Monthly Archives: November 2011

Timeline of font formats and production software (updated v5)

Font formats timeline

Timeline of font formats and production software (version v10)

Timeline of font formats and production software (version v10)

While working on the past Designa Conference presentation (November 2011) about the development of an online software tool/service to help design typefaces, I’ve been compiling data for a timeline on font formats and production software packages.

While rushing through the slides, I got stuck with the few data compiled from the typography chapter from my PhD draft thesis. I’ve decided to share the working version…

Since then, thanks to the feedback I’ve got from many friends, colleagues, and important designers and programmers I’ve corrected much of the information in it, as well as aligned the dates properly. By now, the scope of it has changed, and now it list not the main production software, but almost all of them… I hope I haven’t missed anything important, although there is still much to be done and revised.

The latest (and final?) version 9 is being included in the short paper to be published by the organization.

The purpose is to better understand how font formats have evolved, and how software  has “helped” develop them. Ultimately, this aims to better understand the role of the designer and how processes have evolved through time. This timeline compilation only lists the ones that have been put into use:

  • the main outline font formats developed;
  • the main parametric based development/production systems;
  • the main font production software (once again with the emphasis on Outline Fonts).

Author of the timeline and original research and literature review:

  • Pedro Amado


Notes and Revisions

[update 1: contributions] A quick thank you note to Vítor Q. for replying with Truetype GX, F3 font formats – I didn’t know about F3, and I thought TTGX was just another Apple proprietary mania… He also sent a couple of page description languages like Interpress and PCL 5, but AFAIK these use other formats internally, like Intellitype. Stephen Coles and Rui Abreu mentioned Robofab… After ageeing, I’ve added it, but since then he also sent me Font Remix Tools… Finally a quick thanks to Diogo O. for reminding me to add SVG and WOFF fonts. Although he mentioned EOT also (another packaging format for TTF / OTF) these web font formats are pretty important, and I believe they will mold the future of the technology!

[update 2: enter the giants] Thanks to Stephen Coles for warning me to insert/correct the “van” in the names of Petr van Blokland, Erik van Blokland, otherwise besides being wrong, I guess it would just be confusing! Just another quick note to remind that it is still missing many font production software packages. I’ve concentrated my efforts on mapping only the main outline font formats and main production software, but I it can still be complemented. Please drop me a note!

[update 3: new formats] Thanks to the feedback obtained (mainly on twitter) I’m currently working on version 6 of this graphic.I’m adding a couple of formats and parametric systems do the timeline. Now the analysis is somewhat different…

[update 4: analysis, analysis, analysis...] On the one hand, the 5.1 version of the graphic reveals a “break” in the development cycle of new formats/solutions  , 1977 and 1989-90. On the other hand, it also reveals that there was an intense development of different solutions in 2001-03, 2006-07 and in 2009. This raises several questions while contradicting the common notion that new industry developments had come to a halt with the release of Fontlab 3+…

[update 5: author, and list of contributors]

[update 6: never-ending story...] Ok, every time I update the timeline, I find new tools or formats to include, or the ones in the timeline need correction… I’ll be updating as regularly as I can until it’s good enough for everyone…

[update 7: still missing important software] New iteration. Still missing the dates of Asia Font Studio, Type Tool, etc… The usual problem is to find the release dates of the original software when they were release before 1999, or before they were acquired by other companies…

[update 8: all together now] A new version (v7, 2011-12-16). Almost all font production software I know and heard of are now listed in this timeline. Frank Grießhammer has suggested this image could be converted into a wiki page. I actually have these (and some bitmap font editors) in a spreadsheet. If enough people are interested, I can publish this wherever is more practical: either on Typophile (they already have a Font Software pages on the Wiki), Wikipedia Font Editors webpage, Google Docs, or… And I’ve just realized that I still have to double check Luc Devroye’s software listing…

[update 9: are we there yet?] New version (v8, 2011, 12-18). Petr Van Blokland revised some dates and software and I’ve corrected the insertion of an “alpha” state promising software – Fontclod. When doing this late at night I tend to “loosen the filter” ;). Still need to do a final check on Luc Devroy’s webpage. His web page and Typophile wiki have been valuable sources of information… Later, I’ll try to figure out someway of merging this info with them… Ever since Note 5 the patterns of development have been changing… now I’m just wondering what happened between 1988 and 2001. There’s a break on the development. Maybe it was due to the Internet hype people lived back then. My guess is that after the bubble burst, people went back to develop software they needed… And now, we’re seeing the internet applications slowly coming back in a web 2.0 style, with Fonstruct (that I’m a huge fan), Fontclod (currently in alpha, and I’m already a fan of it), and the future release of Iris (or Horus from Aviary, still in proof of concept since 2009, but they’ll have a regular user from the moment they release it).

[update 10: to short to finish] Minor update/addition and final JPG file to include in the short paper to be published by UBI / Design Conference Proceedings.

[update 11] 2 additions and one small revision, thanks to David Berlow’s input. Still not so sure about including ClearType in this timeline. I mean, it’s mainly a “sub-pixel hinting technology”, and not a drawing tool or process… right?

Creative Christmas Competition: 2011 Edition

Original post contest image

While I try to find the time to post this week’s Typography and Type Design links, here’s an illustration challenge I’ve been promoting on the social networks. Although it’s meant for a broader audience, why not participate with a typographical illustration?

Win a copy of one of Isidro Ferrer’s illustrated books: create an illustration for a Christmas postcard obeying the following: dimension 150 x 100 mm, format JPEG,  RGB, 300dpi, on the theme (roughly translated): “This Christmas, the bunny has brought the big bad wolf with it, but the red riding hood will not stand”

Add a brief description of the creation process and a short bio. The winning and special mention illustrations will be published online under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Portugal License. The best illustration will be awarded with Ferrer’s book.

More information on my Portuguese blog (translation by Google), or contact us directly: natalcriativo (at) gmail (dot) com

What are you waiting for? Punch in your type creations!

This Week in Type: Bring in the Portuguese!

Caflish Script @ Typekit, by Tiffany Wardle

This week, I’ve collected just a short selection of links. I’ve been occupied with other projects that involve programming a type inspired generative illustration in Processing, so it has been an off-week for Typography. I’ll post some screenshots on my portuguese blog soon. On the meanwhile, here are this week’s links:

First, a a very concise and well written article about using (Caflish) script type, by Tiffany Wardle—”a typographer and graphic designer currently living and working in San Jose, California”: Via Tânia Raposo @ Type Shares.

Tânia also posted another interesting link on Type Shares—The work of Mathew Carter, by Fred Smeijers: He is one of my favorite Type Designer of all time, if not my personal favorite… Smeijers is also a well known academic and designer. So this combination is very interesting ;)


Miguel Sousa (image from Foto Digital website)

Talking about Tiffany, one is almost instantly reminded of Miguel Sousa.

Daniel B. sent me this link some short (and partially correct?) information about my fellow compatriot: I was lucky enough to know him in the Dublin ATypI conference. Here’s a nice document from him: (in Portuguese…)


Avería, by Dan Sayers

This one really fascinate me. Avería, by Dan Sayers is a generated typeface, or putting it in proper terms, an extensive interpolation of 725 fonts:

Dan Sayers wondered what would happen if all the visual attributes of these typefaces were computationally averaged together [...] so it was perhaps inevitable that the idea came to me one day of ‘generative typography,’” he writes. After a month’s work with Imagemagick and PHP, Sayers had his result: Avería, “the average font.”

Although its motives and methodologies can be highly questionable, the fact that he pulled this off by using PHP and ImageMagick on a web server really amazed me! Not the best result, but a no doubt, a fun project:


Cover of Cadernos de Tipografia nr. 21, by Paulo Heitlinger

Finally, although I still haven’t read it, the last number of Cadernos de Tipografia (Typography Notebooks, roughly translated) is available for download:

This is another Portuguese reading, but I think Google does a fair job translating it… I don’t agree with style of writing, and many of the opinions expressed by Paulo Heitlinger (the edition’s main author and editor). But he has to be praised by maintaining the huge effort of publishing a free, digital edition journal that has reached 21 issues!


This Week in Type: more type designers than ever!

Fernando Melo working @ Fontsmith (© Process Made)

This edition of This Week in Type is late… But, better late than sorry. Without further delay, here are this week’s links.

First and foremost, here’s an interview with Fernando Melo (image above), one of the recent and most promising young Brazilian type designers working at Fontsmith. Although the interview script could be better, it’s always nice to see the opinion of people we admire.

There are probably 10 times more pro type designers nowadays than 20 years ago. A great part of them are young and talented. The challenge for creating innovative fonts will increase more and more in the future, unfortunately!

Nice pictures, great answers. Read it at Process Made:

Via Adriano Esteves @ Type Shares


Scored 84 @ Shape Type... not bad for a Typophile!

Speaking of type designers and their education, here’s a couple of links to some games developed to help web developers to learn more about type and typography:

Method of Action is peer to peer education for people who want to get things done. Learn by doing, participating and teaching.

Not only fun to use and play with, these are also great learning materials to use in classes. Shared by almost everyone I know (like Catarina S., João S., Pedro B., etc.), but seen first @FontShopBeNeLux


Typo 11 in retrospect (oficial website)

If you’re like me, and you’re feeling that you’ve lost a great conference Typo 11, here’s something that might cheer you up. Will Whit has collected a bunch of links on it:

The official website has also a great collection of links and articles in retrospect:


Wim Crouwell @ Dutch Profiles

After watching Irma Boom’s video, here’s another great interview by Max Bruisma, from Dutch Profiles—Wim Crouwell. Although not as famous as Milton Glaser, Paul Rand, or Otl Aicher, he is, in my opinion, one of the most revolutionary (Type) Designers in the 20th century:


Letter.2 Website

Finally and well overdue here’s my public appreciation for Letter.2 Winners:

We are pleased to present the winning entries of the Letter.2 competition. The jury met in Buenos Aires on October 1st and 2nd 2011 to make a selection of 53 entries out of 561 submissions based on their design excellence.

I have to congratulate my friend and colleague in particular, the Portuguese type designer Rui Abreu, that was selected with two fonts: Aria (2011) and Orbe (2008). There are many other entries that I like, more than I can list here, but I think it’s worth mentioning the giant efforts of Slimbach/Adobe, the elegant clean-cuts from Veronika Burian, the plastic freedom of Laura Messeger, and many, many others…