Saturday, February 13, 2010...10:35 pm

My experiment with Typekit

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Which, if you’re reading this on Freelance Unbound and not an RSS feed, you’ll see working in the headline above.

That whole new typographic look is thanks to Typekit – a service that allows web users to access a font library online and so expand the typography available to web designers.

Normally, the drawback with creating content for the web is that a visitor’s browser will only be able to see fonts that are installed on their computer.

Publishing type folks like me will have dozens of typefaces on their system, so we could happily read web sites styled up in anything from Gill Sans to Helvetica Neue, plus in my case a whole lot of Goth-style horror movie fonts I downloaded a while ago. Or rather I could, until my Powerbook died.

So now I’m in the same boat as a whole lot of other newbie computer users who rely on their Windows default font installation. I’ve got quite a few fonts, don’t get me wrong. But they’re almost all different from the ones I had on my PowerBook.

This means that if you are designing a web site, or WordPress theme, the effect is that your typography is limited to a few font families that you know everyone’s computer will be able to read. It’s a lowest common denominator thing.

But there’s a neat and, with hindsight, obvious solution – don’t pull the fonts from the user’s own computer, load them from an online type library.

The technology is straightforward – browsers can do it now. But the legalities are more challenging. So Typekit was launched last summer as an intermediary to pull together the licensing and technology into a user- and typographer-friendly package.

The user experience is pretty straightforward – just paste a Javascript embed code into your WordPress template files and you’re all set. I’ve just added it to the main index template of Freelance Unbound, so when you click through to any other page, you won’t see the Edding 780 font I’m using for headlines. (If you’re on the single post now, click through to the home page and see. Go on, it’s a ton of fun. Really.)

And choosing the fonts on Typekit is also easy enough. Though you do have to know what your CSS is doing, as you have to assign the new font to your stylesheet classes to make them work. I just changed the <h2> tag, but you can alter as much as you want.

So is this a new dawn for web design?

Given that you could only achieve fine typographic control by using Flash or embedding type in images, this is a boon for web typographers.

But given that many amateur web designers will end up making their site look like a dog’s dinner by messing around with as many “cool” fonts as they can, I suspect we’ll see a slight drop in average typographic quality online.

And, no, don’t worry – I’ll be reverting back to a real font once the novelty has worn off. (Although, actually, I am starting to quite like it…)

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