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April Fools Highlights

anonymooseEvery year we try to amuse with some sort of April Fools prank.  Last year visitors to the site were first greeted by what looked like a hacker takeover, a modest joke, but we’ve done some even bigger and sillier things in previous years. Here are some examples preserved as best we could.

1998 April Fools Page
1999 April Fools Page.
2000 April Fools Page.
2001 April Fools Page.
2002 April Fools Page.
2003 April Fools Page.
2004 April Fools Page.
2006 April Fools Page.
2008 April Fools Page.
2009 April Fools Page.
2012 April Fools Page
2015 April Fools Font

Hope you find them amusing. 1998 and 2002 were probably the biggest hits – certainly my favorites as well. The 2002 page actually results in several calls from churches looking for baptismal fonts every year. Nothing is available for 2005 or 2007 because both of them consisted of joke fonts which did horrible things when you tried to use them. 2015 was the Marquis Greeking font, but imagine it taking over the entire page.


Austin Poster Scene

poster5poster4Austin is a great center for the arts, not only music and film and other performing arts, but visual arts and all sorts of crafts. All these events and shows have to be advertised and the traditional method of getting the word out is through posters distributed all over town wherever people gather.

I like to go around town collecting these posters, or at least photos of them, to provide an occasional look at the Austin poster scene. It’s not to make you jealous, its just to show some neat images and creative use of fonts and art to stir up the imagination.

My current gleanings seem to mostly be advertising art shows and multimedia, which is an interesting change from the endless show posters. Not that there weren’t some of those too, but these were more interesting.  They all have something to offer: the composition of the Color of Noise poster, the hand lettering in the Kay Odyssey poster, the artful backdrop of the Megafauna post, the neat fonts in the Co-Eds poster, and I just like the word-painting look of the Cock poster.


Understanding Font and Image Licenses

I’ve noticed recently that a lot of people seem not to entirely understand the idea of purchasing fonts or images with a license, and I suspect they find the idea intimidating. It’s not surprising, since it’s a bit different from purchasing a toaster or a book, and not something most people do every day.

To help clear up this confusion we’ve rewritten our full EULA (end user license agreement) to include not only the legalistic text of the license itself, but also colored sections which clarify and explain in some detail typical acceptable and unacceptable uses under the license to answer user questions in advance.

The basic idea of a license ought to be easy to understand. While we retain copyright and ownership of our fonts and images, when you buy them we give you a license which includes permission to use those images and fonts within certain parameters defined in the license. Some users get confused because of a superficial similarity with renting something and conclude that this means that there are additional secondary fees, but our licenses are based on a one-time payment and as long as you remain within the terms of the license there are no additional charges. So you pay for the license and as long as you have it you can use the item you bought in the ways it allows.

For example, with a font you CAN:

    Create text and titles in a publication.
    Design logos or business stationery.
    Use in posters or merchandise packaging.
    Make on-screen titles in movie, video or game production.
    Design graphics for publication, online viewing or display in a program interface

But you CANNOT:

    Embed a font in a computer or console game or other software.
    Resell or redistribut the font to secondary users.
    Use the font in the creation of a secondary form of reproduction like rubber stamps, letter stickers or transfer media.

And with an image you CAN:

    Use for illustrations in a publication or media presentation.
    Use for designing logos or business stationery.
    Inclusion as part of an original work of art like a collage.
    Use for personal reference or display by the end user.

But you CANNOT:

    Resell the image in digital format.
    Use the image in publishing prints, postcards or calendars.
    Use ithe image to create a secondary form of reproduction like rubber stamps, stickers or transfer media.

The idea of all of this is to make our products useful to you, while also retaining their value to us and to other users. The license protects our rights, but also protects you by clearly defining what you can do with our products and including in those terms the vast majority of typical uses. If the license doesn’t cover the use you have in mind, we may have a special license to cover that use (embedding, ebooks, stamps, etc) and you should contact us to discuss it.

And also be aware of this important provision in the EULA which exists to protect us and you: “Because this is a software purchase and the product is available for immediate download, the merchandise is non-returnable and we cannot provide a refund, credit or exchange. We will make every effort to make sure you receive your purchase in a timely manner and will provide a reasonable number of replacement attempts if there are delivery problems.”

So when you’re placing an order and the screen asks you to sign off on the license, I hope that the new version of the license, with the explanatory sections will help remove any ambiguity and answer any questions.


Facebook Acquires 2 New Colors and 3 New Fonts for $1.2 Billion

Citing the boring sameness of their web presentation, the management of social media giant Facebook has contacted us here at the Scriptorium to purchase two new proprietary colors and 3 new custom fonts for $1.2 billion.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg observed that now that his company has topped the $100 billion mark it seemed safe to risk investing in a new look and feel. “With global climate change it’s time for a warmer look and feel,” said Zuckerberg. “We’re thinking something in an orange and pink palette and the look of a 14-year-old girl’s handwriting to help us recapture the youth market.”

In a related story, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Warner announced that they were also considering expanding their color palette and font selection, commenting that “We really want to set ourselves apart, so we’ll probably go with a slightly darker two tone version of whatever Facebook does and a font which appeals to Facebook’s current demographic.”

Industry experts expect Instagram to follow these moves with a redesign using fingerpaints and alphabet blocks to capture the entry-level computer user market.

Grunge Was Never About Typography

I’m writing in response to an article published a while ago in The Awl which looks at the decline and fall of “grunge” typography. It’s a good historical overview of the subject, but suffers from a fundamental flaw. The author thinks that there is such a thing as grunge typography.

Grunge was a design movement and continues as a way of describing a certain style of graphic design, but because of its spontaneous nature and the predicate that everything not look the same and that design norms be deconstructed, you can make type grunge but you cannot make grunge into type. It only works as a one-way process.

Grunge was never about type. It was about what you did to the type.

The author uses Raygun magazine as his point of reference for grunge design.  The cover to the right shows immediately why grunge cannot be typography.  The idea of distorting characters, repositioning them or even removing them entirely defines grunge.  In the example to the right, the “G” and “N” in Raygun and the “r” in bjork are backwards and the “b” in bjork is missing.  This works in the cover design.  It’s not a radical example of grunge, but the light touch of starting with a familiar font, removing a character and distorting or damaging a couple of others makes it grunge.

These elements that make the design grunge are not part of the type design. They are something done to it after the fact and they are unique changes applied in the process of designing the cover.  If you were to take them and actually make them into a typeface, the result would no longer be grunge, it would just be a defective typeface.  Building the variations into a font takes away the aspect of spontaneity which defines grunge.  The concept works if it is expressed as some apparently random changes in a cover design.  But if you are using a font based on the same concept, where every “G” and “N” is backward snad every “b” is missing, every time you type them, then it is not spontaneous and all you really have is a mess.

The article also references the grunge font Morire where every character is uniquely distorted.  Morire had a fad  popularity in the 90s which didn’t last.  It didn’t last because the uniqueness of the font caught your eye the first time you saw it and then every time you saw it again you asked yourself why you bought such a  butt-ugly and inflexible font.  Grunge works because of its inherent impermanence.  Sometimes everything is normal and other times it’s all screwed up and you never know when.  Once you nail down the randomness and make it static you lose the whole point.

This is why a font like Morire really does not work and has a short shelf-life. If every “A” looks like every other “A” and the relationships between characters remain the same every time you type the same letter combination, what you have is just something dull and deliberately ugly, with no real life to it.

The problem with grunge typography is that to be really excellent and creative it has to not really be typography at all. The best designs that fit into this category require a quality of uniqueness which you cannot produce with type alone. It may start with type, but if you deconstruct the type and make it “grunge” then you cannot really reconstruct it as type and preserve that character. Making the unique duplicable and the spontaneous static is a flawed concept.

Grunge is a design style, not a viable category of typography.


Start Your Collection With the Basic Fonts

Click any font to see a larger sample.

You have to start building your font library somewhere, and where better to start than with our Basic Fonts Collection. It’s a great introduction to our wide variety of fonts at a very reasonable price. It lets you get a great set of versatile fonts which represents every aspect of our collection without paying a higher price for more specialized packages. It includes a sampling of text, display, calligraphic and decorative fonts with an emphasis on the most practical and useful fonts to meet a range of needs. All fonts are in both Postscript and True Type format for Windows and Macintosh, and the package also includes shareware and demo samples of additional fonts and graphic arts resources, plus a PDF catalog.

The Basic Fonts collection starts with a set of 10 text fonts which should provide all the variety most users need in this area, from the clear, legibility of traditional serif fonts like Centurion and Marquis to the more unusual and specialized look of the ultra-narrow Everest and the decorative demi-serif Baldessare. It even includes two of our best monospaced fonts, Cincinnatus and Vidilex.

The Basic Fonts collection also includes 8 specially selected display fonts. These are some of our most popular fonts, like the antique lettering of Buccaneer and the striking art nouveau style of Ariosto and Harbinger, as well as versatile display and titling fonts like Academy, Beaumarchais and Mazarin. Most of these display fonts are based on classic 19th century designs, but with all of the improvements and additions to make them truly modern and adaptable. While most of them include full upper and lower-case character sets, some were specifically and solely intended for titling use (Mazarin, Acadian, Primer), so they have more limited character sets.

Because calligraphic fonts are our specialty, the Basic Fonts package includes a selection of our best calligraphic fonts, from the Roman period with fonts like Procopius, through the Middle Ages with the classic black letter look of Burgundian and the more fanciful style of Cymbeline, to Renaissance lettering in Magdelena and Palmieri and early modern italics like Terpsichore and Iphegenia. It even includes our very popular and more modern Allembert brush script calligraphic font. Together these fonts represent a tour through calligraphic history and a useful range of styles with a selection varied enough to fill any need you have for decorative text or titling with a hand-drawn look.

Finally, we’ve included a few of our most generally useful decorative initials and art fonts. Parsifal and Jongeleur are two of our most attractive and most adaptable decorative initials styles, and their style is highly compatible with other fonts included in the package, like Burgundian and Cymbeline. Sigil and Emblem are essential art fonts, with a wide variety of decorative symbols and motifs which will add character to any document.

The Scriptorium’s Basic Fonts package is a great way to start off your font collection at an exceptionally reasonable price. The package includes the 30 fonts shown here, plus shareware versions of a selection of our most recent fonts and images. It includes a little bit of everything at a total price per font which comes to only a bit more than a dollar, at $59 for the package either on CD or as a quick download from our server.

To order online just go to our ONLINE STORE.

In Development: Crane Initials Font

One of our upcoming fonts is the result of an interesting project, developing original initials based on designs by Walter Crane. We recently acquired an obscure edition of French tales of Reynard the Fox illustrated by Crane with a series of square black and white illustrations of forest animals.


They were just the right size and shape for the backgrounds of decorative initials characters, so we are adapting them to be the basis of a new decorative initials font with the letter forms provided by our Crane Gothic font. The initial character designs look excellent and the font should work really nicely in conjunction with our other Walter Crane fonts.

Look for the new font to be released soon.

Recreating the Django Font

Since there seemed to be some real interest in seeing a fully developed font similar to the one used for the titles for the new Tarantino movie Django Unchained, I decided to take it on as a project. This kind of project always involves a lot of research, and in the process I learned more about Django than I ever expected to.

The new Tarantino film draws on a legacy of an entire genre of Django films with a long history which goes back to the original 1966 Django directed by Sergio Corbucci and starring Franco Nero. It was one of the most successful early spaghetti westerns and spawned over 30 unofficial sequels, including A Few Dollars for Django, a quick ripoff which appeared in the same year as the original, A Coffin for Django (1968) and Viva Django (1971) which both starred Terrence Hill, whose more famous Trinity films are very much in the Django tradition. The only official sequel was Django Strikes Again which has a script by Corbucci and in which Nero reprises his role 20 years later. Tarantino’s Django Unchained would be most accurately classed as a tribute to the entire Django genre, borrowing from many different films, including the original Django and They Call Me Trinity. Interestingly, it’s not the first first Django tribute film Tarantino has been involved in. He appeared as an actor in Takeshi Miike’s Japanese tribute to the Django genre, Sukiyaki Western Django in 2007.  There were many other Django films and Django ripoffs and they became so iconic that in Italy and Japan the name Django came to be applied to the entire genre of spaghetti westerns.

I had originally thought that I’d have to go to the Tarantino film for source material for a font, but as it turns out, the main font Tarantino uses in the title and on the posters for his film is actually derived from  hand lettered titles in the original Django.  It’s actually one of several lettering styles used in the trailer and also for the main titles in the film itself.  If you wait through most of the scenes in the trailer, it’s the lettering used for the names of the cast at the end, shown in a mustard color rather than the orangy red in the Tarantino film.  It’s also the style used in the titles of the film itself, but the quality of the lettering in the trailer is much more consistent than in the film. The facts that the style of the titles predates the Tarantino film and that it was originally hand lettered actually add a lot of appeal to the project, because it makes it a much more interesting and original work of research and recreation.

You can watch the trailer for the original Django above and to the right.  If you want to see the whole film you can find it on IMDB and most of the other Django films are on YouTube if you look around for them.

The next step is taking the images of the letters in the trailer and picking the best examples and expanding them into a full character set, using our Madding font as a guide for the general weight and shape of the characters.

Making Maps with the MapMaker Package

This is a step by step guide to designing a small map using the elements and fonts of the MapMaker package. This tutorial was done using Adobe Photoshop, but the same tools and commands are available in every good graphics program, including less expensive ones like PaintShopPro and ColorIt.

To start your map off, use the text tool to type in a piece of coastline that you like using the Ortelius font.

Continue to use the text tool to pick additional coastal outlines and add them to your map, rotating or repositioning them as needed to form the shape you want. Do this until you have made a complete coastline.

In this case we’ve completed our coastline with 7 different coastal outline characters from Ortelius to form a simple island.

Using the Magic Wand tool, click inside the island (or on the landward side of your coastline). Open the Elements1.jpg image in your MapMaker folder and use the Select tool to select a square area of the background texture you like. Use the Define Pattern option to make this into a pattern. Return to your working map and use the Fill command to fill the area you selected with the Magic Want with this pattern.

While that land area is still selected, use a Beveling tool to add a colored bevel inside the coastline to help define the area. This is a technique used universally in hand-tinted antique maps, and works very nicely.

Use the magic wand on the sea area of the map and repeat the process you just used, going to the Elements2.jpg file to get a sea pattern you like and using it to fill the area.

While the sea area is still selected use the Bevel tool to add a blue or purplish bevel on the seaward side of your coastline. You might use the sampling tool to pick an appropriate shade of blue from the sea texture you used.

Now, go back to the Elements1.jpg file and start importing terrain features. You can do this by selecting a box around the bits you want, pasting them into a new file, using the Magic Wand to select everything around them and the Inverse command to switch your selection to the objects instead. Then copy them and paste them into your map. Here we added a few mountains first.

Repeating the process in the previous steb we now add some trees.

Continuing that process we now also add a town.

Now we do the same thing to add features to the se areas, following the process above using the Elements2.jpg file we import a Sea Horse.

Next we add a compass – a key element of any antique map.

Finally we add a cartouche in which we will later put our map’s title.

Now we move on to adding text labels to the map using the type tool. For the label on the sea area we select the Platthand font and title the sea area The Sea of Dreams.

Next, because our island is small and already crowded with terrain, we use the Text tool to add the island’s name in the sea next to it using the Brandywine font.

There isn’t enough room to add the town name in the land area of the island, so we add it overlapping the coastline and into the sea using the Walsingham font. Then, so that it doesn’t get too muddled, while the type is still selected we use the Bevel tool to add a 2 pixel buff-colored bevel around the type to help set it apart from the background. This is almost invisible on these sample images, but really makes a difference in print.

Our final text goes in the cartouche, which usually has a map title or description, sometimes along with a designer credit and date. In this case we added a small description using the buccaneer font.

Finally we finish the map off by adding a darker colored frame around the outside, smaller in thickness than the outer bevel of the sea area to give the border a layered look. Now our map is finished.

You can get more information about or MapMaker package of fonts and grapics on our MapMaker Page and order it for immediate download.

Children of the Damned

With Halloween looming, thoughts naturally turn to issues of horror and to classic horror films, particularly the creative title design and unique lettering which some of these classics feature in their titles, but even more especially in their preview trailers. YouTube is a great resource for these trailers, including many for films which are themselves very hard to find. Trailers are great design inspiration, because they boil down a film to its most dramatic images and older trailers include extensive descriptive titles in very dramatic styles.

Expectation of trick or treating kids naturally brings to mind the broader topic of creepy children, which leads the mind naturally to the classic film Village of the Damned and its arguably superior sequel Children of the Damned. Some people like the original and others prefer the sequel, but both of these classic British films based on John Wyndham’s The Midwich Cuckoos are seminal examples of the “alien kids with psychic powers” sub-genre of Science Fiction.

There’s something uniquely British about these films and the script, acting and directing are all outstanding. Plus one nice development is that a lot of these older films are now available for viewing for free on YouTube, including both Children of the Damned and the original Village of the Damned. You can also watch the John Carpenter remake from 1995 for #2.99 but despite an interesting cast it can’t hold a candle to the originals.

Of course, for our purposes the trailer is more of a resource, and as you can see from the accompanying graphics it includes a lot of examples of an unusual title alphabet design which would be pretty easy to convert into a unique font. The titles from Village of the Damned aren’t that interesting, but those featured in Children of the Damned are really eyecatching with a bold geometric look which typefies the type of high-impact design popular in 1960s shock cinema. I’ve taken stills from the trailer and have added them to the archive of design resources, so don’t be surprised to see a font based on it down the road.

For a look at how we make fonts from sources like movie titles see our article on designing the Captain Kidd font.

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