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

Some time ago we asked ourselves the question: ‘Why do type designers traditionally think in black and white?’
Why indeed? The world is colorful, the web is colorful, Hollywood does not produce any black-and-white movies anymore… Only type designers continue to think in these restrictive terms. Typographers today are living in the Golden Age of design. Software for designing a book or a typeface has never been so simple, and it is also easy accessible to almost everybody. Examples of archetypal typefaces or books are visible online. Modern printing techniques and software techniques allow us to experiment with a wide range of possibilities. From paper to a computer screen or from a two-dimensional model to a three-dimensional prototype. The results of these experiments can be shared via all kinds of social media with anyone anywhere in the world. We are intrigued and fascinated by all these new possibilities and we would also like to share our experiments with the rest of the world.
Are typographers and type designers really black-and-white thinkers? Are they really so conservative as to think that text in books, periodicals, newspapers and other print, including the text on your laptop, tablet or mobile phone, should always be black? There’s plenty of color in the print media, at least in illustrations, and occasionally we come across a color headline. Traditionally, texts in manuscripts were written in black, or nearly black, ink. Gutenberg’s invention did not make it easy, technically, to print a second color. So from 1450 up to now, text has mostly been presented to us in a single color: black.
But this is going to change.

(Preface by Gerard Unger in Novo Typo Color Book, text and design by Mark van Wageningen)

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  • Well, you are invited to disagree. Color is valuable in defining the hiërachy of text on a printed page or on a website. Nowadays we appreciate the logical combination of a roman and italic version in a typeface. However, historically this is an artificial combination. It was only after the Italian printer and publisher Aldus Manutius and punch-cutter Francesco Griffo introduced slanted type around 1500, that the combination of roman and italic became conventional. Type designers and punch cutters began copying this slanted design, soon known as Italic after the country of origin, and it became rapidly popular outside Italy. Within the near future this will also happen with chromatic type. Color will lead us to a new Renaissance in typography. It will take some time as type designers will need to get used to it and so will readers. However, before too long, we envisage type designers including a chromatic version of their typefaces when they design a complete font family, in addition to the existing roman, italic, bold and bold italic.
  • Bhikkhu PesalaBhikkhu Pesala Posts: 210
    edited March 2017
    Most of the examples that you show are ugly, and only serve to illustrate the excessive use of colour that distracts from the message conveyed by the text.

    For example: Look at the headings Contents, Preface, and Introduction in your book. They should be a single colour. The three-coloured drop capitals are fine, but three-coloured headings are just gaudy. I would not even want to read the book if it was laid out like that.  

    Effective use of colour may well help to communicate a message, but mixing three colours in a single glyph is just distracting. It might work in a logo, but not in text that needs to be read and understood.  

    This is more than enough colour to make the word stand out:

  • If a designer wants to emphasize a word in a sentence, a sentence in a paragraph or a paragraph in a chapter, it is standard practice to use the italic or the bold version of the chosen typeface. Would it not be much more interesting if the designer is allowed to use the chromatic version of the typeface? Color will then constitute a key element within the organization of text and layout.
  • AbrahamLeeAbrahamLee Posts: 262
    This is also a tricky topic in music typography because, just as @Bhikkhu Pesala indicated with text, the (very strong) purpose of a music score is to convey performance instructions. Because of this, decorative or colorful forms are really frowned down upon by those who end up using it because they aren't as easily readable or legible as more classical designs in high contrast print (e.g. black on white).

    For example, here is a comparison between a very decorative approach to music typography and a more classical design:



    Personally, I love both of these designs for different reasons, but I would NEVER seriously publish (or use myself) any music using the decorative design because it's not as readable as the classic design. Musicians want to be able to immediately recognize the music. If they can't, they'll never use your scores. This is a high hurdle to get over, culturally.

    Just my 2 cents.
  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,457
    Color is a design decision made by the user, not the type designer.  This is the same as choosing bold or italic, or a point size.  The type designer supplies the tools so the user can have the option available to them.  We do not make the decisions for them for the good or the bad.  I for one, am quite willing to allow the type user to either shine or shit their work.  Their audience is the judge, not me.
  • But color is still something a type designer might decide to offer as a dimension of communication.
  • The purpose of text is to communicate. Excessive use of colour does not help to get the message across and may fail miserably […].

    Perhaps this depends a bit on the excessiveness of the message. Some of today’s world leaders excessively color their speeches and unfortunately don’t fail miserably. I think that we should see Mark’s publication above all as a basis for discussion, reflection and… fun. When I see his texts posted here, it is all quite relaxed, I think.

  • Our "leaders" are simply reflecting the electorate. Color doesn't have to be so provincial.
  • I think that Bob would have loved Mark’s color fonts to make his point in color.

  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,457
    Some of today’s world leaders excessively color their speeches and unfortunately don’t fail miserably.

    The skill of the user can be used for good or evil.  When we supply tools, we supply for all, even those with whom we disagree.
  • When we supply tools, we supply for all, even those with whom we disagree.

    I only supply our exquisite fonts to decent customers of high standing.

  • Bhikkhu PesalaBhikkhu Pesala Posts: 210
    edited March 2017

    Would it not be much more interesting if the designer is allowed to use the chromatic version of the typeface? 
    As others have pointed out, designers can and do use colour in publications very easily without chromatic typefaces. Coloured glyphs in fonts, even multi-coloured glyphs, may be used by designers for decorative effect, but if the colour detracts from the message being conveyed, then it's use is inappropriate. 

    I don't know if you're here just to sell your book, to sell coloured fonts, or to sell the idea, but I think you will find it hard to convince typographers that they need to add coloured type styles to their fonts unless you can come up with some much better examples of chromatic glyphs in real-life use. 

    I receive a free journal called Faith Initiative, which uses colour liberally in its publications for headings and for page backgrounds, but the body text is all black. The only piece of text that could use a chromatic font might be the logo, but that's more easily done with graphics as it requires gradients. 

  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,457
    I am glad to see you have such perfect control over your customers, Frank ;-)
  • > designers can and do use colour in publications very easily

    I would not say it's been easy enough.

     if the colour detracts from the message being conveyed, then it's use is inappropriate. 

    Which of course applies to anything. In fact to me most Italic designs also distract from the message being conveyed.
  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,956
    I think it’s premature to say “̌Color will be the new Italic. Color will be the new Bold.” when there is currently no indication that end users will ever have worthwhile color font support outside of web browsers.

    And I think it’s absurd to think that color will become common for presenting text. That’s as arrogant as designers in the 2000s who thought all text would be presented as expressive postmodern layouts like those found in the books of Howard Stern and Mark Danielewski. Readers read because they’re interested in the content written by the author, not because they’re interested in masturbatory layout novelty. Color might become common in headlines again (where it has come and gone plenty in the past) but it’s not going to become much more common in text than it is now.
  • Are you saying we need multi-coloured fonts? Or just coloured fonts. Because I can turn any font into a coloured font. A multicoloured font will not be the next italic.
  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,457
    So then, James, Orange is not the New Black ;-)

  • In fact to me most Italic designs also distract from the message being conveyed.
    Well, I suppose if you use italics for body text it might detract from the message. However, if you use it only for emphasis then it serves its intended purpose very well. 

    Having coloured type styles, or multi-coloured type styles, is not going to make using colour any easier. Far from it; it will make it more difficult, and documents will break if one wants to use a font without coloured variants. Applying colour to text is as easy as selecting it and clicking a colour swatch, or applying a character style. 
  • Most italic designs are very different in character than their roman, so it is in fact their use for emphasis that's problematic. It's only force-of-habit that has made us oblivious to the fact that what Manutius did was not unlike a shotgun wedding...

    How easy it would be to use color in fonts depends of course on the interface. I agree the current ones are lacking.
  • I suppose the proponents could start by trying to get support in TypeDrawers for setting colour formatting on text or specifying @font-face rules pointing at colour fonts of their creation, and then start putting some of their ideas into actual practice.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 2,101
    There is a small market for layered fonts, which have been available for 25+ years.
    So, not much market-driven demand for huge change there.

    Colour will never be the new bold.
    When one uses colour for contrast, one usually bumps up the weight.
    That’s because colouring type doesn’t make it bigger, which bolding does, and also makes it less clearly defined.
    Color can produce meaningful contrast, but for type it is always weaker than boldness.

    On the other hand, apparently my house is “powered by Rogers” (internet service provider), so anything goes.

  • Mark SimonsonMark Simonson Posts: 1,633
    It might be instructive to note that in the centuries of scribal writing preceding the invention of movable type, black was the norm for text. This isn't because scribes were "limited" to black (or even a single color) for technical reasons, but because it apparently worked best. Red was used sometimes (being the next highest contrast with white after black). Multicolored letters were mainly reserved for initials.

    I think it's great that it has become technically possible to include multiple colors in fonts more easily, but I don't see it becoming much more than the niche that it already is in terms of what people actually want and need.
  • Black maximizes contrast (especially on the not-very-white paper used by the scribes) and was probably easiest to manufacture. Also, switching colors very much was a pain-in-the-neck for the scribes. In contrast, on today's screens: contrast is arguably too high; all colors are free; and switching is far easier.

    I suspect red was used not because it's second-best in contrast to white, but because it's a great contrast to black. Also, it's cheap to manufacture (which is why barns are red).

    BTW according to @John Hudson red was (is?) "formally" used in Ethiopia for emphasis in text.
  • Khaled HosnyKhaled Hosny Posts: 289
    edited March 2017
    Red was used for various kinds of emphasis in Arabic manuscripts as well, it faded out with the advance of printing because it was cumbersome.
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