Changing the default character set of a font

New Here ,
Feb 22, 2011 Feb 22, 2011

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I have been corresponding with Hoefler Frere about customizing the standard character set for Whitney. Whitney has a default character set and an alternate set. We want to have some of the alternate characters to replace their default characters in the main set, and are told that choosing an alternate character can only be done manually, one at a time, through the glyphs palatte in InDesign/Illustrator.

We are buying Whitney for use in a very large organization after months of study as to the right typeface for the job, and have found Whitney has just the right characteristics, so long as the alternate 'R' is used in place of the standard 'R', and the alternate 'K' is used in place of the standard 'K', as well as a few other replacements. We want some of the alternate characters to be used entirely in place of the default characters at all times. In other words, we want this font to be carefully controlled without the option of somebody choosing, for example, which 'R' they want to use.. a situation where people are going into glyph sets to choose an R here, an A there would be far too labourious and confusing; we want them to have only one option.  We simply want to have a few of the characters switched around from the alternate to the default character set, so we can deliver the various copies we buy to our designers in that uneditable configuration.

Is this possible for a designer to do on their own? Must I use Fontographer?

Neal

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Enthusiast ,
Feb 22, 2011 Feb 22, 2011

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“Is this possible for a designer to do on their own?”

Legally, or technically?

Legally: only with written permission from Hoefler & Frere-Jones. Their licensing terms are quite clear that they don’t allow you to modify their fonts. Their licensing FAQ says:

“Once converted to outlines in a drawing program, you can alter the shapes of letterforms (for example, in producing a logo.) But you may not alter the data contained within the fonts themselves, or use this data to produce new fonts. Any adjustment to our font software constitutes a “derivative work” under the law, and requires prior written permission from H&FJ as the fonts’ copyright holder.” (H&FJ put a yellow highlight on that second sentence to emphasize it, which I have not been able to carry over here.)

Technically: yes, this can be done. However, doing it properly is a little tricky without having a lot of font knowledge, and requires understanding how to use some relatively sophisticated tools and deal with font data structures. You would likely be better off paying somebody else to do it. If I had a friend who needed it done, and for some reason I couldn’t do it for them, I would recommend they pay somebody who really knows what they are doing.

The problem with moving glyphs around or remapping them is that if done wrong, you could inadvertently lose a glyph's advance width (= right sidebearing) or kerning (getting the kerning for the other version of the glyph). Or swap them with the same info from the other version of the glyph.

“Must I use Fontographer?”

I’m not sure if the new version of Fontographer (from FontLab Ltd.) would be up for this task; certainly the previous one was not.

With the tools I have, here is how I would do it. I would use a combination of FontLab plus TTX: view glyphs visually in FontLab to ascertain glyph IDs and verify that the glyph naming is correct, then dump the fonts to XML with TTX, and edit the cmap subtables to change the glyph ID references to make the relevant codepoints now point at the preferred glyphs, and recompile the fonts with TTX.

As long as the glyphs were named according to usual standards, and one was careful to edit all the cmap subtables, that would work very elegantly and involve the least danger of messing anything up. In fact, very few bytes in the font would change!

The more designerly approach would be to move glyphs around in FontLab Studio or some such, but going down that kind of path would increase the chances of breaking something.

Regards,

T

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New Here ,
Feb 23, 2011 Feb 23, 2011

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Thomas,

Thank you very much for your helpful advice. My main effort is to get Hoelfer &

Frere Jones to do this for us to avoid going over their head, as I respect them

as great type designers.

Best,

Neal

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