Posts tagged ‘typefaces’


Remarks on the typography of Star Wars

16.12.2015

Star Wars is in my feed in a big way. To get up to speed on the film series, I had to start with the memorable theme by John Williams.

Thanks, Bill and Paul.
   And who better to describe the plot than someone else in the science-fiction world, Doctor Who?

   Seriously though, I hope all friends who are big Star Wars fans enjoy Episode VII. It seems to be getting positive reviews, partly because it appeals to our sense of nostalgia. It hasn’t blown anyone away in the same manner as the 1977 original, but then Disney would be very foolhardy to stray for this sequel. If you are building a brand that was at its height 30 years ago, nostalgia isn’t a bad tool—just ask the team that came up with the 1994 Ford Mustang. J. J. Abrams—the creator of Felicity and What about Brian?, plus some other things—has apparently been a genius at getting just enough from the past.
   One item that is from Star Wars’ past is the opening title, or the crawl. I’ll be interested to learn if they’ve managed to re-create the typography of the original: they were unable to provide perfect matches for Episodes I through III because of the changes in technology and cuts of the typefaces that made it into the digital era. The main News Gothic type is far heavier in these later films. ITC Franklin Gothic was used for ‘A long time ago …’ for I to III; this, too, was originally News Gothic, but re-releases have brought all six films into line to use the later graphic.
   However, it could be argued that even between Episodes V and VI there were changes: News Gothic Extra Condensed in caps for the subtitle for The Empire Strikes Back, switching to Univers for Return of the Jedi. (It seems even the most highly ranked fan wiki missed this.) And, of course, there was no equivalent in the original Star Wars—’A New Hope’ was added in 1981.
   Here’s how it looked in 1977:

And if you really wish to compare them, here are all six overlaid on each other:

   I wasn’t a huge fan in the 1970s: sci-fi was not my thing, and I only saw Star Wars for the first time in the 1980s on video cassette, but I did have a maths set, complete with Artoo Detoo eraser (I learned my multiplication table from a Star Wars-themed sheet) and the Return of the Jedi book of the film. But even for this casual viewer and appreciator, enough of that opening sunk in for me to know that things weren’t quite right for The Phantom Menace in 1999. I hope, for those typographically observant fans, that The Force Awakens gets things back on track.

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Posted in humour, marketing, TV, typography, UK, USA | No Comments »


Looks like the Microsoft man was wrong about this, too

11.02.2012

Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer

A final postscript on my IE9 blank-window bug, again solved, as so many technological matters are here, by not following the advice of a self-proclaimed “expert”.
   Hayton at the McAfee forums—which seem to be populated with polite people—mentioned the Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer earlier today. This checks for what updates are missing, etc.
   As I was told that my missing Windows 7 updates were a direct cause of my ‘injudicious’ use of System Restore by the man from Microsoft—who then proceeded to say that the only way to fix my blank-window issue was to format my hard drive—I wanted to confirm that he was wrong about everything.
   You see, he was wrong about the cause of the bug. He missed the basic fact that before my System Restore, IE9 was already not working. And I suspected he was wrong about the updates, since they should have occurred before the System Restore.
   This is what you get with some of these experts: they’re never right.
   And lo and behold, what did I discover?
   Just as I expected: Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer reported that all my updates were up to date and I wasn’t missing a thing.
   Lesson: believe polite people. Disbelieve snarky people. Especially if they tell you to format your hard drive.

Speaking of experts, Conrad Johnston found gold today for our Font Police site. In Whitby, there are some Experts in property—that’s right, with a capital E. If you’ve been to our Font Police site before, you’ve never seen anything this bad yet. One façade, countless offences—it’s the funniest one we’ve ever had.

Finally, here’s a Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 thread that’s even weirder, as one user finds that the browser is incompatible with Helvetica and Neue Helvetica. Mine works with these families, but it looks like the only way William La Martin got his IE9 going was to delete them.
   Based on recent experience, the IE developers at Microsoft really have a problem with handling fonts.

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Posted in internet, technology, UK, USA | No Comments »


Google humour: the Helvetica search that doesn’t come out in Helvetica

01.04.2011

[Cross-posted from Tumblr] Found via Chris Brogan: if you Google Helvetica, Google will deliver the results in your default typeface—in my case, Alia. (If you look at the Snap Shots thumbnails that pop up, they’re in Times.) It’s weird, because I thought a fun trick would be to deliver the results in Helvetica (which is, of course, installed on our computers). The other queries display in our usual sans serif default (Lucire). Strange, but kind of fun.
   It’s the sort of thing that passes for humour inside Google, I believe. This and one of the folks inside the place having principles and getting rid of Google Places for being a content mill.

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Posted in humour, internet, typography, USA | No Comments »


What others write about their Firefox crashes; Chrome is the oddity with font-face

16.12.2010

Mozilla Crash Reports

It has been interesting reading the comments from other disgruntled Firefox users over the ‘unmark purple’ error (nsXULControllers::cycleCollection::UnmarkPurple(nsISupports*))—now that I can trace the majority of my crashes to this.
   Yesterday, Mozilla’s Crash Reports’ site crashed (rather fitting), and today, the CSS wouldn’t load, which allowed me to read what others wrote on the Crash Reporter dialogue box.
   Unhappy Firefox users who are finding our favourite browser plagued with endless problems. As there was no mention of ‘unmark purple’ in the 3·6·13 change-log, I presume we’re going to continue to suffer till Firefox 4 comes out. (Beta 8 is due out around the 21st now, delayed by several weeks.)
   Here is a selection of comments, complete with typos. One is from me (guess which one; no prizes offered):

why is this happenign so much lately…at least once a day..I get disconnected from Firefox

Really got fed up with this. Why this is happening again and again?

Yet again…c’mon Mozilla!!!!

and again

god .. whats wrong with mymozila .. ???

i CAN’T BELIEVE YOU’VE DONE THIS!

Two crashes in two days. Nothing unusual at all. Flash, of course.

After the update.. this is 3. crash.. // güncelleme sonrası 3. oldu çöküşü oldu.

it just went off air

Well, looks like your 3·6·13 update didn’t solve the crashes. Plug-in container crashed at the same time.

boom goes the dynamite

   The positive Firefox news today is that we implemented our first font-face, at the Lucire website. We’ve been experimenting with font embedding ever since Microsoft WEFT at the turn of the century, and the results were always variable.
   They are by no means consistent today, because I’ve noticed that it works in Firefox, IE8 (before it crashes, but, then, it is Microsoft; and without kerning) and Opera 11 Beta (also sans kerning). Despite the presence of SVG files and references to them in the stylesheet, and the assurance that it is now switched on by default, it does not work on Chrome. No surprises there, with Google’s ever-buggy, typographer-unfriendly browser, though I am willing to accept the possibility that we mucked up on the CSS spec.
   It’s the Royal Wedding headline that has a font-face spec, set to JY Fiduci:

Lucire with font-face
Firefox 3·6·13

Lucire with font-face
Chrome 8

Lucire with font-face
Opera 11 Beta

Lucire with font-face
Microsoft Internet Explorer 8

   Big thanks this week to Andrew, who installed some of the Lucire font family to see if he could experience what I do with these browsers. Interestingly, he did not encounter Opera’s ligature and quotation-mark bug (where any word containing a ligature changes font, and where quotation marks and apostrophes display in another font altogether) on any browser, though we did learn that Firefox 4 and IE8 were the only two browsers that picked, on his computer, the right weight for some of the specified type. He could see the installed fonts in his Chrome menu, unlike me. However, he was able to confirm that soft hyphens were not being picked up by Chrome—they were being displayed as regular hyphens, mid-line. (You can see this in the Chrome screen shot above.)
   Another friend, Steven, was able to confirm Chrome’s failure to switch fonts when it encountered a change in language. Thank you, gentlemen, and for those who called to help earlier, for giving me the benefit of the doubt.

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Posted in design, internet, publishing, technology, typography, USA | 3 Comments »


Giving Chrome a thrashing, including its typography

19.11.2010

My friends Julian and Andrew both provided advice on how to fix the Firefox problems I had been having. Removing and reinstalling plug-ins seems to have solved the constant crashing, though eventually it stopped loading images whenever it felt like it (hit ‘Reload’ enough times and they would return) and Facebook direct messaging stopped working. It did crash a couple of times since their advice and, strangely, on pages without Flash animations (prior to that, it would almost always crash when Flash was around).
   I got rid of my old profile and created a new one (a lot easier than it looks, though some of the Mozilla help pages are lacking) and all seemed to be pretty stable. About the only thing it could not do was opening some Javascript windows, but then, that could be the remote site or the scripting.
   As Karen and I communicate via Facebook DMs during the day, not having the feature is a bit of a pain. I had to go into Opera to read her message to me—I recall how one of my friends had to change browsers just to use the now-dead Vox.com site. So, after some insistence from friends who do know better and are far more expert than me on web browsers (Nigel), I re-downloaded Chrome and gave it another shot.
   I’m going to continue using Firefox, too. It would be unfair after the phone calls from Julian and the DMs from Andrew if I didn’t. I want to see first-hand if their suggestions paid off, and I’m sure they’d like to know, too. But, I gave Chrome a good thrashing beginning 30 hours ago without any crashes (other than a page with a Flash plug-in that failed to load and needed four refreshes), though it must be said that in my first 30 hours with Firefox, it probably didn’t crash, either.
   I tried Chrome before I began my year of Google-bashing, and back then, it was about on a par with Firefox in terms of speed. And since Chrome didn’t have as many useful extensions, I decided that it really wasn’t worth the trouble of switching. After all, Firefox, then, was a fairly stable browser, in the pre-3·5 days. It was since 3·5 that the problems really started …
   Now, Chrome is the speed champion, by some degree. I always have an echo delay on Twitter; it’s unnoticeable on Chrome. Pages load more quickly. And if I dislike Google and I compliment them, you know it’s pretty good.
   There are some differences with the way it interprets CSS and HTML. The column on the right of this blog page is flush on Firefox and Internet Explorer, but there are some entries that jut out to the left on Chrome. (I know which CSS spec does this, too—I have to admit that on this, Chrome is likely right and Firefox and IE are wrong.) My company home page columns are less well balanced on Chrome, down to the way it handles tables—no widths are specified so I can’t really say who’s right and who’s wrong.
   Interface-wise, one pet peeve is the lack of a pull-down address bar. Since this has been part of browsers since Netscape 1, its omission goes against the habits of some web users, I am sure. My father relies on this, in particular: as a relatively new web user he doesn’t like typing URLs again and again. I, too, found myself getting annoyed that it wasn’t there. (Going through the Google forums and in searches, there are others who would like it appear in a future release of Chrome.)
   Andrew had a bit of a joke at my expense when I told him that I still used Google Toolbar, as a Google-hater. It is useful given that it has an “up” button (to go up one directory level), which neither Firefox nor Chrome has. Interestingly, there is no Google Toolbar for Chrome, which has made my Google News searches a bit harder. And with Duck Duck Go as my default search engine, that’s the only one Chrome searches with when I type a query in—though I can always search on Google by typing Google as the first word in my query.
   So functionally, Chrome doesn’t fully work with my habits.
   Now on to typography. Like Opera, glyphs on Chrome appear finer, which I like. And unlike Opera, Chrome doesn’t change fonts on you mid-line. And no sign of bitmaps, either!

   However, it is lacking in some cases versus Firefox. The font menu (above) is incomplete, for starters. The PostScript fonts I have are gone, which is fair enough, given that PS1 is obsolete. But a lot of my OpenType and TrueType fonts are also missing.
   Granted, I have more fonts installed than the average person, but there’s neither rhyme nor reason for which ones are omitted. Adobe Caslon and Adobe Garamond aren’t there. My Alia and Ætna aren’t there. And that’s just the As. But I can choose from Andale Mono and ITC Avant Garde Book. Not really much of a choice.
   The last two browsers I remember that limited the typeface choice were Netscape 6 and Internet Explorer 5. IE5 also was PS1-free, but there was no OpenType in those days. My choices were limited, but I lived with it. But to have Chrome’s selectiveness over OpenType and TrueType is a bit strange, to say the least.
   I’ve noted this on the Google forums which, as you may recall, was where my whole frustration with Google began. As expected, no one gives a damn. But rather no one than an argumentative a****** whose job, it seems, is to obstruct and disbelieve rather than assist and empathize.
   Funnily enough, even though the Lucire family that we use in-house is missing from the menus, guess what Chrome displays a lot of sites in? You got it: Lucire 1. This is most likely due to the font substitute set I have programmed in to our computers (this is why I found it odd that Opera failed to make the substitution when I tested it). In fact, everything you would expect to be in Verdana comes out in Lucire 1. I’m not sure why Verdana has been substituted (it’s Arial that’s substituted in the registry), but I rather like this serendipity on Chrome. Imagine: all of Facebook and WordPress in a typeface you designed. I simply find Lucire 1 easier to read than Verdana (sorry, Matthew and Vinnie) and that suits me to a T.
   However, this leads to other problems. While IE, Firefox and Opera are quite happy to switch to another font to display non-Latin text, when the chosen font lacks those glyphs, Chrome doesn’t. As I never made non-Latin glyphs for Lucire 1, then everything in Cyrillic, Greek and Chinese—the three non-Latin languages I encounter in a given week—comes out as dots. In fact, the dots seem to emerge in the strangest places (this example from Tumblr):

Chrome displays a lot of dots

I thought they were the hard spaces till I realized that this blog entry’s paragraph indents are made up of them (it’s not a CSS spec!). They appear at the strangest places and I can only assume this is linked to Chrome’s incompatibility with (or omission of) some OpenType fonts.
   For the overwhelming majority of users, Chrome is perfectly fine. Downloading it does not add an extra entry on my Google Dashboard, so, as far as that company is concerned, there’s no immediate connection between my use of this product and the privacy issues that it has suffered from this year. Users can turn off crash reports so Google doesn’t know where you’ve been. Most people also don’t care about typography to the same degree as I do, and again Chrome delivers there, if you want a basic, no-frills browser. It has its quirks, but, then, every browser does. I have always preferred the clean interface in Chrome to the others, so that’s another bonus.
   I’m still not prepared to make it my default browser yet. You can’t get me on to the dark side just yet. The advantage it would have over a crash-free Firefox (if such a thing exists) is speed, and I’m still not 100 per cent seduced by its charms. It’s not like the case for IE5 over Netscape 6—a browser that leapt ahead versus a piece of bloatware. Nor is it like the case of Firefox 3 over IE7. But if Google has improved Chrome’s speed this much since I originally downloaded it, and such a pace continues, it might make a very firm case for itself in the very near future.

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Posted in design, internet, technology, typography, USA | 5 Comments »


A typeface designer’s test of the Opera browser

01.11.2010

After my endless complaints about Firefox crashing on Twitter (even with a fresh install, it still crashes multiple times daily—even on the machine where the hard drive was reformatted), I was pointed to Opera 10·63.
   I can tell it’s not really designed for anyone who likes type. Here’s how my Twitter page looked, with the default settings:

Opera on Windows XP

In case you think your eyes are deceiving you, those are, indeed, bitmap fonts. Actual size.
   Here’s a page from Twitpic:

Opera on Windows XP

   On our computers, where Arial is absent, Opera defaults to System. It ignores whatever you feed into the font preferences until you start tweaking the CSS under opera:config. This is ridiculous. Since we have FontSubstitutes fed in to the Windows registry to indicate how Arial should be substituted, and every other program we have understands this, it seems silly for Opera to stand alone—and to substitute to one of the least likely fonts as a new default.
   But say you have Arial, or any other typeface, installed. Opera still has a problem. It cannot display quotation marks in the specified typeface. This, to me, is ridiculous: if IE5 and Netscape Navigator 4·7 can, then Opera 10 should be able to do that. Here’s an enlargement from Khoi Vinh’s Subtraction blog:

Opera on Windows XP

It’s meant to be set in Helvetica. It is—except for the quotation marks.
   However, I can’t dis Opera too much because Firefox 1 and 2 had this rather serious omission, something I complained about at the time. It was only Firefox 3 that someone decided that displaying punctuation in the same font as everything else might not be a bad idea.
   It also does something funny to any word with an or ligature: it changes the font for that word. Nothing else, just that one word.
   On Firefox 2, it would display only the ligature in another typeface. This was my test in 2006:

Firefox 2 on Windows XP

Here’s what Opera does, with the affected words highlighted:

Opera on Windows XP

Weird? You’re telling me, especially as the typeface appears to be Garamond Light—something I only specified for the H1-tagged headlines as a default. Believe me, there are no H1 codes on the page.
   I guess with the smaller user base, there have been fewer bug reports filed about these issues. I have filed one on the default fonts, and will be doing another on the remainder.
   The good news is that Opera doesn’t seem to crash quite as often. It also seems more compatible with Flash: my father, who browses news sites a lot, says he has far fewer problems with video buffering, even on an older machine. And I prefer the look of the browser—Google Chrome has really changed the æsthetics of how we expect browsers to look.
   So if you can live with the alleged weaker security and the poor typography, Opera seems to be a good browser. However, I can’t live with poor typography, so I might only use the browser as a back-up.
   In summary, in my world:

  • Firefox: crashes all the time;
  • IE8: cumbersome;
  • Opera: bad typography;
  • Chromium: interprets some code oddly;
  • Chrome: made by Google, and 2010 is my year of being Google-sceptic.

I use Safari on the Mac, but we’ll leave that to another blog post.

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Posted in internet, technology, typography | 3 Comments »