Scripta conversation, version 1.0

Some e-mail exchanged among early supporters of the idea of Scripta. (To quote a catchphrase once used internally at Aldus Corporation: “Forward in all directions!”)

José Scaglione:

One of the first things I would suggest, is to get really good book designers into the discussion. Of course on-screen typography brings new possibilities and limitations into the mix. But understanding clearly what is good typography on paper will surely serve as a basis. I just forwarded your email to one of my preferred book designers: Jorge de Buen. My other favorite book designer is already in this list… hi Verena 🙂

Verena Gerlach:

Fortunately, the future is open wide, and we might have all the possibilities and freedom to actually make up the standards for ebook publishing, but unfortunately, there are still so many steps between a great result and the first shy moves.

As José wrote, I too think that it is most important to have a group of participants combining quite some different fields of book making, type design, typography, software development, and last but not least THE USERS.

I even think that we should organize some workshops/work groups for students, because they are the generation that grew up with a mouse in their hand and a screen in front of their noses. They have completely different thinking structures or approaches, and mostly less fear, than the old book people, like us.

Being mostly an art book (images and texts) designer (but also a type designer), I’m very interested in finding a completely new approach to the ebooks too. Of course legibility is one of the columns that carries the enjoyment of reading, but for me, the research for »what are the benefits and the deferences towards paper books« (like we know them) is also the key to a movement into the right direction.

If possible, I would like to also take one colleague from the publisher (Hatje Cantz) I work for on board, because we should really work together with people, that know the publishing structures in concern of the wishes of readers and book lovers.

Maybe we could start by opening a link collection of articles we come across our research? Or links to apps, augmented reality solutions, and tutorials that might be interesting to just try out?

Looks like I would have to get my first iPad now 😉

David Jonathan Ross:

My coworkers and I (including Nick Sherman who presented at ATypI) are super interested in the role that typography can play in responsive design. A true moment for us to implement intelligent optical sizes/grades.

The W3C may be slow, but a strength of screen typography is that it is standards-based, and that there are people in our community involved in the development of these standards. The web works on the idea that the content of a document can be divorced from its presentation, and as typographers we occupy a unique position in that relationship.

I think it’s great that typography is no longer bound what menu items Adobe or Quark wants to include in their apps. We can, and people do, code their own solutions to specific typographic problems. For example, this little borders/ornaments thing I showed at the conference:

Along the same lines, there are developers out there making and distributing typographically oriented plug-ins and interfaces, such as:
and so on…

And less directly, tools to help detect browser capabilities and simplify best practices:

One other thing: I don’t mean focus on style rather than substance, but I thought Jan Middendorp made a good point during the Q&A about how typographers as a community present ourselves. It’s easy to misperceive typography as some sort of snobby thing where you have to know the rules and be a connoisseur of sorts, and I think we want to go out of our way to be in touch with the needs of the people who we want to communicate with: that is, web designers and developers (the web’s typographers).

Jan talked about the name and fancy logo, but my coworker André Mora even pointed out that the “Script” in “Scripta” can refer to reading/linguistics as well as to code. We can educate, we can index what tools are out there, and we can advocate for tools we think need to be made.

As far as other creative players, that will take more thinking.

Glenn Fleishman:

The starting place should likely be to enumerate precisely what’s needed and in what form.

The folks at A List Apart had remarkable successful in advancing CSS standards, responsive Web design, and other related aspects by having a manifesto that they consistently adopted and wrote about while providing real examples of work in progress. The major browser makers essentially adopted and were involved in making everything ALA wanted happen, more or less. (There are some ugly things in CSS3, but you can’t get everything.)

I wonder if talking to Eric Meyer (a friend) and Jeffrey Zeldman (a strong acquaintance) might be a starting point for you, John? They waged a multi-year campaign that had extremely productive results exactly along the lines that you’re looking for here.

In a broader sense, there’s a tools issue that has to be solved at the start. I haven’t been following where CSS4 stands, but that will help, as I understand it. Browsers, mobile and desktop, need to support it and provide likely additional testing to conform. Native apps that rely on HTML5 + CSS3 (and later CSS4) need to rely on an underlying rendering engine. Libraries used for non-HTML5-based layout in mobile devices and, to a lesser extent, on desktops have to be updated to meet the standards we’d set. And then ereaders need, well, a lot of help.

Leonardo Vásquez:

Searching something in my bookmarks I found this link about someone who had a microscope and started to play with it zooming letters in different media: a Kindle, an iPad, a book and a magazine. I find it interesting because it’s very clear the font technology each devise is using.

These images i think can give a hint of certain desisions when designing a type for digital devises.

José Scaglione:

This is indeed interesting, and there’s a lot of value in looking at stuff closely. However, from my viewpoint the author is making several errors here, the first of them is probably comparing pears to apples and using the wrong scales to look at stuff. I believe that reflective and backlit screens do very different things with fonts and that should be considered here. I did a piece of research myself using microscopes while at Reading, and I think this kind of study, if done properly, can provide us with very useful information.

If anyone is interested in taking a look at it here is a link to the PDF. I am afraid this is not screen, just offset and laser printing. Also please note that:

1. There’s a missing image on page 5 because that was a smoke test I did manually.

2. Page numbers in the appendix section are messed up in the PDF, for it to make sense you would have to look at the only existing copy, which is locked up at G. Leonidas’s office in Reading, UK.

Leonardo Vásquez:

Hola José, thanks for the PDF, i’ve downloaded it and will find the time to read it carefully.

Yes, i have no doubt that the guy that posted the pictures made mistakes, his approach was more “curious” than searching for something specific. What i find interesting, in the comparison of a Kindle or the iPad or the computer screen, and how they look completely different, and the question I made myself at the time, was if we as type designers and book readers can take advantage of the way reading devices display type and the use of technology in order to “improve” the way typography looks now.

Thank you again for sharing the PDF.