Drama of the Textual Aesthetic and the New York Times
If you haven’t visited the New York Times Opinion Pages online lately, you’re missing one of the truly dramatic textual aesthetic events in a generation. As you can see in this screenshot below of a Frank Rich article published on Saturday — the fonts, and the complete look of the Opinion Page are crisp, precise and beautiful and look just like the printed page you buy on the street or pick up from your front doorstep — and that magnificent spectacle didn’t happen on accident.
Text printed on paper has been refined for centuries. We have come to expect, and demand that sort of blank ink on white paper crispness when we read. The Kindle and the iPhone try to match that precision of font in the eye through better display technology — they are slowly, if glacially, improving the look and feel of their proprietary reading experiences.
The problem with delivering beautiful, crisp, fonts on the open internet has been another matter. Microsoft tried to do it years ago using your local machine by installing their Clear Type anti-aliasing functionality. It sort of worked if you took the time for fine tuning. Google tried it more recently with their proprietary web technology and the Google Font API
It wasn’t until Typekit stepped through the door that fonts on a website or a blog were able to to immediately take on a preternatural paper and ink beauty — no matter what browser you were using, or what platform you were on — as evidenced in the stunning new look of the New York Times Opinion Page:
Perhaps our favorite part of the redesign is the classy new typography, courtesy of Typekit and the Times’ custom version of Cheltenham. We worked hard to ensure that this historic font would render beautifully and consistently across a wide range of browsers and devices. Gone are the days when a publication had to compromise on fonts for the web; with Typekit, the Times can look just as good online as they do in print.
Typekit is a fascinating technology because now designers don’t have to give up the spectacle of the eye to bad kerning and ghosting font-rendering when they work on the internet.
We use Typekit to deliver two specialty fonts for each of 13 blogs in the Boles Blogs Network — and we are delighted to be on the bloody edge again with Typekit as we publish into the future — but we wouldn’t be able to be on this beautiful font train with the prescience of WordPress.com to so quickly adopt Typekit functionality into their hosting service.
We are made better for this beautiful font experience, and with companies like Typekit and WordPress.com pressing the envelope open, we can more quickly replicate, and then improve, real life in a continuous real time attack into the esoteric ether of not what is but what must be.