New Thought on Type and an Introduction

Subject: New Thought on Type and an Introduction
From: Frank Stearns <franks -at- PACIFIER -dot- RAIN -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 9 Nov 1993 08:10:27 -0800

Friends -

I wish this list had been available 20 years ago when I started contract
writing and editing. Such a group would have been good support for
someone "learning in the trenches".

While still doing some real writing and editing (I joined this list to
"keep up"), in recent years more of my time has gone into developing
special tools for FrameMaker users. If you'll indulge a gentle commercial
message: I have an automatic hypertext linker (has more features than
4.0's new built-in linker), and also a FrameMaker-to-Ascii filter (this
one does tables). Other new tools are currently under development. On
request I'll send more info on what's now available. (Currently, all
tools are for DOS or UNIX only.)


One thing I've not seen in the "typeface" thread is the impact of
document production/delivery methods. Is the document going out on paper?
Electronically? Both? If paper, how are you reproducing the material?
Offset? Photocopy? Direct image? If for screen use, what is the worst
case resolution? Color usage? Can you find faces that will serve both

Demands for fast turns and low volume mean that lower-resolution methods
are common (photocopy, 72 dpi screens, etc). 2500 or 1250 line offset
typically happens only for large runs of stable documents with plenty of
lead time. How many of those have you done lately??

While not a governing factor, "noise" in the production chain should be
considered in font selection. What was once a pleasing visual experience
output from a 400 dpi laser printer can get ugly fast when reproduced by
poor copiers, or when rendered on a 72 or even a 100 dpi screen.

I try to get "production worst case" for the paper and screen designs I
do for my clients. We see if serifs will hold and look good -- or if the
serifs look like toner problems or stuck bits in a frame buffer. With
displays I also try to see how screen font metrics affect text at
different magnifications. (This is important for both end users and
writers -- can the user read the text effortlessly? Will the writer's
eyes survive a revision cycle?)

One leans towards sans serif in some instances. There's simply less to go
wrong. But if your serif type holds up, by all means use it.

Pleasant online text displays can be tricky. The majority of serif screen
fonts (and many sans serif screen fonts) really don't look very good. You
might find a serif face that looks great at 10 pt on screen, but the
11 pt of that same face looks ugly. Poor width tables and bad rounding
cause many problems; relatively low resolution screens don't help.
(Hardware is different; your mileage may vary.)

Display postscript is a step in the right direction, but the limit is
still set to the resolution of the underlying hardware.

The moral of the story is that we can't ignore the production part of the
font mix until such time as 4000x3000 screens are common (requires a lot
of raw power but we'll get there some day), and 1250 line laser printers
and copiers are standard (we're nearly halfway there now).

That aside, we never will be able to do much about poorly maintained
image setters or end users with eighteen months of dust and smudges on
their displays. :)

We've found it helpful to keep these things in mind when doing page

| Frank Stearns Developers of Tools for FrameMaker(r) |
| Frank Stearns Associates Custom Tools |
| 206/892-3970 Designers of Online Environments |
| franks -at- pacifier -dot- rain -dot- com Contract Writers and Editors |

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