The pen manufacturer BIC has constructed a website that invites people to submit samples of their own handwriting. An algorithm adds then adds their sample to a massive collective dataset and identifies the 'average' of all those handwritten marks for each letter of the alphabet. Users of the site can drill down to datasets organised by gender, or country or handedness, or profession. The 'average' typeface, as might be expected, is fairly anodyne. It is a clever marketing exercise, but whether it has anything signicant to say about the way we write around the world is rather less certain. The eventual uber-average typeface will no doubt eventually find its way into designer toolkits.
The urge to design typefaces is a universal one, not just the province of traditionally design oriented cultures. Some of the most interesting recent work is coming out of Latin America and Spain. The surge of interest in type design has led to increased demand for type design tools, many of which are relatively expensive. Font Forge is free and quite capable, and supports all of the major font formats. The author of the program is continually improving and updating the source code.
The last couple of years have seen a quiet revolution for web designers. Once limited to the small number of typefaces that 'everyone' had installed on their machines, designers have been completely liberated from that restriction by web-served typefaces. Now it no longer matters what the user has installed -- the website renders typefaces from a remote server. If you'd like to see what your website (or someone else's) would look like using the new web font services, try this neat little demonstration from type purveyor FontFont. Instead of bland patches of Arial or Verdana, imagine your site decked out with typefaces designed for the screen.
In combining prettiness and practicality, Archer is a rare typeface. With idiosyncratic letterforms and cute little ball terminals, this friendly slab serif has been spotted all over the web and and in hundreds of publications. As with other HF&J typefaces (especially Gotham), it has been (over)used, but in the right caring hands, it still has the capacity to give shine and personality to many kinds of print and web design.