October 30, 2013

The almost-forgotten (but always-awesome) Typography Primer


My motivation for writing this post can be credited to my co-worker Steve Ross. For the past year, Steve has kept saying things like, “Nicole, you know that Typography Primer that was included in Font Folio Education Essentials? It’s a really good primer.”

I always agreed with Steve when he mentioned the primer, thinking we really must do something with such a nifty resource. Then I would get busy with something else entirely and completely forget about that little Typography Primer that was hanging around, collecting dust.

Last month, Steve gave the primer to a program manager who has an office on our floor —a colleague who knows next to nothing about type (sacrilege, I know!). This (formerly) typographically unenlightened program manager read the primer, then sent us an enthusiastic email, saying that everyone at Adobe should read it so they could learn more about typography. Now, that’s something I would love to see happen! But these things take time, so I figured I’d start by sharing the primer with all the awesome folks who follow our blog.

This primer was written back in 2000, but its content is still relevant today. It talks about things like using the right character, choosing and using typefaces, combining typefaces in a publication, and loads of other interesting typographic tidbits. If you follow our blog, you probably already know a lot about type. If that’s the case, why not take a look inside anyway? Think of it as a fun refresher when you need a break from work. Perhaps it’s even something you might share with a co-worker who longs to know more about the mysterious world of x-heights and optical sizes.

And if you’re like Steve, and say to yourself, “Hey, this primer is really great,” we’d love to hear about it! If enough people give positive feedback about our dear little Typography Primer, I might be able to get some printed copies into conference goodie bags next year.

Download our Typography Primer & happy reading!

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October 24, 2013

When type geeks and alpacas collide


This summer, our managers Caleb Belohlavek and David Lemon decided it was time we hit the road for a hardcore offsite planning session. We wanted to share our extreme team-building experience with our readers—we hope you enjoy this glimpse into our life at Adobe. 

The decision to get away for a team offsite was easy; figuring out where to go was not. The location needed to be somewhere fairly close to minimize travel and maximize brainstorming time. We were also looking for a place that would promote bonding and camaraderie beyond what’s possible in a traditional office setting.

As luck would have it, Caleb is the proud owner of a beautiful log home set on 20 acres in Grass Valley, a historic Gold Rush town nestled in the western foothills of Northern California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains. A scant three-hour drive from San Jose, the artsy-yet-pastoral charms of this rural oasis are far removed from the steel-and-glass towers and traffic jams of Silicon Valley.

When Caleb offered his home to our team for an offsite, we jumped at the opportunity to get out of the city and into a quiet place for a heavy-duty planning session. We settled on July 10-12 for the trip and cleared our calendars. Caleb set to work prepping his house for an influx of guests—deck washing, hot tub prep, and stockpiling a ton of provisions.

We all arrived in Grass Valley on a Wednesday afternoon and were greeted by wide-open spaces and a menagerie of friendly natives. There’s nothing quite like a huge yard full of alpacas, goats, horses, dogs, cats, and chickens to welcome city dwellers to country living. Continue reading…

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October 17, 2013

Take it from Dr. Knuth: “The world of type is in good hands.”


Dr. Donald E. Knuth, esteemed Professor Emeritus at Stanford University and inventor of the TeX typesetting system, was awarded the third Dr. Peter Karow Award for Font Technology and Digital Typography at ATypI 2013 in Amsterdam. The 57th annual conference of the Association Typographique Internationale, held October 9–13 at the NH Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky on Dam Square, drew hundreds of delegates from around the world.

The award was presented to Dr. Knuth on October 12 by its namesake, Dr. Peter Karow (URW); David Lemon (Adobe); and Frank E. Blokland (Dutch Type Library). Held during ATypI’s gala dinner at the Krasnapolsky’s Winter Garden, the presentation took place before an enthusiastic crowd well acquainted with the contributions Dr. Knuth has made to contemporary typography and computer programming. After feasting on an extravaganza of all things typographic, the awards presentation gave ATypI attendees a chance to celebrate the historic achievements and charming personality of one of the world’s greatest—and most beloved—computer scientists.

Continue reading…

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October 15, 2013

Lasting Impressions: Adobe gives away Hamilton keepsakes at AIGA


Everyone can do simple things to make a difference, and every little bit really does count.”

—Stella McCartney

In late August, Adobe Type team members Miguel Sousa and Nicole Miñoza met up with Richard Kegler and Carima El-Behairy of P22 type foundry during TypeCon2013 in Portland to discuss the release of HWT Gothic Round. Their mission was twofold: they wanted to do something special to showcase the nearly-lost antique typefaces Miguel and his colleagues Frank Griesshammer and Paul Hunt were digitizing for the Hamilton Wood Type Foundry. Steadfast supporters of the Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum, they were determined to increase awareness about the HWT revivals project and its venerable namesake institution.

The quartet knew that, once introduced to the typographic riches housed within the museum, the greater creative community would fall in love with the Hamilton just as they had. Abiding by the mantra that the simple things are often the best things, they came up with a quiet way of spreading the word that would speak volumes.

They settled on the concept of producing a letterpress note card—blank on the inside, with beautiful typography on the front and just a small line of text on the back that would mention the revivals project and point readers to the website to learn more about HWT and the Hamilton Museum. Based on their happy experience at TypeCon, the convivial group figured there could be no better audience for a typographic keepsake than the creatives who would flock in droves to the next big design event in the US: the biennial AIGA conference (held last week in Minneapolis).

With time tight, the production immediately kicked into high gear, and when Nicole saw their vision realized a few weeks later, she was thrilled with the results. The charming cards were designed by Rich Kegler to match the conference theme—HEAD, HEART, HAND—and printed by Jen Farrell of Chicago’s Starshaped Press. Jen also wrote a terrific article unveiling the process of printing the keepsakes.

As Adobe was a presenting sponsor of HHH13 (the event’s Twitter hashtag), there were plenty of HWT cards on hand to distribute at our booth. To no one’s surprise, attendees loved the cards—especially the lucky ones who got inky at the letterpress workshop led by the Hamilton’s fabulous Moran Brothers and hosted by Studio on Fire in Minneapolis.

And now, for a close-up of the lovingly letterpressed keepsakes:  Continue reading…

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October 13, 2013

The Type 42 Font Format: Humor & History

Don't Panic

Although now part of history—thanks to OpenType—one of the legacy PostScript font formats that has some mystique surrounding it is Type 42, mainly because of the apparent significance of that number in a particular series of books. I wrote the following on page 379 of my latest book as a description: Type 42 fonts are actually TrueType fonts with a PostScript wrapper so that they can reside within PostScript printers, and act much like PostScript fonts. A TrueType rasterizer must be present on the PostScript device in order to use Type 42 fonts.

The full specification is still available.

Due to the nature of the three books I have written, Type 42 is mentioned, and with each subsequent book, more details about its history, in terms of selecting the number 42, are able to be revealed to the reader. This article chronicles the coverage of Type 42 in these three books, and while there is clearly some humor intended, there is also value in knowing the true history of this font format. What appears in this article are footnotes from these books, shown in their entirety, preserving their format (and any typos).
Continue reading…

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October 9, 2013

From Broadsides to Websites: Miguel Sousa brings wood type to digital life with HWT Gothic Round


Last week, we talked about the adventures of Adobe type designer Miguel Sousa as he traveled the US conducting research on his sabbatical project, a revival of a historic wood typeface. He carefully paged through gorgeously produced antique specimen books and studied the shopworn surfaces of giant wooden letters stained with the ghosts of ink from bygone eras. Miguel printed with rare alphabets hewn from nineteenth-century timber, fueling his imagination as he worked to craft a typeface that would smoothly meld historical charm with advanced typographic technology.

The result of Miguel’s summer sabbatical journey—along with many months spent on research and type design and production in San Jose—is the finishing of a face that captured his heart, released this week as HWT Gothic Round. Continue reading…

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October 8, 2013

SVG in OpenType: Genesis

It all started late in 2009. The Adobe Type Team pointed to the fact that Unicode was moving towards standardizing emoji (emoticons common among Japanese mobile providers). They asked: How can we get this into fonts?

In the words of the inimitable Taro Yamamoto of Adobe Type, Japan, considering “the rather active and colorful nature of emoji,” we could not use Compact Font Format (CFF) or TrueType outlines. We needed a graphics format capable of richer expressiveness.

At the time, Flash was central to Adobe’s vision for mobile, so we planned to add a multimedia table to OpenType that could represent colored animated glyphs in Flash (SWF) or other media formats. Embedded SWF descriptions would be played within a security sandbox in Flash. We christened the table with the four-character tag ‘MUME’—a contraction for multimedia—and had fun with its pronunciation. Should it be mummy or moo me?

We never decided on that detail, because, since then, instead of moving forward with multiple media options, we converged on a single open standard format in which to define the glyphs: Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG), a part of HTML5. The table tag was simply ‘SVG ’ (note the trailing space). In October 2011, a W3C community group was formed to drive the project. Most of the specification work has taken place within the group, with help from the larger font community, including tool vendors. The work will be formally presented for font standardization in January 2014 at the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) meeting in San Jose, California.  Continue reading…

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October 3, 2013

Adventures in Wood Type: Miguel Sousa lends a helping hand (or two) to the Hamilton

One of the perks Adobe offers to its employees is paid sabbatical leave every five years. Going on sabbatical—taking a strategic pause from the everyday work routine—provides boundless opportunities for in-depth research, broadening skills, and recharging mental batteries.

A native of Portugal, Miguel Sousa began his career with Adobe in 2006, after graduating from the MA Typeface Design program at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom. When it came time to take his first sabbatical, he considered a number of options. He knew he wanted to challenge himself, enrich his practical education, and give something back.

In the summer of 2012, Miguel attended the TypeCon conference held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. As a prelude to the main event, he participated in an intensive letterpress workshop held at the Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum, located in the little town of Two Rivers, about 90 miles north of Milwaukee. The museum, a non-profit, volunteer-driven labor of love, houses a collection of more than 1.5 million pieces of wood type.

Continue reading…

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September 30, 2013

Adobe fonts for Indian languages

It is with great personal pride and relish that I announce the release of two new Adobe font families for Indian languages. Adobe Tamil and Adobe Gujarati were both released over the weekend, bringing the number of Indian writing systems supported by the Adobe Type Library to a total of four. Each of these families consists of two styles: a regular and a bold. The designs have been completed with print work in mind, as traditional publishing is still very much a vibrant industry within India. These new type families follow the release of two other Adobe type families for Indian languages, Adobe Devanagari and Adobe Gurmukhi, which have already been available for some time. All of these families are currently available for purchase in the Adobe Type Store.

Adobe Devanagari typeface sample

Continue reading…

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September 24, 2013

Highlight: Dr. Donald E. Knuth

As we announced last week, Dr. Donald E. Knuth was unanimously chosen to receive the third Dr. Peter Karow Award for Font Technology & Digital Typography. It would appear that we are not alone in thinking Dr. Knuth is rather amazing—since the award announcement, we’ve heard from his colleagues, friends, and fans from around the globe, congratulating the jury on making such a wise choice. Since Dr. Knuth is such an accomplished gentleman and scholar, we couldn’t limit his story to a single post. We’re delighted that Barbara Beeton, bug collector (aka TeX entomologist) for Dr. Knuth, was willing to share another chapter in his long and storied tale.


Dr. Donald E. Knuth is best known as a computer scientist, author of The Art of Computer Programming (often referred to by its acronym, TAOCP). A monumental undertaking originally projected to comprise seven volumes, TAOCP is intended to be an exposition of everything known about the subject. When Volume 1 was published in 1968, it was composed using the time-honored Monotype process, notable for its suitability for technical material.

The TAOCP project progressed smoothly for three volumes—published in 1968, 1969, and 1973—but advancements in the subject matter soon overtook the writing. When, in 1978, a second edition of Volume 2 was required, the Monotype was unfortunately dying out, replaced by newfangled “photocomposition.”

Dr. Knuth looked at his photo-typeset proofs in horror. Gone were the elegant text and math displays that exemplified a fine technical publication. In their place were pages full of words and symbols that, except for the use of typographic fonts, may as well have been prepared on a typewriter. This is not how Dr. Knuth felt his work should be presented to the world. He decided to take a break from writing and devise a method of harnessing zeros and ones to replicate the quality he knew possible from his experience with Monotype composition. Dr. Knuth guessed it might take six months, or at the outside, a year.

In the end, it took about ten years to create TeX (the composition software), Metafont (a program for creating fonts for use with TeX), and a collection of the fonts he needed to produce TAOCP, as well as a new approach to writing computer code—“literate programming.” Continue reading…

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