Ugly websites of typeface designers

Typogruffer's picture

Hey guys,

I have been visiting the websites of some typeface designers who regularly answer here so that i can get a feel of what they do and all. But most of the websites look ghastly. They are very difficult on the eyes. I am not going to take any names here (they are very very famous in these forums) but what is the point in setting the type at 8 pt? and the colors/graphics are not really appealing. Why?

Regards
typogruffer

hrant's picture

Mine sucks for a number of reasons, not least that it's over 12 years old. :-/

But -as you imply- I'm not alone... Why? Because designing type and designing a site require vastly different skills and talents (it's rare for a single individual to enjoy both) and too many of us try to do it ourselves instead of biting the bullet and hiring a bona fide site designer. This is probably generally due to a combination of saving money (type design is not highly lucrative) and a certain pride in designing things ourselves.

hhp

aluminum's picture

Same reason great architects have ugly web sites.

Nick Shinn's picture

That’s not a fair comment.
If you’re not prepared to name names, your sweeping generalization damns everyone by implication.
I for one can’t possibly have an ugly web site, as it’s only had one page, a brief “under construction”, for quite some time.
Mark Simonson’s site is beautifully detailed, and how can you possibly diss Berlow’s?!—Webtype.com is state of the art web legibility, and Font Bureau is squeaky clean.

I also don’t think that it’s necessary for a foundry site to have “appealing” graphics, as that can get in the way of showing the fonts. Foundry site design should be understated. Functionality is more important.

marcox's picture

Perhaps you're not looking hard enough, or your standards/tastes are different than mine. Some type designers' sites are more technically ambitious than others, but there are plenty good-looking examples out there, even among one- or two-person shops: Eric Olson (Process), Kris Sowersby (Klim), Mark Simonson (MS Studio), James Montalbano (Terminal Design), Mark von Bronkhorst (MVB Fonts), Dino Dos Santos (DSType), Tomas Brousil (Suitcase Type), etc.

Nick, I'm sure your site will be worthy of mention once it's back up. :)

chrisburton's picture

There are tools that do not rely on a user to know development. Such as Wordpress (.com), Squarespace, Cargo, etc. Anyway, I have to agree with Nick on this. At least give examples if you're going to criticize.

Andreas Stötzner's picture

> ghastly – famous

Typogruffer, you MUST had me in mind, don’t you?
Come up.
:-)

Typogruffer's picture

Okay i am taking names here. And i hope this is not going to offend anyone. As i have mentioned famous people, i have Hrant here and John Hudson( two of the most knowledgeable people around here). Oldnick's website just has a plea to get him out of a tough situation(i hope he is out now) Also the foundries like emtype.net(too small font size) and some websites have just the name of the typeface designer(though set in a beautiful typeface). What i should have asked is do people get any customers from websites and if they do then they should not be put off by bad designs/small text.
UPDATE: The type foundry P22's website looks bad too. http://www.p22.com/index.html

Typogruffer's picture

You website is not ghastly( i am using it in the real literal sense).
I can not understand much of your website as it is in German i guess?
But, the links like Zeitschrift SIGNA and über Signographie can use a font size of 12pt.

Charles_borges_de_oliveira's picture

Yeah, mine is pretty dated. I need to update if I could find the time :)

hrant's picture

The site leading to sales: a search for "Armenian fonts" (the only angle I could hope to really leverage) is hijacked by free crap, so I have to believe that the main advantage of having a bad site is in comparison to not having one at all. A business not having a site is worse than a person not having a cellphone* in terms of people thinking you're some kind of freak they shouldn't touch with a ten foot composing stick.

* Which I know because that's the case with me... Although I admit to having my eyes on the imminent Samsung Note II.

hhp

oldnick's picture

I for one can’t possibly have an ugly web site

Really? How adorable. What a maroon.

Nick Shinn's picture

Nick, it might be a good idea if you stopped posting if you can’t do so in a civil manner.
I mean that sincerely, and I’m only saying it because it’s unlikely the moderators have called you to task on all the vulgar insults you’re throwing around.
I don’t think people here are interested in slanging matches, and you’re seriously lowering the tone of the place.
As all those who’ve been to your website know, you’ve had difficulties recently.
I would imagine that some people in the industry would be prepared to help you out, but it’s a small community, and you’re not making friends with your present antics.

Would you be interested in doing production work for other foundries?
It doesn’t generate passive income, but it’s cash in hand, and lots of type designers mix it with their retail development.

hrant's picture

Yes, please don't be abusive for your own kicks.

hhp

Ryan Maelhorn's picture

This is something I've noticed too. What synaptic connections in the brain would make one great at designing type but not good at graphic design (perhaps web design is a bit of a misnomer here)?

Nick Shinn's picture

There’s no standard profile for a type designer, you can come at it from many directions.
Same thing for graphic design.

Ryan Maelhorn's picture

There does seem to be some evidence here that not all type designers are blessed with as much general graphic design talent as you Nick.

Take Tankard's site for example. That old lacey wallpapery looking background? Very British and all, but damn its ugly. I feel like I'm in some old english row home, and all I wanna do is paint over the wallpaper.

Of course one shouldn't assume that all type designers have designed their own websites.

John Hudson's picture

The 'old lacey wallpapery looking background' on Jeremy's site is a complex pattern that he worked out many years ago that is used in various ways throughout his print and web materials. For those people who have followed his work for a long time, it is a very strong brand association, so whether you consider it 'ugly' or not is sort of irrelevant to whether it constitutes good design.

JamesM's picture

Like Nick said. People have different talents, training, experience, etc.

JamesM's picture

[duplicate deleted]

hrant's picture

Nick, I would say that a good type designer -who makes tools- needs [to enjoy] a form of thought that a graphic designer -who makes finished things- does not; and of course the same sort of thing (for example an appreciation of color) applies in the other direction. One person can be blessed with both sets of talents, but it's simply statistically rare. Most people can't do either very well! :-)

hhp

Ryan Maelhorn's picture

The 'old lacey wallpapery looking background' on Jeremy's site is a complex pattern that he worked out many years ago that is used in various ways throughout his print and web materials. For those people who have followed his work for a long time, it is a very strong brand association, so whether you consider it 'ugly' or not is sort of irrelevant to whether it constitutes good design.

See this is what I was trying to get at when I said only the end result is important. Knowing all that information doesn't make it any less ugly to the eye.

JamesM's picture

> One person can be blessed with both sets of talents,
> but it's simply statistically rare

While talent is important, I think it's more a matter of training and experience. A graphic designer who studied web design in college and designs websites every day is probably going to be much better at it than a type designer who rarely does web design. And vice versa, of course.

chrisburton's picture

How is it statistically rare?

Ryan Maelhorn's picture

Also,

Schwartz's site is presented in a rather uniteresting setting, and changes so fast you can't really judge what you're looking at before it changes into something else.

Font Font's site is visually decent, but cumbersome as far as user interaction.

Hrant's work is like nonexistent on the web. I had to go looking for fonts he designed, using carefully designed google queries, rather than simply being served all his work upon googling his name, other than the few on his site, that is.

Shinntype has been down for like what, half a year now?

And dont even get me started on how shody my own web pressence is...

Bendy's picture

If you mean Commercial Type (Christian Schwartz with Paul Barnes), I'd say it's one of the cleanest, most efficiently designed foundry sites out there. The type speaks for itself, no extra fluffing necessary, I really admire it.

Ryan Maelhorn's picture

they just need to slow down the speed at which it changes (one font into another). I need at least 4 times the current length to evaluate one of their type samples. Maybe I'm just slow. :D

hrant's picture

James, it's hard to figure out whether talent or skill (AKA training & experience) is more important (especially since it's the former than often leads one to the latter) but I certainly agree that skill is very important (which is why I mentioned it in my first post - I just forgot later on).

Knowing all that information doesn't make it any less ugly to the eye.

Only for eyes that are deaf.

How is it statistically rare?

If let's say 10% of people are good at one thing, and 10% are good at something else, 1% will be good at both. Now, there is some overlap between type design and graphic design so the numbers wouldn't be so drastic, but what I'm saying is the overlap is far less than it might seem.

Ryan, my work is hard to find online because it's hard to find anywhere: it's niche, but most of all there frankly isn't much of it (and most of it isn't worth publicizing much). BTW that's probably why some people get flustered and leave Typophile, saying that I don't "deserve" the airtime. I can explain why that logic is flawed, but I'd rather not turn this thread into a discussion of me.

One thing to keep in mind here is that the more niche you are the less likely a "fancy" website matters. We're not selling Toyotas here. Consider this: what kind of people would spontaneously decide to hire John H. if he had a highly sophisticated site? That's not the type of customer he's likely to be useful to. Word of mouth* remains essential for type designers.

* Which luckily no longer has to be done in person.

slow down the speed

Use a medium the way it serves you, and don't try to bend it into something it can't do for you. If you're selling print fonts the best -and perhaps only- thing a site can do for you is leave a positive first impression; the rest has to be done via other channels.

hhp

Ryan Maelhorn's picture

type is a still thing.

***

Explanation is Explanation. Explanation is not Great Art.

In fact to a bewildering extent, Great Art is unexplainable.

Even an attempt to explain art exits the world of art and enters into the world of culture.

John Hudson's picture

Great Art? I thought we were talking about graphic design and, more specifically, website design. I made the point re Jeremy's pattern design that it is a very successful piece of branding design, and whether you think it is ugly -- I don't -- is irrelevant to a discussion of its design merits, because it wouldn't be a Jeremy Tankard website without it.

Ryan Maelhorn's picture

Sorry, went off on a tangent there...

Indra Kupferschmid's picture

How many of the aforementioned websites use webfonts?

peggo's picture

In my culture exist a famous phrase

"In the smith's house, wood knife" ("En casa de herrero, cuchillo de palo")

My commom sense explain me this because exist at least few powerful reason for this situation:
1. Web desing is very different technical area compared to type design.
2. Most type designer spend long long time working at type design and web design also need long time working at.
3. Most sell activity of type designers occur through another bigger well designed websites (specialist on font sell business only).
4. The cost of good web design most of the time is high to type designers profits.
5. Web design (code managing) look a problem so complicated, and solve that by simplest (but ugly) way.

I guess the list is bigger but so leave this until here...

Pedro

Mark Simonson's picture

Mine doesn't use webfonts yet, but will be soon.

I've done my own website design in the past, and I think I was okay at it, but as I've moved more of my focus to type design, I've fallen behind on web design and production techniques. I also find that the more time I spend working on fonts, the less time (and interest) I have for working on my site.

Consequently, I'm working with an outside web designer. (Not sure when the new site will launch.)

Incidentally, the Commercial Type site (which I think is very nice) was not designed by Schwartz or Barnes, but by an outside firm.

hrant's picture

What do you guys think of the OurType site?

hhp

Bendy's picture

It's a bit too whizzy for me :)

Typogruffer's picture

@hrant: It's good but not my type of web design. I didn't like those try and buy buttons trailing my cursor (kinda irritating actually).

Renaissance Man's picture

> Nick: "...if you can’t do so in a civil manner."

The pot calling the kettle black.

Ryan Maelhorn's picture

I kind of like the OurType site as fa as user interaction, but feel its too distracting for type. It'd be great for advertising some new MTV reality show.

dezcom's picture

In my case, my old dated and never completed website was done back before CSS was so capable and screen resolution was much less. That makes everything look quite small by today's standards. Back then, I was tech-savvy enough to do table-based web designs but have not kept up with the times and practices today. I just don't have time to learn all the new web stuff so it lays there like time capsule, frozen to change.

Typogruffer's picture

@dezcom: I can't see the specimens of your typefaces like Leporello, Weimar Plakat 1923 etc

dezcom's picture

"...I can't see the specimens of your typefaces like Leporello,"

I never posted them because I never released them. I told you my site was a dead time capsule ;-)
You will also notice that fonts I have released are not even mentioned :-/

Nick Shinn's picture

Steve: "The pot calling the kettle black."

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think I'm in the habit of insulting other Typophile posters.

Renaissance Man's picture

No, Nick, you're not "in the habit of insulting other Typophile posters."

I like you. I have your Goodchild font. But I did see at least one really nasty exchange that almost convinced me to not buy any more of your fonts. It was so over the top that I never forgot it.

Ryan Maelhorn's picture

I can only find three font families from you, Dez. Are there more?

http://www.myfonts.com/foundry/Dezcom/

Nick Cooke's picture

I didn't have my own site for 10 years because I was half-heartedly messing about trying to come up with some designs myself. They were all crap. I realised I didn't have the skills required to make it how I sort of imagined. I finally got enough money together to hire some professionals to do it, and I'm glad I did. I couldn't possibly have put it all together with the functionality plus e-commerce. I tried to be a jack-of-all-trades, but realised I wasn't. Sometimes you have to realise that you can't do everything, and if you don't want to look like an amateur - hire a professional.

_null's picture

This can't be...Nick(s), Andrea, Chris, the legends that faced down some of the trickiest opentype, and produced the finest contours I ever did clap eyes on are ceding defeat to writing some HTML? This makes me sad.

I think y'all should get yourself some twitter bootstrap and start tinkering. The world can and will wait for you to complete the Hungarian extension to your typeface...come on, tell me the thought of showing off your typefaces with proper control over your line spacing, drop caps, ligatures and opentype features on the web doesn't make you all a little hot under the collar. Fix up! If anything web-design has gotten easier in the past three years...
Strip everything right back, go for a minimum viable product and slowly introduce content back as you get more confident.

For the record...my site doesn't suck. I think. It sucks less than most anyway.

Mark Simonson's picture

Very good point (and nice site, too). I would have said the same thing a few years ago.

For me, it is just a matter of how I want to spend my time. After years of doing my site myself, I just realized I would rather be working on fonts, and that I can afford to hire someone else to do the other stuff, someone who is better than me at it.

(BTW, I like how you used my font Coquette in one of your very nice lettering pieces, except that you called it Cochin.)

_null's picture

Shucks, thanks Mark. I'm a huge fan of Coquette.

Time is always a concern, and yup, I concur - if you can afford someone who is a specialist, then you definitely should.
That said, it seems HTML is fast becoming the universal format for wrapping and delivering text/information to the masses - it's our duty to be fairly au fait with it's foibles and capabilities...

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