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Home arrow Tuesdays with Tukaiz arrow Technology Making Cross-Media Design Easier, More Elegant
Technology Making Cross-Media Design Easier, More Elegant
Tuesday, July 05 2011

Today, creative professionals are tasked with developing work across more mediums than ever before, especially when it comes to creative marketing and advertising. Executing cross-media design effectively is still a constant challenge where trade-offs are often made depending on the target channel. As technology advances, creative trade-offs across channels are slipping away, offering designers much more creative freedom in a cross-media environment. Over the next few weeks on Tuesdays with Tukaiz, we’ll be exploring how technology is making cross-media design easier and more elegant than ever before. Today, we’ll be focusing on the evolution of fonts and digital typography.

One of the biggest challenges that Web designers have faced for well over a decade is the usage (or lack thereof) of fonts. Digital typography proliferated in the late 1980s and through the 1990s, ushering a wave of old fonts being digitized and new fonts being designed and distributed. With digital fonts came digital licensing and the need to have a physical font file on-hand to be able to use it in the digital design and layout process.

While the invention of the Portable Document Format (PDF) file enabled people to embed fonts in output files and share a design as intended, this proved much more challenging on the Web. Web designers can declare any font name they want in a Web design they are working on, but they need a delivery and rendering mechanism for that font or the end-user needs to have that font installed on their computer to display correctly. Therefore, if you declare the text in the page you are designing to display as “Century Gothic,” only those that have that font installed will view the page as intended. While there are a core set of Web fonts that the wide majority of computer users have installed (e.g., Arial, Courier New, Georgia, Times New Roman, and Verdana to name a few), it leaves designers with a very limited palette of type choices and requires inefficient workarounds.

The persistence of this issue led to an initiative to vastly improve the capability of type display via the Web, while maintaining the need from type foundries to keep a licensing system intact. The result is the Web Open Font Format (WOFF), which was developed by the Mozilla Foundation (creators of the Firefox Web browser) and two type designers. The format is essentially a wrapper for existing font formats, like TrueType and OpenType, that includes compression for faster rendering and additional, optional metadata fields that can be used to collect information about usage for licensing purposes. Support for actually implementing WOFF fonts already exists within the framework of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS); Firefox, Internet Explorer 9, Google Chrome, and Apple Safari all support the WOFF specification, as well. Great examples of WOFF implementations can be found here, here, and here.

There is lots of promise for WOFF adoption in the future in a number of ways. WOFF enables much more freedom in Web design in general without the reliance on a small set of universally-available fonts. Furthermore, it improves accessibility, multilingual support across a variety of languages and character sets, search engine optimization by reducing or removing the need to make bitmaps images of special fonts, and enables companies to have consistent branding across a greater array of mediums. Furthermore, design and authoring tools like InDesign, Dreamweaver, and even content management systems with rich editors will be able to support the seamless creation and display of high-quality design. The future of Web design looks a whole lot cooler.


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