Spark is a new software program from Monotype meant to make fonts on tiny screens, like on smartwatches and digital dashboards in cars, as intuitive and legible as the ones on your computer.
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. 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. That poses a problem for manufacturers peddling luxury goods, because a crappy screen display could easily cheapen even the most beautiful of devices. This where Monotype’s new software comes in.
Monotype’s flagship product, iType, can quickly render and shape fonts for bigger machines. But until an automobile company asked Monotype to create something similar for smaller screens, they didn’t think it was possible. Gauntlet thrown, Monotype’s engineers set out to build a new software from scratch that could store complex characters like Arabic or Thai, that go either from left to right or right to left, and render them at a variety of sizes, or in bitmap if a manufacturer has a screen that requires it—all at the same computational speed as the older devices. After re-architecting the software again and again, they had Spark: a behind-the-scenes engine that can make fonts on small screens look as good as they do on iPhones or computers.