Type is Art...

more specifically... performing art.

It is a rich history, one of typographical masters who have developed the art of characters for textual communication. In its past, typeface useage and design has been the result of enormous attention to the aesthetic principle. Type was designed for specific purposes on demand... by artisans with limited resources... and virtually no recognition. Type was the result of careful planning and attention to character width as well as consistancy. This craftsmanship, while expensive, was required by the current technology to produce acceptable results. The key word here being acceptable results.

Printed material has always been very expensive. This is due to the nature of the process that required thousands of man-hours to produce a result. Prior to movable type, this was even more the case with acually having to hand-scribe each and every character. The amount of man hours to create a copy of a document were immense. Looking at the art and the individuality of these documents, we can begin to appreciate the impact of the press, and what it has done to our industry.

Well, now we are through the threshold of the digital age. Everything we see printed in today's world has been generated on a computer. This has served a multitude of purposes, but one or two in particular concern me.

The art and attention to detail that typesetting required in past technology was just part of what it took to put out a document. With the constantly evolving tools from Gutenberg himself to Aldus Manutius, and more recently Sumner Stone, the machines may have changed but the art was effectively maintained from each level of technology... until the computer.

All of a sudden... people think its o.k. to look at a bunch of dots that barely look like a character, and that is good enough. Because it was done on a computer. Cool! (not really)
All of a sudden, everybody can publish. The resources are not so consuming, and anybody who has anything to say can do so fairly simply. It is now extremely important to strive to maintain the principles that the typographic masters outlined. Technology is not the limiting factor here... the expertise of the publisher however is.

The computer should mimic life... not vice versa.

It is not o.k. to accept less than best quality with new technology.
It is because of this that I am most excited about the PDF technology from Adobe Systems. This technology holds the potential to maintain the high-quality typographic subtleties that we have become accustomed to, but to also provide electronic document flexibility.

You use the internet (or you would not be reading this) and are probably used to the look and feel of many of the web pages out here. Aesthetic principles have been tossed to the wind in favor of the limitation of the standard ASCII set, for the sake of platform invisibility. Now the PDF file format allows the same cross-platform seamless approach, with the added advantage of using PostScript typefaces and extended character sets. Now... electronic publishing on the internet does not have to be relegated to ASCII... There is going to be no technical reason why one would not be able to browse the contents of the internet in PDF format.

So, before all of you folks get heavily involved with the creation of Web material (everybody seems to be doing it lately)... please keep in mind all of the efforts that our forebears provided for us to use... and let's try to do them the justice they so richly deserve. Learn how to use ligatures, em-dashes, and kerning pairs. and take a look at the possibilities of PDF. I am excited.

Thanks for the time... and enjoy the PubWire

Any questions or comments please e-mail cheric@isdn.net.
(Clicking any of the small images will download a high-resolution JPEG file)

Chris Heric

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