Adobe’s Open Source Type Faces

A lot of people like to bash Adobe — well, there was the slowly-building debacle of Flash (which, I would like to remind everyone, started off reasonably well-intentioned) — but the fact is their most recently released applications offer amazing functionality at very reasonable prices, e.g., Lightroom. Adobe has also embraced openness to a stunning degree. Perhaps no better testimony of that is the release of two high quality open source type faces:

* [Source Sans Pro](
* [Source Code Pro](

There Are No Special Characters

Only special people who don’t know the full range of characters available within a given glyph system. More importantly, you need to be able to specify those characters reliably, and [Joe Clark has the complete run-down](, with acerbic commentary as you go. Unicode can be your friend, if you ask it nicely.

Authenticity and Type

William Berkson has a lovely write-up of his attempt to re-create the Caslon typeface. In it he reveals the actual history of the face now known as Caslon, but not known as such by its creator, William Caslon, who in fact imagined he was re-creating type faces from an earlier period. Along the way he discusses the nature of “authentic” versus “classic” things, which may prove somewhat interesting to folklorists and others who traffic in the past.

P.S. You can purchase Berkson’s rendering at The Font Bureau. (I would buy it myself — and wished for an educational discount to do so — but as reasonable as those prices are, I can’t quite rationalize it given the current economic situation.)

Google’s Gift of Fonts

Google has just made the web a bit more interesting, at least from the point of view of making design more interesting by offering a suite of fonts that any website can use. As most everyone who has ever tried to design a website is aware, almost all browsers are dependent upon a user’s local portfolio of type faces, or fonts, for constructing the text of a web page, unless that font is provided by the website, which gets into hairy software distribution and use issues, or everything is rendered as a graphic, which puts a strain on even generous download speeds — never mind your own server resources.

What that has meant is that you had to design a website targeting the most common type faces installed on almost every computer or else risking the user’s browser showing something else into its place with perhaps unappealing results. (Meaning an ugly or incomprehensible layout.) And thus the rise of Times and Verdana as well as the conquest of Helvetica by Arial.

Microsoft has been something of philanthropist here, by widely distributing a number of faces such that almost every computer has Georgia and Tahoma. Unless, of course, you are using Linux, in which case you are just out of luck.

But Google has changed all that by setting up a central font server and making it incredibly easy to use 18 different type faces — the link will take you to a page that shows them off quite nicely. All anyone designing a website needs to do is to plug the following code into your header:

<link href='' rel='stylesheet' type='text/css'>

And then place the following in your style sheet:

h1 { font-family: 'Molengo', arial, serif; }

Note: for purposes of illustration I am using the Molengo face in this example, but it’s also the new case for the body of posts here at The Human Experience.

Try Molengo for yourself.

Is It Wrong (to want fonts for Christmas)?

Is it wrong to want fonts for Christmas? This collection of [Lexon Gothic]( over at MyFonts is really nice. I haven’t seen a serif face family in a long time that looked so compelling. (Don’t get me wrong: I’m very fond of Myriad. It’s just that some time, some time, you want to stretch out. If only for a little while.)

Lexon Gothic Regular
Lexon Gothic Italic
Lexon Gothic Regular
Lexon Gothic Regular

I like that each style within the Lexon family is distinct.

Free Fonts

Most people I know are content to use the fonts that came with their computer, and thus the ubiquity of Times and Verdana. Occasionally you come across a Mac user who cannot let go of Palatino. There are people, like me, who can’t quite seem to give up Helvetica, which I use on this blog if only because one can be fairly certain that almost every computer in the world has it or the Microsoft equivalent, Arial.

Most Macs also come with a few nice looking faces like Gil Sans, Hoefler, and Garamond. Over the years, I have also invested in a few faces that I regard as basic: Adobe’s Minion Pro, for a change of serif face, and Myriad Pro, because it is a nice sans serif alternative to Helvetica and is in widespread use on signs and diagrams: people respond to it well.

Too many people I know take type faces for granted or, perhaps worse, don’t realize that type faces are not necessarily to be shared liberally. There is a way around this: acquire and use quality free type faces. And since you asked, I do have some recommendations:

* **[Gentium][gt]** is an open source font — using something called the SIL license — that allows for a wide range of uses, including commercial applications, that comes in both a a face that contains a full range of glyphs as well as *Gentium Basic* which has the most commonly used glyphs found in Western European alphabets. There is also a slightly heavier version of the latter, *Gentium Basic Book*. Download it. Use it.

* Another open source font collection is **[Bitstream’s Vera][bv]**. It comes with a full range of faces, including a monospaced face that I use on my Macs while working in Textmate. Here’s the Bitstream sampler graphic:


Bitstream’s Sampler of the Open Source Vera Type Face

In addition to these, what I could consider *core*, faces, I also recommend checking out the following sites or pages:

* *Smashing Magazine’s* list of [free quality fonts](
* Web Developer Vitaly Friedman’s list of [25 free best quality fonts](
* [The Font Diner]( has a number of free fonts as well as great deals on a few collections.

And, of course, you can always [make your own free font](