Programs, programs, programs.

nicholaas's picture

I am in dire need of a program to help me start and get creating. At the moment I have Fireworks, and many of the other Adobe programs, but I am sure they're effectively useless in the typography world.
What I am seeking is knowledge as to what program is most effective, I had my heart set on the program used by Matthew Carter at around the 15 minute mark in the documentary Helvetica. Whether or not this a suitable program, I am unsure but I value your opinions.
Thankyou, Nick.

couzinhub's picture

I think that the one you saw in Helvetica is FontLab Studio. They are suppose to release a new version (5.1) soon, but it's quite a complicated program to start with. Recently, some new programs more focus on designing the glyph came out. Have a go at Glyphs or Robofont, they are both cheaper, more modern, and so much more easier to get into.

These are both MAC by the way.

blank's picture

Right now Glyphs is the most suitable program for a beginner.

Richard Fink's picture

I would give Fontographer a try as well. There's a Windows version, also.

Trial versions available, I believe.

blokland's picture

Nick: ‘I am in dire need of a program to help me start and get creating.
It is difficult to advise in this when there is not a clear definition of what you want to achieve. What exactly is your starting point? Are these analog drawings or glyphs made in for instance Adobe Illustrator? Depending on the quality of analog drawings, manual digitizing or scanning combined with auto-tracing are the two main options. Glyphs made with Adobe Illustrator can be imported and adjusted in all available programs for type design and font production. And then, do you want to batch as much as possible, do you want to script or program this yourself, or do you want to make use of ‘prefab’ functionality? And there are other matters, such as the fact that applying tools which are commonly in use will ensure a greater support from the type community than using applications developed for niche markets.
Perhaps it makes sense to draw a block diagram in which you try to define the things you want to do and the route you have in mind for this. Such a diagram can be used as a point of reference for further advise then.

I concur with Richard and James that Fontographer and Glyphs are very suitable programs for the starting type designer. Glyphs is my personal favorite when it comes to the two new representatives in the font tools market (at DTL we will investigate the option to produce plugins for it, but first we will finish the development of the spacing and kerning tool KernMaster 2012 [for Mac OS X, Windows and Linux]).

Referring to the recent developments and discussions on font tools, I want to add some comments and remarks to two aspects here, namely on the obviously increased interest in modularity and the growing support for the UFO format. After propagating modularity for more than a decade with the DTL/URW++ font tools, especially with DTL FontMaster, I am pleased to see that this structure is more generally accepted now than when we released FM. I recall the e-mails of potential customers who declared that they would buy FM if we would put all functionality into one program. One of my arguments for modularity was that the modules could be enhanced by the programmers without the potential risk of shuffling other functionality. I read the same argument recently in relation to one of the two newly released font tools.

Of course, FM was not the first modular-based application for type design and font production, although it made modularity more easily accessible. The IKARUS system was designed that way from the beginning on (1970s) and besides FM we are using the IKARUS V4 program with its huge amount of very sophisticated command line tools for the DTL font production under X11 still.
The support for the UFO format seems to be growing fast. Although I personally see no reason to trade-in the very versatile IKARUS-based file system that the DTL/URW++ font tools are using, I think that it is good for the font business when there is a common file format. So, all DTL/URW++ font tools will support the UFO format in the near future too.

vanblokland's picture

So, all DTL/URW++ font tools will support the UFO format in the near future too.

Well that's great news! Make sure the URW++ techies look at the UFO3 draft

Té Rowan's picture

Ikarus fonts? Is that yet another secret format? Or is it documented in such a manner as to let others use it, too?

k.l.'s picture

Not secret but documented in the book Peter Karow: Digitale Schriften, Springer Verlag, 1992, pp 249ff. There's an English edition, not sure about the title, maybe Digital Typefaces.

eliason's picture

Digital typefaces: description and formats (1994)

k.l.'s picture

Ah, thanks!

blokland's picture

Craig: ‘Digital typefaces: description and formats (1994)
The first edition of this book was titled Digital Formats for Typefaces and was published by URW Verlag in 1987. At the DTL FontMaster conference of 2009 in The Hague, Dr. Karow’s presentation was on his highly impressive contribution to our profession. Peter Rosenfeld’s presentation was about the early days of digital typography and the ideas behind the IKARUS system.

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