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Open Source Publishing – Graphic Design Caravan

Feature or bug?

Type · February 4th, 2009 ·

The FLOSS+Art book is finally rolling off the print-on-demand press and in the spirit of the kinds of practices described in the book, GOTO10 distributes our ‘source files’ as a bittorrent:1

Rather than just providing a “free” PDF, FLOSS+Art.v1.1.eBook-GOTO10 is also available and contains all the Fonts, Images, PDF and Scribus source files that were used to make the book. Feel free to branch a translation or fork the chapters!


In that same spirit, an OSP-friend sent us a design-bug-report:

In the .pdf version, the Libertinage fonts are only appearing for the 14 first pages. From then on, it is something like Times New Roman. However, the fonts for the "footnotes" remain the same throughout the book. This thing happened with "Evince" and the "Acrobat Reader" on my linux, and I thought that maybe my computer was too slow or hadn't enough memory... I asked someone to check under Mac OSX, same thing. Finally, I got the .pdf printed at copy-shop (Windows) and it happened also.

The font-issue he is experiencing, is luckily not a technical problem2 but might be a design version of the “feature-not-a-bug” phenomenon.

For the FLOSS+Art book, Harrisson and Ludivine created Libertinage3, 27 different variations on the free software font Linux Libertine. Linux Libertine was designed to be used in place of staple-font Times New Roman, so it is not surprising that it looks & feels more or less the same:4

libertinagevstimes_th
Times New Roman (top) vs. Linux Libertine5

Each text in the FLOSS+Art book has been typeset in another version of Libertinage. The A-Z versions are subtle derivations; in each version only one letter of the alphabet has been altered. For the introduction (which ends on page 14!) and footnotes, we used Libertinage Full, the most extravagant of all 27 variations. I wished I had a nicer type specimen to show you those transformations, but you get the point:

libertinage_th
Libertinage Full and Libertinage A-E. In Libertinage Full, each letter of Linux Libertine has been transformed and functions as an index to the A-Z variations.

As The New Hackers Dictionary explains, “a bug can be turned into a feature simply by documenting it“.6 Now the question remains whether it is a design bug or a design feature, that the difference between a text typeset in Libertinage A and one typeset in Libertinage B is easily overlooked?

  1. You can order a printed copy of the FLOSS+Art book here: http://www.metamute.org/en/shop/floss_art or download the pdf + sourcefiles as a bittorent: http://thepiratebay.org/torrent/4671426/FLOSS_Art_v1.1 []
  2. Even if we at OSP try to reserve the right to make mistakes, it would have been sad to discover a technical mix up after having gone through an already rather painful production process. We had misunderstood the way RGB / CMYK conversion works in Scribus, and some texts in the first version of the book had come out in 97% grey instead of full black. []
  3. The font is included with the design source files, and also available from the open font library: http://openfontlibrary.org/media/files/OSP/322 []
  4. http://linuxlibertine.sourceforge.net/Libertine-EN.html []
  5. Instead of the usual The Quick Brown Fox jumped over the lazy dog, this text on silk pyjamas is used in Scribus Font Preview. http://ospublish.constantvzw.org/type/woven-silk-pyjamas-exchanged-for-blue-quartz []
  6. http://www.jargon.net/jargonfile/b/bug.html []

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  • 3 Comments ↓

  • 1. Renee Turner

    Feb 9, 2009 at 9:07 am

    I like the idea that if you document a bug, it becomes a feature. It’s the classic dilemma put forth in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. If only the creator would have embraced his “hack”, the narrative of radical experimentation would have been a very different one. Unfortunately, Dr. Frankenstein wanted to master his creature. And Shelley understood the problems of mastery. Her tale is a cautionary one. So long live the anomaly, may it teach us lessons about our own desires to create seamless creatures without flaws. All praise to the glitch; the wrinkle in our best laid plans ;-)

  • 2. Femke

    Feb 13, 2009 at 2:55 am

    And another variant: the ‘undocumented feature’ …

  • 3. Menu Printing Dallas

    Feb 19, 2009 at 5:57 am

    It seems more of a feature than a bug for me.