am helping to rethink the entire editorial, business, and design strategy of an established English-language news publication in Southeast Asia. I get to think as big as I can, and then assemble a team to push ideas into reality, both in digital form and in print. The publisher is based in one of the most exciting cities in the world, filled with beautiful people and fantastic food. This is of course a challenging time in the news business, and the work is not easy. But we’ll test, place some new designs in front of readers, and build on what works best. I think design is the main problem with reading on the web, and I bet we can offer some solutions. What could be better?

Of course when this is done, I get to move on to the next dream project.


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Gailycurly

Gail Anderson is a designer, writer, and educator, partner at Anderson Newton design, and co-author of The Typography Idea Book, which comes out on August 23, 2016. Gail’s work has been included in the permanent collections of the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum, the Library of Congress, and elsewhere. She was the recipient of the 2008 Lifetime Achievement Medal from AIGA, the 2009 Richard Gangel art direction award from the Society of Illustrators, and numerous other awards. Fun fact: the postage stamp Gail was commissioned to design for the USPS, commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, sold over 50,000,000 copies, appeared on the evening news, and even became a Jeopardy clue! We’re thrilled that Gail joined us for our mini-interview series, 4 Questions 4.

How did you originally get interested in typography and design?

I used to make little teen magazines as a kid—tiny folded spreads about the Jackson 5 and the Partridge Family. I Ioved designing layouts with crude cutouts of Michael’s head from 16 and Spec magazines. I copied groovy Letraset fonts like Candice, and there were lots of hearts and stars involved, and words like “luv.”

Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 11.03.43 AM

My sister and I had a “band” (quotes intentional), which we called the Stark Impressions, named after a page of caricatures by Bruce Stark that appeared in the New York Daily News.

What typography trends are you loving most these days?

Typography Idea Book

I’m actually enjoying the more stripped-down type designs I’m seeing right now. I’m growing a little tired of excess—though I still can’t stop myself when I’m working. But it’s nice to see others paring down. It’s my goal, though I’m not sure I can pull it off.

Which of your projects are you most proud of, at this point in your career, and why?

I’m most proud of the stamp I designed for the USPS commemorating the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.

EmancipationProc-Forever-single-v5

It is both the biggest and smallest thing I’ve ever done, and it has reached more people than I ever could have imagined.

Describe your dream project.

My dream project starts with: “And so we’re sending you to Italy for a few months…” Enough said.


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Screen Shot 2016-08-04 at 1.08.52 PM

Laura Worthington is a hand-lettering artist, calligrapher, and type designer who has published more than 80 typefaces. She is a pioneer in the production of collections, or families, of different display styles, which work together to evoke a particular aesthetic. Laura’s work has been featured in numerous publications, and her type designs have received awards of excellence from Communication Arts, and featured in year’s best lists in Typographica and MyFonts. We’re so pleased that she joined us for our mini-interview series, 4 Questions 4.

How did you get into the business of type design?

4-Charcuterie-frames

I consider my current career to be a merger of two things: I’ve been into calligraphy and lettering since I was quite young, and before I became a typeface designer I was a graphic designer for about 15 years. So type has been an extension and continuation of both. Calligraphy gave me my foundation, an intimate understanding of the structure and form of letters, and taught me how to create them with natural media tools. Graphic design provided me with an understanding of digital tools, how typefaces are used, and how to develop systems.

What fonts or type design trends are you loving these days?

8-Charcuterie-labels-2

I’m really liking what’s happening in the display type world with hand-lettered fonts. I think they’ve become so expressive, unique, and innovative. The barriers to entry into type design are relatively low, as type design software becomes more affordable and so many new distributors come on board to resell typefaces. There’s been such an explosion of interest in lettering in the last couple of years. It’s inspiring to see, and it’s been a boon to the type design industry, especially in the realm of display type.

Which of your designs are you most proud of, and why?

1-Charcuterie-Title-SALE

I would say Charcuterie. I designed it back in 2013, and took a huge risk in doing so. Very few collections were out at the time, and the concept of a collection was still very new. I showed it to several of my friends, and got a very underwhelming response from most of them! They were confused about what I was trying to achieve. It made more sense to them once Joe Newton, who designs my type image specimens, began putting together the images for the collection. Still, I had a lot of doubts and second thoughts, and many nights when I wanted to either change course or pull the plug on the idea all together. Today, though, I’m glad I went ahead and released it. It was very well received, and I think it answers a major challenge that designers face every day: trying to coordinate various font styles, and bring in illustrative elements that complement them. With a collection, that work is done for you.

Describe your dream project.

2-Charcuterie-Menu

My dream project would be to work with a small group of graphic designers on a type design collection for a specific client. I’d love to get to see how they would test and use the fonts, and collaborate on improvements based on their feedback. I think I could learn a lot from that. It’d be fun!


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If you follow typography neprofilews, you’re probably aware of the hubbub surrounding the designer Fiona O’Leary and her new gadget, Spector. A
hand-held device that recognizes text and colors in the real world, and converts them in real-time to the exact typeface, size, leading, kerning, and Pantone code, Spector has been covered in every design publication from DesignBoom to Wired to The Verge, and elsewhere. Fiona graciously took the time to answer a few questions for us.

 

Let’s start with your telling us a bit about your background. How did you first become interested in design and invention?

I graduated with a Bachelors in Visual Communication from the National College of Art and Design in Dublin in 2010. After that, I worked as a graphic designer at a studio called Creative Inc, in Dublin, for three years. While I was there I gained a lot of valuable experience about printing and typography. However, I wanted more of a challenge, and to do more interactive projects, so I applied to Fabrica, a communication research unit in Italy run by United Colors of Benetton.

Throughout my one-year residency at Fabrica I got to experiment with a lot of different types of projects, from UI design to urban design to product design.

I got really interested in designing physical objects, and decided to apply to the Royal College of Art in London. They had a course there called Design Products, and I really liked the sound of that. It isn’t your typical product design course; it’s split into 5 platforms, which are groups of 8 to 10 students, and lead by two tutors. Each platform has a different theme, and challenges a different facade of product design.

I joined Platform 24, which is called Object Mediated Interactions, and is run by Durrell Bishop and Oscar Lhermitte. We focused on the field of product design that connects new, digital developments with the physical environment. It was all about designing solutions that take the systems behind products—as well as their real properties—into account.

 

What was the inspiration for Spector? Is there a story behind it?

I came up with this idea out of frustration. When you’re designing for print, it never looks the same on screen as it does in the finalized print.

You have no idea of the scale of the page, and the typography and colors often visualize differently too. I thought, if you are going to design for print on a screen, why not start with print material? And why not make it interactive?

As designers, we always collect lots of nice samples of inspiration. I wanted to utilize these samples by making them interactive.

Spector_PressShot02_©fionaoleary

 

Tell us a bit more about Spector. How have you felt about all the publicity that it has been getting? Did you anticipate that it would go this viral?

I see this tool as a way of understanding typography, and making typesetting more transparent, by communicating invisible factors such as size, kerning, and leading. This helps educate the user about typography.

I also see it as a way of taking the guessing game out of typesetting, so that when it comes to printing your book or page from Adobe InDesign, since you took it from a piece of printed material, you already know what it’s going to look like. I see it as useful tool for students who are just starting out as a graphic designer.

That said, I didn’t anticipate it going viral at all! However, I can understand how people identify with it, as it addresses a very common problem. It is nice to see how passionate people are about it.

 

Why did you choose to create a physical gadget, rather than software?

I chose to create a physical gadget for two reasons. The first is more technical: it would be difficult to write software for every camera that exists on every iPhone and Android phone. It made more sense to write software for a specific camera, which we had control over.

Also, the camera needed to be at a specific focal length, to make sure that the samples that were sent over to the database would be consistent.

The second reason is I wanted to design a tool for graphic designers that would be physical. I did a lot of research into the physical tools graphic designers had before computers, and they were really beautiful. I wanted my device to hark back to those tools.

I wanted it to be reminiscent of them, interactive, and useful. Thats why the visual language of Spector recalls a loupe.

 

How does Spector work? (Go ahead and get technical, if you like.)

spector_font_changing_1

Spector’s software works as an InDesign plugin, with a live feed of the camera. The hardware connects to the computer via bluetooth.

The user presses the button on the device, takes a picture of the font with a macro camera, and matches this picture to a font database. Spector can only detect one typeface at a time (that helps with typeface recognition), however it can detect several colors at the same time.

High resolution and a sharp image are pretty essential, too. A sample has to be right-side up, as well. But beyond quality-related elements, probably the most important thing is that you have a varied sample of characters. In fact, there is a preference for certain characters: the letter O is usually not very distinctive, but a g or G can pinpoint a font from a single glyph.

Having more distinctive characters lowers the chance of Spector detecting the wrong font. In terms of memory, it can store up to 10 fonts at the same time, and 10 colors, or 20 fonts and 0 colors. Basically, it can store 20 snap pictures.

Spector uses machine learning, and it is all based on algorithms. For kerning and leading, it needs to be as horizontal as possible. Subsequently, detecting a typeface or font by the shape of the letters is the straightforward part.

Once there’s a match for a font, Spector’s metrics calculate the leading by comparing the baselines, if there are multiple lines in the sample. The kerning can be calculated by the taking the leftmost edge of the first recognized character, and the rightmost edge of the last recognized character, in a series of recognized characters.

This length is compared to the metrics to give a relative kerning size.

At the moment, Spector can only detect up to 48pt fonts, but this is something were working on as we continue to play around with different types of lenses and focal points.

Ultimately, I see it as a tool for typesetting—using books and posters and signage as your source material—rather than big billboards, as they would most likely use headline or display fonts, rather than body copy fonts.

 

Where do you see yourself—and Spector—going in the future? Will you be bringing this product to market?

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I do hope to bring Spector to market, and am currently looking for streams of funding. There is a lot to do, but I think with the right resources this product could be kick-started in the next year or two. I envision a special type specimen book being sold with the tool, too.

As for myself, I want to keep designing products like this, products that help us understand software. I have another product—which was my other graduation project—called MIMO, which challenges our daily interaction with the process of copy-and-paste. I would like to bring this market, too, eventually.

For now, the design process is far from over. The real work is only beginning.

Spector had been my graduation project up until now, just me working on it, with some technical help from an interaction designer, David van Gemeran, so I was really making decisions simply based on what I like. Now that I am working on bringing it to market, the real roadblocks will begin.


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If you don’t know David Carson, you should. One of the world’s most distinctive—and most imitated—type designers, his boundary-busting typography broke the mold for how type on a page could look, and ushered in a new vision of type and page design. Complex listed him among the 30 most influential designers of all time, and Apple selected him as one of their 30 most innovative users, calling him “a pioneer with a profound impact.” David’s first book is The End of Print, and his latest, a collection of his recent work, is Trek. We are over the moon that David joined us for our mini-interview series, 4 Questions 4.

 

1. How did you get into the business of type design?

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When I was designing the music magazine Ray Gun, people were sending me fonts from all over the world, hoping they would get used in the magazine. The internet was still in its early stages, and font designers needed exposure for their work. Back then they looked primarily to print for that. Seeing all these fonts I was being sent sparked my interest in font design. I started a font company called Garage Fonts. I thought that was a good name at the time, and better-sounding than “homemade” or “grunge”! We sold many of the fonts that I used in Ray Gun through Garage Fonts.

 

2. What fonts or type design trends are you loving these days?

I’m enjoying seeing a continued and renewed interest in those done by hand. Early on, I was against trying to do fonts that looked hand-done on the computer, but font design has come a long way since then. I enjoy new twists on old, traditional fonts, and I think it’s important that fonts have a unique feel or personality. That is often best achieved in subtle ways.

 

3. Which of your designs are you most proud of, and why?

I’m proud I designed my poster for the movie Helvetica in Franklin Gothic! (Laughs)

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I’d say my early magazine work with Beach Culture Magazine, along with work from the band Nine Inch Nails is what I’m most proud of. My work for Microsoft and Armani were also unique challenges. Both involved finessing the traditional fonts they’d used for all their branding materials. Those I’m pretty proud of.

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But I hope the work I’m most proud of is still to come. I’m currently designing the look and feel, and fonts, for the world’s first PAV (personal air vehicle, i.e. flying car). That is a completely different audience and product, so its a great challenge. Hopefully this fall you’ll see the results.

 

4. Describe your dream project.

I think I’ve done a few of them already. I’ve been given an unusual amount of freedom in my career, due in part to my early success with the magazine work. Any project that gives me a lot of creative freedom, and a new topic or audience, is great. So is good visibility. And if the design can be for something that actually helps make the world a bit better or humane, then that’s extra special.


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