Mar 9, 2008

champion script pro

in designing typefaces, the amount and regularity of interaction between characters is inversely proportional to the complexity of the design process. monospaced typefaces like courier new have characters that never connect, and which have uniform spacing (hence monospaced); courier new thus requires only as many glyphs (distinct symbols making up a set) to be designed as there are characters to be represented. other than the challenge of creating pleasing and functional character shapes, designing this typeface is relatively simple. monospaced typefaces have their place, but that place tends not to be in the realm of human readability and aesthetic appreciation.

we like (and read more easily) type that visually flows together. due to, among many other things, the different shapes of character forms, this flowing-together requires different spacings between characters and, sometimes, special characters that represent the interaction of two or more characters or the inclusion of ornamentation to text. the set of total glyphs for a typeface that is trying to be beautiful thus is significantly larger. in the past, designers had to manually replace individual groups of characters with the glyphs that represented their interaction -- ligatures, for example. increasingly, designers are programming these glyph substitutions into their typefaces so that they occur automatically upon text entry. you may have noticed this happening in your word processor: as you type words like "final," the f and the i draw together and the dot on the i vanishes into the fi ligature, which is a single glyph replacing two glyphs. the new typeface standard, opentype, supports much more of this variety of typographic sophistication than truetype did before.

glyphs represent particularistic connections between characters and other symbolic elements of a typeface -- in general, the greater the diversity of character interaction, the more glyphs need to be created. ornamented typefaces create enormous problems for digital typesetting, even when the script being emulated is relatively formal, regular calligraphy. early attempts at calligraphic typefaces never achieved the spontaneous structure of good hand calligraphy and early attempts at handwriting (like brushscript) were reprehensible.

just today, ministry of type highlighted a great new typeface that appears to address many of the shortcomings of earlier calligraphic typefaces. champion script pro, from parachute fonts, is based on the calligraphy of joseph champion, an 18th-century british calligrapher -- and supports every major western european language based on latin, greek, and cyrillic scripts in two font-weights. it does this with a mind-boggling 4280 glyphs, where the basic set for courier new (in english only, admittedly) gets by with just 94. the story of the typeface's development is worth a read.

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