I'm always looking to communicate font software / encoding to non-type people. The objective is to differentiate "font software" from an "image of lettering", clearly and quickly with minimal jargon. The term "User Interface" (UI) enables a quick analogy to the visual setting underlying software in a phone or an app, which most people are familiar with. But, is it fair to describe the typeface design as the UI of the font software?
I initially got the idea from reading this passage:
‘a book can be considered a user interface to its content… a technical research paper can be seen as a user interface, that to succeed must take account of its intended user community…almost anything can be seen as a user interface; doing so will highlight certain issues of design and representation that might otherwise remain obscure,’ – GOGUEN, J., ‘An Introduction to Algebraic Semiotics, with Applications to User Interface Design’, in Computation for metaphors, analogy and agents, ed. by C.L. Nehaniv, LNAI, 1562 (Berlin: Springer, 1999), pp. 242–91
is it fair to describe the typeface design as the UI of the font software?
Rather I would say, the typeface design is the output of the font software; a font is a machine for making type.
A plate, however, being flat, is more like a platform for serving food content.
This metaphor game is fun!
My first published typeface (by Face Photosetting, 1976)—thankfully long since vanished into the murk of history—was named Interface.
Who would you be talking to when you use this metaphor? This would make a big difference to see what help using it might be or not be.
A lot of the above definitions use "technical language" (e.g. output, execute, kern, decode), or are lengthy / require further reading. I realise that the term "user interface" is also technical, but it can be described quickly by analogy with smart phone apps – most grasp the basic UI concept quite quickly.
@Chris Lozos: The audience is our in-house teams who, as you put it, "ignore the whole process and just read the words". That's fine, right until there are any issues – specifically technical issues. There is often a fundamental gap in their understanding about what font software is, and its role in HCI / multi-script communication.
The concept of embedding is a question I get often and I find these terms help people understand what the term means. Embedding is especially difficult to explain and the Wikipedia page is hard to understand. I can't send people there for an explanation. The first paragraph suggests that fonts are only embedded in documents and not hardware or software applications. And are they really controversial? Not around here. The page is only available in English so anyone conversing using Google Translate probably won't find it helpful. A web search for font embedding shows a lot of results for embedding fonts in documents but not software or hardware.
I often get questions about font modification vs. modifying something the font has been used to create. For example; adjusting vectors on a logo or applying effects to text. I;m often asked whether or not what the user makes with the font can be trademarked or copyrighted.
Some of you know how much I love far fetched analogies but I think this direct explanation gets the point across.
I would go so far as to say that the idea that fonts are software is foreign to most people to begin with, and inventing a remedy for this self made problem might be solved simply by calling things what they are in the users' mind.