Category Archives: Documents

Compiling Fontforge 20120731 without Python

The new version of Fontforge is here. On the last couple of days I’ve been trying to compile and install it on my Mac OSX system, with very little success. Mainly because because MacPorts still doesn’t have it available and I lack the proper knowledge to do it in a clean way…

I though I had everything needed (from previous versions), but, as It turns out, the configure script kept freezing (searching for Freetype libraries) and, even after that, the make script crashed because of Python (?). I got something like this:

python.c:16039: warning: initialization makes integer from pointer without a cast
python.c:16042: warning: initialization from incompatible pointer type
python.c:16057: warning: initialization makes pointer from integer without a cast
python.c:16058: warning: initialization from incompatible pointer type
python.c:16067: warning: initialization from incompatible pointer type
make[1]: *** [python.lo] Error 1
make: *** [fontforge] Error 2

I took a little while, but, after reading the instructions and a little digging on Google, I found out this answer by Nicholas Spalinger regarding the Freetype Library timeout error during ./configure:

After a couple of trial-and-error runs (that included installing and uninstalling several versions of Python), I’ve decided to compile Fontforge without Python. In the end, the command I ended up using was:

./configure –with-freetype-src –without-python

I I know this is an easy way out, but I’ve reached the limits of my Unix capabilities… Fontforge is running smoothly for me (so far), and I hope this helps someone also…

Illustrated Typeface Anatomy Terminology

Typeface Anatomy poster detail

The illustrated Typeface Anatomy Terminology poster published here was submitted and published on the last edition of the Portuguese conference on Typography, held in Aveiro: (here’s the direct link to the poster:

It can be summarized as a comprehensive illustrated glossary of typeface anatomy terms in current use.

Created to serve as a learning resource to help students develop their type design skills progressively, it proposes a classification of the terms into six different categories: C1 Measurements (and Proportions), C2 Shapes; C3 Strokes; C4 Details; C5 Properties; C6 Terminals.

Although mainly in Portuguese (the aim of the original work was to present a comprehensive glossary in Portuguese), it provides an illustration and the English version of the terms in the poster (in order to help clarify). It will also include (in a future version) a short summary of each definition.

Some entries need to be removed, others added...

It’s part of a series of posters that are being developed and, as a result of the feedback already obtained, we’re further synthesizing this one – some entries are to be removed (like 62 and 63 above, the direction of shading), others still need to be added (like italic, oblique, condensed, expanded). We’re also expanding the language translations. We’ve identified a basic set of important French and Spanish references, and we’re currently translating it into these languages. But we need help in obtaining seminal references and translating the terms into German, Dutch and Italian.

III Encontro de Tipografia International Type Conference website2012 - Amado Silva - Anatomia Tipográfica - ENT2011

We expect to present and draft paper proposal of this terminology in the forthcoming Portuguese International Typography Conference – III Encontro de Tipografia – to be held in Porto, next October 2012:

Here’s a rough translation and slight upgrade of the poster’s dissertation into English. If you can or want to help, please send me an e-mail, or write a comment!


This paper presents a typeface anatomy terminology, aimed specifically to cover the current digital typeface production universe. It is still a work in progress, which involves the analysis, collection, and synthesis of the definitions found in current literature references. It aims to contribute to the definition, stabilization and to the update of the terms used today, trying to fulfil the need for a comprehensive student’s Typeface Design (TD) manual.


On the first hand, it aims to identify all the possible terms relating to the anatomy of digital type, so they can be understood and used by the different stakeholders in the current technological design and production environment. On the second hand, it aims to reduce the ambiguity of the existing terminology, which results from the legacy of the movable type technology. This terminology is part of an on-going project consisting of four anatomical glossaries: Typeface, Text Shape, Page Layout , and Book.

Methodology and preliminary analysis

Up until now, we’ve analysed a sample of 26 references in two languages (Portuguese and English) chosen for different criteria:

  • Historical relevance (Bringhurst, 2001; Lawson, Agner, 1990; Loxley, 2005; Mclean, 1996);
  • Technical explanations (Cheng, 2006; Fontshop, 2010; Santos, 2007; Sousa, 2002; Tracy, 1986);
  • Academic guidance (Ambrose, Harris, 2006; Craig, 2006; Earls, 2002; Kane, 2002; Kunz, 2002; Lupton, 2010; Pflughaupt, 2007; Willen, Strals, 2009);
  • [Portuguese] Language context (Cunha, 2009; Ferrand, Bicker, 2000; Heitlinger, 2010; Lessa, 2004; Meurer, 2009; Vilela, 1998)
  • Comprehensiveness (38pages, 2010; Naseem, 2011; Rosendorf, 2009).

Figure 1 Comparison of entries found in references

To date, we’ve identified a total of 710 term entries in the above-mentioned literature. The definitions and illustrations of the entries were checked in order to compare and synthesize a list of 90 unique terms (T). Representing two thirds of analysis (66.7%), the English references have an average number of terms (25.3) similar to the average number of terms in the Portuguese references (25.1). However, references with more than 25 unique entries are higher in English (33%) than in Portuguese (25%). Regarding the average frequency of each reference found in the references (N), we observed the predominance of English (75.9%) compared to the Portuguese (24.1%). As can be seen in Figure 1, some terms such as Taper (47), or Ink Trap (54), have no Portuguese version. We suspect this is the same in other languages, as digital type has evolved predominantly in English. Others, such as Aperture (15), or Stem (42) have different versions, or use, given the ambiguous relationship between the movable metal type and digital technologies. This terminology was first developed in both languages to avoid misunderstandings and to identify the gaps existing in specific languages. The English language was used as a template slate because current font production technology is mainly available in English, and because the most comprehensive references are more easily accessible (see the Conclusion and Future Work section).

For the more ambiguous anatomy parts (such as overshoot and overhang), this terminology proposes new terms, or the consolidation of the current digital ones (specially in the Portuguese language), based on literature review and technical translations. It is intended to contribute to the definition of simple, unique and accurate terms, easy to relate to the current font production technology and type design. Ultimately, this terminology aims to contribute to a terminology simple to understand and that can maintain its relationship with the history of typeface development.

Conclusion and Future Work

Despite being a work in progress, this analysis allowed us to identify some inaccuracies and add new entries to the terminology in Portuguese. This fact seems to confirm the absence of a widespread practice, or of an out-of-date education in Portugal. Although Type Designers and Teachers like Dino dos Santos, Ricardo dos Santos and Joana Correia da Silva are providing a solid base of education, good Portuguese education manuals are still lacking in our country. We owe much to the translations and to the neologisms incorporated into the current Design practice. On the one hand, this is not a bad thing by itself, much by the contrary – it helps us broaden our education horizons. But, on the other hand, it undervalues the old and existing terms used in the last decades of movable metal technology. And it potentially severs the links to our cultural heritage and national identity values. So it’s urgent to rescue and build a design practice lexicon.

Nevertheless, this work is still under development:

  • The illustrations will be complemented with their textual definitions in order to avoid misinterpretations. And enhanced with complementary examples to better illustrate the terminology;
  • More Portuguese references will have to be identified, especially from authors of historical importance as Joaquim dos Anjos, or Manuel Pedro;
  • Entries in languages such as Spanish and French will be added and cross-referenced as well as English ones. We have already identified a sample of important references in Spanish such as De Buen, Scaglione, Meseguer, Henestrosa and Sesma, and in French, such as Porchez and Munch. Further references will be identified and added. These are mandatory to include in this study as they are closer to our Portuguese roots and might share a common root or influence each other.
  • German and Dutch references are also mandatory to include in this glossary, but we will need the help from native speaker designers and researchers to identify references and authors like Unger, Spiekermann, Kupferschmid, Middendorp, Pohlen, Blokland and other of professional and academic relevance.

As many of the peer assessments have noticed, it is also necessary to cross reference important international education references as Haslam or Noordzij, check further technical references as Felici, Adobe, or Microsoft and FontLab.

Finally, it is necessary to validate the terms list with a community of national and international experts, such as ATypI and SoTA members, and international Type Designers. As a list, or a glossary of current Typeface Design practice, this work is expected to be under constant update and evaluation.


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?

This Week in Type: It’s all about vid… Vimeo!

Dan Rhatigan's conference on Vimeo

A week after our successful Portuguese Typography conference, I’m determined to get back on this blog’s saddle. With this in mind, here’s another edition of This Week in Type—I’ll try to shorten this topic down to 5 links a week, organized on a given theme or topic. In order to get them out every week I’ll slim down the text to an almost “bookmark style” post.

First and foremost, after ATypI’s short videos on Vimeo, here’s Rhatigan’s conference on Web fonts and more: (post image). Hope we’ll be able to publish our own conference videos soon too (Petr van Blokland’s conference rocked!)

Detail from Web Ink's website

Talking about typography on the Web, here’s Thomas Phinney’s Typography’s Best Practices for the Web. Part 1: and Part 2:

Detail from Fontfeed's blog

Vocabulary of Type (via Fontfeed): Not about web, not even a “today technology” but a nice experimental video.

rtype on vimeo

One more visual inspiration reference—Rui Abreu’s latest experiment: Big fan of his work (but I’m a biased friend of him…)

As a final note, not a video link, but I’m sure it’ll produce a lot of videos online. The next Typo conference:

Europe’s most successful annual three-day design conference comes to London: TYPO. An A-list of influential speakers from the world of typography; information, graphic and digital design; brand experience; film; animation; publishing and education are confirmed for this inaugural edition. The theme for TYPO’s London debut is “Places”. The conference will take place from 20-22 October in Logan and Jeffery Halls at the University of London.