graphicpush

Thoughts on branding, design, writing and life by Kevin Potts. Established 2003.

Open Source Fonts

Web developers have been struggling within the confines of the base font installation of Windows for years. While these fonts are certainly usable and nearly ubiquitous, the constant search for image replacement nirvana shows designers squirming in their seats for more.

With the open source community approaching critical mass, several niche markets in the computing industry have recently been swept up in the movement that has Microsoft watching the rear view mirror. Recently, the font industry was introduced to type foundry Bitstream’s Vera, a typeface designed for open source developers and released for free (download) under an open license agreement.

This is more than a little interesting for web developers, who have been struggling within the confines of the base font installation of Windows for years. (In some cases, the few fonts that MacOS and Windows are supposed to share—like Verdana, Arial and Georgia—aren’t even there without installing Microsoft’s IE.) While these fonts are certainly usable and nearly ubiquitous, the constant search for image replacement nirvana shows designers squirming in their seats for more.

It’s encouraging to see typographers attempting to improve Verdana, which was originally developed by Matthew Carter as a screen-reading font for Microsoft. (Mr. Carter also designed Tahoma and Georgia, and interestingly enough, was one of the founders of Bitstream in 1981.) But rather than being tethered as a font optimized for bitmaps, Vera is optimized for all sizes and scales much more gracefully.

Hopefully the next generation of the web browsing experience will include a host of new typography options. Since not even the most compliant browsers like Opera and Firebird properly support the ”@font-face” CSS2 spec, it will be years before true font options are available to the designer.

commentary + criticism

Andrew Charles

wrote the following on Thursday April 20, 2006

Language specialist SIL has created a specific Open Source Font licence and has begun switching it’s fonts to this licence, as well as promoting it’s use by other developers. As well as a free and open licence SIL fonts provide support for a larger number of international and obscure sections of UNICODE.

http://scripts.sil.org/OFL