Story of a font designed to work better
In 2000–2001 I worked a lot as a web designer.
The HTML language, which dominated the programming of Internet sites, was a simple programming language, but with the fonts available in those years it was really nerve-wracking!
Aliasing and three monospaced font
At that time all the screen was aliased. A text was a set of white or black pixels without any gray.
The characters fit for programming were limited: Monaco, Courier and Letter Gothic.
It was remarkable but these fonts were designed in earlier times, in conditions with different font limitations compared to the needs of contemporary programming.
Courier and Monaco could be used at very small sizes but the width of the letters and the other glyphs was excessive. Regular programming work ended up straining your eyes.
Personally I used the Truetype version of Letter Gothic, but the screen rasterization was produced with showy imperfections. Since this is a character originally designed for typewriters, its forms weren’t suitable forms for rendering onscreen.
Working with these fonts stole valuable programming time as the shipping dates approached.
One day I made the decision to design the font I needed.
My font had to:
- be monospaced;
- be condensed;
- have contained line-spacing;
- offer a perfect rasterization at screen.
At that time a new application for drawing and editing characters, FontLab, came out on the market. It allowed us to manually control the programming of TrueType fonts. This was a shocking news for me!
This function made it possible to generate fonts of professional quality level, equal to those produced by industry leading companies such as Monotype, Bitstream, Linotype etc.
A few years earlier I had already been able to detect it, effectively creating characters on commission for customers such as C.P. Company or my Sys. From a professional point of view, it was really a memorable achievement.
I had little time but I was absolutely determined to make a font that could improve my programming experience. At first I called it Pragma because I wanted to get a “pragmatic” font.
I set out by defining the bitmap drawing of the 11 pt., the size at which I preferred to work, and I got the outline design of the glyphs as a result, taking as a template the bitmaps I designed.
Afterwards I maniacally cared about the programming and the hinting of the Truetype version for each symbol or letter from 9 pt. to the 60 pt. size.
I carried out several tests in order to verify the yield on the screen, both on Mac and Windows.
In the final part of the work a long process of revision of the hinting program was needed, since there was no consistency between the typographic points and the screen representation through the different operating systems (for example, to a 14 pt. in Macintosh corresponds to 10.5 pt. in Windows). Those decimals made me suffer more than a little…
Pragma is really taking such a “pragmatic” form, proving to be able to work very well and to be meet the task it was designed for. I was really pleased.
The only drawback was the request I received from Christopher Burke, author of a humanistic-linear published earlier and having the same name I had chosen for my font. I welcomed his request to change the name to Pragmata.
I published it just after the deliveries of the works and, to my surprise, the response of professional programmers was enthusiastic. Many of them shared my own needs and greatly appreciated the work and commitment that had lavished there: it was an experience that I do not hesitate to describe as exciting.
A growing number of programmers who had been pleased with their purchase continued to contact me over the years and asked me to add glyphs to the character set: letters belonging to linguistic range that I had not included, or symbols needed for programming languages that were totally unknown to me such as Agda or APL.
Many claimed the presence of a bold and italics to a complement of the basic version.
What convinced me to get to work on a complete overhaul of Pragmata was the improvement in the rasterization of screen fonts in the latest operating systems, which fully exploited anti-aliasing.
All the work of optimizing bitmap monochrome ceased to be crucial as new fonts designed avail themselves by these advanced rendering functions and even the performance on the screen of previously designed characters for printing underwent a decisive qualitative improvement.
Before 2001 could have existed Pragmata CE, then Pragmata Cyrillic, Pragmata Greek, Pragmata Agda… perhaps putting glyphs as ‘Я’ in the box of ‘R’ in the ASCII set suggesting separately to the user how to properly use the font. A delirium that I do not regret at all…
With the birth of the Unicode consortium all alphabets, and each type of symbol it can be easily contained in one file, which isn’t a small advantage.
Towards the unknown
So, since 2009 I have undertaken this “journey” in the complete overhaul of Pragmata. I redesigned every single glyph in order to be able to use the character at small dimensions, thus improving the spacing and creating additional weights (Bold, Italic, and Bold Italic).
I called the new family PragmataPro because it’s designed for professionals not only for programmers, but also for mathematicians, phonolinguists, chemical engineers…
In October 2010 I released the first beta version (0.8) created with the contribution of many buyers of Pragmata that, with great participation and enthusiasm helped me — via their comments — to outline the best solutions possible from a practical point of view.
Designed for professionals with professionals
It was an unprecedented experience for me, an optimal work method. The design of mathematical symbols haven’t precise guide-lines; I was guided by mathematicians who use them every day and who precisely know how they would like the symbols to be. This was much easier than trying to guess their shapes out of context. Moreover that process allowed me to grow as designer.
I can only be grateful to those who keep giving me their contribution to help me realize this font in it’s best form . For me it was like going to school, a real “lifelong learning” which is ideal in the field of design and learning.
4 variants? No, better 8!
Since 2015 the packages offered are represented by two families:
– PragmataPro Mono
The Mono version indicates that the entire family is monospaced: each glyph has a width of 0.5 typographic relative units (em). The normal version is also based on a strictly modular structure but the width of the glyphs is variable and depending on the design requirements set by the intrinsic characteristic of the individual forms, with increments of 0.5 em.
It is an unprecedented solution whose benefits are visibly obvious:
- possibilities for increasing the readability of symbols otherwise not recognizable due to compression of to the limitation in width (0.5 m);
- possibility to create “ligatures” that are very useful to programming languages such as Haskell, Scala, C ++, Swift, etc.
Updates through version 1.0 will be free
Version 1.0 includes the completion of all set indispensable to coders, engineers and mathematics in all available weights (Bold, Italic, and Bold Italic)
I invite everyone to take a look at the web page PragmataPro, or if you want to leave a tip or any kind of suggestion to continuously improve the project.
This typeface is much more than a whole of data stored in a few kb files for me.
Made with ♥ since 2001