I love typography - there, I said it. Although whilst I can’t confess to being a true type nerd (mentioning no names Rich Rutter), I am happy to spend plenty of time geeking out over x-heights, ligatures, weights and a whole host of other tiny details to find the ‘perfect’ typeface.

Ben White
Ben White
28th April 2017

The process of ’sweating the details’ is something I’m sure plenty of designers will associate with typography and is testament to how much effort goes into designing and crafting a typeface. Traditionally these ‘details’ have been constrained to the shape and space that individual glyphs occupy and their relationships to one another - type designers have had no consistent method of embedding additional attributes into a digital typeface - no way of communicating any intentional usage or personality past outlined physical form.

That is until recently - enter ‘colour fonts’. Now, at this point I won’t pretend to have extensive knowledge of the technical details (read - I’ll fluff over them), but essentially colour fonts allow SVGs to be embedded inside OpenType font files, enabling details such as colour and transparency to be designed and inherent to the font itself. Pretty cool. Unfortunately it seems that browser and application support is fairly slim at the moment, but both Firefox and Adobe are on the list, so potential future uptake looks promising.

So what does this look like? Well, a beautiful recent example is the font ‘Gilbert’, created in honour of Gilbert Baker, LGBTQ activist and artist who created the Rainbow Flag. NewFestNYC Pride partnered with Fontself and Ogilvy to produce the font and have released a free standard and colour font version for all to use.

Whilst the standard font is really well designed, it’s in the colour font that the crafting, personality and relevance are really communicated - having lived and worked in cities that explicitly support the LGBTQ movements, for me the font echoes the vibrancy, diversity and positivity of those communities and feels immediately part of their design language - a real homage to Bakers’ enduring work - beautiful.

What is really interesting is how much more personality and intention is communicated in the colour font - without all the additional colour information much of the relevance is missed - in essence the format is enabling the (intended) design. By using technology such as this as part of design, new tools and possibilities are opening up for designers - I’m sure this means much more great work to come, and more details to sweat!

This was originally posted on my own site.