Last Updated: October 12, 2015 0

FontStruct – Free Online Font-building Tool

Found In: Business

Since the advent of computers, people have understood the value of using alternative types of fonts in their text documents and presentation materials. That is, the structure of the font goes directly to how easy or difficult text is to read, how quickly and easily the readers can absorb the written material as well as enjoy the sense of what is written. For example, old English styles of writing, using fonts from that era where things were writing using a quill and dipping it in ink to create flowing writing styles is added in its sense of authenticity by using a font style that reflects the free hand writing style of centuries ago in England.
Type setting for printed and online materials has grown to be a specialist industry in its own right since the advent of the printing press hundreds of years ago. While we all tend to have our normal default choices on font types, type setters have always been busy developing a broader range of choices for us all to consider and use if we want to. FontStruct is a totally free online tool for building and designing new font styles.

Originally developed by Rob Meek of the FontShop, it has grown to now include a large community of type setting professionals all using the FontStruct tool to develop new and interesting font styles.

FontStruct is About the Community of Type Setting Interested People

The meat of the FontStruct tool is the FontStructor which is a web based application. FontStructor helps anyone to quickly and easily build new font styles using basic geometric shapes in a grid. That is, just by adding tiles or bricks to the grid, new fonts can begin to take shape. When a new font has been created with the FontStructor the end product and final result is called a FontStruction. When they are finished, they can then be downloaded as “TrueType” fonts and used in any Mac or Windows application.

And so FontStruct with its FontStructor has swollen into a large community of like minded people, all cooperating with design ideas and new font building techniques. And nothing requires fonts to only be in English; Simplified Chinese writing also uses fonts and so user groups from all around the world gather at the web site to discuss ideas, get feedback from others and to build them into usable TrueType fonts. The communities of members, known as the FontStructors are the heart and soul of FontStruct.

But not everyone contributes to design ideas and builds them. For non-FontStructors, the FontStruct web site is a tremendous source of fresh TrueType fonts which are available for use under very flexible, liberal “CreativeCommons” license agreements.

The FontStruct web site is a wonderful resource for educators and teachers because it is an ideal environment to teach the basics of type setting and design. The brick or tile building principles of how the FontStructor tool works and its simplified and easy to use interface helps students to overcome the complexities that often prove daunting to new designers and which is inherent to type setting design. The simplicity of FontStruct or allows students to focus more on the most important design aspects first.

Whilst the FontStruct web site is designed to support all Latin characters, web site owners can install a widget on their web sites, so that visitors to their site can view their newly created font structures in a seamless way. It works similar to how YouTube embeds video into your web site and the FontStruct includes full instructions on how to add the widget to your web site. Having said all of that, new users will be best served by sticking with the development of Latin based character sets.

FontStruct Creates a Rich Environment for New Design Methods

The concept of “brick stacking” was discovered by accident by one power user, who actually found it was a bug in the FontStructor tool which allowed multiple bricks to be added to the same space on the grid. From this “bug”, he was able to create new shapes, and after reporting it to the developers, they quickly realized the merits of formalizing the bug as a feature of the software and it is now fully documented on how to use it to great effect.

The fonts that you create can easily be shared with others, and that is encouraged by FontStruct; but the user always retains the choice and control. The default is that all user fonts are private, unless made public by the user changing the sharing status of his work.

For the past three years, FontStruct web site has an inbuilt voting rating system which enables FontStructures that have been opened for sharing to the public to have the public vote on them. The rating system is not just biased towards what a few votes determined; rather it is assigned the rating by the balance of larger numbers of votes being recorded. The web site for FontStruct also includes a concept called “Hidden gems”, which are FontStructures people have developed that seem to have been overlooked by the larger community for some unknown reason. They tend to be selected based on a high number of downloads, yet with only a lower rating recorded, and although the selection criteria can change at any time, a low rating assigned to a FontStructure which has had a lot of attention, yet been otherwise ignored in the vote rating system is designed to cause people to take a closer look at the FontStructure again.

The FontStruct is of course not for everyone to get excited about. It is for the artistic minded person who has an interest in fonts and type setting principles. Having been around since late 1989, this Germany based firm has been the industry leader since long before the Internet brought about a renewed interest in fonts and font designs. The business continues to evolve, with much emphasis on non Latin character sets.