Constrained. Unconstrained. Variable.

In his keynote John Hudson, Type Designer and Co-founder of Tiro Typeworks Ltd., provided us with interesting perspectives upon the Nirmala UI project. Under the title “Constrained. Unconstrained. Variable.” He reflected upon circumstances, presenting the unique challenges of each design. Here are the most important steps on that journey.

TYPO Labs 2018

TYPO Labs 2018  Keynote by John Hudson

In 2009 Microsoft asked to TyroTypeworks to design a family which could improve the overall quality of Windows 8 user interfaces typeset with Indic scripts.

Pure success? As soon as the Indic scripts where supported by Windows text rendering engine, Microsoft purchased a number of pre-existing fonts in order to render the new scripts. But they were lacking in consistency, which is critical when designing interfaces.

What struggles? The user interface context and the complexity of the scripts involved posed various limitations to the design. The new family had to work a really small sizes within the vertical metrics of Segoe UI, which is the main user interface fonts in use in Microsoft products.

The solution: Indic scripts often stack various signs in a single glyph, which is sometimes impossible in a grid of a few pixels. John Hudson therefore showed a number of workarounds which were necessary to solve some of the most complicated compositions.

The Nirmala UI font was designed in round about a year by a team of designers directed by Tyro Typeworks Ltd. co-founder Fiona Ross. The typeface was shipped into Windows 8 in 2012.


John Hudson

Type Designer & Co-founder of Tiro Typeworks Ltd. (Gabriola BC)

John Hudson designs typefaces and makes fonts. As co-founder of Tiro Typeworks Ltd., a digital foundry specialising in custom font solutions for multilingual publishing and computing, he has been responsible for or has collaborated on type designs for Arabic, Bengali, Cyrillic, Devanagari, Ethiopic, Greek, Gurmukhi, Hebrew, Latin, Odia, Sinhala, Telugu, Thai, and other scripts. Tiro's clients include software companies such as Adobe and Microsoft, and scholarly publishers such as Brill and Harvard University Press, and the STIpub consortium of scientific publishers.