Tempo experiments

Thu, 27 Sep 2018

Some Adobe colleagues are prototyping a new tool and taking a fresh look at typographic features, so they asked me and Wenting to help. For this week’s meeting, I made a couple examples showing how several kinds of whitespace can be simultanously adjusted (part of Cyrus Highsmith’s tempo idea from Inside Paragraphs):

  • Here’s tempo changing automatically as text block width changes. See how the top paragraph’s tempo gets tighter and looser? The lower paragraph does not change tempo.
  • And here’s the same experiment, but with tempo as a manual adjustment. Mess around and see what looks good to you.

This led to all sorts of interesting conversations about exposing the more specific sub-properties at play (letterspacing, word spacing, etc.), and about incorporating variable fonts with a width axis (or traditional fonts with multiple widths).

But the most intriguing issues it raises are about whether and how to provide smarter default settings (as in the automatic example).

For which people, in which situations, do preset values and behaviors make sense? What if the presets could be tailored to a person’s own preferences (for example, someone who generally prefers looser text)? What if a brand’s flexible typesetting presets went wherever that brand’s fonts went?

We already know how to tailor measurements to specific typefaces, and we know where that could lead. The bigger questions are about context — applying presets and recommendations with tact and care.