Several years ago, a friend of mine asked when I would update my website, when it would show “the new stuff”, why am I not selling from my site, and so on. I honestly didn’t have a very good answer, but to say that I was too busy working on typefaces to spend the time to create a new one. There’s a lot of truth to that statement, but also a good bit of deflection—the fact was, I didn’t feel comfortable trying to build a site that would include all of the features and flexibility that I would want as a graphic designer or type junkie. I was apprehensive.
In the past, I designed and built each website for Positype. I’ve spent time reflecting on why… was it the need to be able to change the site by my own hands (and take the blame for it if it messed up), was it the intense independent type designer mentality I harbor, or was I just cheap? Or a control freak? I believe, in some small part, each of those assertions was correct.
About three years ago I did, in earnest, begin reaching out to web design firms that I felt could nail down what I wanted. Seeing their mockups always left me deflated. It’s not that the web developers failed in any way. It’s just they created what they thought I wanted and it left the website feeling homogenized… and I was as much to blame for that as they were. It didn’t have or ‘feel like’ what I wanted. As a type designer that has deep roots in actually drawing the letters before I go to the computer, the letter has to ‘feel’ right before I leave it. I had lost that connection to the website and it felt hollow. That type of visceral connection to things drives many of the decisions I make with my work. And for me, each time, the site didn’t ‘feel’ right, so I would pay what was required of me and then go silent, not wanting to move forward. I went through three web design firms over the course of two years, each time repeating the same set of actions.
That said, there wasn’t an indomitable urge to get a new website out either. I was happy sitting in my studio, drawing typefaces for my clients and ones for the foundry to release… and I was comfortable with the relationships that I had with my distributors. That kinda changed as more consolidation unfolded in past few years. As an independent type designer, I felt compelled to move forward again, but this time, I would have to do it myself.
I created a list. Actually, I rewrote this list a few dozen times until I was satisfied with it. This list would form the underpinning for (and hold me accountable to) the platform I wanted to create for Positype. I started using the word platform because it sounded more 2.0 (sarcastically) and because I finally came to grips with what I wanted for the website: it needed to serve as a platform to showcase typefaces the way I wanted them to be seen, on my terms that I felt were subservient to the creative consumer, and provide a mechanism for them to either be purchased directly on the site or kindly point them to the distributor they felt comfortable using. Simple, right?!
Here was the list…
- Website Punchlist:
- A completed website
- Seriously, complete the website
- Large specimen images
- Lots of white (create a custom black)
- Think One-Liner
- Abandon my red?
- Static images for specimens
- Typetester that worked for Opentype
- Sell Sell Sell
See, perfect plan. Concise. To the point. Clearly, I will be able to crank this out. Sigh.
The first decision was to stay within a WordPress-structured website. I considered coding something, but I am no longer operating with any perceived aptitude for coding a custom site. I’m old and way out of date with standards and requirements for a website. I simply would not be playing to my strengths and would end up devouring a lot of time. I then settled on Easy Digital Downloads and Stripe as the mechanisms to deliver purchases. High-5. I still didn’t have a design or a reliable way of showing overly heavy OpenType-enabled typefaces. This really was important to me. I produce a number of script typefaces and I had not seen an online viewer that would allow me to just select a single letter and change a feature. That had to be done. More on that later.
Design. Layout. Design. Layout. Nothing. Brain. Dead.
This was so very hard for me. I wanted to ‘think’, produce, and display static image panels of whatever size I wanted. I wanted the site to be an orgy of letterforms presented in a way that seemed fresh, indulgent, and inherently ‘Positype’. I have always been enamored with Photo-Lettering Inc’s One Line specimen books—indulgent, overwhelming lists of typefaces shown in a single line. That became a starting point of sorts. I wanted that and found a way that worked for me in context with the site and with a ‘find, identify, click on a typeface’ way that didn’t rely on a lot of ‘stuff’ or a lot of space to show off the catalogue of typefaces. I liked it, was proud of it, but every time I showed the early versions of the website, each person would ask where the grid view was so they could see the fonts. What? Why was a grid view needed?! You already have these wonderful 30–48 character length one-liners that gave you more? That request caught me off guard each time it was brought up. An indication of my ignorance or stubbornness. Eventually, I acquiesced because I was making this site not just for me, but the people who love looking at type. The compromise was that I would have both—allowing the user to toggle between whichever view they wanted to see.
The main ‘Family View’ of each typeface developed quickly. I insisted on the flexibility to show as many or as few images, in a single scroll, to showcase the typeface. I always wanted a large stark, black and white image of the typeface name to greet the visitor. Done. Much of the remainder was inspired from some of the recent mini-sites I produced to promote typefaces from the Library. Each of those were always well-received from the public, so I sought to improve on that concept. Go visit the LustProFonts.com website to see what I’m talking about.
OK, now I had a number of things checked off of my list… the biggest elephant in the room remaining was the Typetester. By this point I started calling it a TypeViewer (because I liked shortening it to ‘TV’) and because I didn’t see it as a means to test as much as I wanted people to view the features interactively. I know, splitting hairs, but when you sit in a studio by yourself, you obsess over these things. Giggle. I could not produce this component on my own. I knew I needed to find someone that I could go to who already had knowledge of the type industry, could likely see past my eccentricities, and help me realize what I wanted. I already had a name in mind and reached out to Chris Lewis (www.chrislewis.codes) in Seattle for this. His résumé screams ‘type-centric’ and anyone willing say “if you are patient and have a great idea” on their website has me willing to follow you off of a cliff… type designers, by our nature, are conditioned to be patient, so he had my vote. Luckily, Chris had time, and in a short amount of that time, the TypeViewer was born. The thing I liked about the TypeViewer is that it will allow for single glyph selection and activation of OpenType features. For example, now you can select the ‘g’ and switch features on and off so you can view the Stylistic Alternate, the Swash Alternate, Titling Alternate, end form, or any Stylistic Set I’ve created for that ‘g’, in context, and within the word you’ve typed—not affecting the other letters in the setting. Giggle. I genuinely love it.
I’ve made sure that customers will be able to retain their purchases online and access previous purchase data, downloads, and receipts online.
With all of the parts coming together, I could sit back and work on retooling and testing all of the typefaces I would include in the website release library, as well as determining the schedule for reintroductions and expansions to other existing type families over the coming year. It also meant I could begin releasing the new typefaces I’ve been working on during the year it has taken to complete this website. I hope you enjoy it. Feel free to send me recommendations to how I can make it even more conducive to your viewing/buying needs.