Dingbats want to be Free

More than just an old-fashioned insult, dingbats are pictorial typefaces packed with symbols useful in a wide variety of design contexts. FontFont have released a sampler typeface (not the full complement of symbols, but a wide variety nonetheless) for free downloading. Erler Dingbats were first released some forty years ago and have now been updated for the digital era with new symbols. Each symbol has been designed to integrate with its fellows. In the usual way of European type, the result is slightly bloodless but eminently useable.

Give Me Your Hand (writing)

'Handwritten' typefaces are a popular area of computer-based typography. The too-perfect edges and shapes created by layout and design packages often seem to need humanising, softening, a touch of variety and irregularity. The OpenType format has enabled the emergence of a new generation of typefaces with hundreds or even thousands of alternate characters, ligatures and other typographic goodies. For example, Liza Pro inserts a variety of different ligatures and alternate characters as the user types, giving text a warm and idiosyncratic feel. If you'd like to go a step further and personalise a document with your very own inimitable handwriting, www.fontcapture.com allows users to print out a special form, then pen an instance of each letter of the alphabet, numbers and other special characters. When scanned in and uploaded, Font Capture uses the sheet to automatically digitise your handwriting and save the result as a typeface. If you like what you see (and the results can be somewhat erratic), the typeface can then be installed.
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Build it, and they will kern

fontstructYou've visited all the type vendors and searched in vain. There's nothing that quite matches up with the search image in your head. 'I could do a better job myself!' you cry. Fortunately for you. Fontshop has recently added an interesting functionality to their website: a typeface constructor. The FontStruct site equips you with an array of basic font shapes that can be moved arround lego-like on an underlying grid to form letters. Although the basic shapes are simple, when used in concert, the results are quite sophisticated. A gallery shows the variety of effects achieved by contributors.  Once you have put together your masterpiece (and that might just be an uppercase set of letters, or an extended character set), your typeface can be saved as a truetype font and used out in the 'real' world. Over 160,000 people have signed up with FontStruct and 7,000 typefaces have been saved for public use. At the very least, the site is a worthy educational tool for those interested in typefaces, and reinforces the notion of an underlying grid over which the letterforms are arranged/organised.  Oh, and it is completely free.
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