type fontWhen web designers get together they like to discuss current trends and happenings in their chosen industry. Some developer’s responsibilities include making web and mobile versions of print magazines. As can be expected, typography can be one of the major challenges that a web developer would face in getting content published.

Print magazine designers and publishers have greater freedom than their online counterparts in terms of typography. This may be difficult to believe for average users of word processing or desktop publishing software. There is a typographic disconnect between web design standards and browser compatibility that makes print design difficult to reproduce online. Imagine the challenge of bringing Ray Gun, a mid-1990s rock-and-roll magazine that was legendary for its rich typography, to an iPhone.

Typography and the Cloud

Thanks to digital graphic design, the global family of fonts and typefaces has grown exponentially over the years. Unfortunately, the average web user is only familiar with a small portion of the rich typography that is available. In the early days of the World Wide Web, only a handful of fonts were available to designers. That isn’t true anymore. Web developers have access to thousands of fonts. Quite a few of them reside in the cloud thanks to services such as Typekit, Google Fonts, and Hoefler & Company’s Cloud.typography.

Before the advent of cloud computing, web designers were limited to the font families supported by the different browsers. This was a problem for many designers who wished to use an elegant serif typeface such as Georgia that looked good on Internet Explorer only to see it replaced by Arial in Opera.

Even with the current abundance of web fonts, there are still issues of browser compatibility that can only be overcome by the development of design standards. To this end, the use of JavaScript and cascading style sheets (CSS) enables the use of the rich cloud font services mentioned above. True cross browser compatibility is still an issue. There is still the “font-family” coding convention of starting with a desired font and then letting web browsers to pick from a generic family in case the first command does not work, but this does not allow typographic freedom.

comic sans sampleAlthough universally compliant web typography is not a reality yet, there is a greater push from the tech community on this. We’ve come a long way since the 10 Core fonts for the Web, plus Webdings. As cloud computing and web standards continue to evolve, true universal and cross-browser font compatibility will one day become reality.

Comic Sans sample Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.