Passionate Design With Typeface, Font & Human Interaction


“How can text be read more efficiently?” – Kenneth Ormandy.

We recently had the opportunity to hear from Kenneth Ormandy and Ryan Betts on the topics of passionate design, and human interaction at the Style and Class Meetup in Vancouver. We gathered with approximately 120 other people at Hootsuite to hear them explore the history and human element behind typeface, as well as the confessions of a Luddite. If that last part sounds odd to you don’t be alarmed, it did for us too, but it’s an interesting perspective Ryan Betts asked us to explore and we’ll get into that a little later. First let’s look at typefaces and fonts.

How can text be read more efficiently? Kenneth posed this question to us with the intention to explain how when the first books were being printed this was a legitimate concern. Many people were not reading at all, and making it easier for people to learn and practise was vitally important to the industry. Over the years the same question has continued to shape the progression of typeface design and their digital siblings we all use, fonts. Whether you’re sitting there typing out a blog post just as I am, or reading online we’re all interacting with font and typeface design daily. If you’re like me it’s probably closer to hourly or even by the minute.

Luckily for us designing with fonts has gotten a lot easier with web fonts, WOFF, CSS and Javascript. The goal to allow things to be read more efficiently is improving and here are some tips from Kenneth to keep in mind when you’re designing for the web.

Web fonts are used across 50% of websites and are served by Google 2.5 Billion times per day.

You should use WOFF2 Fonts because they have a new compression algorithm to help them load faster and make things look beautiful. (Google Fonts use WOFF2)

Use Javascript to load fonts not CSS, you will have more control to load them when and where you want to.

Make sure you use a broad font stack not just 1 font and a fallback to serif or sans serif. He is suggesting that fonts should always have 4 or 5 fallbacks in your stack.

Lastly, check out Typekit/webfontloader on Github for a great way to load fonts into your site.

Onto the Luddites.

What is a Luddite you may be asking?

Well it’s an old term for people who generally don’t like machines or technology because it has the potential to take their jobs. In todays world Ryan explains it as the centre of a scale identifying a portion of our population that is neither extreme laggards nor the progressive minds almost emphatically trying to take the human element out of everything. He uses the progression of the bicycle as an example of how the human element effects design.

Let’s flash back to the 1800’s…

Cycling in Adelaide
Cycling in Adelaide

A farmers crops are dying, and he can’t feed his horses, he has some spare wheels for a carriage and decides to fasten them together with a plank of wood. Behold, the first bicycle! Pedalless, without steering, no breaks, extremely uncomfortable, and expensive.

It was definitely more of an intricate process than what I described, but hopefully you get the gist of it. At first society frowns upon the new technology as it’s dangerous for people on the street and unfamiliar to see it’s strange mass bumping down the road. As new advancements are made people begin to see it’s value, but price and comfort still keep the majority of the population from purchasing. Finally with the development of soft wheels, chain driven drive, smaller gear ratios, brakes, and a manageable size the bicycle is on the list of things to buy for many people.

The human interaction needed to create the right product for the market is due in part to what Ryan calls the Luddite Lenses. 2 categories with 3 sub categories each.


  • Ergonomics
  • Community
  • Consensus


  • Effectiveness
  • Ownership
  • Logistics

These human factors all play a part in the world of design and are necessary for any product or idea that has the potential to be something great. Luddites are necessary in modern terms today, and Ryan along with many others at his talk would consider themselves to be one.

Ryan also suggests anyone interested in human interaction watch The Human Scale on Netflix, directed by Andreas Dalsgaard, and starring Jan Gehl.

If your interested in attending one of the Style and Class Meetups sign up on their website. Thanks so much for reading!

story written by Sam Jeanes