When I first began to write HTML, in middle school, I worked in Notepad on Windows 95. The only font available was Fixedsys, and since then I’ve always used a single monospaced font when coding.
These days, most of my time at work is split between writing code and making fonts. Computer setups are far more advanced than my middle school days, but typographically, code hasn’t changed too much: usually one font, one character width, one size. Working with typographers and graphic designers, I know how type can enrich the most mundane of texts, not only by lending it distinction and voice, but by guiding readers through the paragraphs, headers, and captions that stand between them and comprehension. But, when programming, I continued to stare at a single font at a single size with a single character width, and I couldn’t help but wonder about the typographic possibilities.
Input came out of a conversation I had with some of my colleagues on this very topic. My boss, David Berlow asked: “Are monospaced fonts really the only solution for presenting computer code in a world with so much type technology?” Input was my response.
I wanted Input to look and feel like a coding font. Aesthetically, Input’s pixel-based, modular design recalls the technical limitations of early computer displays. Functionally, Input explores what is possible in the typography of code. It is a flexible system that includes four widths, seven weights, monospaced and proportional varieties, not to mention customizable alternate letterforms and line spacing.
I realize that using proportional fonts in code is a tad experimental, and some will keep to Input’s 56 monospaced variants. Input’s proportional fonts, Sans and Serif, try to take what is best about the monospaced genre and fuse it with a font that lets each letter take up the space it needs. I use and combine them on my computer for everything from code to correspondence. While most user interface fonts are generic, Input has a distinct voice. And when some of Input’s earliest beta testers never realized they were coding in a proportional font, I knew I was onto something.
For me, one of the most interesting parts of this typeface’s development was the Cyrillic. I gave it a shot, but knowing I was no expert, decided to consult with Russian typeface designer Maria Doreuli. She sent me several rounds of comments, teaching me about the hierarchy of shapes in the Cyrillic alphabet, and suggesting alternative approaches to the forms I had drawn. It was tricky, and it was exciting to work with Maria to balance Input’s funky, modular design on one hand, and the specific needs of the Cyrillic alphabet on the other.
Input is two things at once: on one hand, it is a flexible tool that I believe can help all writers and programmers customize their own working environments. On the other hand, it is an expansive professional font family, and I believe that its distinct, screen-ready design can be an invaluable asset to websites, brands, and user interfaces.
This is why Font Bureau and I decided to take a different approach to licensing this typeface. Input is available for download at no cost for private use, so anyone can use it on their own computer to create a more comfortable writing or programming environment. At the same time, we offer publishing licenses for print, web, and apps at an unusually low cost, which I hope will encourage those who code with Input to use it in their designs and publications as well.
You can customize and download Input at no cost for private use, which includes use in code or text editors on your own computer.
- Input, fonts for code (Brochure)
- Input, available for licensing from The Font Bureau
- Input, available for web licensing from Webtype
- New From Font Bureau: Input
- There’s finally a modern typeface for programmers (Fast Company)
- Input, Nitti Light: fonts made for writing, not reading (Businessweek)
- Input from The Font Bureau (Subtraction)
All typefaces I work on are collaborations, but this typeface especially benefitted from the feedback and advice of a large number of people. I’d like to thank all of Input’s beta testers who tried it on for size; Maria Doreuli, who consulted with me on the Cyrillic; Matthew Butterick, who gave helpful advice as a coder and as typeface designer; the folks at Paratype, who made the hinting of this massive family possible; Frank Grießhammer, who wrote the excellent box drawing character generator and suggested the Thin weights; and finally my coworkers who all played a role in making this typeface happen: David Berlow, Sam Berlow, Petr van Blokland, Paley Dreier, CJ Dunn, Cyrus Highsmith, Indra Kupferschmid, Chris Lewis, André Mora, Jill Pichotta, and Nick Sherman.