13 December 2008

Can A Dotty Font Save The Planet? Are Small Steps Important?

1888. That's the question.

I'll admit that (due to extenuating cirucmstances) I'm late to the party this one; Eco Font (free for the downloading) has, if not taken the world by storm, at least generated a bit of discussion.

Looking at the font:


It's easy to see how it does it's magic. The dots are engineered so as to not affect readability too much and only require about 80% of the ink used to print a similar solid-black letter.

As a concept, we can't argue with it. It's an original and surprisingly simple approach.

Would we actually typeset with it? Probably not, unless we were looking for an effect.

Type carries attitude. That's why you absorb the information of a Helvetica display without getting too hung up on the type design; that's why classic serif fonts make you think seriously when you read books and newspapers. The dots are clever, but a distraction.


I can't remember what they call it, but there's a principle out there that says if you want to eventually roll something absurd out, there's a way you can get the public used to the idea. You roll out an idea that's destined to fail, perhaps even beautifully so. Everyone notices and a lot of people laugh a bit.

But later you roll out a variation on the concept. People are not so surprised this time, and wondering what you've done to improve it. They're starting to take you just a little bit seriously.

If this fail, you roll out another variation in a while. More refined and more people are willing to see if you "got it right" this time.

Eco font is a silly thing, but inspiringly so. I don't think it will go anywhere except as a curio, as far as fonts go. I wouldn't want to read a book in it, but to really save 20% on the ink output and to make a difference, you'd have to use it a lot.

So people will see it as a delightful curiosity and react accordingly (and hey, everyone likes free fonts).

But this may inspire someone to refine the concept. I don't see how, but surely someone out there is thinking, now. And soon enough, a variation on the concept will emerge, and maybe it will be silly too, but it will be refined.

The second time won't gain traction either. But the third time might. And the fourth time could. And the fifth time ... ?

It's a cascading spark. That's the way change happen – evolution much more often than revolution.

And so it goes.

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Dale said...

I like it, but my solution is even simpler: never, ever print. I consider every instance where I need to print a small victory for evil.

Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis said...

You make an incredibly apt point here, Dale.

In what design work I'm doing, actually, I find I'm actually printing less and less and less ... only a record I need committed to paper gets printed, and that doesn't happen very often.

Just about anything I need printed can be stored as a PDF, especially proofs for projects that I do, which can be shared amongst people who need to see them by email.

I guess by that metric, Adobe and Google are two of the greenest guys out there right now.

Dale said...


I don't mean to overstate the matter --- I realize printing is sometimes a necessity. Sometimes it's even, dare I say it, useful.

But I'm sure you're aware of the sort of person for whom something isn't "real" unless and until it is on a piece of paper in their hands. Somehow it doesn't quite exist when it's "only" on the monitor. These are a dying breed of people (I don't mean it quite as crudely as that sounds, but it's not far off), but they still do exist.

Another aspect of it: we have a printer that retails for $75. I checked into getting new ink cartridges for it, now that the ink is starting to run low, and that's ... $40-$50.


By the by, the captcha for this comment is a keeper: "requinge." Don't you contribute to a blog that treats those as real words? That one was born to be a real word.