Monotype's makeover for digital text

19th century type firm’s Spark technology, unveiled at CES, solves 21st century textual problem
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Monotype Spark can reproduce many foreign characters quickly and clearly, even on cheap, small devices
Monotype Spark can reproduce many foreign characters quickly and clearly, even on cheap, small devices

It’s hard to reproduce type on digital devices. In particular, devices with limited memory and processing power, such as mid-market car dashboards, navigation devices and heart monitors - most of which haven’t got the processing capability to reproduce a wide range of diverse, differently sized letters without reducing text to clunky characters, or taking up a great deal of time to resolve the type.

However, one of the world’s oldest type foundries appears to have come up with a solution. Monotype was founded in 1887, and even owns the copyrights to such venerable typeface designs as Helvetica and Times New Roman.

 

Monotype Spark suits small devices, such as an oxygen monitor
Monotype Spark suits small devices, such as an oxygen monitor

It has also been working on a number of high-tech solutions to the problems text reproduction faces in the internet age. Its new Monotype Spark technology, unveiled at the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show (CES) a couple of days ago, bundles together three or four different pieces of bespoke software, enabling developers to insert beautifully rendered characters, in almost any size, shape and language, into even the most lightweight devices. 

 

Without Monotype Spark text is clunky and pixelated
Without Monotype Spark text is clunky and pixelated

“Today’s consumer demands a high-quality UI on their devices – whether it’s the dashboard in their car, their new wearable fitness device or a medical device like an insulin pump,” says Geoff Greve, vice president of type operations at Monotype. “Until now, designers and engineers were limited in their ability to create a flexible, scalable text display in low and mid-end devices without doing a substantial amount of work or investing a lot of money in additional hardware or memory. Our new Monotype Spark solution not only makes the type on these devices more beautiful, but it also enables product manufacturers to keep development costs low and create an easy path to scale devices to support new languages and character sets in the future.”

 

Monotype Spark also works well on small screens packed with information
Monotype Spark also works well on small screens packed with information

Or in other words, look out for a Helvetica speedometer, with Thai and Farsi language options, available sometime soon. Meanwhile, for greater insight into graphic design from the invention of the Gutenberg press up until today, take a look at the Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design.


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