Talking Typography with Jason Pamental

Jason Pamental has been working in web design and typography since the early 90's. He has seen the internet go from having very little freedom of expression to so much. Now he is advocating to keep it that way.

Talking Typography with Jason Pamental

“I started studying graphic design and my job on campus was making the school’s first website, and this goes back to the early to mid-’90s, maybe like 1994. I loved typography, I always enjoyed that in class…but it was also something that...other than making a picture of words in Photoshop, you couldn’t use that on the web. It just didn’t exist.”

After college, Jason stayed involved in web design. He continued to enjoy typography in print, but, as Jason says, “that was it, there wasn’t really that much more that you could do.” Around fifteen years into his experience in web design, in 2009, Typekit (now part of Adobe), launched in beta, and a friend of his invited him to try it out. As Jason put it, “It just kind of reinvented web design”. Typekit is what got him thinking about typography on the web again, and he began using it in projects. From the beginning of the introduction of more types being used on the web came technical problems and frustrations with text either showing up without styles or sometimes not at all. Jason found himself trying to solve these problems so he could get back to designing and using typography. He was working in a new space with new problems and devoted a lot of time to talk about them and continued to learn more about typography on the web.

He soon signed on as the co-maintainer of the Typekit module for Drupal and worked on other open-source projects like Monotype for their new web font service. At this time, there was one main goal for those involved:  overcome the difficulties and get more fonts on the web. This way, eventually, more people could design with more freedom. This is where Jason feels that the art and science of the web meet in order to create a better experience for everyone. Jason understands that typography is a niche, but it impacts readability, user experience, and branding. He respects the power of typography and explains that “type is how we hear what we read”.

“What we do by constraining ourselves to only 12 ‘web-safe fonts’ or only two weights of a given type face is, we reduce that voice. And every time we make those decisions we diminish the amount of expressiveness that we could potentially achieve in our design.”
Recently, as site optimization for quicker load times has become the topic of conversation, many developers have pushed back on the idea of typography, feeling that fonts slow down the performance of the site. Jason often deals with this problem, working with designers in order to convince their developing teams that fonts do not have to be the issue while mitigating these performance problems with new strategies. Jason works to find a balance between the two, keeping creative expression and performance alive. The number of fonts that are going to load and how they will be used are questions that need to be considered as part of the design decision process. A quote he often thinks about from Brad Frost is, “Performance is the first aspect of design that a user encounters”. Jason adds on to Brad’s point saying, “...if the site hasn’t loaded yet, you can’t experience it. So it doesn’t matter how nicely designed it is.” Again, Jason is focused on finding a balance where design does not have to be compromised, and, at the same time, incorporate these design decisions into the performance conversation, as well.
This discussion will continue in an upcoming blog post, so make sure to check back.