"Complex" font?
June 1, 2005 5:26 PM   Subscribe

You know those fonts that marketers use in your junk mail that look just like handwritten fonts, but if you look closely at all the W's, etc. you quickly realize they look exactly the same, and so you know it was a machine? I am not in marketing, but it got me wondering if there is a way to get such a (maybe call it "multilayered" or "complex") font, where each letter "A", for example, will be randomly chosen from multiple A's available within the font.
posted by parma to Technology (9 answers total)

A font technology called OpenType offers this. It's built in to Mac OS X, and I think Adobe programs on the PC offer it. It's a whole world of font rendering, but the part that applies here is Contextual Alternates, which replaces letters depending on their position in a word, the letters around them, etc. Like ligatures on speed. There's a nice little animated demo here
posted by bonaldi at 6:09 PM on June 1, 2005

It won't be long. Someone will come out with a product that does it automatically, and they will likely make a lot of money. I used to do some DTP, and I still have to look closely at some of those letters.

Of course, the product might exist already.

Now or later, it will exist.
posted by bh at 8:18 PM on June 1, 2005

Yes you can do this. The Dutch crazies over at Letterror do this with their Kosmik Flipper font, and there are a bunch of opentype faces that replace repeated characters and various combinations of characters with ligatures.
posted by luriete at 9:31 PM on June 1, 2005

I was just about to mention their Beowolf font.
posted by Dean King at 9:47 PM on June 1, 2005

Yes, a PostScript font can do this, pretty easily --- it's one of the demos that PostScript tutorial books tended to have, back when PS was a more popular language. You'd lose the dynamic-ness if you translated it into some other format, though. MetaFont might also be capable of it.
posted by hattifattener at 11:57 PM on June 1, 2005

I don't know why you would think that PostScript is any less popular these days, especially amongst professionals. I don't think you can translate a Type 3 font into another format.

Beowolf is the classic example and has been around for 16 years. I don't think it took very well, which is probably why there has never been an explosion of these.
posted by grouse at 1:02 AM on June 2, 2005

Why doesn't someone just handwrite a note themselves, then have it printed on all the envelopes? Why the need for font trickery? Unless each individual recipient's name/address, and not only a specific message, is printed, of course... I don't think I've ever seen a piece of junk mail where my contact information was "hand written" but maybe that's just me. Usually it's an encircled message on the envelope.
posted by Blue Buddha at 8:53 AM on June 2, 2005

Bluee Buddha:
"Why doesn't someone just handwrite a note themselves, then have it printed on all the envelopes?"

Because I've been using fonts so long now that my handwriting has aptrophied into an illegible mess :-)
Funnily enough, I'm typing this on a tablet-PC - I pretty much only use the pen for art and as an upgrade over a mouse, not the handwriting that everyone buys these things for :-)
posted by -harlequin- at 10:35 AM on June 2, 2005

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