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8th Light

Software developers with a respect for fine craftsmanship — in code and typography.

Contributed by Stephen Coles on Oct 27th, 2011. Artwork published in 2007.

Today’s specimen is yet another pure example of how fundamental typographic principles can be applied to the web to improve readability and engender respect for an organization.

Screenshots from 8thlight.com. Click any image to enlarge.

8th Light is a software development firm whose brand emphasis is “craftmanship”. It’s appropriate, then, that their web presence demonstrates awareness of the craft of typography. The site was designed by Billy Whited, who (for the sake of full disclosure) attended this June’s Type Camp California where I was an instructor. It’s clear from his work on 8thlight.com that he didn’t have much to learn from us in the realm of web type. The man put some serious research and effort into making the site a fitting representation of his company’s values.

Just three colors (black in two shades, blue, and the occasional red for emphasis) and three fonts (Fresco and the bold and small caps from Fresco Sans) define the 8th Light identity. It’s a quiet, subtle palette, but executed with obvious care and respect for the reader. Despite being routed in the typographic fundamentals usually associated with printed work, the pages feel fresh.

The typeface helps. Fred Smeijers’ Fresco has a lively spirit that sufficiently distinguishes it from standard web-safe fonts. Fresco (the serif) is an informal, modern departure from Georgia but nearly as suitable for small text. Fresco Sans combines the clarity of Verdana and the Humanist aspects of Lucida Sans/Grande, but has more personality than either of those web standbys, making for more engaging, distinctive headlines. Unlike some sans/serif suites, Fresco and Fresco Sans are companions, not twins. They share a basic structure and style but are different enough to facilitate contrast.

Whited chose the “Plus” variation of the Fresco fonts, the ones with longer, book text style ascenders and descenders, but the standard versions with more contemporary proportions would probably work better for the short and technical content on this site.

So, what is at first glance a very simple set of pages without pomp and circumstance, is actually a very finely tuned and elegant piece of typesetting that improves the reading experience and speaks well of the studio. Small details matter:

  • A clear typographic hierarchy using size and color, not furniture or ornamentation
  • All text as HTML (webfonts), not images
  • A consistent grid, broken occasionally for the sake of content and variety
  • Adequate space between paragraphs and lines
  • Reasonable line lengths
  • Small caps with added spacing (though probably too loose)

See also: Billy Whited’s “Brief Primer on Typeface Selection” »


2 Comments on “8th Light”

  1. Zinni says:
    Oct 28th, 2011  10:29 am
    Edit

    I just wanted to state that I agree with the vast majority of your comments here, but I think a little leniency should be given to the small caps. I agree that is is probably too loose, but this is most likely the technology and not the designer.

    Unfortunately (as I have had to deal with a number of times) all web browsers except Firefox do not accurately deal with sub-pixel rendering of type. So you basically have to work with pixel increments when tracking type. Leaving you with the decision of too tight or too loose. Typically I end up going with loose rather than crammed up tense type, which Billy may have done here as well.

  2. Joseph says:
    Nov 29th, 2011  9:58 am
    Edit

    Phenomenal write up and analysis. I agree with everything except the note on the kerning on the small caps. I think when the type gets that small this extra kerning actually helps out readability.

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