All Things Typographic: 1
ell, it's been a good run but the fifth installment of Free Fonts That Don't Suck will be the final one—I've decided to cast a wider typographic net. To a certain extent this has been thrust upon me, since there are simply fewer good free fonts being released. We can thank the mega-font sites, such as MyFonts.com and Fonts.com, for this, having grown to the point where they're now the main sales platforms for many independent font creators. If those sites can find customers for just about anything, as seems to be the case, then the incentive for releasing free fonts disappears.
However, snappy free fonts still surface, sometimes for a limited period of time. So I'll be including those in a mix that focuses on commercial font releases, font-specific software, typographic events and font-related news in general. Given the huge flow of new font releases, I'll only be able to cover a tiny fraction of what's out there, so not being included is by no means an indication of lack of merit. Now, let the festivities commence.
Suitcase for Windows: Professional Font Management
Announced in January, the big news for Windows-based designers last week was the release of a version of the venerable font manager that adds auto-activation functionality and Microsoft Vista compatibility. The cross-platform Suitcase is a mature product that provides a range of font management and protection capabilities. For example, it lets users group fonts into font sets, organized by job, customer, foundry, application or other classification, which can then be activated or deactivated simultaneously. Being able to preview fonts prior to installation and activation is a similar timesaver, as is the ability to print font spec samples. Bringing order to chaos is the Font Vault, which lets you keep all of your fonts in a single, secure location. And while it's not integrated into Suitcase itself, the inclusion of MorrisonSoft Design’s FontDoctor seems to be up to the task of font problem diagnosis, repair and organization.
A key aspect of the Mac version of Suitcase that until now has been absent for Windows users is font auto-activation. Happily, the new version now includes automatic font activation and deactivation in InDesign CS2, Illustrator CS2 and QuarkXPress 7, which Extensis claims is a first for the Windows platform. The magic takes place via application-specific plugins that use Extensis' Font Sense technology, ensuring that the exact fonts used in a document are activated when that document is opened. Suitcase for Windows can be purchased on the Extensis site , with a trial version available for download.
I asked Extensis about the Vista compatibility and was told that previous Suitcase versions simply don't run on Vista. Extensis apparently "worked hand in hand with Microsoft to ensure the product would have complete functionality on this operating system," which is great—but where is the compelling new functionality Vista brings to the world of design? Having recently purchased a Vista-based system, I'd really like to know.
Latest Kapitza Symbol Font Goes POP
Based in London, England, Kapitza is a design partnership formed in 2004 between sisters Petra and Nicole Kapitza, focusing on book design and illustration, as well as art and exhibition work. Kapitza also releases quirky symbol fonts, with such earlier volumes as Snowflake and People. Their latest offering is POP, a pattern font containing 320 graphic elements in 4 weights. The fun begins when you start layering them, since the weights are designed to fit on top of each other. Also available are individual ready-made POP PATTERNS in vector EPS format. POP is available in OpenType format on the Kapitza site.
Six New Pixel Fonts From Fonts For Flash
You'd think the pixel font genre would be just about at a dead end by now, given how little space is available for rendering characters at tiny point sizes. Fonts For Flash seems undaunted by the challenge, however, and has just released six additions to its already sizable collection. Below is FFF Fundamental, which manages to remain quite legible while displaying a surprising amount of personality for its diminutive size.
Beorcana: A Calligraphic Sans
Developed over a 15-year period, Carl Crossgrove recently released his Beorcana typeface, which he describes as a "serifless roman, or calligraphic sans" typeface family, through Monotype Imaging. Available in three size-specific ranges—Micro for small print, Regular for text and Display for large sizes—the design is provided in a large range of weights, from Thin to Ultra.
The Micro styles are said to be legible in sizes as small as 3 points, targeting usage in cartography, dictionaries, bibles and similar applications. The Display styles are seen by Beorcana's creator as appropriate for corporate collateral, formal announcements, signage and headlines, and I have to agree that the face could provide impact at large sizes if used carefully.
As is increasingly common, Beorcana is supplied with OpenType features for accessing the various optional characters. More than 1,000 characters per font are included, with support provided for many Central and Eastern European languages. All 28 styles include small caps and oldstyle figures, with italic fonts also including two sets of swash caps. Beorcana can be purchased on Fonts.com, while Carl provides interesting supporting material on his own Beorcana.com site.
Blender Pro From Die Gestalten Verlag
Die Gestalten Verlag is a Berlin-based design and media company that takes its cue from its name: "die gestalten" meaning both "the creatures" and "they create" in German. The publishing side of dgv creates, publishes and distributes books and other media focusing on contemporary visual culture. It even launched a new site recently, ReleaseTheFreaks.com, for a new line of handmade and limited-edition art toys, and definitely has its own take on what's fresh in art and design.
The Die Gestalten Verlag collection of fonts is modest, but always interesting. One of the latest is Blender Pro from Nik Thoenen, a member of the Vienna-based design collective RE-P.ORG. Originally released in 2003, the Pro version takes advantage of OpenType to increase the number of Roman characters, as well as provide support for Nordic and Slavic languages. A simple, powerful design, Blender is available in weights ranging from thin to heavy.
Well, that's it for this first installment, although I could have easily added another dozen selections. I suppose I shouldn't complain that we are the lucky beneficiaries of what is doubtless the Golden Age of typography. I'll follow up with the next installment soon, so please feel free to send related news items my way.