Prototypo Updated for Browser-based Font Creation

There can't be much argument to the claim that this is the Golden Age for designers, when it comes to type. We have access to a vast and growing library of high-quality fonts, many of them very affordable, which can be used for print, web and mobile projects. But despite that typographical abundance, there are still situations when what's out there can't quite fit the bill. No problem, there are tools available for creating fonts, correct? Actually, only a few, with developer FontLab leading the pack. But such specialized programs are both expensive and not really designed for occasional use.

Here's where Prototypo comes in, as an online, browser-based typeface editor that lets users jump right in by modifying the parameters of a base font using sliders, followed by the tweaking of spacing and outlines. The two founders apparently spent five months creating Prototypo and raised almost 50,000 euros to bring it to a releasable version about a year ago. The first version offered two custom typefaces created for Prototypo by Production Type.

Skeletons were being used as the base of the letter modification but contours were employed to draw the serifs. Prototypo also generated true OpenType fonts in real time and changes could be applied to full paragraphs of editable text, with support for multi-core processors keeping things from bogging down. The user interface provided the abiilty to view letter, word and paragraph previews side by side. Once complete, designs could be exported as an Open Type font or to the open source Glyphr format.

While a lot of progress had been made for the launch version, Prototypo still had a long way to go to become a serious designer's tool and not simply a promising technology demonstration. But at least the developers were open about that, posting in their blog that among missing functionality was support for more than Firefox and Chrome; extension of the character sets of the current base fonts; the addition of more base fonts; a library for saving settings for different fonts; and the lack of any real control over spacing and kerning. And it should be noted that a third font, Prototypo Elzevir, was soon added.

Earlier this year an extension was provided to make it possible to preview fonts on web pages and in September Prototypo was given a refreshed user interface. Now version 2 has launched, adding significant functionality, notably the ability to manually modify the nodes of each skeleton. This makes it possible to tweak such things as the position of the brush, its angle, its pressure as well as the distribution of the weight around the skeleton. Such adjustments can prove handy to correct imperfections created when sliders are used to dramatically alter the templates.

Also significant is the new ability to control glyph components, which allows users to switch between the built-in components of a glyph. According to the developer, Prototype provides designers with all they need to create graphic identities, with no requirement to move designs to other applications for typographic tweaking or finishing.

A limited-functionality free version of Prototypo is available, with billing for the full version priced at $15 per month. It's also possible to unlock all the parameters and export five projects for $5.