Karmilla: a friendly fork of Karla

Lately I have been using Karla, an outstanding grotesque sans serif typeface by Jonathan Pinhorn, for some print and web projects — it is used on the Greyscale Press website, in the upcoming Aether9 book, and on a new website under development.

I noticed some quirks and issues when using it for French text:

  • the cedilla (ç) and oe ligature (œ) were missing – they are pretty common in French.
  • the height of the apostrophe is lower than usual – it’s noticable in combinations like l’ or d’, which are frequent in French.
  • the q has a very quirky design – that’s a nice touch of character in English, where it’s quite rare, but in French it’s standing out a bit too much.

Since the font is open source (under the OFL licence), nothing prevents anyone from modifying the font — and that’s what I did (having no other choice, since it’s creator is busy churning out Indian typefaces). I used FontForge (thanks to the knowledge gathered by reading the Fontes Libres book and following a workshop by Dave Crossland this summer).

The resulting files are here, on GitHub. It’s really not much more than a quick hack: I added the cedilla from another open source font (Arimo, by Steve Matteson), and moved a few vectors around. But it works fine and does the job: French text can now be typeset safely with Karla. Since the OFL licence requires any modified versions to use a different Reserved Font Name, I renamed it into Karmilla.

The package includes a version that has been encoded for web use by FontSquirrel. The autohint works very well, I tested the font in IE7/Windows XP and it’s perfecty readable. Feel free to use Karmilla in your projects, or improve/extend it with your own glyphs.