My mother recently suggested that I consider broadening the scope of this blog, as it seemed well on its way to becoming defunct. I prefer to think of it as dormant, but either way her point that I’m not writing still stands. So, I’m giving it a try. I imagine many posts will take a literary turn since that’s where my heart lies, but for now I’ll let them wander into my life in general, as well. That would be the life of a sporadic writer, library student, children’s book reviewer, and barista. I have started a Tumblr with my friend, Debbie, in which we collect the bits of inspiration and advice that get us writing. It’s fun to scroll through every now and then. If you’re interested, hop on over to “Engine Drivers.”
So with no further adieu, I’m going to talk to you about fonts. I have always found fonts to be compelling and, for most of my life, have agonized over the perfect one to use for whichever project is at hand. For all my obsessing, I do not have a favorite font because I think type should reflect the tone or character of what is being written–a fundamental debate which I will return to later. Lately, for non-printed material (screen-viewing only), I’ve gravitated towards Kai. Kai is a serif font for Mac that is delicate, clean, and assertive with breeziness due to the spacing between the letters. Think of it as snappy casual, a friendlier Times New Roman. It’s also probably the font of choice on the Chinese takeout menu stuck to your refrigerator.
I’ve been thinking about fonts more than usual lately because I was in a web design class, which launches this topic into a whole realm: web fonts, standard fonts, font categories, Mac fonts, PC fonts, designer fonts, browser compatibility. All these things must be taken into account in web design. As a result, I’ve been exploring the world of type a bit more closely. I was delighted to uncover the fringes of a font/typeface subculture. Tumblrs, blogs, and organizations all exist to document and develop fonts. A few of my favorites include:
Promoting an open-source type movement, The League offers a unique collection of free fonts under Open Font License.
A co-op producing some of my very favorite fonts, where you pay-what-you-want:
$0 or $15, it’s up to you
A staple resource for any web designer, Smashing Magazine will often round up the best new fonts or run articles on typography.
This site pits two fonts against each other to battle for victory.
As frequently happens when I start thinking about something new, it starts popping up in the world around me. I wandered into the library last week and wandered out with Simon Garfield’s book, Just My Type: a Book about Fonts, which includes a periodic table of typefaces:
I checked my Twitter account and saw that Errol Morris had a two-part article in the New York Times about fonts: Part I concentrating on the psychology of fonts (fascinating!), and Part II on the history of Baskerville, the man and his typeface. I want to touch on Part I for a moment, but strongly suggest you still take the time to read it for yourself. This article was written as a follow-up to a quiz Morris posted earlier entitled, “Are You an Optimist or a Pessimist,” which was actually a cloaked study on the effect of fonts on people’s perception of information. Click the image below to take the quiz for yourself:
What I instantly loved about this study that it examines the much maligned Comic Sans along with 5 other fonts. You know:
Odds are you have an opinion of Comic Sans; people usually do. I’ve seen websites trying to ban it: http://bancomicsans.com/; McSweeny’s has a hilarious piece where Comics Sans defends itself: “I’m Comic Sans, Asshole;” ComicSansCriminal.com endeavors to educate people on this font’s appropiate usage; and good old Smashing Magazine ran an article on its history. Personally, I like it in comics and that’s about it. I was embarrassed to no end when I took Facebook’s “What Font are You?” quiz a few years ago and came out as–you guessed it–Comic Sans. Remembering that quiz, I decided to try a few more this morning. I selected 3 different quizzes and while there was no consistency among the results, I was happy to find myself free of the original Comic Sans diagnosis. I appear to be a sleek serif font. Always get a second opinion. Here are the results:
Quiz 1) PBS, Independent Lens, Helvetica: What Font are You?
Quiz 2) Pentagram.com: What Type are You?
Result: Perpetua Tilting
but it does require sound.
Quiz 3) Minted.com: What Font are You?
“Archers exude bookish intellect with humility, hitting just the right notes of credibility and charm.” This might be my favorite.
(Click a poster to see the trailer)
Helvetica discusses the design of this font and its prevalence in the modern world. I think my favorite part of the film, however, are the heated discussions between designers who believe that fonts should do one of two things:
a) Be invisible and let the content shine through.
b) Express some aspect of the content; the two cannot be separated.
Typeface I haven’t yet tracked down but I would like to. It looks at a typography museum and print shop in Wisconsin and addresses the fate of this old craft in an increasingly digital world.
If font isn’t anything you’ve given much thought to in the past, I hope this post prompts you to just a little. What font are you? What’s a font’s purpose? What is font’s fate? Are you influenced by font? Do you even care?