Typography

Proxima Sera is the serif font pairing for Proxima Nova. That ‘x’ has got to be my favourite detail element.

A follow-up on my presentation, another great indie typographer that I love and follow is Mika Melvas. Today he dropped a wonderful sans serif typeface, Nietos. I have used Melvas’ work on Stet (notably when you sign up to the newsletter).

Heliotrope is the latest release from one of my favourite type designers. While I am not in the market for something like this I love the name, the story and the italics. Concourse is my next purchase, once I have a project.

I’m sure this was on Ngoc’s list for a while however by chance I dropped him an email a few days ago asking for the opportunity to use my beloved Merriweather. He said it was coming in the latest iteration of 1writer - which just dropped. One of the new features is being able to pick any of your installed fonts. Oh and he also mentioned that he is hard at work on version 4. Super excited about that.

One of my favourite typefaces, Merriweather, has recently (3 months ago is recent in the typeface world) been updated with what appears to be display, wide, narrow and heading variants. Last year in April, small-caps were added as well (in case you missed that update).

What’s interesting is that Google now appears to be funding the efforts of future development - which was news to me. It’s not very well documented anywhere.

iPad Revelations & Misery

I really miss my MacBook. I’m a firm believer that using the right tool makes you happier and is therefore more sustainable in the long run. Since September, I have been relegated to using my iPad Pro exclusively for all my needs. In some ways, it has been both a revelation and joy to use. In other respects, it has been abject misery.

Protability

Where the iPad shines for me is it’s portability. This thing is incredibly light. Solidly built and has an incredible battery that keeps on going and going. The fact that the pencil is magnetically attached to the top means it’s always charged and ready to go. All in all, it is definitely the road warrior that I imagined it to be. I opted for the 12.9” version, which is right for me, in most cases. It gets a bit big when I write notes, but this is mainly a mindset thing that I need to get past and work into my routine.

Keyboard Support

While this isn’t perfect, I use this with two keyboards. One by Apple and it’s perfect and the other by Logitech and it works great at work as I need to flip between a Windows machine and my iPad. The only issue I’ve ever really had is that sometimes support across various apps has been pretty buggy recently. Most notably with iAWriter, the keyboard goes haywire if I switch between apps. Its restored only when I restart the app.

Apps

Apps like GoodNotes, Procreate, iFontMaker, Stop Motion Pro, and PDFExpert truly shine on this machine in a way that other apps cannot. There are the apps that have been adapted exceptionally well. iA Writer. Soulver. Drafts. Affinity’s Photos and Designer work surprisingly well but they falter by the limitations of the iPad’s poor support of a mouse which is where these types of apps shine.

Then there are the apps that don’t exist on the platform. The Archive. Affinity say that they are working on a version for their Publisher app, but until then, creating books isn’t really all that possible - sure there is Pages…but I mean, c’mon guys. It’s called an iPad Pro. No Web Developer tools of note. The ones available are barely ok, but certainly not as powerful as what already comes with desktop safari.

Buggy Software

This is something that I have noticed a sharp addition of bugs for iOS13. It’s not been great. Everything from dictionary support to weird and wonderful bugs with the keyboard support. As this is my main machine for production, it’s frustrating.

Fonts

Yes, you can have your own fonts installed, except for some reason, it’s only through third party apps (none of which are very good). Why the hell isn’t this baked into the OS?


Fixing It

I know it’s fashionable to pile onto the iPad at the moment. The truth is that it wouldn’t take very much for me not to pine over my macbook.

  1. Add the Safari Developer Tools.
  2. Give proper mouse support to the OS.
  3. Design a nice interface for font management.
  4. Sort out the bugs related to the keyboard support.

Moonshot

The thing that would be the real game changer for me is if the 3rd party developers are enticed to actually develop real productivity software for the platform. I’d love to see ports of Mac apps on iOS. Make it happen Apple. It’s the sort of crazy shit Steve Jobs would ask for. This would allow me to have The Archive, Hemingway, Highland, Marsedit and any number of other great Mac apps that I have already paid for and currently have no way to use.

The single biggest change anyone can make to their site is sorting out the typography. There are plenty of freely available typefaces out there. My favourites are IBM Plex (Sans Serif, Serif and Mono), Inter (Sans Serif), Merriweather (Sans Serif and Serif) and Source Sans and Source Serif, Charter (Serif) & Clear Sans (Sans Serif).

The issue is that because they are freely available, they offer little distinction as they can be used by everyone. Sometimes that’s what you want. Sometimes it’s not. If I was running an up and coming blogging platform (ahem @manton), I’d try and hook up with indie typographers. People like Matthew Butterick, Mika Melvas or even a foundary like TipoType. See if I can strike some kind of deal to allow everyone to use their fonts across my platform.

You had me at iPhone 11 Pro. I was honestly planning on getting a new camera, but the funds there will now go into this beast of a phone. It’s going to have to last me a good 5 years to make it worthwhile but I am pretty confident that won’t be a problem. Also Pro font!

I stand corrected. Source Serif Pro does have old style figures & ligatures. Frank also says he’s got an update coming soon for Google fonts. Great news all around for a great typeface.

On a related note to my previous post, Source Serif Pro now also comes with italics. Only came out 7 months ago but I’d completely missed that announcement. 4 years in the making. Still hasn’t been updated on Google fonts and doesn’t seem to have old style numerals - once you see numbers in this way, you can’t unsee them presented differently.

Update — I stand corrected. Source Serif Pro does have old style figures & ligatures. Frank also says he’s got an update coming soon for Google fonts.

I’ve recently updated my websites, kaa.bz and stet.build with some proper typographic love and attention. Two things spring to mind. The first is that a professional typeface (read the last paragraph of that link) will totally elevate a design. The second is how far browsers have come with their support for all manner of great typographic features.

I’ve been spending way to much time looking at Matthew Butterick’s fonts. Valkyrie is perfect for running text on a site (works great on a phone size), but Equity and Concourse also look amazing.

I have eyed iFontMaker with a considerable amount of envy over the years. I even considered buying an iPad just for it at one point. For font lovers out there, it really is a great app.

It’s always a joy when I receive an email from Matthew Butterick - go subscribe if type is your thing. His online book has been revised and I’m seriously considering using Equity for my next major project.

An Ode to iAWriter

Since April I have been working silently and diligently on my little project. I’ve still got a long while to go before I’m happy to share what’s been going on with me but I wanted to share my absolute recommendation for iAWriter as one of the best tools for writing projects ever made.

Of significant value to me is the ability to link in multiple text files into a single document. This has allowed me to reorganise the entire project several times over, as though it was a simple deck of cards.

This feature alone would be enough for me, but that is just the start of things. It’s super lightweight and opens instantly. It doesn’t have any font features (except choosing between a single font) and that helps me from wasting type. Although there arent’ many templates to choose from, the basic ones included with the app do an amazing job of typesetting the work in a fashion that I can read/markup and edit freely.

Sure I would like a few features found in the Highland app, such as sprint timer, native fountain support, and actual comment support within the document, but this app provides me with so much and I highly recommend you consider it for your next project.

Do yourself a favour and listen to the first episode of Craig Mod’s On Margins podcast with Jan Chipchase. Apart from a great conversation, I also learnt about the font Fedra.

My current reading pile:

  1. Letters from a Stoic — Seneca
  2. Ego is the Enemy — Ryan Holiday
  3. Ikigai — Hector Garcia & Francesc Miralles
  4. On Web Typography — Jason Santa Maria
  5. Manhood for Amateurs — Michael Chabon
  6. The Mote in God’s Eye - Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle

Down a Rabbit Hole

Seriously fell down a rabbit hole yesterday.

  1. First was buying FlowState.
  2. This then led me to discovering The Most Dangerous Writing App, and I loved the font.
  3. Which turned out to be Merriweather.
  4. Once I realised it was on Google Fonts I then went and spent 5 hours putting it to good use on the site.
  5. Hopefully I’ll keep these transgressions down to a minimum in the coming future.

Published nearly 3 ½ years ago, Jason Santa Maria’s On Web Typography has been sitting on my shelf the entire time. Only really started digging into this over the weekend.

I knew of the Courier Prime font, as all my comic work is written in the Highland app. What I didn’t know about were the sans serif and code versions. Nice additions to the library.

I’m thinking about using Pollen to publish the final outputs made on RMO. In a weird way, I’m actually loving the learning slope. It’s geeky but for me the results are pretty spectacular - as evident here and here.

Then and Now

The truth is that I can’t help myself and keep coming back to these characters. I’ve honestly tried to get into another project, but it’s clear that there is a whole world that needs to be explored, developed and discovered.

This process is both therapy for me and I see it as a way to hone some of my skills to tell a story, develop a world before I take my mediocre skills into something more serious or demanding.

What’s also clear to me, is that there is really no rush with these characters. This August marks 5 years since I first started working on Moon Racket! The below three images were created on an iPhone 4 as a way to use the Brushes app along with a really shitty stylus.

Evolution of Corgan — Created on an iPhone 4

Over time the characters have evolved significantly. The general ideas remain, however the details have changed and hopefully will continue to evolve.

Cast of Characters

This crept up on me to be honest. I started off with a grand total of 2 characters and little else. Over the course of the 5 years I’m now the proud owner of 10 characters and counting (I actually have a further 8 characters that I’ll be showing off sooner or later, but more on that in a bit).

Continuous Change

What I continue to be surprised by, is the fact that every time I create a new image, it adds something new and interesting to this world. I’ve only created two full images this year, but they basically added the orange colour which ties the art together, a new character (in Ison the rocket) and established a new vernacular for the type of buildings that I’d like to see throughout the Moon Racket! world (till now, I’d not shown the guys in the context of an actual physical place). Not bad for two images.

Black & White artwork for header


Completed colour artwork for header

Onomatopoeia

I’ve always felt that one of the main ‘characters’ in Moon Racket! should be the onomatopoeia. I’ve not really utilised this very much and kept the general use of the text and fonts to a minimum. That’s one aspect that I would like to explore a little further in future iterations of these characters.

This is also the first time that I use a new font for signage. I’ve chosen ‘Phosphate’ as one option at the moment, although I also recognise that something more stylised might be necessary down the line.

The Future

Moving into the future, there is a children’s book that I am writing now — probably why I’ve not been drawing very much. It’s certainly taken a lot more out of me than I would have wanted. The concept is simple, but having read a considerable amount of children’s books over the last year, I would say that doing it in an exciting and fun way is a real challenge.

In an attempt at creating a new story, what I am looking into is to try and find a way to slowly create a story that is developed 1 panel at a time. The intention is to continue to draw on a regular basis and just build the story slowly and organically. I’m reasonably comfortable with the art side of things, that I’d like to flesh out these characters a little bit more and start to explore ideas and thoughts that I wonder about on a regular basis.

Notable part of this installation is the use of the newly minted #Philips #DubaiLamps - along with the new #Microsoft Dubai font you can see the city trying to increase its soft power

It’s been a while since I’ve done some digital artwork. This is a work in progress shot of a print I’m making for my boy Zane. The only thing that will calm him down is Baby Einstein, so this felt like the right kind of thing to put up on his wall.

Made using Sanelma, Hoefler Text and Affinity Designer.

Typography

Although many will claim that there is still a great deal of work to be done to bring the level of typography in the graphic design and online world forward (and in many respects I agree), I honestly do believe that we live in the start of a golden era for type and the fonts that enable it.

Over the weekend I bought the sublime new font Sanelma from Finnish designer Mika Melvas. The font itself inspired me to start actual work on a little project I’ve had brewing for a while - which is all you can ask from a font before you’ve begun using it really.

This led me down a rabbit hole on all things typography. I realised that a lot of what I enjoy doing and creating relates back to typography in one way or another. My website work is mainly typography, my comic work hangs on the frames created by typography, my day job is revolved around drawings and design which also is very closely related to typography.

Although I was extensively using Source Sans Pro on all of my three websites, I’ve since transitioned things over to Libertad, as I felt it gave my sites enough of a unique feel to warrent this transition. The main problem has been in how these fonts are delivered to my Tumblr powered websites (as Myfonts doesn’t provide a hosting service like Typekit or Typography do).

That’s the one gripe I have with Myfonts. If you’re going to make me pay you for a license to use an online font, then provide a service with the cost/overhead of that font. Typekit I believe has the right model, with the basic paid version coming in at a very reasonable $25/year. The main font that I would consider using is Proxima Nova. Without fail, every time I see a site using the font, I always instantly go, wait, what’s that font? Of course it’s Proxima Nova. Just because I don’t use it right now, doesn’t mean I won’t in the future. It is ubiquitous for a reason, it’s that good onscreen.

Proxima Nova Banner

The thing with Typekit however, is that you don’t get any of the Hoefler (& Frere-Jones) fonts, which I would love. Their fonts are much more expensive to license at $100/year. If I was making $100/year off my websites I would consider it, but alas that’s an additional cost I’m not that comfortable paying. However I would love to use Ideal Sans.

Take heart, there is now a growing collection of fonts that are amazing to use and either at great prices or for the great price of Free. On my windows machine, Clear Sans from Intel has honestly been an eye opening experience. With no retina-type displays at work, typography is more painful to appreciate. I’ve found that Clear Sans helps in a lot of ways.

Clear Sans Banner

And I haven’t even touched upon the great work that is carried out by Comicraft. Most of my comic work uses their fonts, although I do dip my toe into Blambot territory as well.

2013 in Review

When you reflect back on a year, the hope is always to find a number of moments that put a smile on your face - thankfully these last 12 months have given me with a lot to smile about.

Getting the news that I am going to become a father was the definite highlight - a fact which I’ve honestly not wrapped my head completely around, but I’ve started preparing1.

Creatively this year is one of my strongest in recent memory. I drew an entire season of Moon Racket, a slew of additional promotional images and designed the website - although it’s going to get some redesign love in the new year. Surprisingly the comic work didn’t end there as I completely rewrote the script for Chroma (my upcoming comics project) that has been many years in the making.

I redesigned this here site for the umpteenth time, however I do believe that this iteration is by far my most mature attempt and probably one that I will likely not change fundamentally for many years to come. The aspects of the site that I am most happy with are the colours and the typography, which is the first time in many years that I am ahead of the curve in certain respects (small caps only valid in certain browsers, surprisingly not Safari/Webkit proper).

Finally I started work on two iOS apps. The first one, we’ve scrapped and shelved, the other I hope we get some traction in the new year and we finally ship something, because as we all know:

Real Artists Ship.

Steve Jobs

Here’s wishing everyone a great 2014.

  1. This year I started getting into photography a little bit more. I want to make sure that I am capable of capturing my son or daughter’s life in the most beautiful way - like every self respecting geek father should. ↩︎

Lettering

In creating Moon Racket, it was very clear to me early on that the lettering would have to be a character in itself. My initial attempts at lettering involved hand lettering, in the end I opted for some great fonts from the Comicraft library.

Projects