An announcement last week has pretty much rocked the type development world.
An update to the OpenType specification (v1.8) was announced at a typography industry event in Warsaw, Poland called ATypI. Didn’t make it to Warsaw for the conference? Here’s a video recording of the session.
While the release of a new specification might not seem like earth-shattering news, the inclusion of “variable fonts,” and the partnership of the big players to make it happen was big news. Microsoft, Apple, Adobe and Google all came together to make the specification something that they could all get behind.
So what exactly are “variable fonts?”
Variable fonts can be changed along multiple “axes” – by weight, width, optical size, slant or italic. These settings can be set by YOU, the designer.
What this means is you can implement a font, say on a website, and only need to implement one font, rather than multiple faces, to get the job done. In current web development, for example, you need to script in a normal, bold, italic and bold-italic font files to cover the typical weights required in body copy. In the future, with a “variable font” you will use one font file and specify how the font needs to vary for each text element.
The result is a faster websites for your readers, and the gratitude of your IT department as your web hosting costs go down. Mic drop, slow clap, walking away from an explosion, yada yada.
What shall these the new fonts be called?
If you know the type development community, you already know that there are bound to be a wide variety of opinions.
Let’s nip this in the bud and agree to immediately stop calling variable fonts “super fonts”. Please.
Of course, we might end up having different foundries calling them different things (Variable Fonts, Dynamic Fonts, Super Fonts, Modern Multiple Master, who knows). In the end you can be sure that you’ll be getting a better product that comes in a smaller file size – no matter what the name.
Extensis Support of Variable Fonts
The main technological needs to support of these files comes from the major players who are already onboard – Microsoft, Google, Apple and Adobe. As support begins to be implemented, Extensis font managers will inherit much of their support naturally through OS support. We will also of course fully test and update our applications to meet the demands of the new formats.
We are also keenly interested in responding to the needs of the creative community as they evolve.
So, what features would be most helpful to you? Sliders in Suitcase Fusion and Universal Type Client that show the different variations possible? Specific metrics required reported in Extensis apps so that you can get the best results in your designs? You tell us.
We want to know what you think – drop us a line in the comments below.
There has been a bunch of interest in this topic in the type design community and beyond. Check out these other articles:
In today’s digital world, there are many options for publishing content to your audiences. While print still remains the traditional method, the onslaught of digital devices such as computers, tablets and smart phones have become the new means for delivering our reading material. Publishers are challenged now more than ever not only to distribute across all of these new mediums but also to re-purpose their content to fit each format. In addition, as work forces are downsized and less people do the work, companies must find creative ways to automate their processes and meet aggressive publishing schedules.
To overcome these challenges, many publishers have turned to implementing some type of publishing platform to assist with automation and to establish a cohesive workflow. When considering workflow automation, publishers must identify repetitious tasks in their workflow, remove unnecessary human intervention and still maintain output quality.
While there are many publishing platforms available today, finding a single system to do it all is either impossible or expensive. Systems containing too many “features” tend to lack quality outside of the developer’s core competencies. Publishing platforms providing only asset management components like image and document controls are incomplete. None manage font assets. This has led many publishers to piece together multiple systems making their environments more modular and manageable. By including various plugin modules and other inter-system connectors they can tie all of the pieces together as needed.
An integral part of the publishing workflow is font processing for output delivery. Today’s publishing platforms do not handle critical font processing needs. Those platforms have substandard system-level font activation and force every available font to be loaded onto the publisher’s systems at once. Unfortunately, there is a high probability some fonts will conflict with others, be missing or slow the system down causing output jobs to fail and halting the entire publishing process. So it’s important that font processing is treated like any other critical step in the publishing workflow.
For this reason, Extensis is leading the way to make the font management process in publishing workflows seamless and efficient. Extensis has updated Universal Type Server with an add-on module, FontLink to handle font processing issues publishers face during the final stage of a file’s output. The FontLink Module parses each file and acquires the exact fonts used. The correct font must accompany a file in order for the output to render correctly. When fonts are substituted or missing, the file output process can’t be completed. Extensis solves this by using its patented Font Sense font identification technology. Publishers are guaranteed the correct fonts will accompany each output job so it renders flawlessly.
Extensis recently partnered with two of the world’s most experienced publishing platform providers to bring font management to the best end-to-end automated publishing platforms available. By connecting Universal Type Server’s FontLink Module to vjoon K4 and Typefi publishing platforms, publishers are now assured fonts used in every file are properly identified and made ready prior to output. Regardless of whether a file is being processed for print, web or digital output, the fonts are delivered on demand before the job gets to the output device making for zero conflicts – no missing fonts – no stopping the presses!
There are number of common challenges all teams face when it comes to sharing and managing fonts. Suitcase TeamSync allows you to curate and distribute your font library automatically across your entire team.
This new cloud-based font server makes professional font management easy so you can focus your time and energy on doing great work.
An on demand version of our latest webcast introducing TeamSync is available to watch. Check it out:
International versions of this webcast will be hosted in September, join us on the time zone and language that are most convenient for you, or register to get the recording sent to your email:
Date: September 8th, 2016
Time: 11:00 a.m. BST – British Summer Time / British Daylight Time
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.
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.
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.
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.
Learn font distribution best practices so you don’t get caught in a font licensing conundrum
Think of font distribution as a process. Not only does it keep your fonts organized and efficiently distributed, it also helps you maintain the appropriate number of font licenses by helping track which fonts are authorized, purchased, shared (with appropriate team members), and reviewed.
A proper font distribution process helps in many areas:
Time and money spent. Incorrect font usage can cause unnecessary misprints from text reflows and require reprints that waste time and money.
Tracking issues. Without a proper font distribution process, your team has little (if any) insight into which fonts are being used. Some fonts may be underutilized which can result in purchasing more font licenses than needed. Proper tracking and reporting give you a meaningful way to make future font purchase decisions.
Unhappy employees. Confusion and frustration reign when your design team can’t find the fonts they need when they need them. Life is easier when a process is in place that allows them to find what they are looking for.
Legal concerns regarding font licensing. Without a controlled distribution and system of font access, unlicensed fonts can gain easy access into your organization or even worse, custom fonts could be released into the wild. All of which could potentially lead to a lawsuit.
Read on to learn font distribution basics and best practices to help alleviate these potential problems.
Five Font Distribution Best Practices
1. Decide how you want to organize your font collection
We recommend organizing your teams by workgroups. Workgroups are groups of fonts and users. Basically, you give a specific number of users access to specific fonts. Below are three common methods to choose from.
User Type: user types may vary, but we commonly hear about editorial, design, and production user types. These different groups have different needs and will use fonts for different reasons so it makes sense for some organizations to divide their font teams by user type.
Client: Every client is unique and so are the fonts they are using. For example, Times New Roman was built specifically for the Times of London. Companies want a specific brand identity and they can do this by creating and commissioning their own typeface, or selecting groups of fonts that most effectively represent their brand.
Project: Just like each client is unique, so is each project. However, since projects don’t have to be client specific, sometimes grouping by project makes more sense.
2. Set up compliance using permissions
One of the easiest ways to be compliant and avoid piracy issues is to set up user permissions. Instead of a whole department or company having access to certain fonts, only people who need rights to particular fonts have permission to use them. Permissions ensure your company is following branding guidelines and avoiding even inadvertent piracy because users can only use approved and/or purchased fonts that they have access to.
3. Choose roles
Who is going to be choosing, purchasing, and uploading fonts into your system? Is it your Lead Graphic Designer? Is it someone in your IT department? Having a key person who is in charge of this process helps you avoid a guessing game that can lead to problems.
4. Keep record of your font licenses and track usage
When you’re managing the distribution of your fonts, you can gain a level of control over font compliance. You have direct access into who has access to your fonts, and how many users are activating them. This helps ensure you have the right number of licenses for your actual usage and lets you make improved future font purchasing decisions – remember when we discussed saving time and money? This is your ticket to doing just that. Keeping track of all this can be a huge challenge, but font management software can help you.
5. Pick the right enterprise font management software:
Having reliable, robust font management software to save time, money, and maintain license compliance is key to making font distribution possible and successful. Look for a solution that has a dashboard allowing you to easily compare fonts side by side. Check for the ability to search for a font by specific type and set up user permissions by workgroups. Make sure reports are available so you are able to see if more font licenses need to be purchased or scaled back for future use.
What does your font distribution process look like? Let us know in the comments section.
In a recent What’s New in Publishing article Jim Kidwell, Senior Product Marketing Manager from Extensis, takes a closer look on how typography is trending in today’s society and what it means for publishers.
What’s New in Publishing is a United Kingdom news portal focused on the Publishing industry and reports on innovative solutions; case studies and success stories relevant to publishers worldwide.
In Jim’s own words: “If you’ve been in business more than a few months, you’ve likely been building up quite a collection of fonts. Average solo design professionals have around 4,000 fonts in their collections, and the average business can easily have many multiples of that baseline number.”
Sounds familiar? In the full article Jim highlights how the increasing number of fonts launched to the market daily is increasing the number of challenges publishers and designers are facing with managing their font libraries… And, how to best deal with it!
Today we’re pleased to announce that we’ve teamed up with Typefi, a leading provider of single-source automated software for print, online and mobile publishing to streamline font management in automated publishing.
One of the key challenges in the automated publishing process arises at the preproduction stage. This is where publishers want to publish their final content without errors regardless if it is for digital or print. It’s at this point things can go sideways because the fonts are not available in the system. Currently, customers need to load up every font they may ever need to ensure the output looks as desired. Doing this can overload the machine and the process fail when duplicate fonts are found.
Typefi and Extensis share the mission of making creative and publishing workflow seamless and efficient, so we’ve partnered to remove the font challenges while automating the workflow from beginning to end.
How you ask? By injecting FontLink at the backend of the production assembly line, customers will have an on-demand system to get the fonts required for each document during output processing. FontLink in conjunction with Universal Type Server ensures there are no missing, incorrect or substituted fonts, and will only deliver exact matches for each document along that production path.
Whether the output is a PDF, or an InDesign document, whether it be print or EPub the final piece of output contains all of the fonts used without variations or substitutions.
Extensis is really excited to partner with Typefi to bring this end-to-end integrated solution to the marketplace.
Every designer loves fonts. It’s likely that you have many more than you know what to do with. (fun fact: the average font collection size hovers at 4500).
On Wednesday, I’ll be hosting a Webcast to show how you can harness the power of your font collection using Suitcase Fusion 7. The Webcast will include live demos of all of the exciting new features in Suitcase Fusion 7.
Suitcase Fusion 7 Takes Fonts to the Cloud & Brings Font Management to Adobe After Effects
Attention fellow font nerds! Today we have released Suitcase Fusion 7, our professional font manager which takes the effort out of managing your fonts so you can reclaim more time for design.
For those of you who are long-time Suitcase Fusion users, the big advancement in Suitcase Fusion 7 is cloud synchronization. That’s right! With Suitcase Fusion 7, you can sync your entire font collection to the cloud using our TypeSync technology. This allows for no-touch backup and synchronization of your font collection to any machine. If you are on the move or working off two machines, Suitcase Fusion 7 has your entire collection at the ready. And you won’t have to lose sleep over worrying about ever losing your fonts- TypeSync will keep them safe and sound.
Motion Graphic Designers Rejoice!
We’re also thrilled to report we’re extending reliable font management to motion graphics artists with the industry’s first font plug-in for Adobe After Effects. Fonts play an integral role in motion design, and until today, it has been a laborious process to search for and activate fonts. Suitcase Fusion’s Font auto-activation ensures that fonts will always be immediately accessible directly within After Effects.
Adobe After Effects joins our collection of auto-activation plug-ins for Adobe Creative Cloud 2015 applications – Adobe Photoshop, Adobe InDesign, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe InCopy – and QuarkXPress.