Typotheque is pleased to announce the release of Elementar, a parametric bitmap font system designed by Gustavo Ferreira.

It has been a long road, to say the least. Work on Elementar began in 2002, but the first official announcement of the project wasn’t made until 2009, and version 1.0 is just being published now in 2011. In the last two months alone, a team of five designers and programmers have been intensively involved in the final production of the fonts, interfaces, presentation and documentation.

Elementar comes with a browser-based Font Navigator for browsing the thousands of available fonts, using intuitive sliders to explore different heights, weights and styles of the font system.

Elementar, you see, not only pushes the boundaries of current font technologies and definitions, it proposes a radically different path for designing and working with fonts on the screen. We had to invent new workflows, create a new set of font production tools, struggle with formats, shake off outdated preconceptions, and fight the uphill battle against changing standards and application support. We believe, however, that it was worth the effort in the end.

What makes Elementar so revolutionary? Conventional practice today is to design fonts using mathematically-defined outline curves, a flexible system which produces optimal results on high-resolution devices such as printers, but not on low-resolution devices such as computer monitors and other electronic displays. Font designers then use TrueType hinting, (an immensely labour-intensive process), to help the fonts manipulate the rasteriser (the software that maps the curves onto the display) into producing legible results at low resolutions. (Or, in most cases, designers forego the hinting entirely and leave the end users to fend for themselves.) Be that as it may, the result is a compromise that hinders the development of new type.

Elementar takes a completely different approach. Rather than try to adapt ‘printable fonts’ to the screen, this system embraces the distinctive characteristics of digital media, producing fonts designed specifically for electronic displays, eliminating the need for hinting or ‘smart’ rasterisers. Although its bitmap fonts are non-scaleable and size-specific, it achieves flexibility by using a family of thousands of ‘pre-scaled’ fonts. This low-tech approach produces solid, stable typeface designs which display consistently across all kinds of screen-based media because they are platform- and technology-independent. Elementar breaks free from the confines inherited from older technologies and opens the door to the exploration of the unique properties of digital media: the dimensions of time and interaction, the power of computation, and the universe of hypertext.

We are looking forward to seeing what you will build with Elementar.

More about Elementar


Elementar Slides on TPTQ Flickr and on Hipertipo Flickr