Typeface As Programme: Glossary

Essays by Jürg Lehni
1 091 words6 min read

Calligrapher (2004) is a didactic software application that simulates and parametrizes a calligraphic pen in a simple graphical user interface. It was produced by François Rappo and Jürg Lehni for the research project “Corporate Typeface” at ECAL.

Font Constructor (2007) is a software application created by Frederik Berlaen to design fonts in an intuitive way. It exports fonts in the UFO format.

Fontographer (1985) is a font editing software, originally developed by Altsys, later acquired by Macromedia and now owned by FontLab Ltd. Fontographer was for a long time the industry standard, replaced since a few years by the more feature-rich FontLab that supports the newer OpenType format. FontLab have acquired Fontographer in 2005 and have released an OS X version in the same year. In 2010, Version 5.0 was released including support of the new OpenType format.

FontLab (1993) is a font editing software and today’s industry standard for creating typefaces. It includes scripting in Python and supports all major outline font formats, including Type 1, TrueType, Multiple Master, and OpenType.

KalliCulator (2007) is a software application created by Frederik Berlaen to generate calligraphic fonts with contrasts based on different types of parametrized calligraphic pens. The fonts can be exported in UFO format.

LaTeX (1980) is a document description language for the TeX typesetting system.

NodeBox (2003) is an open-source programming platform based on Just van Rossum’s DrawBot, designed to create two dimensional graphics using the Python language and export the results as PDFs or QuickTime movies.

Metafont (1979) is a programming language, created by Donald Knuth to describe variable, parametric fonts based on calligraphic principles and geometric equations. It was created as counterpart to Knuth’s TeX typesetting system.

Multiple Master (1992) is an extension to Adobe Systems’ Type 1 PostScript fonts that allows smooth interpolation of outlines between different “master” definitions along multiple axes, such as weight, width, or optical size of the font. A very large number of variations can be generated from a single font file.

OpenType (1996) is an outline font format initially developed by Microsoft as an extension of the TrueType format licensed from Apple, motivated by failed attempts to also license Apple’s TrueType GX technology. The effort was later joined by Adobe Systems and support for Type 1 glyphs was added. OpenType has since become the industry standard with adoption by all major font foundries and many of the minor ones.

Python (1990) is a dynamic object-oriented programming language that offers strong support for integration with other languages and tools and comes with extensive standard libraries.

PostScript (1984) is a page description programming language designed by the founders of Adobe Systems, John Warnock and Charles Geschke. Its integration in printers such as the Apple LaserWriter in 1985 sparked the desktop publishing revolution and PostScript became one of its most important standards.

Processing (2001) is an open-source programming environment created by Ben Fry and Casey Reas to teach the fundamentals of computer programming within visual contexts and to serve as a software sketchbook and professional production tool.

RoboFab (2003) is a programming library by LettError (Erik van Blokland, Just van Rossum) and Tal Leming, written in Python to facilitate scripting in type design. RoboFab reads and writes UFO font files.

RoboFog (1998) is a customised version of Fontographer that embeds a Python scripting environment, initially developed by Steven Paul and LettError (Erik van Blokland, Just van Rossum) and Petr van Blokland for the Font Bureau in Boston on top of source code of Fontographer 3.5. It has been discontinued, but much of the work and ideas live on in RoboFab.

Scriptographer (2001) is an open-source scripting environment created by Jürg Lehni to teach programming in visually oriented ways. It runs as a software plug-in inside Adobe Illustrator, opening up and extending the capabilities of this industry standard design application that is otherwise rather closed in nature.

Superpolator (2007) is a software application developed by Erik van Blokland (LettError) to facilitate complex interpolations of font glyph outlines in intuitive ways. Superpolator works with UFO font files.

TeX (1977) is a typesetting system created by Donald Knuth. Together with the Metafont language and the Computer Modern family of typefaces, it was designed to facilitate the production of high-quality publications and automates many aspects of typesetting, including indices, numbering, references, tables and bibliographies. It shows its strengths particularly in the handling of mathematical formulas and is therefore widely used in academia for scientific publications.

TrueType (1991) is an outline font format developed by Apple as a competitor to Adobe Systems’ Type 1 format, motivated by at the time high licensing costs for Type 1. The primary strength of TrueType was a high degree of control over how fonts appear on screen at various font sizes (hinting). TrueType was licensed to Microsoft and became the base for typography in Windows 3.1 onwards.

TrueType GX (1994) is an extension of the TrueType format developed by Apple to offer glyph substitution, needed for example for ligatures, and interpolation between masters along multiple axes, similar to Adobe Systems’ Multiple Master. Due to a lack of user-friendly tools to design GX fonts, the format never really became wide-spread. Much of its technology lives on as AAT (Apple Advanced Typography) in Mac OS X.

Type 1 (1984) is an outline font format developed by Adobe Systems as part of the the PostScript standard. It uses a subset of the PostScript language to store outline information. Its originally proprietary specifications were made available right after Apple announced their TrueType format, and the high licensing fees were dropped.

Type Generator (2006) is a software application created by Remo Caminada and Ludovic Varone that allows the manipulation of a parametric master font through a simple user interface. A wide range of parameters that offer control over many of the fonts characteristics can be changed either per glyph or on the level of the complete font, and the impact is visualised in real-time.

UFO (2003) is an acronym for Unified Font Object, a source format for outline fonts created by LettError. It is based on XML and designed as a human readable, easy integrable file format for storing and manipulating font data and is used in a row of newer font related applications such as Superpolator, KalliCulator and Font Constructor, mostly through integration of RoboFab. Multiple tools allow the conversion of UFO fonts to other formats, for example RoboFab in FontLab, or Tal Leming’s UFO2FDK.