Typekit launched recently amid a tremendous buzz from designers and bloggers across the web.
What Typekit offers are ‘real’ fonts on the web. Don’t quite know what this means. Surely Arial, Verdana, Georgia, Tahoma et al are all ‘real’ fonts. I think what they mean is that there is now access to a huge library of extra fonts to employ in browser-based design beyond the standard set of ‘browser-safe’ fonts.
This sort of follows on from my previous post about Art Direction on the web. This wider choice of fonts should allow greater freedom for the designer to inject some personality into their designs and help achieve some differentiation. As, arguably, the nicest browser-safe serif-font, Georgia, is used all over the place for online publishing. The arrival of Typekit should, if nothing else, help reduce the reliance on Georgia for this purpose.
So how does Typekit work? It’s actually quite clever. You see, the problems with fonts online are the same as digital music publishing, namely DRM. As soon as I install a font on my web server and use it on my site then I need a license for the distribution of that font. Despite the fact that some tiny foundries license their fonts for this purpose, the vast majority don’t.
This works in all major browsers (Firefox 3.5 and up, Safari 2.4 and up) and even IE (version 5 an up) woo hoo! I’ve had a brief play around with it and if my rudimentary CSS and HTML skills can make it work then it shows that they’ve got it very right.
However, I’m slightly wary of where this might lead. The old saying ‘just because you can, doesn’t mean to say you should’ needs to be plastered all over the Typekit site. The font catalogue may be extensive but there are some absolutely hideous examples of the typographer’s craft on there. Allow the user to set them small onscreen any they’ll be completely illegible.
This may also open up the floodgates for some crimes against typography. Remember when, in the early-mid 90s when the PC, and thus cheap desktop publishing, became more and more pervasive? The world became filled with rainbow coloured, Times, Comic Sans and Brush Script-rendered signs in corner shops? Probably done by the same people who used the <blink> tag and texture-mapped animated gifs. I fear we may be treading the same path again.
Whatever, in the right hands this promises a very exciting future for web-based editorial design and art direction. A future that may be even brighter when some of the larger foundries come onboard with the likes of Garamond, Franklin Gothic, Clarendon etc.
For those that care about typographic nuances I found this useful tool, Web Font Specimen, for examining exactly how a given font will render in a browser, at different sizes, white out and at varying shades of grey.
[Update - 18 November 2009] Typekit have just announced on their blog that they’ve struck a deal with the FontFont foundry. So, fonts like [Update - 18 November 2009] Typekit have just announced on their blog that they’ve struck a deal with the FontFont foundry. So, fonts like FF Meta, FF Dax, and FF Netto will now be available.