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Q. I’ve been hearing a lot about Web fonts but don’t understand what they are. Can you explain?
A. In the past, the only way Web designers could be sure text would display in the fonts the designers intended was to limit themselves to fonts that are shared by Mac and PC operating systems. That small list was known as “Web-safe fonts.” If you wanted to venture beyond Web-safe fonts, you could rasterize type and display it as an image, but that came with its own drawbacks.
Then the CSS @font-face rule was created. When a web designer specifies fonts using @font-face, those fonts don’t need to be installed on a site visitor’s computer; instead, the Web browser temporarily downloads the fonts and uses them to display text.
While the CSS @font-face rule has been around for a while, it’s come into its own recently because of the rise of several Web font services. These companies store fonts on servers, and anyone’s website can access and automatically download those fonts, which are optimized for onscreen display.
Most of these Web font services are subscription-based, with different tiers of service for different budgets and needs. The majority require that you add a special code to your site, but they instruct you on how to do so.
For designers and clients alike, this means greatly expanded creative and typographic freedom, plus text that’s searchable, editable, and faster loading than rasterized type.
Click the screenshots below to visit typographically exciting websites that use Web fonts:
Some of the major supplies of Web type follow:
- Fonts.com Web Fonts
- Fonts Live
- Web FontFonts
- Webfonts at MyFonts
And more are on the horizon.
To experience the power of Web fonts without getting into licensing and coding, check out FontShop’s Font Fonter, where in a matter of seconds you can see what a site looks like with a Web font. Read more on the technical details of the new Web font technology in the articles “Expand Your Web Design Font Choices, Part 1” and “Expand Your Web Design Font Choices, Part 2”.
Love type? Want to know more? Ilene Strizver conducts her acclaimed Gourmet Typography workshops internationally. For more information on attending one or bringing it to your company, organization, or school, go to her site, call The Type Studio at 203-227-5929, or email Ilene at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sign up for her e-newsletter at www.thetypestudio.com.