10 Jun 2008

Your Own Fonts (Cool!)

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Jason Fagone, at Stale, has an article on a program calculated to keep people like my wife out of mischief for days.

In April, an online font clearinghouse called FontShop quietly uploaded a program that, the company wrote, was meant to be “purely entertaining—something to kickstart creativity.” FontStruct, a browser tool that lets anyone create an original font, was so popular that the site’s servers crashed within days of the official launch. …

No disrespect to Adrian Frutiger—who is, of course, the Swiss graphic designer who created the Univers and Frutiger typefaces—but why would anyone want to be a little Frutiger? More broadly, why do people create their own fonts? What’s the payoff?

There’s something about that moment when your own letters begin to flash across the screen. Partly, it’s sheer childlike bliss—after all, how many hours do we spend as kids learning how to write in cursive, writing our name over and over, regarding our handwriting, hoping it’s special, stylish, distinguishable from the next kid’s? But it’s also satisfying in a distinctly grown-up way. If you’re reading this, you’re probably like me, and you have a job in which you stare at a screen all day. And it’s not even your screen. It’s somebody else’s pixels and windows and letters. Make a font and you start to screw with the scenery—the banal yet elemental DNA of your daily existence. It’s as if you could design and build your own subway turnstile or change the color of a Starbucks cup from off-white to fuchsia. Here’s a program that lets you commit a small, safe, infinitesimally subversive act and then share it with the world. FontStruct may make it worth aspiring to be a little Frutiger, after all.

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