THE CREATION OF TYPEFACES

by Nicole (St. Germaine) Madison
The truth is, those typefaces don’t just appear for our convenience, they are created by designers and the process may be “magical” but it is by no means “simple”. Digital fonts are created in one of two ways:artists draw the font by hand and scan it into a computer to create a bitmapped version, or the typeface is made in a drawing program such as Illustrator, Free Hand, Corel Draw or Macromedia Fontographer(Tinkel 1991, 87-88; Gray 1998, 117). Many “traditional” designers insist that the process of handdrawing letters is essential to understanding the process of creating a typeface. They contend that you can’t understand the process and evolution without “feeling” it by hand (Gibbons 1999, 266-267). Others lament the ease of desktop design because its apparent ease has popularized type design and as a result, the overall quality of available typefaces has declined (Poggenpohl 1998). Other designers (including many of the new designers who were raised on computers) prefer to design their faces directly on the computer (Black and Berlow 1991, 96).

Whichever way the typeface is started, once a bitmapped version is created, it is edited in programs such as Adobe Photoshop, where the font can be antialiased and “cleaned up”. The bitmap is outlined, and the outline is the final shape of the character. Then the outlines are imported into font-editing software, and each character is given its final position in the font. At this point, character sizes, weights, proportions, and
other characteristics are tested and improved. When this testing process is completed, the finished font is saved in a computer format. The font is finally ready for release. This entire process can take up to two years (Gray 1998, 116).

variations on the size and weight of the face are then designed. In time, a family of typefaces may be designed. An excellent example of this is Adrian Frutiger’s Univers, which has over 40 different variations. The interesting aspect of Univers is that Frutiger designed the face and all its variation and released them all at once (Gray 1998, 104-5). The process doesn’t necessarily end with the release of the typeface. When a new typeface becomes popular, Anewtrend in type design is to useMultipleMasters Technology, created by Adobe Systems. This technology manipulated fonts but always retains the correct proportions and stroke width changes instead of simply obliquing the characters to create an italic, etc (Williams 1998, 173). This sometimes eliminates the need to create variations, because the user can create the variations as they need them. This technology is also great for online use because if a browser substitutes another font for the one originally intended, it will retain all of the original formatting (such as character width, linespacing, etc) so that strange linebreaks are not created (Williams 1998, 176).
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