Playing with Typography

I’ve been playing with typography a bit lately. It’s a surprisingly addictive way to waste time.

I’ve read Robert Bringhurst’s “The Elements of Typographic Style” and I rather liked it. The problem is, of course, once I’ve read it I couldn’t stop thinking about typography.

I know that I do a lot of things very wrong on this website – I use the wrong symbols for quotes, apostrophes, and dashes. I probably use the wrong fonts on the wrong places. That, and a million of other small details.

I don’t necessarily want perfect typography – but I’ve started to try and correct at least the most glaring errors (I know, I know, some might say that the biggest error is using green font on a green background – I obviously disagree about that one). I do like Futura, so I’ve changed the headlines to something vaguely like it (There aren’t that many free geometric fonts to choose from). I’ve also played a bit with the margins and line-heights and that sort of thing.

The result is nowhere near perfect but I do think it’s better than what things looked like before.

One great way to waste even more time is to design a font face. I obviously lack the expertise to do that properly – but that has never stopped me and it won’t now.

There quite a lot of open source font creation tools around – I’ve tried using FontForge, a graphical outline editor, but the version that ships with Debian doesn’t seem to play very well with the tiling window manager I use. It’s also a quite powerful tool – too powerful for beginners like me.

I have then briefly looked at METAFONT, Donald Knuth’s font programming language. But while the concept is quite nice and easy things are surprisingly easy to achieve, the whole system is much too involved for my needs.

I don’t want to become a font designer, I just want to play around with a few parameters.

And, as luck would have it, I’ve just found a tool that does exactly that:

metaflop, a web-based graphical user interface for METAFONT. Including webfont export.

I’ve only found that thing an hour ago and I can’t stop playing with it. It’s really well made, and you don’t have to know anything about fonts to use it. It’s a lot of fun.

Well, only if you use the same strange definition of “fun” as I do, of course.

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