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Cristen Gillespie
03-27-2005, 03:18 PM
I'm trying to cull fonts that are obvious knockoffs--really so little difference, if any, as to be negligible. These are mainly TT fonts, where the name is changed to protect the innocent, or something like that.

I know KT has talked about good fonts, bad knockoffs, but I don't know how I figure out which font is good, which one is less good. What do we do to test them--meaning a simple test any idiot can perform to see which font sets/prints better than another. What do we look for? Is there any way to decide that doesn't take 30 years of experience?

ktinkel
03-27-2005, 05:59 PM
I'm trying to cull fonts that are obvious knockoffs--really so little difference, if any, as to be negligible. These are mainly TT fonts, where the name is changed to protect the innocent, or something like that.

I know KT has talked about good fonts, bad knockoffs, but I don't know how I figure out which font is good, which one is less good. What do we do to test them--meaning a simple test any idiot can perform to see which font sets/prints better than another. What do we look for? Is there any way to decide that doesn't take 30 years of experience?I will apologize in advance for the bad news: There is no easy way to tell.

Worse, though it grieves me to say so, there is no relationship between (let’s call it) provenance and typographic quality. There are some unauthorized copies of well-known fonts that are significantly better than the ones with the trademark.

I hasten to add that there are also lots of really, really lousy knockoffs, especially auto-magic translations from one format or platform to another.

To make things even more desperately difficult, some of the “real” fonts downloaded from pirate sites lack kern pairs or were translated from one platform to another without compensating for differences in character sets, so even though they carry the sanctified name, they will not work properly.

Sorry. Really.

Cristen Gillespie
03-28-2005, 09:06 PM
I will apologize in advance for the bad news: There is no easy way to tell.

Worse, though it grieves me to say so, there is no relationship between (let’s call it) provenance and typographic quality. There are some unauthorized copies of well-known fonts that are significantly better than the ones with the trademark.

I hasten to add that there are also lots of really, really lousy knockoffs, especially auto-magic translations from one format or platform to another.

To make things even more desperately difficult, some of the “real” fonts downloaded from pirate sites lack kern pairs or were translated from one platform to another without compensating for differences in character sets, so even though they carry the sanctified name, they will not work properly.

Sorry. Really.

Hoo boy. You mean I'm kind of stuck keeping them all on board until I have used them enough to know that one is okay, the other not so okay? I don't mean activated, by "on board"<G>, but it's still an awful lot of fonts that are terribly like one another.

I guess that also means I shouldn't automatically prefer a font because it is a T1 font rather than its TT brethren, just because it IS a T1 font. That doesn't automatically make it better, right?

I suppose I could at least check that there are kern pairs and it at least appears to the untrained eye to look like its setting reasonably well.<sigh>

One good thing about too many fonts these days--any really don't work properly, it's no great sacrifice to dump them. They are overwhelming in numbers, but I'm sure that's my fault for not being able to resist installing from every app and magazine that wants to give me something. The effort I put into organizing them and getting to know them, though, illustrates well that there is no free lunch.<BG>

donmcc
03-29-2005, 04:06 AM
it's still an awful lot of fonts that are terribly like one another.

It is not just impersonators ... Garamond, for example, comes as Garamond 3, Stempel Garamond, Adobe Garamond, Berthold Garamond, ITC Garamond, and at least one more I can't think of. The funny thing is, they are all different in some way, although you sometimes have to look very closely.

Don McCahill

Michael Rowley
03-29-2005, 07:36 AM
Don:

Type books used to be very particular about naming the foundry that supplied a particular font, so that typographers gave exact directions about which font they meant. Only less precise works ever named something as just (for instance) Garamond.

US copyright law might be partly responsible for the confusion about typefaces by not allowing that a given design could be copyrighted: the copyright laws of most countries allow a particular design to be protected no matter what name it is sold under.

The Garamond-like face you were thinking of might be Sabon.

ktinkel
03-29-2005, 08:54 AM
You mean I'm kind of stuck keeping them all on board until I have used them enough to know that one is okay, the other not so okay? Well, not necessarily. You could make a list and we could all have at it! But short of something like that, probably so.

I guess that also means I shouldn't automatically prefer a font because it is a T1 font rather than its TT brethren, just because it IS a T1 font. That doesn't automatically make it better, right?Right. And for browsers and other on-screen uses, specially-hinted TrueType optimized for the screen — like Microsoft’s set and the Adobe web fonts — is better than Type 1, which has more limited hinting.

I suppose I could at least check that there are kern pairs …More bad news — the mere presence of kerning pairs doesn’t mean a thing. A really well-spaced font is a rarity, but that is the thing to find out first. (Turn off kerning, set a wide measure — maybe 60 picas — and set some 11 point text; how does it fit?)

Then if there are kern pairs, are they good ones? Or just the house set plucked out of a file and plopped in? And are they in the right places? Are the accented characters kerned? (Often they are not.) If it is an OT font, are the small caps and other alternate characters kerned to the base font? Are overhanging characters (f, r, etc.) kerned to the space? Are punctuation marks overkerned, sitting nastily too far under the angled part of y and w?

One good thing about too many fonts these days--any really don't work properly, it's no great sacrifice to dump them.Sure, though it is not always easy to figure out which to dump. Font format isn’t a defining issue, but neither is source.

We all tend to look at fonts on screen at large sizes. You cannot tell how the type will look in text, though, unless you print it out at the sizes you intend to use. (In fact, if you are planning to send the job to an imagesetter, a laser printer will also lie to some extent.)

A good font specimen (more or less gone the way of the dodo) will always show fonts at a range of sizes. Not just a waterfall or a character set, either — you need to see massed text in the text sizes, ideally in the language you are using (none of that lorem ipsum stuff (unless you are reproducing some Ciceronian oratory!).

I have a specimen page in good old PageMaker that I use to set fonts in a range of sizes. The file can be sent to a laser printer or an imagesetter. It is not a great work of art, but more useful than most of the specimens I see today. Maybe I will convert it to InDesign some day.