Monotype Makes Small Fonts Legible on Tiny Digital Screens

Monotype, a company that specializes in fonts, has designed a new technology called Spark, which can be used to scale down fonts to be legible and attractive on smaller screens found on smartwatches, medical devices and vehicle dashboards. Spark provides font flexibility, which is especially important with so many Internet connected devices hitting the market. The company claims that the new software makes fonts on tiny screens look as clean as they would appear on an iPhone or computer display.

“The problem with fonts on small screens has to do with bitmap fonts, which get pre-coded into devices because they require less computational power,” Wired reports. “Unfortunately, those bitmap fonts are pixelated, so they won’t allow for the beauty and flexibility of rendered fonts — like Times New Roman or Helvetica — which scale more easily and can be found on bigger computer screens with plenty of power.”

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With the Internet of Things, there is no way of predicting the text a device might have to display. “Normally with hard coded devices, they used to know exactly what they want to display,” explains David Gould from Monotype. “Now your dashboard, your medical watch, it’s connected and you don’t know what strings of information are coming in to that device.”

Spark is a solution for the unpredictability of the Internet. Before Spark there was iType, a software designed to identify text and display large versions of that text onto a device. The technology that powers Spark was not deemed originally possible. After rounds of trial and error, Monotype’s engineers finally arrived at Spark.

Spark could be useful for digital device manufacturing companies that may not have the resources to develop flexible screen interfaces of their own. Apple for one, is a company that has designed an in-house typeface to work with its upcoming Apple Watch. A device’s font display needs to be legible so that users can easily process and interpret information at a quick glance.