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06 23 2010

This past weekend I spoke at FontConf 2010, a great little unconference put together by Garrick Van Buren in St. Paul, Minnesota.

I wanted to share my slides and a short video that was a part of the presentation, but unfortunately, since this was an unconference, much of the meat was had in a back and forth with the audience. The talk covered some great points such as Mark Boulton on how good design creates a ‘halo effect’ around your product and brand, Oliver Richenstein on the subject of the 100% Easy-2-Read Standard, and Brendan Dawes on Mariah Carey Syndrome. Chank has some nice coverage over on his blog as well.

Below are the slides and video presented at FontConf for your consumption and pondering:

Ira Glass on Story-Telling

Presentation Slides

Download PDF

But Wait! There’s More!

I’d like to get your thoughts on Mariah Carey Syndrome and how it applies to the current landscape of web technologies. For the unfamiliar, Brendan Dawes put forth the analogy in his book, Analog In, Digital Out, when he compares Mariah’s singing to the gratuitous use of Flash in the early/mid 2000s. Mariah can hit some pretty high notes in her songs, and while this is a unique talent, she does it repeatedly in just about every single song, and it quickly becomes annoying rather than impressive.

With the swath of new CSS techniques available, it’s becoming apparent that some folks are already abusing them—sites that apply text-shadow to all of their content make it quite the pain to read, for example. What do you think? Are we headed towards a deluge of flashy CSS3 transitions for no reason? Typefaces poorly selected for reading, just because we can?



  1. I think Mariah Carey Syndrome is already making an appearance; I’ve had to slog through plenty of @font-face badness, and text-shadow is already everywhere.

    CSS3 effects are great, but when a site contains all style and no substance, they’re going to go the way of Flash and Comic Sans.

  2. Most of cool @font-faces does not support cyrillic. That’s bad for me.

    I am all for progressive enchancement, to encourage people using newest browsers (yeah, I know that it will not change anything, but…) and I just have fun to make new fancy effects.

    Text-shadow sometimes makes text harder to read; it adds either moire (on dark background) or dirt (on light), so it should be very subtle effect.

  3. Ant Gray - Kernest currently has 168 fonts containing Cyrillic glyphs -

  4. I have to say I had exactly the same thoughts when I first discovered @font-face. The ‘just because we can’ response could introduce some ugly if not completely illegible typography where limited choice held ‘poor’ designers back a little bit.

  5. Fonts play a major role in website development. But right selection is more important.

  6. Good typography and font diversity are different animals. I’m excited about @font-face but even more jazzed about using .woff with true opentype features to further develop the craft of web typography. The excessive use of different typefaces and text shadow on body copy is generally horrible in print, so why should we tolerate it on the web? Then again, great typographers can make those things work in surprising and delightful ways… so attack the designer before attacking the technology.

  7. Fonts play a major role in website development. But right selection is more important.