Rendering, Hinting and Aliasing

Week 4

This week was about selecting a typeface that suits your needs. As well as picking the right face for your content/paper/message, we touched on picking a typeface for a digital context. Useful info about licensing etc, we also learnt about the process of rendering, and the use of hinting and aliasing in web fonts.

I hadn’t realised that OpenType fonts actually hold more data in the font file than postscript and truetype. And apart from the sales pitch at the end there is a nice little animation here. And I guess that’s why it’s often larger than other font file types.

Having learnt the basics of how type is rendered on a screen, we had a go and colouring the pixels by hand. A piece of tracing paper with a 2cm grid – the ‘pixels’ – overlaying a letter. If the centre of a square overlays the letter it gets coloured in, and so you end up with an aliased, un-hinted glyph. The beginning of rendering a typeface.

IMG_4139 copy

Hinting is more about the even width of lines in a glyph – certain strokes are matched with others and will render at the same width. Hinting data is stored in the font file.

I was very interested to learn about what makes a typeface readable, or not. Everything from the x-height (bigger is more legible) to the heights of the ascenders and capitals (the more difference the better… within reason) have an effect on the clarity. For example, with a typeface with too much conformity, eg Helvetica, the eye first simply sees a rectangle and has to work harder to identify letters.

Right typeface for the right context.
As well as choosing a typeface because you like it, or it has the right ‘mood’, it’s necessary to think about the functionality. If you are styling a headline, ensure that the face works well at a large size – or use a typeface designed specifically for this person – a display/titling font, for example Big Caslon. There are faces that work well for both body copy and headers, eg Spiekermann’s Meta and JT Enigma.

We talked a lot about pairing fonts – successful when harmony is found in the contrast.

IMG_4133 copy

The variations in shapes, curves, geometry and contrast within the glyphs need to be considered when using multiple typefaces.

‘So you need a typeface’
‘Meet your type’ – Font Shop
Lost font
DS Type
Our type


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