Last Friday I went along to the 2nd Ampersand web typography conference held at Brighton's Dome theatre. It was disappointing to hear only 24hrs previously that Erik Spiekermann was not able to make it. Courageously though, Phil Baines (Typography professor at Central Saint Martins) had kindly agreed to step in at the last moment and gave an interesting insight into the history of type and its difficult journey from page to screen.
I really enjoyed Yves Peters's presentation that followed. It focused on recent developments in web typography and techniques that offer us greater control over the appearance and behaviour of text on the web. He gave an overview of 'do's and don'ts' and offered some practical recommendations for choosing fonts for the web. He considered function and needs and the softer criteria of mood, atmosphere and cultural influence. He gave insight into the finer grain control of typography on the web. It centred around choosing the right glyphs for the right scenarios and serving up the appropriate code to render that on the web. Examples included making "dumb" quotes “smart”, using real as apposed to faux small caps, when to use proportional or old style figures, when to use non-breaking spaces and how to apply the correct white spaces.
Another highlight for me was Veronika Burian and José Scaglione's talk on typographic matchmaking. They showed love and hate (much more of the latter) examples of digital type at work in the real world. They illustrated that selecting two type families that work harmoniously together is far from an exact science, but by focusing on achieving the right level of contrast, the task of combining typography becomes easier.
Veronika Burian and José Scaglione are the founders of type foundry TypeTogether
In the screen environment where responsive site design is coming to the fore and user control of content is paramount, it is perhaps even more important that we now apply the typographic knowledge and techniques that we know and use in print.
Final thoughts: the Ampersand conference does a good thing. It brings designers and developers together and highlights their responsibilities to each other to bring better typography to the web.