Just My Type
Fonts! I love them, I can’t get enough of them. I see them on the street, on menus and taxis, on billboards and the internet, we are surrounded by them and without even knowing it, you are making mental notes of which ones you like and which ones you don’t. In this over saturated visual smorgasbord of a world, we are bombarded by visual stimuli that our brain will take and make sense of on the fly. Fonts are one thing that the brain will recognize and forget in an instant. Unless you are a designer you probably don’t give fonts a second thought. But times are changing and my job as a designer with it. Ten years ago the layman probably didn’t even know what a font was, but with everyone plugged into the www, we now have a more savvy layman. Doesn’t mean they know how to use fonts properly, but they know what they are. Designers hate when you get a someone looking over their shoulder shouting “You got Comic Sans on this computer?” There is a time and a place for every font, except maybe Brush Script, I can’t justify using that on anything.
You see you need to fall in love with fonts, you need to jump into the ocean that is typefaces before you get the itch (don’t worry there is a cream for that). Let me explain. I may be dating myself here, but after graduating from high school I took a year off before I went to art college. In that year I worked at an art store, they sold oil paints, water-colour paints, brushes and everything you normally find in an art store but they were also selling graphic art supplies. Well one of my responsibilities was to order the Letraset rub down lettering. I would have to go through the catalog and pick what was selling and what I thought would be the next upcoming trend, I started to learn about what typefaces were. From serif to san serif (serif has little feet, san serif doesn’t), scripts, display, blackletter, it was a little overwhelming at first. You then find out that a lot of these typefaces are the same but different, each one has it’s own personality. Some are bold and strong, others are light and whimsical. You start to see patterns and certain rules that you never noticed before, and when someone breaks these rules it becomes painfully obvious. You then have sub categories within a font family bold, extra bold, black, condensed, italic, the typeface still has its core characteristics but the fonts weight is tweaked. Kinda like normal families, you see the resemblance.
Futura is a type designed by Paul Renner in 1928, it is probably one of my favourite. It is a strong and legible. It comes in twenty-one different font weights, from Light to Condensed Extra Bold. Just with this typeface alone I could probably design for the rest of my life, comfortably. My clients would probably have something to say about it, but I believe that this typeface is a pillar of my design aesthetic. If I had a Pintrest account I would pin this typeface. And this is just one typeface, there are literally thousands and thousands of fonts out there. It boggles the mind how many choices people have and they still pick the shittiest font every time.
I remember walking around downtown with my friend Derek and having competitions on who could name the most typefaces, the best though is when you would call each other on something “Nope that isn’t Gill Sans Condensed, thats Frutiger Condensed, Frutiger doesn’t have a link and a loop.” Wow, that doesn’t make me sound like a nerd at all. Moving on.
Fonts are more important now than ever, with everyone on the internet vying for attention, you need to make damn sure you look good, first impressions are everything and it only takes a nanosecond to have someone dismiss you as a design hick. Like Forest Gump said “I may not be a smart man Jenny, but I know what a good typeface is.” Just trust your gut, if the typeface is made from different animal parts or it is the Star Trek font, maybe give another typeface a shot.
A good iPad app for any typeface lovers out there is FontBook. It has over 35,000 fonts from over 8050 font families. Each font has samples and a plethora of information. It is a good way to go if you are ever interested in learning more about type.
So remember next time you make a website or an invitation, or whatever, what does your font choice say about you? Tasteless bumpkin stuck in the eighties or design superstar trending on the coolest shit around, it’s up to you. Choose wisely.