Musings on specimens
Articles, interviews, research findings.

The What and The Why

Since I first started researching what makes an effective specimen, my hypothesis has been that specimens are tools and users have tasks, especially for digital specimens. After close to 60 hours of talking to people over the last six weeks, I've encountered the same challenge I had six years when I first started this research – people who choose and use fonts have a hard time explaining how they go about doing it. Continue reading.

What is happening to our digital archives?

History is important in typography and type design. Type revivals and reinterpretations are only made possible by the artefacts that remain from their initial use. Ephemeral in nature, most type specimens that remain from centuries past are parts of collections. Collectables are cared for, catalogued, preserved. Working documents – specimens pored over, first by compositors or printers, but then by academics and students – degrade with age. But that's ok. These are tools. Working specimens. That's ok in real life. In the physical world. But what about the digital world? What about digital specimens? Continue reading.

A Convergence

This past two weeks I've spoken to dozens of designers, educators, type designers, and foundry owners about specimens. Whilst there are some trends in the discussions, which is the topic of this blog post, I will say this – the thoughts and feelings about specimens amongst the type community are as diverse as the community is. So let's dig into some initial insights. What do people think of, and need from, digital type specimens? Continue reading.

Hands on with type testers

From research done previously, I can say that users really want to get hands on with type in digital specimens. They need to feel if the typeface they are evaluating will map to their needs. They want to try that particular set of letters, or create the logotype they're working on. Mostly, they want to take a screenshot and drop it in Photoshop, Sketch or Figma. What is the role of type testers with this in mind? Continue reading.

A call for user research participants

Type Specimens is a publication, but also a design and research project and that's what I want to talk about today. Continue reading.

The Swiss Army knife

I was twelve, I think. I was just about to set off for my first Scout camp. It was a Saturday and raining (it always rained in Manchester). As I was about to hesitantly leave the car and the relative warmth of my dad's Capri, he gave me a small gift. A tiny present wrapped in Christmas wrapping paper. It was June. Unwrapping the little gift I was beyond thrilled to see the gift was my first knife. not any old knife, but a small Swiss Army knife with a blade, a saw, some scissors, a couple of screw drivers and some tweezers. Of course, all I used was the knife – probably whittling some wood to toast a marshmallow. Continue reading.