Even a fleeting glance at a display of magazines and newspapers shows that each publication has its own graphic identity. The font on TIME magazine is different from Newsweek, and that is different from The New Yorker, The New York Times and so on. Such difference illustrates the use of the font as a design element. Some fonts are thought to be more formal, some old-fashioned and others are definitely perky and playful. But on the web, it’s all about Helvetica, the Swiss font that celebrated its fiftieth anniversary and even has its own movie. Okay, so there is Verdana, named after the verdant greenery in Seattle and designed by Matthew Carter for Microsoft. Maybe the average person thinks about this and maybe not. But the reason for this lack of variety is that fonts are owned by their creators and it isn’t easy to regulate usage. Now a change might just be in the winds.
Last year the folks at Mozilla created the Web Open Font Format (WOFF) aimed at making a wider variety of fonts available to web designers. Those who want to use more fonts can subscribe to online font services which will allow access to the fonts made available by different designers or foundries. One such service is Typekit which offers cloud based access to fonts for subscription fees ranging from $25 to $250. To date there have been problems due to old software and other compatibility issues, but the idea is catching on. Google’s Chrome and other browsers are also getting on the WOFF bandwagon. As this new thinking on fonts take off, we’re likely to see type on the web in a whole new light. And, “Put on a happy face” could mean so much more.
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