Transformation & Typekit in Review

Last week, TOKY launched the final phase of the Transformation website for The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts. It’s a website that ties in the public programs aspect of the Urban Alchemy/Gordon Matta-Clark exhibition that is currently on display at The Pulitzer.

At TOKY, we always try to push ourselves design wise and development wise. On the web, it seems like there is always something that everyone is talking about. For the past six months, that something was Typekit. It’s a web service that enables designers and developers to use fonts outside of the 15 or so ‘safe’ fonts that are available across all platforms. Their website states that they will “change the way you design websites.” It’s a lofty goal.

We decided to give it a try on the Transformation website. We used Pill Gothic 300mg by Betatype. Pill was used in the print materials for the the exhibition, and we hoped to use the font to tie in the web aspect as well.

We were a little skeptical when originally researching Typekit. Primarily because we don’t believe it is the ideal solution for bringing new fonts to the web. It’s a javascript solution. So, in essence it’s a hack. However, browser makers along with the type foundry legal teams can’t seem to agree on a way to bring fonts to the web en masse. So, for the time being this is one of the few options we have available.

Overall, it’s a nice service with an easy to use interface. And all that is needed to bring Typekit to your site is one line of code. So I think it will have a very nice future. But in the present, we just ran into too many quirks and issues.

Some of the issues in particular:

  • All the weights were not available on Windows. It was regular or bold only.
  • Bold in PC Firefox was virtually unreadable.
  • We disabled Typekit in some browsers. All PC Firefox, all Safari versions and Firefox 3.0 on all platforms don’t get served Typekit. Instead they get a separate css file to make Arial look proper.
  • Download speed. Typkit makes it possible to use many fonts on one site. This site is only using one font. And it has to download over 200kb just for one font. This causes a bit of a delay, so you see Arial for a second or two, and then it snaps to Pill. I can’t imagine the delay when using multiple fonts.
  • The biggest problem for us is that it doesn’t consistently work. It doesn’t matter the browser and it doesn’t matter the operating system. Sometimes the fonts just don’t show up in the page — even though we could see that the browser did in fact download the fonts from Typekit.

Here is a screen capture of the weights across browsers and platforms:

While we were able to work around most of these issues, I don’t think we will make it a habit of recommending Typekit in the near future.