Case Studies in Building Megafonts

Joshua Hadley - Agfa Monotype Corporation

Intended Audience: Manager, Software Engineer, Marketer, Anyone interested in Fonts
Session Level: Beginner, Intermediate

Statement of Purpose

To examine several real-world large fonts ("megafonts"), offering insights into definitions, concepts, development issues, and challenges associated with creating such fonts.


Fonts are an essential component of computing with Unicode, serving as the graphical vehicle for script and language information. As the Unicode Standard has evolved over the years, there has been greater industry demand for fonts that contain the glyphs needed to display increasing portions of the Standard - - in some cases, *every* defined Unicode character in a single font file! There are several different ways to deliver fonts with a large number of characters. One is the "all-in-one" approach, where all needed characters are encoded in a single binary font file. Another is the "virtual font", in which a set of several harmonized files are delivered, to be grouped into a single logical entity by some external means.

Many difficulties exist in developing megafonts. In some cases, available font technologies are limited; in others, the problem lies in organizing and managing the staggering number of glyphs and related information. These difficulties will only increase as the Unicode Standard is expanded. By examining a number of actual fonts in use, I will investigate the current state of megafont production, as well as what the future might hold.

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