Fonts & Typography

November 2nd, 2006

I have to admit I have a big love for fonts and typography. The way the different typefaces look, they way they help to set the mood of a book before you even read a single word on the page. I’ve noticed them ever since I saw my first illustrated capital in a book of fairytales before I even could read.

Consequently interesting typefaces have always caught my eye, and while I dearly love some of the fonts that came out of the 90s revolution of computer typography, most of them looked just awkward/grungy with far too much attitude and far too little readability.

So I set about making a few fonts of my own, or rather I should say, digitizing, cleaning up and generally twiddling with typefaces from old books that weren’t available from any of the modern font foundries. I put them out on one of my websites, and apart from a guy in Italy who loved one of the fonts until it crashed his computer (very complex fonts will do that), I didn’t hear anything more until last year when I was contacted by Bonnier Publications A/S of Denmark, who wanted to use my WitchHunt font for their history magazine. Of course, they also wanted a few extra Danish characters (and Swedish ones as well, for the Swedish edition), along with open type format and a few other whistles and bells.

WitchHunt font sampleUnfortunately, I’d packed up my fontography programs a few years and two computers before. Fortunately, however, I knew Dave Nalle who runs Fontcraft, about the top historic typeface company out there, and he not only agreed to make the extra characters for Bonnier, but asked me to join Fontcraft as one of their designers. So now WitchHunt is available from Fontcraft, in its newly prettified and gussied up form (thanks, Dave), as part of the Halloween 2006 promotion. Even better, it’s soon to be followed by some of my other typefaces and ornaments.

Currently rockin’ the William Morris vibe here. It’s very fun to have both fiction and typefaces of yours being out there.

9 Responses to “Fonts & Typography”

  1. David Louis Edelmanon 02 Nov 2006 at 10:36 pm

    Cool stuff, Kevin. A writer making his own fonts is kind of like a baseball player making his own bat. I suspect most of us wish we could do it, but 99.85% of us would have no idea where to start (me included).

    So I’m curious… as a font guru, what font(s) do you typically use when you write? I suppose it’s probably smart to just use a monospace font like Courier, but somehow I got stuck in the habit of using Palatino Linotype.

  2. Kevin Andrew Murphyon 03 Nov 2006 at 2:01 am

    Well, Courier is all fine and good, but the question quickly becomes “Which Courier?” If I’m going to send something out, I generally use “Dark Courier,” which was a free download ages back from HP and is still available some spots, such as here. (Warning: Yes, this is an executable font file, made back in the age when no one was paranoid about trojans. However, since I placed it on the Larsen-Pomada agency site myself, I can vouchsafe for it.)

    I know Madeleine is also fond of Palatino, though for readability, I’ll generally just have my work in Times New Roman unless I’m doing something fancier, in which case I tend to go for one of the old Venetian typefaces, such as Venetian BT, Centaur or Adobe Janson. Century Schoolbook is also nice for readability.

    For submission purposes, I wouldn’t go with anything weirder than Courier for monospaced or Times New Roman for proportional. However, for setting a poem or a chapbook, I’ll play around and choose all sorts of fun font families.

  3. Madeleine Robinson 03 Nov 2006 at 2:15 am

    My father designed several typefaces; I grew up with books of type around the house. I understand the lust for fonts.

    For what it’s worth, David, I loathe Courier. I write in Palatino, then convert the document to Courier at the last possible moment. And that’s only for books, because Courier is still the preferred font for castoff calculation. But I don’t have to like it.

  4. Rhiannon Roseon 03 Nov 2006 at 3:33 am

    Is there a version of Dark Courier for Macintosh computers?

    I took typography recently, and now have a great love for fontfaces. I turned in a math project into class today, and I had spent more time spacing the font than working on the project itself.

  5. David Louis Edelmanon 03 Nov 2006 at 9:14 am

    The added benefit for me of writing Infoquake in Palatino is that my publisher typeset the book in, I believe, Garamond. So the final product looked pretty similar to the drafts from a font standpoint.

    Can’t blame your loathing for Courier, Madeleine. Does anyone actually like plain ol’ Courier? I always thought it was kind of like the SATs: a necessary evil.

  6. Kevin Andrew Murphyon 03 Nov 2006 at 11:54 am

    I will admit that, especially with computer typesetting, an advantage of Courier is that you can clearly see how many spaces you have after a period. A good thing with inexact typists especially.

  7. Theodore Rosendorfon 04 Nov 2006 at 11:38 am

    When you say inexact typists, are you referring to one or two spaces after a period? Here’s a debate on the subject:

  8. Kevin Andrew Murphyon 04 Nov 2006 at 12:43 pm


    Well, I generally follow the rule of two except when I’ve been specifically requested to use one by a publisher as that’s their house style. It’s a non-debate on the order of double versus single quotes and other items of US versus UK style. The one thing that’s always incorrect, however, is inconsistency in the same document, which monospace fonts do help you to catch. Likewise with typing two spaces between words, which I believe is incorrect everywhere but is still much harder to spot with proportional spacing, especially if someone decides to justify their margins, which looks pretty in a book but is ill suited for something designed to be edited and proofread.

  9. Constance Ashon 04 Nov 2006 at 12:44 pm

    Eileen Gunn, who is well known as writer, editor and critic in the SF and Feminist SF worlds, well, her partner, John Berry is a typeface historian and designer of digital fonts. You can find out more about him and his book here.

    This is a subject of endless fascination and possibility.

    Love, C.

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