Get ready for multicolor fonts — maybe in motion, too

M is for Marcus: this detail from an illuminated manuscript in the British Library shows what’s possible with chromatic fonts.

(Credit: British Library)

For a few decades now, fonts have been monochromatic — just the thing for putting black ink on white paper. But publishing has gone digital, and the era of the multicolored font is beginning.

The Motion Pictures Experts Group (MPEG) standards group last week began a project to standardize chromatic fonts — those with multiple colors. Vladimir Levantovsky, a Monotype Imaging employee who serves as chairman of the group, said he expects to merge technology from Mozilla, Adobe, Google, and Microsoft into a standard.

The impetus for the work was the need to support emoji, the colorful emoticons, icons, and pictures that gradually are expanding in use. But the work will expand to traditional typography, too, Levantovsky said.

“I am sure this technology will bring us a whole new era of polychromatic fonts,” he said. “Emoji is just one of the use cases and it is certainly a significant one because it was the catalyst for color font creation, but I am sure there is much more to come.”

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