Ilene Strizver on Web Type and Technology

If you want to stay tuned to what’s new in typography, then surely you’ve bookmarked TheTypeStudio.com (right?). Founded by Ilene Strizver, The Type Studio is all type, all the time, not only offering type-centric design services, but also Strizver’s type expertise through training and workshops (including a DesignCast series). Strizver’s monthly All Things Typographic newsletter is a must for designers working with letters—either in print or online. In fact, Strizver is set to present about web typography at HOW’s Interactive Design Conference in November. Recently, we had an extensive e-mail conversation about the challenges of choosing typefaces for web projects and of relinquishing control of your design online.

What’s keeping you busy these days?

As a typography specialist, there are quite a number of things that I do that keep me busy. In the realm of typographic education, I conduct Gourmet Typography workshops and training for type and design organizations as well as for the in-house creative departments of companies and publishers, I teach a typography course at School of Visual Arts in NYC, I write two monthly columns on type—fy(t)i: For Your (Typographic) Information for fonts.com and TypeTalk for creativepro.com—as well as do typographic consultation on a regular basis.

As a typo/graphic designer, I create web images and PDF specimen showings for typeface releases for several type foundries and distributers, which is a lot of fun and keeps me doing what I teach. I also publish a monthly e-newsletter entitled All Things Typographic. It is free to anyone who signs up on The Type Studio home page.

I’m also very excited to announce that in September, The Type Studio will be rolling out a series of type and design webinars and other online classes, conducted by myself as well as other respected professionals in the field. I’m also working on another book project (in addition to Type Rules! The designer’s guide to professional typography, 3rd edition), but I can’t reveal the details just yet.

Only recently—like, in the past two years—have designers had access to unlimited typographical options for web projects. Before, of course, they were constrained to universal system fonts. What does this change mean for web designers?

The availability of web fonts is no less than a digital revolution! Now a web designer has access to hundreds, if not thousands, of font choices rather than just a handful of web-safe fonts. This allows for expanded creative and typographic freedom. A designer can now make typographic choices that can express and support a specific message, product, or branding. This is a huge milestone.

With web-font services like Typekit and WebInk offering a huge array of choices, how does a designer choose wisely? What does a designer need to consider when selecting a font for a web project?

Selecting the appropriate web fonts for a site is actually a lot more complicated than it is for print, which is why a lot of designers have not dipped their toe in the proverbial waters yet. Not only is the look and appropriateness of a typeface a factor in making the right choice, but how the font renders on screen (not all web fonts look good on every screen, and at every size), what fonts work for which sizes, as well as the fact that type size and appearance varies dependent on browser, device, platform, operating system, etc. So a lot of research needs to go into making the right web font choices. A typeface used in a print campaign might not look good on the web at all—unless it has been professionally optimized for the web.

Are there universal typographical principles that apply across the board, regardless of medium? What are some of those principles?

The concept of good composition, information hierarchy, appropriate use of color, and designing for the demographics of your audience are universal to any and all kinds of design. But the way they play out in any given situation varies, as people read and perceive things differently dependent on the content, medium, “page” or image size, etc.

What’s the biggest false assumption that print designers make about type when they begin designing for the web?

Probably that they have the same kind of control over the typography as they do in print. In print, everything is fixed, down to the single point. But on the web, just about every characteristic of typography is variable to some degree. I’ve had clients ask me to fix widows, shorten column depths and tweak colors on the web, when these are not absolutely fixed and cannot be controlled completely, or in some cases, at all. So therefore, one has to design for an optimum overall result for the broadest range of viewers, and not seek perfection on any one computer or for any one person, such as the designer or the client who might not be aware of these variables.

As you scan the technology landscape, what are you seeing that really excites or intrigues you?

The potential interactivity of eBooks, eMagazines and related apps is really exciting. Not just the convenience of reading on an iPad or a Kindle, but the interactivity that is possible and is currently built into some, which is mind-blowing. The ability to click on a word and get the definition, click on a reference and be taken to a web site, click on an image and be able to zoom into it—the possibilities are endless. Don’t get me wrong, I am a still print gal who loves the look, feel and smell of books, and can’t image replacingthem entirely. But the era of eContent allows for endless possibilities, many of which we never could previously imagine.

What’s your favorite:

  • website?
    I’ll choose three:
    • WeChooseTheMoon.org: This site is insane! Not for the typography, but for the overall excitement and entertainment value. It reenacts the Apollo 11 Lunar landing and you feel like you right there are in space.
    • OkayDave.com: One of the most brilliant, entertaining, informative digital portfolio websites I’ve seen.
    • LigatureLoopAndStem.com: This is clean, classy, uncomplicated, and very readable site. Great use of web fonts throughout including the menu on the top.
  • mobile app?
    Siri, an extremely useful app which makes me feel like I have a personal, digital concierge.
  • book?
    The Trial by Franz Kafka.

Learn more about Ilene Strizver’s web typography session at the HOW Interactive Design Conference and register now!

This post originally appeared on the HOW blog.

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