Web Fonts At TypeCon 2009

Jul 20, 2009

Tifton, Georgia: TypeCon is a yearly event sponsored by SOTAThe So­ci­ety Of Typographic Aficionados. If “Typographic Aficionados” sounds a little nose-up to you, I’m here to say that the folks at the conference were down-to-earth, totally approachable, and set a new bar for how casually you can dress in an upscale hotel. I had ten times more fun than I ever thought I’d have. If you’re into web design, print design, or type, you must check it out. Next year TypeCon is in Los Angeles and unless I’m incapacitated, I’m there.

Why I Was There This Year

I decided to go as a journalist to cover Web Fonts – a story I’ve found fas­ci­nating ever since Microsoft first submitted the EOT (Embedded Open­Type) spec for consideration by the W3C last year. It’s a perfect little storm of con­flict. The web in microcosm. Print versus Screen. Open-Source versus Prop­rietary. The Old versus The New.

I wasn’t only a spectator. On Thursday, I found myself arranging a meeting between TypeKit’s Bryan Mason, Ryan Carver and Adobe veteran Thomas Phinney (now with Extensis) who, unlike me, knew everybody and could make smart introductions. Thomas asked font-producer John Hudson (creator of the ClearType font Constantia) to sit in with us. John, who has a stare that could stop a herd of buffalo and a clipped Brit accent to match (think John Cleese), gave me a bit of a start. “And you?” He asked. “What is your role in all this?”
Squirming in my chair, I mumbled a wordy reply. But the short and sweet answer I wish I had given is: “journalist and honest broker”. I went to Type­Con hoping to contribute to a good outcome for all concerned. To talk sense and seek common ground. To act as proxy for the browsing public, entitled to the best experience possible. And at the same time, to call a spade a spade when necessary.

The Panel

The panel was hosted by Kent Lew of SOTA whose professionalism blew me away, frankly. I had received an email from Kent looking for advice some days before the conference. He ignored everything I wrote and it’s clear to me now that I should never, ever be allowed to host a panel dis­cus­sion.
The panel itself was a mix of people representing different points of view. Sitting from left to right on the panel were:

  • David Dewitt – Monotype Imaging
  • Shu Yun-Lai – Type and Web Designer
  • Ted Harrison – President of Fontlab
  • Thomas Phinney – 10+ years with Adobe, now with Extensis
  • Bryan Mason – TypeKit
  • Christopher Slye – Adobe
  • John Hudson – Tiro Typeworks
  • Ivo Gabrowitsch – FontFont
  • Garrick Van Buren – Kernest
  • Bill Davis – Ascender
  • Frank Martinez – IP Attorney

An Audio Recording Of The Conference Has Been Posted

Check it out here.

Or here…


Apropos of calling a spade a spade, I was not satisfied with the answers I got to my questions from the two members of the Web Fonts panel to whom my questions were addressed. You know who you are! I’m waiting for clar­i­fi­cat­ions and will report on those in later posts.

Photos Of The Panel

In this pic from left to right are: Shu Yun-Lai (partly hidden), Ted Harrison, Thomas Phinney, Bryan Mason, Kent Lew (speaking), Christopher Slye, John Hudson, Ivo Gabrowitsch, Garrick Van Buren:

Moderator Kent Lew of SOTA Introduces The Panel And Issues

Moderator Kent Lew of SOTA Introduces The Panel And The Issues

Left to right: David DeWitt, Shu Yun-Lai, Ted Harrison, Thomas Phinney (speaking), Bryan Mason, Kent Lew, Christopher Slye, John Hudson (partly hidden):

Thomas Phinney Makes A Point

Thomas Phinney Makes A Point

Left to right: Kent Lew, Christopher Slye, John Hudson, Ivo Gabrowitsch, Garrick Van Buren:

John Hudson Explains That Most Of His Work Is Custom - His Customers Are The Ultimate Owners Of The Fonts

John Hudson Explains That Most Of His Work Is Custom - His Customers Are The Ultimate Owners Of The Fonts

Left to right: David DeWitt (speaking), Shu Yun-Lai, Ted Harrison, Thomas Phinney:

Shu Yun-Lai Arguing The Web Designer's Point Of View

Shu Yun-Lai Arguing The Web Designer's Point Of View

My apologies to attorney Frank Martinez for not including him in any pics. Freudian, to be sure.

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