Wednesday, May 9

Does a 'rose' in any other typeface read as sweet?

How actively do you notice fonts? I used to be indifferent about them, but doing the layout and design for the newspaper has given me an interest in design and typefaces.

I'm sure it's huge that Helvetica is turning 50 years old. You've seen it a million times though you probably couldn't instantly visualize what font exactly it is. It's not among the default fonts that come with computers. You've more than likely encountered its ripped-off ugly little sister, Arial. From the BBC:

We live in a world where we are surrounded 24 hours a day by adverts and corporate communications, many in typefaces chosen to subliminally complement the message.

Helvetica's message is this: you are going to get to your destination on time; your plane will not crash; your money is safe in our vault; we will not break the package; the paperwork has been filled in; everything is going to be OK.

"When people choose Helvetica they want to fit in and look normal. They use Helvetica because they want to be a member of the efficiency club. They want to be a member of modernism. They want to be a member of no personality. It also says bland, unadventurous, unambitious.

As Wildenberg notes, its Swissness is part of the appeal. The land where clocks run meticulously and the streets are spotless carries the kind of cultural resonance that the logo makers and brand masters of the major corporations might like a bit of. For others, its neutrality is a platform for daring design.

Have you ever noticed that fonts fall into two categories? There's the serifs, which are the fonts with the little curlies and angles at the ends of the letters. And then there's the sans serifs which are more geometrically shaped. They say the serifs help the reader's eye move across the text by leading the eye from letter to letter. Typically it's best to use serif fonts for bodies of text and sans serifs for a few words at a time in titles or on signs.

I don't use Helvetica or Arial; they seems too common. You're reading Verdana right now. Most of my font use comes from the newspaper which uses Myriad for headlines and Garamond, a nice alternative to times new roman, for the text. Futura, a time tested sans serif font, is neat too but it gets hard to read more than a phrase at a time in its sharp and clean geometric letters.

Man, this is starting to turn into the font version of the Money Programme. It's kind of funny, I suppose other people are into colors or something.

Before I wrap this up, there are certain fonts that need to disappear. It's like fingers on a chalkboard every time I see these two:

What compels people to use these? Papyrus looks quite silly especially when it's on menus or signage. Ooo, look they're trying to be artistic or something! But, Comic Sans takes the cake. Yikes! It instantly dissolves any respectability the words have. I'm not suggesting Microsoft is a bad company, but they did unleash this font to the world.


Anonymous said...

i like the font papyrus

HeatherRadish said...

I like Comic Sans. But I use it for IMs, letters to my brother in the army; I would never use it for a cover letter to a potential employer. There are fonts for Business Use, Great Literature, Serious Thoughs, and Everyday Dorking Around. You just gotta know which category your writing falls into.

I do agree that most people don't choose their fonts appropriately. But that's not a problem with the font.

Anonymous said...

I of my professors used Comic Sans in all of his powerpoints and it just seemed like he needed to lecture with a red nose, huge shoes, a rainbow wig, and baggy pants.

Mike said...

Imagine this for 50 minutes at a time:
this is 100% real from a lecture on polymers
Yeah, you're write about different fonts for different subjects.