Sammlung von Newsfeeds
The winners of the 2014 Terry O’Neil Award have been announced, with Italian photographer Giorgio Bianchi collecting the first prize with a documentary series covering the crisis in Ukraine. Behind Kiev’s Barricades won Giorgio £3000 and a commission for the UK’s Guardian newspaper. Take a look at some of the winning images. See gallery
Sigma has acknowledged a problem that Pentax users are suffering from when the company’s 17-70mm f/2.8-4 DC Macro HSM Contemporary lens is used on Pentax DSLR bodies with in-camera image stabilization activated. To rectify the issue the lens manufacturer has promised a firmware update for the lens, but hasn't yet specified a release date. Read more
Tamron has announced availability and pricing for its much-anticipated 15-30mm F/2.8 stabilized wide angle zoom. Set for availability on January 30th in Canon and Nikon mounts with Sony to follow later, the lens will retail for $1199. Read more
On the eve of the Super Bowl, legendary US-based sports publication 'Sports Illustrated' has laid off its remaining six full-time staff photographers. According to Sports Illustrated director of photography Brad Smith, speaking to News Photographer Magazine, the decision was made due to 'economic circumstances'. Click through to read more, including an interview with Jordan Stead, staff photographer for the Seattle Post Intelligencer.
Samsung has released a major firmware update for the NX1. Announced earlier this month, firmware v1.2 bring additional features, increased customization and several menu refinements. DPReview was one of the organizations that provided Samsung with feedback on the camera and shooting with the new firmware over the past couple of weeks has shown us that several of the requests we made have been incorporated. Read more
Once again, it’s all about the glories of nature - Our December Photo of the Day contest winners revealed!
Camera Deals of the Day: Canon 5D3 & 6D Printer Bundles; Canon 6D Bundle $1,249; Canon 70D Printer Bundle $799; Canon PowerShot G1X $449 and more!
Choosing typefaces for use on the web today is a practice of specifying static fonts with fixed designs. But what if the design of a typeface could be as flexible and responsive as the layout it exists within?The glass floor of responsive typography
Except for low-level font hinting and proof-of-concept demos like the one Andrew Johnson published earlier this week, the glyph shapes in modern fonts are restricted to a single, static configuration. Any variation in weight, width, stroke contrast, etc.—no matter how subtle—requires separate font files. This concept may not seem so bad in the realm of print design, where layouts are also static. On the web, though, this limitation is what I refer to as the “glass floor” of responsive typography: while higher-level typographic variables like margins, line spacing, and font size can adjust dynamically to each reader’s viewing environment, that flexibility disappears for lower-level variables that are defined within the font. Each glyph is like an ice cube floating in a sea of otherwise fluid design. The continuum of responsive design is severed for variables below the “glass floor” in the typographic hierarchy. Flattening of dynamic typeface systems
The irony of this situation is that so many type families today are designed and produced as flexible systems, with dynamic relationships between multiple styles. As Erik van Blokland explained during the 2013 ATypI conference:If you design a single font, it’s an island. If you design more than one, you’re designing the relationships, the recipe.
Erik is the author of Superpolator, a tool for blending type styles across multiple dimensions. Such interpolation saves type designers thousands of hours by allowing them to mathematically mix design variables like weight, width, x-height, stroke contrast, etc.Superpolator allows type designers to generate variations of a typeface mathematically by interpolating between a small number of master styles.
The newest version of Superpolator even allows designers to define complex conditional rules for activating alternate glyph forms based on interpolation numbers. For example, a complex ‘$’ glyph with two vertical strokes can be automatically replaced with a simplified single-stroke form when the weight gets too bold or the width gets too narrow.
Unfortunately, because of current font format limitations, all this intelligence and flexibility must be flattened before the fonts end up in the user’s hands. It’s only in the final stages of font production that static instances are generated for each interpolated style, frozen and detached from their siblings and parent except in name.The potential for 100–900 (and beyond)
The lobotomization of dynamic type systems is especially disappointing in the context of CSS—a system that has variable stylization in its DNA. The numeric weight system that has existed in the CSS spec since it was first published in 1996 was intended to support a dynamic stylistic range from the get-go. This kind of system makes perfect sense for variable fonts, especially if you introduce more than just weight and the standard nine incremental options from 100 to 900. Håkon Wium Lie (the inventor of CSS!) agrees, saying:One of the reasons we chose to use three-digit numbers [in the spec for CSS font-weight values] was to support intermediate values in the future. And the future is now :)
Beyond increased granularity for font-weight values, imagine the other stylistic values that could be harnessed with variable fonts by tying them to numeric values. Digital typographers could fine-tune typeface specifics such as x-height, descender length, or optical size, and even tie those values to media queries as desired to improve readability or layout.Toward responsive fonts
It’d be hard to write about variable fonts without mentioning Adobe’s Multiple Master font format from the 1990s. It allows smooth interpolation between various extremes, but the format was abandoned and is now mostly obsolete for typesetting by end-users. We’ll get back to Multiple Master later, but for now it suffices to say that—despite a meager adoption rate—it was perhaps the most widely used variable font format in history.
More recently, there have been a number of projects that touch on ideas of variable fonts and dynamic typeface adjustment. For example, Matthew Carter’s Sitka typeface for Microsoft comes in six size-specific designs that are selected automatically based on the size used. While the implementation doesn’t involve fluid interpolation between styles (as was originally planned), it does approximate the effect with live size-aware selections.The Sitka type family, designed by Matthew Carter, automatically switches between optical sizes in Microsoft applications. From left to right: Banner, Display, Heading, Subheading, Text, Small. All shown at the same point size for comparison. Image courtesy of John Hudson / Tiro Typeworks.
There are also some options for responsive type adjustments on the web using groups of static fonts. In 2014 at An Event Apart Seattle, my colleague Chris Lewis and I introduced a project, called Font-To-Width, that takes advantage of large multi-width and multi-weight type families to fit pieces of text snugly within their containers. Our demo shows what I call “detect and serve” responsive type solutions: swapping static fonts based on the specifics of the layout or reading environment.
One of the more interesting recent developments in the world of variable font development was the the publication of Erik van Blokland’s MutatorMath under an open source license. MutatorMath is the interpolation engine inside Superpolator. It allows for special kinds of font extrapolation that aren’t possible with MultipleMaster technology. Drawing on masters for Regular, Condensed, and Bold styles, MutatorMath can calculate a Bold Condensed style. For an example of MutatorMath’s power, I recommend checking out some type tools that are utilizing it, like the Interpolation Matrix by Loïc Sander.Loïc Sander’s Interpolation Matrix tool harnesses the power of Erik van Blokland’s MutatorMath A new variable font format
All of these ideas seem to be leading to the creation of a new variable font format. Though none of the aforementioned projects offers a complete solution on its own, there are definitely ideas from all of them that could be adopted. Proposals for variable font formats are starting to show up around the web, too. Recently on the W3C Public Webfonts Working Group list, FontLab employee Adam Twardoch made an interesting proposal for a “Multiple Master webfonts resurrection.”
And while such a thing would help improve typographic control, it could also improve a lot of technicalities related to serving fonts on the web. Currently, accessing variations of a typeface requires loading multiple files. With a variable font format, a set of masters could be packaged in a single file, allowing not only for more efficient files, but also for a vast increase in design flexibility.
Consider, for example, how multiple styles from within a type family are currently served, compared to how that process might work with a variable font format.Static fonts vs. variable fonts
With static fonts
With a variable font
*It is actually possible to use three masters to achieve the same range of styles, but it is harder to achieve the desired glyph shapes. I opted to be conservative for this test.
**This table presumes 120 kB per master for both static and variable fonts. In actual implementation, the savings for variable fonts compared with static fonts would likely be even greater due to reduction in repeated/redundant data and increased efficiency in compression.Number of weights3Virtually infiniteNumber of widths2Virtually infiniteNumber of masters64*Number of files61Data @ 120 kB/master**720 kB480 kBDownload time @ 500 kB/s1.44 sec0.96 secLatency @ 100 ms/file0.6 sec0.1 secTotal load time2.04 sec1.06 sec
A variable font would mean less bandwidth, fewer round-trips to the server, faster load times, and decidedly more typographic flexibility. It’s a win across the board. (The still-untested variable here is how much time might be taken for additional computational processing.)But! But! But!
You may feel some skepticism about a new variable font format. In anticipation of that, I’ll address the most obvious questions.
This all seems like overkill. What real-world problems would be solved by introducing a new variable font format?
This could address any problem where a change in the reading environment would inform the weight, width, descender length, x-height, etc. Usually these changes are implemented by changing fonts, but there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to build those changes around some fluid and dynamic logic instead. Some examples:
- Condensing the width of a typeface for narrow columns
- Subtly tweaking the weight for light type on a dark background
- Showing finer details at large sizes
- Increasing the x-height at small sizes
- Adjusting the stroke contrast for low resolutions
- Adjusting the weight to maintain the same stem thickness across different sizes
- Adjusting glyphs set on a circle according to the curvature of the baseline. (Okay, maybe that’s pushing it, but why should manhole covers and beer coasters have all the fun?)
Multiple Master was a failure. What makes you think variable fonts will take off now?
For starters, the web now offers the capability for responsive design that print never could. Variable fonts are right at home in the context of responsive layouts. Secondly, we are already seeing real-world attempts to achieve similar results via “detect and serve” solutions. The world is already moving in this direction with or without a variable font format. Also, the reasons the Multiple Master format was abandoned include a lot of political and/or technical issues that are less problematic today. Furthermore, the tools to design variable typefaces are much more advanced and accessible now than in the heyday of Multiple Master, so type designers are better equipped to produce such fonts.
How are we supposed to get fonts that are as compressed as possible if we’re introducing all of this extra flexibility into their design?
One of the amazing things about variable fonts is that they can potentially reduce file sizes while simultaneously increasing design flexibility (see the “Static fonts vs. variable fonts” comparison).
Most interpolated font families have additional masters between the extremes. Aren’t your examples a bit optimistic about the efficiency of interpolation?
The most efficient variable fonts will be those that were designed from scratch with streamlined interpolation in mind. As David Jonathan Ross explained, some styles are better suited for interpolation than others.
Will the additional processing power required for interpolation outweigh the benefits of variable fonts?
Like many things today, especially on the web, it depends on the complexity of the computation, processing speed, rendering engine, etc. If interpolated styles are cached to memory as static instances, the related processing may be negligible. It’s also worth noting that calculations of comparable or higher complexity happen constantly in web browsers without any issues related to processing (think SVG scaling and animation, responsive layouts, etc). Another relevant comparison would be the relatively minimal processing power and time required for Adobe Acrobat to interpolate styles of Adobe Sans MM and Adobe Serif MM when filling in for missing fonts.
But what about hinting? How would that work with interpolation for variable fonts?
Any data that is stored as numbers can be interpolated. With that said, some hinting instructions are better suited for interpolation than others, and some fonts are less dependent on hinting than others. For example, the hinting instructions are decidedly less crucial for “PostScript-flavored” CFF-based fonts that are meant to be set at large sizes. Some new hinting tables may be helpful for a variable font format, but more experimentation would be in order to determine the issues.
If Donald Knuth’s MetaFont was used as a variable font model, it could be even more efficient because it wouldn’t require data for multiple masters. Why not focus more on a parametric type system like that?
Parametric type systems like MetaFont are brilliant, and indeed can be more efficient, but in my observation the design results they bear are decidedly less impressive or useful for quality typography.
What about licensing? How would you pay for a variable font that can provide a range of stylistic variation?
This is an interesting question, and one that I imagine would be approached differently depending on the foundry or distributor. One potential solution might be to license ranges of stylistic variation. So it would cost less to license a limited weight range from Light to Medium (300–500) than a wide gamut from Thin to Black (100–900).
What if I don’t need or want these fancy-pants variable fonts? I’m fine with my old-school static fonts just the way they are!
There are plenty of cases where variable fonts would be unnecessary and even undesirable. In those cases, nothing would stop you from using static fonts.
Web designers are already horrible at formatting text. Do we really want to introduce more opportunities for bad design choices?
People said similar things about digital typesetting on the Mac, mechanical typesetting on the Linotype, and indeed the whole practice of typography back in Gutenberg’s day. I’d rather advance the state of the art with some growing pains than avoid progress on the grounds of snobbery.
Okay, I’m sold. What should I do now?
Experiment with things like Andrew Johnson’s proof-of-concept demo. Read up on MutatorMath. Learn more about the inner workings of digital fonts. Get in touch with your favorite type foundries and tell them you’re interested in this kind of stuff. Then get ready for a future of responsive typography.
Late last year we asked you to vote for your favorite products of the 2014 in four categories: best lens, best high-end compact camera, best enthusiast ILC and best high-end ILC. Voting ran through January 20th and the results are in! Click through to see the results of our 2014 readers' polls, and for a chance to vote on the overall winner, which we'll announce next month.
In a new blog post, Adobe has said Lightroom 6 will require a 64-bit operating system, meaning it will only run in 64-bit versions of Windows 7, or OS X 10.8 or newer. The announcement suggests Lightroom 6 will continue as a stand-alone application, rather than being swallowed into the company's subscription-only Creative Cloud program. Read more
Light & Motion has introduced a new GoPro companion light called the Sidekick, and is seeking funding for its production on Kickstarter. The Sidekick is designed to attach directly to the GoPro's existing mount, eliminating the need to carry an external light, though it retains some flexibility via an optional armature for positioning the light. Read more
Not long ago at the Refresh Pittsburgh meetup, I saw my good friend Ben Callahan give his short talk called Creating Something Timeless. In his talk, he used examples ranging from the Miles Davis sextet to the giant sequoias to try to get at how we—as makers of things that seem innately ephemeral—might make things that stand the test of time.
And that talk got me thinking.
Very few of the web things I’ve made over the years are still in existence—at least not in their original state. The evolution and flux of these things is something I love about the web. It’s never finished; there’s always a chance to improve or pivot.
And yet we all want to make something that lasts. So what could that be?
For me, it’s not the things I make, but the experience of making them. Every project we’ve worked on at Bearded has informed the next one, building on the successes and failures of its predecessors. The people on the team are the vessels for that accumulated experience, and together we’re the engine that makes better and better work each time.
From that perspective it’s not the project that’s the timeless work, it’s us. But it doesn’t stop there, either. It’s also our clients. When we do our jobs well, we leave our clients and their teams more knowledgeable and capable, more empowered to use the web to further the goals of their organization and meet the needs of their users. So how do we give our clients more power to—ultimately—help themselves?Not content (k?n?tent) with content (?käntent)
Back in 2008 (when we started Bearded), one of our differentiators was that we built every site on a CMS. At the time, many agencies had not-insignificant revenue streams derived from updating their clients’ site content on their behalf.
But we didn’t want to do that work, and our clients didn’t want to pay for it. Building their site on a CMS and training them to use it was a natural solution. It solved both of our problems, recurring revenue be damned! It gave our clients power that they wanted and needed.
And there are other things like this that gnaw at me. Like site support.
Ask any web business owner what they do for post-launch site support, and you’re likely to get a number of different answers. Most of those answers, if we’re honest with ourselves, will have a thread of doubt in their tone. That’s because none of the available options feel super good.We’ll do it ourselves!
For years at Bearded we did our own site support. When there were upgrades, feature changes, or (gasp!) bugs, we’d take care of it. Even for sites that had launched years ago.
But this created a big problem for us. We were only six people, and only three of us could handle those sorts of development tasks. Those three people also had all the important duties of building the backend features for all our new client projects. Does the word bottleneck mean anything to you? Because, brother, it does to me!
Not only that but, just like updating content, this was not work we enjoyed (nor was it work our clients liked paying for, but we’ll get to that later).We’ll let someone else do it!
The next thing we did was find a development partner that specialized in site support. If you’re lucky enough to find a good shop like this (especially in your area) hang on to them, my friend! They can be invaluable.
This situation is great, because it instantly relieved our bottleneck problem. But it also put us in a potentially awkward position, because it relied on someone else’s business to support our clients.
If they started making decisions that I didn’t agree with, or they went out of business, I’d be in trouble and it could start affecting my client relationships. And without healthy client relationships, you’ve got nothing.
But what else is there to do?We’ll empower our clients!
For the last year or two, we’ve been doing something totally different. For most of our projects now, we’re not doing support—because we’re not building the whole site. Instead we’ve started working closely with our client’s internal teams, who build the site with us.
We listen to them, pair with them, and train them. We bring them into our team, transfer every bit of knowledge we can throughout the whole project, and build the site together. At the end there’s no hand-off, because we’ve been handing off since day one. They don’t need site support because they know the site as well as we do, and can handle things themselves.
It’s just like giving our clients control of their own content. We give them access to the tools they need, lend them our expertise, and give them the guidance they’ll need to make good decisions after we’re gone.
At the end of it, we’ve probably built a website, but we’ve also done something more valuable: we’ve helped their team grow along with us. Just like us, they’re now better at what they do. They can take that knowledge and experience with them to their next projects, share that knowledge with other team members, and on, and on, and on.
What we develop is not websites, it’s people. And if that’s not timeless work, what is?
Australian microphone maker RØDE has announced a new digital wireless system called RØDELink. It uses 2.4GHz transmission with 128-bit encryption while transmitting on two channels simultaneously. The system can monitor and change frequencies as needed to maintain the strongest signal, transmitting a 24-bit/44.1k signal up to 100 meters. The first product based on the system, the RØDELink Filmmaker Kit, will be of interest to digital filmmakers. Read more