On page 73, the section on anti-aliasing, I must have stared at the words ‘smooth’ and ‘none’ for a good two minutes, trying to see the difference. I felt like that poor kid in the second grade class who couldn’t see the kangaroo in the Magic Eye illusion.
Well, at least I can see the differences in typefaces. And I can appreciate them, too. Page 72 discusses how during the early years of the web, designers were limited to just a few typefaces. Poor souls. This notion of being limited by your medium got me thinking, though. I realize that printing with movable type meant that you have to design each character individually, and piece them together to form words. Today, though, we saw some examples in class of custom designs, in which the typeface went beyond the individual letters, and incorporated the entire words into that particular style. For instance, there was one word Rene showed (let’s say it was ‘flap’) in which the stem of the p swooped down and underlined the whole word. You could never do that with movable type, because each letter-block, or stamp, is self-contained. In order to pull this technique off, the stem of the p has to have a sort of self-awareness (how postmodern!) of its placement in the entire word, so that it knows how to go about underlining itself.
I wonder if we’ll see more of this kind of thing made available to us in everyday word processors.
On page 76 there is the artist’s sketch of the font, Castaways. I wonder what would happen if more programmers got involved in font programming. The scenario I’m imagining is: you type a word–let’s say it’s ‘damp’–and then you hit the spacebar. Suddenly, the whole word morphs. The stem of the d swoops upward and to the right; the stem of the p swoops downward and to the left. Suddenly the word ‘damp’ is encapsulated in itself; it has wrapped itself up in a sort of bubble. I bet they already have this sort of thing out there in one form of another, but I’d be curious to see more of it–perhaps in a more subtle, more functional form than the way I’ve just described. What I’m getting at is: right now typefaces are mostly designed on a letter-to-letter basis; I’d love to see more typefaces designed on a word-to-word basis.
Toward the end of this section, on page 92, there is a discussion about how designers are putting words in space in a way that the reader is released from linearity. I see this working well in advertising, of course, wherein the reader is invited to look at, say, the big phrase in the middle of the page first, and then move outward from there … but I haven’t seen this done–at least, not very effectively–on the narrative level. I read stories from left to right. With no exceptions. But I do look forward to the day a designer comes along, and compels me to read them otherwise.