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blog of developer & bookworm benjamin read

Introducing Biko: my new body font

Typography on the web is a world of hard choices. I started this website using quite a different set of fonts than I have now. But since then my perspective has changed on a few things, and I've finally switched to an entirely new set of fonts for Here's a few of the processes I've been through when considering these changes.

I started out using one font in 2 styles and 2 weights from Google's excellently stocked and totally free Fonts library. At that time, I knew I wanted to convey a slightly more umm, could you call it "old fashioned" appearance to my site. This was because I wanted more than anything to differentiate myself from the ubiquitous "bootstrap" look.

Vollkorn is a beautiful font, and I still love it very much. The trouble for me is two things that I've been thinking a lot about:

  1. Performance
  2. The state of the web as a free, open platform


I found that loading sites from Google's CDN is still slower than loading them from my local computer. It's not much of course, but it's another dependency I can do without. I'm happy that my site still loads in under 1s on wifi, which means it'll still be relatively quick on slower networks.

It's also a connection that may drop without my control. Google's CDN may have a heavy traffic spike, or be unreachable, so my text might use fallback fonts at the very best, or it might not be visible for an extra few seconds, which is a worse scenario in my opinion.

So switching fonts to something I could host locally was a big performance factor, as well as giving me some extra control in how fonts are loaded on my site (which I may do something with in the longer term).

The State of the Web

These large corporations like Facebook, Google and others are getting too powerful. I have been alarmed that certain elements of what they do and why they operate the way they do. For example, people think of Facebook as a social network, and Google as a search engine. But they're not. They're advertising agencies who sell information we give them to the highest bidder.

I also think that these organisations are getting too big to be safe. We were deeply upset with Microsoft for calling its browser "Internet Explorer", which implied that it was the only means by which someone could access the web. But in some circles, Facebook is believed to be the web. That perception will only grow if Facebook provides the web to certain countries and regions.

If they have this much control, what can they do to transform the web into a proprietary platform, instead of an open platform that can be used any way.

And if Tim Berners Lee and Aral Balkan are worried, I think we all should be.

About Biko

I came across Biko quite by accident whilst searching through type specimens, and loved its hints of "Jazz Age", somewhat international flavour, and it's versatility. Although I'm using it as a body font, I think the light and Black weights could look lovely in the right application.

Funnily enough it was the name of the typeface that caught my eye too:— when I was being home schooled by my mother, we had a study project about Steve Biko and watched the film "Cry Freedom" about his battle for justice in apartheid era South Africa.

I'm pleased to support fellow London artist Marco Ugolini by using this typeface in my work.