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Meet the CSSconf EU Speakers: Bram Stein

Bram Stein is a Dutch developer with a love for web technologies, typography, design, and visualizations. He’s currently working on web font serving, type rendering and other web type related features for Adobe Typekit.

In his talk “The State of Web Typography”, Bram will explore advanced web typography using CSS, HTML and, if necessary, JavaScript. He will dive deep into the current state of browser support for kerning, hyphenation, justification, and OpenType features.

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Besides being busy speaking at conferences, what are you working on at the moment?

My work at Typekit keeps me pretty busy, but when I get some spare time I like to work on my hobby projects: Type Rendering Mix, Typeset, a javascript font parser, my hyphenation library, or one of the many other open source projects I have going on. I’m even considering writing a book on web fonts. I need more time!

What is an upcoming CSS feature that you can’t wait to see widely supported by browsers?

Perhaps a little spoiler, but I’m extremely excited about the font load API (more excited than any sane person should be). It is only implemented by Opera and Chrome, but if it were widely supported, it would give everyone reliable font events to style or script against. Until then, I’m working on a polyfill for the font load API, so you can use it in older browsers as well.

Do you remember the first project you wrote CSS for? Is it still online?

I remember my first project, and I’m happy it has disappeared from the internet. So should you!

Seriously though, the first project where I used CSS was a mishmash of abusing tables for layout and CSS for color and fonts. Typography and advanced layout is still not something CSS is very good at, but we’ve come a long way since then, and the future looks bright.

We don’t want to spoiler, but… what is the one thing that you wish everyone in the audience takes away from your talk?

Typography matters. There are a lot of new CSS features for advanced typography and you can start using most of them today. Browser support for some of these features might not be that good, but most of them degrade gracefully, so your site will still look OK even if they are not supported.

If you could teach someone new to CSS one thing, what would that be?

Read the CSS specifications. They are actually fairly easy to read and represent what browsers are supposed to do. There are a lot of articles out there on various CSS topics, but a lot of them are outdated, wrong, or try to work around browsers that are no longer relevant. Combine the specifications with caniuse.com and you’ll get pretty far.

Can I teach them two things? The other thing would be to decide early on which browsers you’re going to support.

What CSS quirk has cost you the most nerves so far?

I’m not sure if it counts as a CSS quirk, but the thing that has cost me a lot of time is a web font loading bug in older versions of WebKit. While a font is loading WebKit would switch the text briefly to a different font, causing problems with our font load detection code (which would think the font had loaded because the metrics changed). I maintain a collection of other web font browser bugs, if that one didn’t sound bad enough.

What’s the thing you like most about your job?

I get to work with a lot of awesome people, doing the thing I love. I know that is a cliché, but the people on the Adobe Typekit and Type teams are world-class designers and developers, and they love typography as well. It’s great.


You can follow Bram on Twitter, check out his code on Github, and find out more on his website.

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