Since our last status update, Kevin and I have been working on a variety of fixes, UI polish, layout semantics, etc. Necessary, but not super exciting stuff.
So for this update, I thought I'd share some ideas about digital typesetting that we've found interesting. We've heard from many designers that they're frustrated with the lack of typographic control in current digital design tools. Why can't we have the kind of sophisticated, nuanced typesetting that a print tool like InDesign offers?
The thing is, digital design is different than print... so we can't just copy what's been done before.
One reason is that setting type on the web (or iOS or Android) is more technically challenging than print. The product team over at Medium wrote an excellent explanation of why it seems like typography on the screen never quite does what we want it to do. Many of these issues are things we've had to work through in Subform so far.
Digital also has unique requirements that don't apply to the printed page. This tension between print typesetting traditions and the new requirements of digital is covered beautifully in these two essays by Robin Rendle: The New Web Typography and Futures of Typography. After reading these, you'll be able to impress your design friends by relating Gutenberg to variable fonts.
What the heck are variable fonts, you ask? Good question. Going forward, our typography needs to be able to respond to things like viewport size, screen densities, ambient light, and reading distances. Variable fonts are one way we can begin to build dynamic designs that account for these conditions.
To see variable fonts in action, take a look at Andrew's experiment with variable fonts and reading distances and his beta tool Typeshift.
Last but not least, check out this interview with Bram Stein about his Typography Inspector experiment. It brings up some interesting ideas about how our design tools can make suggestions or propose iterations automatically, based on design best-practices.
As always, we'd love to hear your thoughts on what typographic features you want to see in Subform.
Have a great week,
Ryan + Kevin