The key role of Fontographer in the font revolution
An excerpt from my newest book, due out in late fall of 2011…
The world of font design has radically changed in the digital world of graphic design. We no longer make huge careful drawings, reduced to perfection, and exquisitely carved out of metal or exposed onto film. We make mathematically precise, infinitely editable, completely resizable shapes output as code.
The software that brought about that change is the focus of my new book: Practical FontDesign for Graphic Designers: Fontographer 5.1. The major change in the type design industry happened earlier with much more expensive proprietary digital systems. But for us it happened when Macromedia released FreeHand Graphics Studio—a bundle with FreeHand 5.5, XRes, Extreme 3D, and Fontographer 4. By the time the Graphics Studio that came with FreeHand 7 came out, FreeHand was approaching its peak of popularity with well over 200,000 users. The Graphics Studio gave large numbers of eager, newly digital, graphic designers a wonderfully easy and intuitive tool for designing fonts. Most of us at least played with it. If you knew FreeHand, Fontographer was obvious and easy to use.
Fontographer was a revelation. Few knew this was the program that started it all as far as we were concerned. It was the first PostScript illustration program with its release in January 1986 by Altsys, with version 2.0 coming out in the fall of 1986. Illustrator was not released until January 1987. FreeHand came out in 1988 as a further development of Fontographer into a complete drawing program.
With the vagaries surrounding FreeHand’s demise as it traveled from Altsys to Aldus and back to Altsys with Adobe’s purchase of Aldus then on to Macromedia (under governmental anti-trust pressure) to its death at the hands of Adobe when it was purchased again, Fontographer was left alone and simply became a standard that “everyone had” in their arsenal. FontLab purchased the rights to it. The application was left alone even as it suffered by being left behind without an upgrade to the new world of Mac OSX at the beginning of the new millennium.
The good news: Fontographer 5.1 has been worth the wait
Many of us were excited when FontLab purchased Fontographer in the Spring of 2005. An OSX-compatible version with no changes to the interface was released in 2006. Finally a new version, Fontographer 5, was released in June 2010. This book is being written using the new Fontographer 5.1 which has been rewritten for the most recent OSX, Lion, which will no longer support Rosetta and the PowerPC applications.
Hundreds, even thousands, of new font designers
What Fontographer did was add many new designers to the font world. When I was given the opportunity to write my first textbook on the all-digital printing workflow in 1994, I used Fontographer to design all the fonts I used in that book. I was frustrated with the lack of true small caps and lowercase figures in the common text fonts available in that day. I designed the Diaconia family, based on Minister. Plus, I created NuevoLitho, a radically loosened C&lc version of Lithos, for the heads. My font design career took off when I was contacted by Makambo and asked if I wanted to offer my fonts for sale through them. My experiences with the thievery surrounding shareware fonts led me to try that. When Bitstream started MyFonts (absorbing Makambo in the process), they asked me to offer my fonts with them. I found a satisfying new source of income along with the creative outlet.
Fontographer is almost certainly at least partially responsible for the huge growth in the number of font designers. At one time, there were upwards of 50,000 Fontographer users. Even though there are only a couple hundred members in the professional type designers’ groups like ATypI and TypeCon, Fonts.com (Monotype) currently shows 1751 designers. MyFonts lists 1268 foundries, many of whom have several or even many designers. This does not include the thousands of graphic designers who have modified a font for their own use and/or made a partial font.
I’m just a typographer and graphic designer who loves type. I am very much an outsider to the font industry. My experience is that font designers are a wonderfully individualistic group of people—though there is certainly a huge amount of pompous poopery.
Our only shared attributes are a love of type, typesetting, typography, and strong opinions. But our differences stand out in that we cannot even find a common definition of the word typography. All of this is coupled with the fact that typographers are an esoteric and inconspicuous niche of a relatively small trade. Our concerns are virtually unknown outside the industry.
[This is a short portion of the introduction to my new book, Practical FontDesign for Graphic Designers: Fontographer. The book should be released sometime in November of 2011 if all goes according to a rather loose schedule.]
- 1st public release: Practical Font Design For Graphic Designers: Fontographer 5.1 (bergsland.org)
- Why I switched back to Fontographer 5.1 (bergsland.org)
- It’s Back! Fontographer Returns in v5 (prweb.com)
- PR Uncial is a history lesson in digital font-making (macworld.com)