CSS typography experiment

This is a quick experiment that reproduces an image from I Love Typography using nothing more than simple semantic HTML, CSS 2.1, and modern browser implementations of a couple of CSS3 properties. Along the way a few new modern browser bugs and inconsistencies were exposed.

I came across an image on I Love Typography that I thought could be reproduced using just semantic HTML and CSS without resorting to ugly solutions that rely on unsemantic and unnecessary elements.

A scaled down and cropped version of the I Love Typography A Lot image from I Love Typography.

The idea was to reproduce the image from realistic markup that may exist “in the wild” and to rely as much as possible on what can be achieved with CSS pseudo-elements.

This is the HTML I ended up using.

<p>I love <strong>typography</strong> <em>a lot</em></p>

This is the CSS that controls the presentation of that content.

body {
  padding: 0;
  margin: 0;
  font-family: Times New Roman, serif;
  background: #000;

p {
  position: relative;
  width: 1100px;
  padding: 100px 0 0;
  margin: 0 auto;
  font-size: 175px;
  font-weight: bold;
  line-height: 1.2;
  letter-spacing: -13px;
  color: #0caac7;
  transform: rotate(-20deg);

/* "i" */
p:first-letter {
  float: left;
  margin: -137px -20px 0 0;
  font-size: 880px;
  line-height: 595px;
  text-transform: lowercase;

/* "love" */
p:first-line {
  font-size: 200px;

/* "typography" */
p strong {
  display: block;
  margin: -80px 0 0;
  font-weight: normal;
  letter-spacing: -2px;
  text-transform: capitalize;

p strong:first-letter {
  margin-right: -30px;
  color: #fff;

/* "a lot" */
p em {
  position: absolute;
  z-index: 10;
  top: 100px;
  left: 147px;
  width: 136px;
  overflow: hidden;
  padding-left: 64px;
  font-size: 200px;
  font-style: normal;
  text-transform: lowercase;
  color: #fff;

p em:first-letter {
  float: left;
  margin: 130px 0 0 -55px;
  font-size: 80px;
  font-style: italic;
  line-height: 20px;
  color: #fff;

/* create the heart shape */
p:after {
  content: "";
  position: absolute;
  z-index: 1;
  top: 225px;
  left: 120px;
  width: 75px;
  height: 50px;
  background: #000;
  transform: rotate(45deg);
  border-radius: 25px 0 0 30px;

p:after {
  left: 138px;
  transform: rotate(-45deg);
  border-radius: 0 25px 30px 0;

/* hide the tip of the "t" from "a lot" */
p strong:before {
  content: "";
  position: absolute;
  z-index: 11;
  top: 205px;
  left: 341px;
  width: 7px;
  height: 7px;
  background: #000;
  border-radius: 7px;

The final CSS typography experiment approximates the original image in all modern browsers that support the CSS3 properties of border-radius and transform.

Some browsers render type (especially after rotational transformations) better than others. Note that all the screenshots are taken from browsers running on Windows Vista OS.

Screenshot of the demo as rendered by Opera 10.5
Opera 10.5. The closest approximation to the original source image.
Screenshot of the demo as rendered by Chrome 4.0
Chrome 4.0. Identical to Opera 10.5 apart from a bug that appears in the rendering of rounded corners when they undergo a rotational transformation.
Screenshot of the demo as rendered by Safari 4.0
Safari 4.0. The rotated type suffers from a lack of anti-aliasing.
Screenshot of the demo as rendered by Firefox 3.6
Firefox 3.6. The rotated type suffers from a lack of anti-aliasing.

A few bugs and browser inconsistencies

Along the way there were a few bugs and inconsistencies that appeared when using the pseudo elements :first-letter, :first-line, :after and the CSS3 properties border-radius and transform.

I’ve put together a small test page to highlight some new CSS 2.1 and CSS3 bugs in modern browsers. It includes two new CSS 2.1 bugs in Internet Explorer 8.