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Re: CSS3 @font-face / EOT Fonts - new compromise proposal

From: Adam Twardoch <list.adam@twardoch.com>
Date: Sat, 15 Nov 2008 17:09:02 +0100
Message-ID: <491EF41E.2020101@twardoch.com>
To: "www-style@w3.org" <www-style@w3.org>
CC: Håkon Wium Lie <howcome@opera.com>, Thomas Phinney <tphinney@adobe.com>

Håkon Wium Lie wrote:
> First, web designers are
> primarily looking to use web fonts for display type. Look at CSS Zen
> Garden [1]. There, designers happily use the core fonts [2] for body
> text, but almost all designs use other fonts -- encoded in images --
> for headings. 


This sounds like a very eurocentric point of view.

The core fonts only cover Europe and North America, and the necessity
for custom body fonts on the web is slightly less important in the CJK
market but most certainly users of most of the world's writing systems
(scripts, alphabeta) will be interested to use custom body fonts —
simply because there is no guarantee that all browser platforms will _at
all_ have local fonts that cover their character sets, and if they do,
the quality may be poor or horrible.

But even within Europe and North America, it is not true. It is exactly
the same situation as with office correspondence for the most of the
20th century, until about 20 years ago: since the only available
mechanism to produce office correspondence was a typewriter, people did
use typewriters to type their letters, and the only custom type they
used was on the company letterheads (because they ordered them from the
printing house or a design bureau which had different typefaces).

But once the personal computer was introduced, a diversity immediately
appeared: some companies continued to use monospaced fonts in their
correspondence, others switched to a default "printer font" such as
Arial/Helvetica or Times, and yet others purchased fonts for use in
their company and commissioned entirely-designed office document
templates where not only the letterhead but the entire page was set in
the typeface of their choice.

Branding on the website includes all visual elements of a page: colors,
illustrations, icons, layout and also typefaces. Web designers want to
be able to customize all these aspects so they can _compete_ for the

Content providers such as news sites on the web often can no longer
compete with the currentness of the news they serve, because most of
them get the news at the same time. So they need to compete with the
attractiveness of delivery: in order to survive and earn money from
advertising, they need to serve the contents in a better _form_ so that
it is better readable and more comprehensive for the reader. You as
browser maker should be the first to know that. The typeface does play a
key role in this — using a body font that is different from the core
fonts (e.g. larger x-height but more condensed), the web designer can
completely remodel the layout of the website, for example use slightly
narrower columns to fit the same number of character per line, and by
doing this, fit more columns onto a standard screen. So the choice of
the typeface has gigantic impact onto the entire design of the web page.

The above is common knowledge among newspaper designers. Millions of
dollars have been spent in the last decades to improve newspaper
printing technology but also to make the typefaces better and design new
ones, as well as find new ways to arrange items on the newspaper page.

Newspaper designers have been competing with their layouts, typographic
arrangements and typeface choices for the reader. They realized that the
choice of type and typography needs to be custom-tailored to their
target reader, but also that once the overall typographic arrangement
appeals to their reader once, he or she will very likely stay with them
for longer.

It is very naive to assume that all those principles do not apply to the
web. Of course they do! Everything that had happened to the newspapers
in the 20th century will happen to the web in the 21st century.

Also, the fact that the average user cannot consciously name points of
difference between two typefaces does not mean that the choice of the
typeface does not influence his or her comfort. In the same way, a
person is rarely able to verbally describe the difference between two
door knobs and yet he or she would easily be able to pick the one that
is "better" for them.



Adam Twardoch
| Language Typography Unicode Fonts OpenType
| twardoch.com | silesian.com | fontlab.net

I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or
insanity to anyone, but they've always worked for me.
(Hunter S. Thompson)
Received on Saturday, 15 November 2008 16:10:24 UTC

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