Color will be the new Italic. Color will be the new Bold.

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  • Nina StössingerNina Stössinger Posts: 150
    edited March 24
    PS. that could also solve the emoji skintone conundrum in a more useful way, if we can’t all agree to just be bright yellow. (Nevermind though, I guess the color attribute then not work in formatting-agnostic media.)
  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 649
    edited March 24
    I'm really interested in have a good system for letting the user have optimum control over multi-color fonts. The professional designer needs control over each layer, each gradient. The amateur needs a supply of preset palettes with friendly, multilingual names. Both need a simple way to coordinate more complex palettes with existing color schemes.

    If you have a 2 color font, the user sets each color...no big deal. But what about when a font has 20 colors. Like a metallic effect with two different metals used for the same letter...intertwined silver and bronze. It's not a simple light to dark range, there's some hue and saturation shift. Each material requires its own sub-palette so if can be modified discretely. 

    Unless the professional designer is well versed in rendering metals, manipulating individual colors would likely result in a mess. If sections of the palette could be provided as morph targets, the user could change the bronze into steel, the silver into gold.

    On top of that, the user needs to be able to have control over each palette section. Hue, saturation, gamma, luminosity, alpha etc.

    Without all of these things, color fonts are useless for professionals and impractical for amateurs. Right now, if an amateur has an application that supports multi-color fonts, they need to install multiple copies of the font, one for each palette. I think about 100 palettes is the bare minimum I'd want to provide to make the fonts even a tiny bit useful. Delivering 100 fonts (for each style!) and having the user manage that is ludicrous.
  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,448
    Professional designers deserve total control over color font palettes because they have to get the inks right. Sure some people will be happy to just do it in Photoshop with preset RGB colors and let the printer convert it to CMYK. But there are going to be big campaigns that need to use the same font with solids, CMYK, and RGB.
  • Mark SimonsonMark Simonson Posts: 836
    edited March 24
    I think at least one of the formats supports assigning colors.
  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,448
    I think at least one of the formats supports assigning colors.
    Microsoft’s COLR/CPAL does. But if Adobe only supports their SVG format it doesn’t really matter.
  • Roel NieskensRoel Nieskens Posts: 73
    edited March 24
    What I’d find more interesting (does this exist?) is a color font format that would have the colors assigned via variables
    The two color vector formats, COLR and SVG, will have this. You can put predefined palettes in the font and let the users choose from that. I'd imagine this working similar to choosing a weight or style: "Shiny gold", "Old silver", "Purple and pink", "Toxic green".

    These palettes are stored in the CPAL table. On top of that, individual colors can be overwritten. If the "Toxic green" palette has four green fills a black outline, you could change the outline to pink and leave the greens intact. Or overwrite them all.

    In COLR you'll have control over all colors like that, but in SVG the type designer can choose to hardcode colors and not allow them to be overwritten.

    A big downside of the CPAL table is that everything is numbered, not named. So instead of being able to say "Pick the 'Toxic green' palette and overwrite 'outline-color'", you must say "Pick palette 17 and overwrite color 3". See Gluk's comment, who has read the spec more closely than I!

    At least in CSS you can map (custom) palettes to human readable names.

    Support for overwriting the CPAL table is not here yet, and current tools export all colors hardcoded for the SVG format.

    Oh, and for the people who seem to be pretty mad about color fonts being an option: don't be. It's an optional thing that takes nothing away that you already have. It just add news tools to your toolbox, feel free to ignore the crap out of them.

    (If you want to know more there's this guy talking about color fonts and the caveats mentioned above at TYPO Berlin.)
  • glukgluk Posts: 30
    edited March 24

    A big downside of the CPAL table is that everything is numbered, not named. So instead of being able to say "Pick the 'Toxic green' palette and overwrite 'outline-color'", you must say "Pick palette 17 and overwrite color 3".
    As far as I know, OpenTypeSVG Specification allows font Designers (at least  Microsoft OT spec) to name PaletteLabel and PaletteEntryLabel. That mean theoretically in far, far future (with full implementation OpenTypeSVG) use human readable names like "outline color" or "shadow color" in "Toxic green palette" will be possible.
  • edited March 24

    Many thanks for all your valuable comments. First I like to state that I’m not ‘selling’ anything; no book (although the Novo Typo Color Book is available for purchase), no fonts or typefaces, or even try to sell the ‘concept’. 

    I want to share thoughts with you, typedesigners, about the use of chromatic fonts within an editorial context. I am convinced that chromatic fonts are a valuable extension or an extra option amongst the usual set of regular, italic and bold.

    I am not interested in decorative typedesign. The designs may look beautiful (or ugly, that's up to your personal taste…), the initial goal is to start a discussion about one of the basics of typo/graphic design, the organization of text, combined with the use of chromatic type.

    Contemporary printing techniques and new browsertechniques make it possible to add color in typography. This renewed interest for color-within-typography took off with the use of emoji on mobile devices at the beginning of this century. The introduction of these new techniques has allowed type designers to design fonts that are structured on separate colored layers (see picture). The user can add different colors to these layers through a range of applications. The Novo Typo Color Book offers a series of typefaces designed by us based on this multicolored (or chromatic) design concept. Our approach to design implies that readability and legibility in contemporary type design is overrated. Every character is legible, if not, it is not a character. We are not interested in designing a new Helvetica or Univers, simply because these typefaces already exist.


  • Dan ReynoldsDan Reynolds Posts: 93
    edited March 24
    Picking up an idea of Nixon’s, whenever I see someone state that “is the new Y,” I place all of my bets on Y.

    In 20 years – and in 100 years, too – I think it is a pretty safe bet to say that Bold and Italic letters will still be used in many of the same ways, and for many of the same purposes, that they are used for today.

    This does not mean that I think “color fonts” won’t have a future. It is just that I think that it is most likely that a new area of use will be found for them, which we have not envisioned yet, rather than they replace some pre-existing element in the typographic repertoire. 
  • Max PhillipsMax Phillips Posts: 435
    Nina nailed it. I actually can't imagine a single situation in which I'd be willing to passively accept someone else's colorways, chosen with no context or knowledge of my project, client, or users. The specimens are lovely, but unless there's a dead simple way for me to select my own colors (and to continually tweak them as the job progresses), this is not a new tool for my toolkit.

    Dan, don't you mean you place all your bets on Y? In which case, I'm with you. In fact, going back to the origins of the cliché, I can't help noticing that, all these years later, black remains the new black.
  • Some of the posts seem to focus on support of chromatic fonts instead of discussing the new possibilities of chromatic fonts in typographic design. If a designer knows his way around in Adobe Indesign or Illustrator (and know how to use layers in his / her document) the use of chromatic fonts in a lay-out is easy. You can give the text, (copy-paste and separated on different layers the color you prefer - CMYK, RGB or in any pantone color). Adobe Photoshop CC17 supports the chromatic SVG-OT format.

    The same as for web fonts. TransType by Fontlab can easily generate a colored font file in any color combination you choose. You are invited to visit the website of Bixa color (a collaboration-project between designers Novo Typo and developer Roel Nieskens / Pixelambacht). On this website you can pick the colors you like, download the font and play around, it’s free.

    The possibilities afforded by combinations of type and color are endless. Designers can pick any color they like. They may decide to use the colors of their client’s corporate identity or simply a fashionable color. Color and typography present a powerful mix in graphic design. In our opinion a bespoke chromatic typeface, well designed and with a strong personality, can easily replace a logo within a corporate identity.

    Can you imagine?


  • Dan, don't you mean you place all your bets on Y? In which case, I'm with you. In fact, going back to the origins of the cliché, I can't help noticing that, all these years later, black remains the new black.
    Oh, right, of course! I have edited my post. 
  • Red was used for emphasis in text all the way back to Ancient Egypt (where Thoth, the god of writing is depicted with two jars of ink, one black and one red). And it is still (I mean in a recent centuries frame of 'still') used by printers to signify a higher quality of printing. See almost all the Roycrofters books for examples, or 'The New Annotated H.P. Lovecraft' (2014) for a recent example. So typographers think in black, red and white. Font designers however have to think in black and white. That is the clearest way to see contrast in designing an outline. Even if the design is aimed at being chromatic.
  • — so the person who uses the font would just get more variables to set, and instead of coloring text, say, red, they could color it red, blue, and orange, and then the font would know which of those colors goes where, painting-by-numbers like. Sort of like now with layers, but in one package (and maybe extended a bit, with support for things like gradients or transparency). Is this a thing?
    I don't think it is, within a font, but I could see there being an opentype feature (sort of like mark) that would assign a hierarchy to components in a glyph that could then be controlled by something like a text string at the beginning of the paragraph.

     (23AB,  12A7, 0788) My text begins...

    And the feature would strip out the info and use it to colour the various components of the glyphs.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,168
    We seem to have skipped the greyscale stage.

    (Those practising in 1990 will remember.)

    Grey text has certainly become something of a new black for web page designers, on the principle—right or wrong—that high contrast on device screens is too harsh. 
  • Actually I've long thought that the most meaningful use of colorfonts involves having shades of gray.
  • To me personally this trend mostly speaks of a longing for the analog. Be it illuminated scripts with color decorations, carvings with inlayed color, or woodblock prints with layered impressions of different color, the current trend in these types (be in implicit sets to be used in conjunction or multi-color font formats) relives that tangible aspect of typography - which readers young and old alike have come to reminisce about. As such, I think it's worth cherishing these new forms as stylistic evolution.

    From the point of view of designing type, however, I feel it's a gimmick. In the stylistic sense it is something that is easily recognised as trendy, and from a marketing standpoint innovators can thus claim new markets. Maybe it's because users of type don't feel confident (or can't afford to, in terms of time investment) to do these type of very graphic design laden experiments with type that they are comfortable with type designers picking colors and variations on their behalf - which makes this whole affair a tad bit more sad altogether.
  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 93
    edited March 27
    Having owned a manual typewriter which had a cloth ribbon that was red across half its width, so that one could print words in red for emphasis, the idea of color being "the new italic" is not completely bizarre to me.

    Since display faces like Bifur served a purpose, defining a typeface where parts of the letters are different in color can't be dismissed out of hand as illegitimate or not properly part of typography. Also, one can find in old specimen books examples of an outline face paired with a face for its interior for two-color printing; similar things were also done for monogram blocks.

    Having said that, however, I do share the skepticism of others as to whether this will ever become a big thing.

    Now, though, what may become something to be encountered in the future is typefaces where parts of the letterform are defined to be in "color 1", "color 2", and so on, so that just as existing word processing software can choose to print black-and-white letters in red, blue, or any color one wishes, multi-color fonts would allow the individual colors to be altered from their defaults.

    Once that happens, then a multi-color typeface could be adapted to the purposes of designers making use of it, and then I could imagine such typefaces becoming a standard part of typography - even if still a minor one.

    ...and so I'm in agreement with what I see Nina Stössinger posted above.

    One other thing: this reminded me of a sequence in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, where a computer screen shows text in an alien language the glyphs of which are animated images of spheres with colored patterns, rotating in different directions.
  • George ThomasGeorge Thomas Posts: 383
    edited March 27
    @John Savard-- Having a lot of experience with early typewriters too, I can tell you that the intent of the 2-color ribbon was primarily for accountants to highlight a negative number, not for highlighting words -- although that could be and was done.

    When such a ribbon was used in an accounting machine, negative numbers automatically switched to the red ink.
  • Russell_McGormanRussell_McGorman Posts: 152
    edited March 27
    Colour may turn out to be the new "WTF" -- Although, the specimens do look great. It is hard to see them as a thing that will take off with graphic designers though. Few of the designers I know have heard of coloured fonts or layered fonts for that matter. I'm not convinced that many of those who've prurchdaed licenses for any of the several layered fonts I have on the market, did so with the intention of using them as such.  

    Fonts will, I think, forever be positive and negative shapes. Colours are nice, but as decoration. Not a core feature... with a couple probable exceptions I can think of, such as brand specific inclusions.
  • edited March 27

    My thanks for all the interesting comments. Enclosed some thoughts about the use of chromatic fonts.

    In my opinion the use of color within type design takes two different directions. Color can be used for the purpose of decoration, and historically we have seen lots of different variations of these designs. Typical examples of the decorative approach are the use of color in the outline, inline or the dropshadow of the basic letter forms. A beautiful example of this approach is Specimens of Chromatic Wood Type and Borders, published by William H. Page and Co. in 1874. This sample catalog offers a fine collection of chromatic wood types for letter-press printers. The specimen book was used to sell the wooden pieces of type to printers. The typefaces of William H. Page and Co. are today part of the collection of the Hamilton Museum in Two Rivers, Wisconsin, USA. (more about Page on the interesting website of David Shields). All these examples are based on the decorative approach to design. Going even further back in history, color in layout was already used centuries ago. Around 1455 the German printer and inventor of movable type, Johannes Gutenberg, used color in the page layout of the famous 42-line bible by rubricating the initials and paragraphs. We may presume that, in this case, the use of color did not have a decorative purpose. The reason to use color was to introduce hierarchy in the layout of the page. Later on color was often used to separate paragraphs with a colored pilcrow ¶ or a colored silcrow §. This brings us to the second direction in which color is used within typography.

    The second direction, which is obviously the most interesting and exciting one, is the color - construction approach. Color can be used as part of the construction of the basic shapes of the characters. The images enclosed (from the Typewood project, 2015) show an example of the Bixa typeface which is designed according to a colored and constructed concept. The characters illustrate this approach. Working within this color - construction / deconstruction typographic concept, it is possible to take this idea one step further. It is only logical that if you can construct the basic shapes of a character, you can also deconstruct these basic shapes. Using this color - deconstruction design concept within an editorial context leads to the following propositions.

    Color will be the new Italic.

    Color will be the new Bold.

    And you are all invited to disagree.

    The Novo Typo Color Book is a logical continuation of the Typewood - The Declaration of Deconstructed Typography project and the Bixa project that was published in 2015. Bixa, the chromatic typeface, which is also produced in wood type, is designed as a typeface for a large display size. The chromatic typeface that was especially created for this project is designed and optimized for smaller sizes. With the Novo Typo Color Book project we present a visual investigation of the possibilities of the use of chromatic typography within an editorial context.




  • > How does the reader, conditioned with ....

    The same way people have learned new things since time immemorial?
  • AbrahamLeeAbrahamLee Posts: 102
    > How does the reader, conditioned with ....

    The same way people have learned new things since time immemorial?
    Yes, but I can't help but think that the global pervasiveness of modern computer technology has made support for monochrome fonts so common-place that it might be near impossible for polychromatic fonts to take hold except for a few niche areas of graphic design. It's hard enough for people to choose the font itself, let alone weights, styles, colors, etc. That's not to say people can't become accustomed to it, it's just that it's one more design decision I think people will give up on because choosing a monochrome is the easy road. On top of that, how long before software supports polychromatic fonts in such a way that it makes it really easy for the everyday user? Until that happens (perhaps through web technology?) I just can't see people making serious use of the concept.
  • Mark van Wageningen / Novo Typo said:
    The reason to use color was to introduce hierarchy in the layout of the page. Later on color was often used to separate paragraphs with a colored pilcrow ¶ or a colored silcrow §. This brings us to the second direction in which color is used within typography.
    I'm sure no one is disputing the role of color in typography per se. Color fonts as letters constructed with several colors within every letter is different though. This breaks the idea of positive and negative shape that is so inherent to type. As you point out, this can be interesting exploration, and the examples you show have a visual novelty to them.

    In my opinion, this doesn't qualify this style for serving as highlighting in the way italic or bold works. In fact, the examples you show contradict this, since they are (have to be to work) display uses, where the visual attraction of the letters is the main focus, not differentiation from other, regular, text. Just because it's different doesn't means it's a synonym for bold or italic. To me, your claim sounds much like 'grunge is the new italic' or 'geometric fonts are the new bold' - it's too specific and too much of stylistic choice to be universally useful in the sense that you propose.

    Maybe the introduction of variable fonts might groom users to typeset with more intricate influence over the fonts they use - but the reverse deduction is equally valid: If variable fonts and the interfaces for manipulating their axes don't prove worthwhile to users, so might interfaces for setting the different colors or color schemes in color fonts.
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