Newcomers often say that it seems as though Gabriola has its own language. That may or may not be true, but thanks to Gabriolan John Hudson, the island has its own type font.
Hudson, a type designer, created the new font for Microsoft’s new Windows 7 operating system. He told the Shingle recently that he started work on the font in 2004 and it took him four years to complete.
Hudson said he has been working with Microsoft for 10 years through their Advanced Reading Technology (ART) group, and was involved with designing a collection of new fonts in 2002 – 2003. In 2004, he was approached by the ART group who wanted to do a display font for decorative kinds of work.
He said he was asked to design a font that was “swashy and elegant, but modern and contemporary”. He said a fair amount of negotiating was necessary to clarify exactly what that meant.
There are lots of things built into the font, Hudson said. He said it is an OpenType font, which is a font format developed by Microsoft that can contain stylistic variants for each letter. He said Gabriola contains eight different sets of stylistic variants that evolve from simple to elaborate letter styles.
The more elaborate the letter style the more complicated the design becomes, Hudson said, because as the letters get fancier, their relationship to each other also changes. His goal, he said, was to “make it possible for typical font users to create something beautiful, and difficult to produce something ugly”.
Asked if he had spent four years working specifically on the Gabriola font, Hudson said he usually has a lot of projects on the go at once. He said that with more complex designs, it is good to spend some time thinking about the project, and occasionally “put it aside for a while, then go back and look at it with fresh eyes”.
Hudson said that although he has done a lot of work for Microsoft, developing the Gabriola font was unusual for him. He said that he and Galiano Islander Ross Mills, who co-founded their company Tiro Typeworks, normally work on text types and multilingual fonts.
Hudson explained that development of multilingual fonts is required because as computers are used around the world, people want to be able to work in their own languages. In addition to the Latin writing system used for English, the Gabriola font includes Greek and Cyrillic (Russian) alphabets.
Explaining why he named his flowing script ‘Gabriola’, Hudson said that it was not the first choice of name, but his original suggestion failed Microsoft’s trademark search. The idea of Gabriola came to him one day while he was trying to think up more options for a name. He said he feared having to work his way through the names of all of the islands of the Salish Sea before finding one that had not been trade-marked. Fortunately, he said, that was not necessary.
Hudson thought the name is appropriate not only because Gabriola Island is a beautiful place on the earth, but also because the name itself is a beautiful word. He thought “the name ties in with the nature of our island”, because the type with its many variant letters is so much about diversity.
Hudson finished by asking that Gabriolans be assured that ‘Gabriola’ has only been trade-marked in the context of typeface fonts and software, and that the island itself remains trade-mark free.