The future of type



  • Alex Visi said:

    Counting pixels might be useful for text faces, but large type and high res screens is a new norm.
    If readability and legibility were the only criteria, we’d stop somewhere at Garamond. Type designers sell their sense of style, taste.
    Sure, readability is important for reading. What else? It's in the name. It's for reading text, thus text faces at text sizes. Headlines, titles and logos have other criteria.

    Legibility is important if single characters must be recognised. Do you want your medical doctor to misread a numerical digit somewhere? Misread a limit on a street sign and get a high penalty? Miss your flight?

    Style and taste are for sensual impressions, sensations, attraction. That's a different function.
  • Jasper de WaardJasper de Waard Posts: 522
    edited April 11
    Meaning, persuasion, and emotional response, are human factors well beyond our current ability to measure with any degree of certainty. 
    As a cognitive psychologist, I would like to argue that we actually have pretty good ways of measuring such things. We could quite feasibly compare two typefaces and their emotional response in an experiment, with a decent amount of precision. The problem is that, scientifically speaking, we don't want to know whether one typeface is more 'persuasive' than another. We want to know, fundamentally, what it is that makes typefaces persuasive. And that is a much harder question altogether...

    Add to that the presumably huge effect of context (different typefaces may be convincing in different contexts) and you have a situation that is practically impossible to study in a meaningful way.

    It is for exactly this reason that I have so far refrained from doing legibility research. Is a serif more legible than a sans? Depends, on the serif, on the sans, and on how they are read. The fundamental question of what makes a typeface legible is almost impossible to answer, even if we have plenty of ways to measure legibility.

  • It is for exactly this reason that I have so far refrained from doing legibility research. Is a serif more legible than a sans? Depends, on the serif, on the sans, and on how they are read. The fundamental question of what makes a typeface legible is almost impossible to answer, even if we have plenty of ways to measure legibility.
    If a problem is multiparadigmatic like legibility of fonts it can be reduced to fewer dimensions. Ann Bessemans did this in her dissertation  
    Letterontwerp voor kinderen met een visuele functiebeperking, 2012, Universiteit Leiden; and 
    Bessemans, A. (2016). Matilda: A typeface for children with low vision. Digital fonts and reading (pp. 19–36). World Scientific.

    She took one serif (DTL Documenta) and one sans-serif (Frutiger) and variated 
    (1) variable x-height; (2) conventional contrast; (3) unconventional contrast; (4) direction; (5) letter width, only one parameter at a time.

    To neutralise the language model (readability) she used pseudo-words.

    The problem with this sort of studies, even if done using best practise of cognitive psychology like Bessemans: significant differences can only found near the limits, most important size. For humans with healthy vision ~4 pt is the limit at reading distance.

    My hypothesis: Modern typefaces for text are "optimised" through centuries by experience, tradition, common sense, aesthetics, instinct. The differences in legibility are minimal, as also the differences of the features are minimal. Does it matter if the x-height proportion is 49% or 51%? Seems to matter if an optical size made for 16 pt is downscaled to 6 pt. But if the 6 pt is upscaled to 16 pt there is no significant difference in legibility and readability. For extreme thin, narrow or bold it's trivial and common experience that legibility degrades.
  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,400
    @Jasper, My point is that as we remove variables in order to fine tune the measuring, we exclude all the environment that makes interpretation work.  A given typeface at a given  size. leading and measure, does not depict very much about that typeface because the total environment is excluded. A typeface does not exist in a vacuum. There are cases when slowing down the reading can increase the level of comprehension of the "full message" and the "message" is more than just the accurate reading of the word.

  • FontfruitsFontfruits Posts: 35
    Type becomes even more abstract. Instead of storing type as vectors, instances or geometric parameters, type is an idea. You look at a poster. The poster looks at you. It examines your surroundings, your mood, your likes and dislikes. It designs appropriate typefaces and illustrations and designs the ideal poster just for you. The language on the poster changes as well as the tone of the ad copy based on your age and background. The software will have instant access to the history of typography, art and design. The system will be expert in designing and setting all scripts: Arabic, Cyrillic, Chinese etc.

    I give it 15 years. I don't think anyone will buy digital fonts except for nostalgic purposes after that.
    That's just scared the bajeezus out of me. I hope I'm long gone before that comes to fruition....the thought of having my mind/likes/personality read by a machine...cheeez. You sound like you might have actually BEEN to the future there, Ray. If so, I'd like to come on your next long as there's a ticket back ha! But seriously, AI terrifies the living daylights out of me. 
  • We will see more misconceptions about type and more badly done type. Any display diggin’ around my head in order to bless me with something I wouldn’t ask for – truely scary no thanks.
    I would be just satisfied if my OS would respect me and give me a choice (back) to use type as I want it. Instead of littering my eyes with outdated helveticaistic garbage [Apple people, please listen].
    Good example: Firefox – gives me free choice of display face (= fit for future)
    Bad example: Apple – gives me no choice (= middle ages)
  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 962
    There are cases when slowing down the reading can increase the level of comprehension of the "full message" and the "message" is more than just the accurate reading of the word.

    I know that when I saw a reference to Marvin Gaye's What's Going On, I used to keep getting it confused with a quite different song: Buffalo Springfield's For What It's Worth.
  • Vasil StanevVasil Stanev Posts: 675
    edited April 17
    Type already has no future. Font overabundance, Google fonts and piracy, along with the mentality that content producers should give their work out for in exchange for internet fame, that has killed it. There is a finite number of ways you could draw a letter and everything possible has been done to death. The rest - voice, Siri etc., is abstract speculation.
    We will see ever diminishing sales, until more and more thousands of fonts are bundled for $2 the package. Then the package will be libre. I used to get requests to "send over" my font to some shmuck somewhere who was appaled I could charge for "letters". This is the attitude.  I imagine some boutique work will be done on this or that font, but everybody will simply default to a Google font. Only the biggest names in the business will remain afloat, for a limited time.

  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,183
    On the weekend I was ruminating about how the younger generation will access fonts in the future. Professional graphic designers will keep using desktop/laptop computers for a while, but I feel like there's a growing divide between professionals using computers and laypeople strictly using phones, tablets, and Chromebooks. Personally, I can't use design apps on a phone. I hate doing anything on a phone, but these kids grew up with smartphones and that's how they're developing skills. Many millennials and late gen-X'ers grew up with computers with Corel Draw, Print Shop, Inkscape, Illustrator etc. Most of them knew how to open a ZIP file, extract the font, and install it. Even if they weren't professional designers, they could whip up a greeting card or a lost cat poster. If they wanted to purchase a font or download a free one, they could handle the technical aspect. Most people didn't purchase individual fonts but there was a path available if they needed a font that wasn't included with the software.

    I'm not a parent and the only kids I know are nieces and nephews, but it seems like Canva is what the younger generation uses when they want to make posters, tickets, banners...designs that require type. It comes with templates and fonts and is simple enough that anyone can figure it out. But Canva doesn't make it easy to use fonts outside their ecosystem and they're hostile to foundries which creates a barrier to purchasing type. Even if these Canva users wanted to purchase a font on their phones, they don't know how to do it. What can they do with a ZIP file from MyFonts? How does that get used on the phone?

    It seems to me that there's not that much to the Canva software itself. Its power is in the selection of templates and ease of use. What if Monotype, Creative Market, or other distributors created their own design applications for phones? These free apps could be more type-centric than Canva. Fonts beyond the included freebies could be purchased individually, leased for one-time-use or part of a subscription. These apps would include free templates and paid templates. Perhaps users that started designing with Canva will get tired of seeing the same lowbrow font selection and templates...sick of the "Canva look". Currently, if these "phone-only" budding designers want to take the next step, they need to switch to using desktop or laptop computers. Maybe in the future that next step will be moving on to one of these type-centric apps. They'll explore more advanced typographical features, and they'll end up in situations where the free font selection isn't enough. These apps could be expanded with AI helpers that train users to develop good typographic habits. An interface that's welcoming to beginners doesn't have to be dumbed down for experts. It could provide a path to becoming a professional type user as opposed to the dead-end of being a Canva user.
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