“A better tool doesn’t make a better craftsman, but a good tool makes working a pleasure.”
– Oliver Reichenstein
Our vision of freedom and fulfilment
Call us softies, but our hopes and dreams for our Typecast® design tool are rooted in the beliefs we share as a team. We believe that as sites become more responsive, devices proliferate and screens shrink, typographic decisions become even more important and influential on site success. Here's what else we believe:
- The web could be more a beautiful place if we could spend less time on assembly, manual changes and rework.
- We need tools that unlock our inner craftsman.
- Designing should be a joy, not a chore, and we deserve the freedom to follow a last minute inspiration, try an even better idea, or completely change creative direction without fear that it might 'waste' project time or money.
- What we hand over to developers can be clearer and more useful. Think effortless passing of the relay baton rather than collisions, skinned knees and fumbling on the track.
So we're working to make it a tool that lets us and other designers experience and fulfil these ideals on a daily basis. As Oliver Reichenstein points out, tools can't make your designs beautiful, but ours can help make the beautiful possible with less effort and more reward.
And we think that's a pretty good vision to have.
A product born out of selfish necessity
Before we started this tool, we were Front – a web strategy and design agency in Northern Ireland with 12 years' experience. In late 2010, using conventional tools to design websites bit us in the backside. At the close of one project, the very detailed and refined comps we'd shown the client didn't look the same when viewed in the browser. It wasn't the end of the world, but they weren't pleased either.
A familiar problem
It was the first time a client had ever noticed a difference between comps and the live site, but it wasn't exactly a new problem. For some time, our methods had caused frustrations for our designers and developers.
Designers felt dissatisfied when their layouts weren't replicated exactly. And developers felt helpless. They were very skilled, and they doing their best to copy the jpegs they received. It wasn't their fault that web fonts rendered differently, that some system fonts weren't available as web fonts and that they often had to guess measurements in the absence of style guides.
Wrong tools for the job
That bite was the push we needed to re-evaluate our design tools and process. We discovered that working with system fonts in Fireworks was faster for our designers, but build was slow because our developers had to interpret fonts and classes, resolve inconsistencies and negotiate font compromises with the designers. Plus there was that pesky problem of comp fonts not always resembling site fonts due to the rendering.
And when we moved to designing with web fonts, it was the opposite problem. It was faster for developers because there were fewer negotiations and less guesswork. But designers were wasting valuable project time stepping through a really repetitious process to get the web fonts into their layouts. You know the deal:
Go to URL → Paste copy → Preview → Capture → Import to comp → Resize → Arrange – Repeat40 → Find typos → Pull hair out → Repeat → Show client comp → Get requests to make bigger, smaller, different → Die a little inside → Repeat20
Both approaches had serious drawbacks.
How it all started
So in late 2010, we started fantasising, scheming, sketching and prototyping a better way to work. We wanted a blend that would:
- give us the speed and convenience of designing within a single canvas;
- let us set and style web fonts as easily and precisely as we could system fonts – and on full-length copy (not small excerpts at a time); and
- provide the visual feedback, realism and reliability that previewing on font service sites (in the browser) offered.
In September 2011, we released our Typecast® design tool in private beta to trial it with real designers and discover what was working, what wasn't and how we could improve it. That same month, we gave up client work for one year so we could focus entirely on the app. In October 2012, we launched our public beta, and one week later we were acquired by Monotype. On January 30th 2013 we became a commercial product. Today we're testing, refining and building new features every week to get us closer to fulfilling our vision.
With your help, we'll get there.
We're a small team working hard to make our app a tool you'll love using.