Font Bureau, Ascender Create Service for Improved Web Fonts

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By: E&P Staff

The Font Bureau Inc., Boston, and Ascender Corp., Elk Grove Village, Ill., have launched Webtype.com, a venture to serve Web designers and developers with publication-quality fonts to improve site typography and readability. The service is available with various custom Web font options to accommodate sites of all sizes.

Much has changed since technical issues limited how fonts could be used on Websites, and designers may have heard about options for using fonts other than the handful of “Web-safe” choices. And new Web font services have come on the market as all major browsers now support @font-face technology for linking fonts to Web pages. While some offer viable solutions for some cases, the partner companies said the “only way to maintain certain essential requirements was to start from scratch.” Their resulting Webtype collaborates with designer-consultant Roger Black, Petr van Blokland, a designer and educator specializing in typography, and Chicago-based DevBridge, which specializes in Web design and management, application development and e-commerce systems.

The modular Webtype service’s licensing allows users to pay only for fonts they need and for the level of traffic a site draws, and allows a free month’s testing of any Webtype.com font. Font Bureau and Ascender also can provide specialized fonts through Webtype.

Each font is hinted — the instructions programmed into it to optimize on-screen rendering on screen. While such instructions are often automated, because only a human eye can evaluate and tune a font to the optimal level of quality, each is hinted by Tom Rickner and Ascender’s experts so that it renders crisply and cleanly across all browsers and operating systems, according to the companies. For setting paragraphs of small text, even the best hinting won’t ensure success. So fonts “are designed from the ground up, with all the technological quirks in mind.”

For that, the companies say they developed the Reading Edge (RE) series of fonts. Styled to correspond to existing print typefaces from the Font Bureau library, they are entirely new designs produced specifically for setting highly readable on-screen text. The series currently consists of five font families and provides designers with a flexible palette of useful text typefaces.

In addition to the new RE series, users can also expect to see many classic Font Bureau typefaces optimized for web use by Webtype, along with select fonts from other designers and foundries available over the coming months.

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