Friday, February 11, 2011

Regretable Ligature

When I saw this poster at Whole Foods, the first thing I thought was how nice it was to be in a grocery store that actually employs a graphic designer for promotional signage. The next thought I had was how unfortunate that the designer of this poster, who evidently has access to nice fonts, would make the careless mistake of allowing three letters to merge into a regrettable ligature. Had they simply allowed for more leading or been more creative with their copy editing, this could have easily been avoided.

Good ligatures are not something you see used very often, but can add an aesthetic which makes work look very intentional. The font Mrs. Eaves has an extensive library of special ligatures beyond the typical variations of the problematic letter 'f.'Ligatures were first used by calligraphers either to add visual interest or to create kerning pairs that fit well together. I found these examples in a Speedball Calligraphy book that was published in 1960.

The advent of typewriters, personal computers, and the Internet have all contributed to the decline of the ligature as a typographical element. However, some fonts (including the Script series from House Industries) use smart kerning pairs which not only choose the best letter based on neighbors, but also implements ligatures automatically so that you do not need to use the glyph palette. Additionally, some fonts are simply made to contain beautiful ligatures as a nod to the past.While the internet is the last place you'd expect to see them, Firefox introduced the ability to allow certain fonts to contain ligatures on the web.

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