When we think about typefaces, it’s generally in connection with either printed material or online electronic text. Other low-level text — say the readout on a car dashboard or a washing machine or an insulin pump — is at best a subset of the genre, not really rising to the level of being called type.
But of course it is type, and because of its medium it’s critical that it not only be legible but pleasing to the eye. Someone had to think about how to achieve better type rendering on industrial and consumer products to replace those 1980s dot matrix style displays.
Monotype, which undertook the task, has engineered a new technology called Monotype Spark, which lets designers and engineers use high-quality scalable text interfaces on low-end platforms with limited run-time memory.
With Spark, designers and engineers can produce attractive, legible and scalable text interfaces for products like wearables, Internet of Things items, medical devices and automotive uses without additional hardware or memory that adds to the item’s cost.
In the past, scalable font technology was not an option for engineers working with small memory products and low-power CPUs. Monotype Spark software now allows designers and engineers to create high-quality interfaces that support various languages and font sizes.
It all starts with iType Spark and WorldType Shaper Spark software paired with a set of optimized fonts. The iType Spark software lets designers and engineers scale and render glyphs from TrueType font files featuring real-time auto hinting, and create monochrome and 8-bit grayscale type. These have a run-time RAM footprint of about 20 kilobytes and a code size for an ARM processor of roughly 98 kilobytes, the company said.
The WorldType Shaper Spark software facilitates low-end platform support for complex and bidirectional scripts such as Arabic, Thai and Devanagari – with a run-time RAM footprint of about five kilobytes and a code size for an ARM processor of some 118 kilobytes, according to Monotype.
In the past, there was no choice but to use inflexible hard-coded bitmap fonts that require storing every character at every size for these small-to-mid range products.
Monotype Spark ships with Latin, Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Arabic fonts and will be available for download as pre-compiled binaries for various platforms.
The binary ports are available for free evaluation and licenses for commercial use can also be purchased online. Source code SDKs are available for customers who prefer to port it themselves or customize.
Pricing is flexible and ranges from between 10 cents and 50 cents per unit.
Images courtesy of Monotype