John Vorwald

John Vorwald

Starts and Fundamentals

June 24, 2014

Google Web Fundamentals Appeared over the past week and much like Bootstrap, HTML5 Boilerplate, and all the other template frameworks spawned since, gives any skill level another foundation to design and build a website.

It that way, it really isn’t much different than some of the other foundation frameworks, but it does come with a great set accessible web standards (great with those learning). Not that other frameworks don’t try to do this, but what google is setting up here really points out best practices for the web in addition to being documentation for the framework. As opposed to just being documentation for the framework with the hope that it is following best practice standards.

While I like this, the thing that I really found remarkable about the fundamentals is the the webapp manifest file that is included in the base kit. I know I’m driving it into the ground, but I love the concept of web-apps that are accessible regardless of place or internet connection. That google is including this element that aids in that?


A beginner, or someone unfamiliar with web-apps can find this and discover they already have the foundation laid for something more than just a website. The barrier to make an app, to translate an idea into a working thing is lowered that much more.

A Change in Trade

June 21, 2014

So, for the past year, there hasn’t been much added to the site and to the blog. This has largely because I’ve had some rather large changes in my life. Leaving academia for the life of a front end developer.

While I miss teaching design and web design, I find myself a lot happier. The front-end dev skills are being put to use. I come home happy and go to work excited to see what I’ll make. While I’m doing less print work, I’ve always been more interested in digital design and the web now offers so much potential.

The best part is that the shift still lets me explore and experiment with the things that excite me. I’ll still be posting about webfonts, open-type, and svg. Now I’ll be able to go on about things that never fit into design: like build tools (hooray for grunt and gulp).

This doesn’t mean abandoning design. The practices and creativity I’ve learned, honed, and engrained into my existence still influence a lot of what I do. Only now, I put my effort into translating design into scripting, markup, code.

Thinking on Webapps

June 17, 2014

In teaching web-design I tried to introduce the idea of creating real web apps and not just another portfolio or blog. This usually amounted to a demo or two involving localStorage.

While this was a very superficial introduction to the idea of a full web app, I wanted to plant the seed that a site could be more than a social platform or store, but a ui with an interface to actually make something from. It feels like there are more and more possibilities for stand-alone or web-based apps that work with what I expect to be native web languages and technologies all interweaving and interacting with each other. Best of all, that they could be natively portable.

While the portable aspect is up to the developers, it is all possible. Of course I’m going to go with design examples for this.

  1. Glypher: A font designer web-app. One that is so self contained as an app, you can save the html and keep a working copy of the app locally. Open source and simply incredible for what it accomplishes. While there are key commands/shortcuts that just don’t quite work/exist yet for web, it gives anyone access to a kind of software that can otherwise be pretty expensive.

  2. Prototypo: Another font-related web-app. Kickstarter funded and making progress with it’s development, it too is pretty astounding. While it won’t work offline, it’s another great ui. While it won’t be free, it fills a role as a utility for font development. (Yes, I backed the kickstarter, and yes, I’ve been enjoying the early access.)

Beginner Tip for Opentype Features

May 23, 2013
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Opentype font features give some pretty wonderful options for a more dynamic typeface. I did run into a couple of small problems setting up contextual substitutes for a script font. The o, v, and w in particular created the need for a special alternative character to keep the script connected correctly.

What I should have done was to hit the documentation from Adobe straight away rather than dig around font blogs first. I discovered I was getting errors in my handling of getting the feature to work even though the examples were/are technically correct, but for a different situation.

In my case I needed:

    feature salt{
        sub[o v w] r' by r.salt;
    } salt;

This takes any combination of or vr wr and replaces the r with it’s stylistic alternative. The downside is that those three characters also have alt options for o v and w. So that doesn’t work either, but classes come to the rescue:

    @Os = [o o.salt o.init];
    *Repeat for any others.*

Which turns the feature into:

    feature salt{
        sub[@Os @Vs @Ws] r' by r.salt;
    } salt;

This is simple enough. The only thing that seems odd is the single quote after the first r. I hadn’t encountered it in other examples, but it pops up in the official documentation as ‘marking a glyph or glyph class for contextual substitution’.1

These are small things, but weren’t terribly obvious when I was just jumping through blogs and documentation to get the answer. Hopefully this is helpful for others who are just getting into scripting Opentype features.

  1. From the Adobe documentation on OpenType features

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