The web changed profoundly since I first set up tntypography in early 2010. Indeed, there is little surprise in that, for if we take 1995 as the beginning of the Internet era, five years amount to a good quarter of this new age. The last five years were marked by the seemingly unstoppable rise of the social media phenomenon, with as much hype and hyperbole as genuine and lasting changes to the way we use the web, and indeed, the way many of us live. And as we seem to enter the next phase, the loudly trumpeted ‘Internet of things’, with ever more creepy and absurd incursions into everyone’s privacy, I gladly leave it out of my bedroom and keep using it – with awe – for what it has rightly been called ‘revolutionary’: a fantastic information and communication means.
In the bigger picture, the last five years gave little reason for optimism. Beginning with the short-lived hope of the Arab spring and its dreadful repercussions, to the continued economic misery of the richest parts of the world being shouldered on its poorest members, the erosion of fundamental rights wherever we look, and the desperate outlook global warming provides for those of us who live past 2050 and all coming generations, there are many reasons to be gloomy.
But not so in typography (!), where 2010 marked the beginning of a whole new way of using type with the general adoption of standards which allowed the use of webfonts. Type making has not seen a frenzy as the one caused by this technical evolution, as everyone scrambled to tap the vast and previously unexplored market of web typography. Today, knowing that until quite recently the web was set in a handful of typefaces seems to make one old. Indeed, it is worth remembering that Google, which likes to portray itself in type as much as in other domains as some charitable benefactor to the world, was so incompetent in 2010 that its Chrome browser barred all OpenType enabled fonts, making the functioning of complex script fonts impossible. In this context I am pleased to look back and note that my development of Nassim for the BBC pioneered the ground, and made Google revise the way its browser handled Arabic webfonts. Today, the BBC is still using Nassim on its website after another redesign in 2014, a long time measured by the transience of the web.
Personally, the last five years were momentous too, as I moved through three different countries, taught at different schools, pursued my PhD research for three years, working on exciting and worthwhile jobs and busily lived life to the full. Indeed, the combination of the PhD with jobs like the BBC Nassim, Aldhabi and Segoe Arabic were the main reason for the neglect of my old website, as I was too busy producing new work to show existing things. This has not changed much, as this last year has been full on with projects, some of which are not even finished yet, leading me to the conclusion that it was about time to get some help with my site.
Here, I was lucky to find someone through my colleagues at Rosetta, as Octavio Pardo recommended Elena Ramirez’s work to me. Not only was I happy to be introduced to a talented young web designer, but thrilled to find a woman in this profession – as Gerry Leonidas rightly remarked in a recent talk – something much too rare. Indeed, I’ve decided to make this a new principle of mine: whenever I have to hire someone I’ll actively be looking for women designers, just as I did in the design of Lammerhuber, in an unapologetic form of positive action. Elena’s work proved of course excellent (not to mention forgiving for my client’s wishes and occasional blunders), and we developed a great collaboration for design and coding of this new site. Of course responsiveness is the call of the moment, and webfonts have reached the maturity that they start being used widely – as for example on the recently launched new Guardian sites. Thus, it seemed opportune to employ my own typefaces here. What you are reading is a combination of Carignan for the headers and menus, and Nassim for the text. Whereas the latter needs no introduction (apart, maybe, from its unfinished italic companion), Carignan is a typeface I’ve been working on for a number of years. Originally inspired (back in 2006) by some Art-Deco lettering I saw in Southern France, I have occasionally and gradually worked on it, not bringing it to a publishing level yet. So far I have mainly used it in private and for the odd project, and while it is yet to be finished it seemed fit for some beta testing on my own site.
In view of the bigger picture considerations, the choice of host for my website attained unprecedented importance. No longer did I want to give my money to a company based in the USA, no longer was I keen for my communications and data to be stored on servers in that country. Unlike some others I did not yet have to go into exile to Germany, but it felt like the right move to relocate my host there, a country in which fundamental rights are not as easily brushed aside for population control as in the anglo-saxon sphere. Moreover, Germany spearheads many of the most progressive ecologic policies in the world, already powering its economy with around 25% renewable energy. This political commitment makes possible that companies like Greensta, my new host, emerge, and propose an alternative model. It runs only on energy from renewable sources and banks with a bank guided by ethical principles. Now this is where I like to put my money. Indeed, type design is so small scale, it should be easy to be carbon neutral for each of us.
On that note, have a lovely festive season with plenty of time for the relevant things in life, and get off to a fabulous start into the new year!