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Font rock

Like most of people I can imagine, fonts meant only one thing to me for a long time — another option to mess around with in a word processor to make things look “good”.

A few years ago I got on an internal Red Hat mailing list for design discussions, and one thing that kept popping up was font lust from the various designers.  Like you and you and you, I enjoy reading the various web pages friends and colleagues send around, so I read about font tours in big cities — walk around and look at all the styles old and new; read about the subway system that has 50+ years of font decisions with one central station that happens to have examples of all of them — was that Toronto?  I learned about the reasons why fonts matter and how they affect the audience, both positively and negatively.  I now am aware of fonts wherever I go in the modern world.

These days, the thing that excites me the most about fonts is the Fedora Font SIG.  This is for a lot of short reasons, which begs for the ubiquitous bulleted list:

  • Fonts are a subtlety that escapes the thinking attention but really do make a difference in how people perceive things.  More free fonts for Fedora is overall a good thing for so many reasons.
  • The SIG’s font pages on the wiki were the first to undergo a transformation after the conversion to MediaWiki.  Nicolas Mailhot (nim) chose to use a category as the SIG front page, so the page auto-populates with new content whenever [[Category:Fonts]] is added to a page.  Content is organized and searchable; Ian Weller and I regularly refer to this as an example of how you can organize your wiki content effectively.
  • The fact that “just fonts” can be a potentially big feature is something that Fedora does again and again.  It gives an outlet for people’s passions, and a location for others with similar interests to get involved and use the hard work.  The fact that designers can start being envious and interested about more than just our desktop artwork is a great thing.
  • Font packaging is going to be part of the first North American Fedora Activitiy Day (FAD) at SCaLE 7x.  I am going to learn how to package a font and make my first package submission.  This feels like a lower barrier to entry packaging effort that adds to a great tidal effect.
  • All of this because someone was not only passionate about starting a font interest group, but also smart enough to know to invite others and make it easy and interesting for them to help instead of just trying to do it all himself.

If you are going to be near Southern California on 20 February, I encourage you to come by the FAD. We’ll be there until 7 pm when the BoF sessions start.