character

Well, I don't see what all the fuss is about. I mean, who'd get worked up about a change of font?

As the US State Department have found out, the truth is these days it's not what you say, it's not even how you say it, it's how it looks on the page. Their decision to change from Courier to Times New Roman for their reports is a sign that typography, in this modern, computer-set age, is a world away from the wooden carvings and even the hot metal of yore. Unless, of course, you're a PhD student who pays by the character.

Being mildly obsessive about some things (please, at least look as though you're surprised by that) I like the look of a good font. In the typography sense, of course, rather than the infant baptismal device, though I'll admit, some of those look quite pretty too sometimes. In the right light.

And you don't need to be a graphic designer to see that some (printed) fonts do look better than others. Take, for instance, Cooper Black. Yes, you know what this looks like, especially if you're a Beach Boys fan. It makes some people very passionate, to the extent that they produce a Flash animation describing its origins and its history. By staggering coincidence, Cooper Black is also the typeface used by this fine organisation. I'm not sure whether I like it or not in that context. A bit late eighties, maybe, especially when compared to the stunning stained glass piece used as the logo.

People talk about font families. I quite like the idea of this. Imagine a party with that literary set. "Ah, Mr Cooper Black, meet Commander Wingdings. Yes, he is a bit difficult to understand; he's into these very strange symbols and suchlike. I say, have you tried some of this Frutiger Linotype? A fine vintage. But beware of the Antique Olive over there. Two shots of that, and Poor Richard couldn't decide whether he was a Centaur or an Elephant. What? Oh, yes, those are Garamond and Georgia. Haven't seen them for ages. I think they left baby Arial at home tonight. Childcare is so expensive..."

Well, you get the idea. As those slightly strained examples show, font naming is an art in itself. Some are eponymous (a Mr Frutiger still works for Linotype, and we have an actual Mr Cooper to thank for my church's current look), others are named after places (Aachen, Broadway), but it would take someone braver than me to decide where all these names originated.

In a parallel universe from the traditional font designers, the big news on your computer screen has been Unicode. Since the mid-80s, this has been a grand project to make sure that any possible character in any of the world's real, defunct and artificial languages can be written on your computer screen. They might not quite be there yet, but as they boast their support for Ugaritic, you know they're not far off.

So there you are - my name's Rhys, and I'm a font fascist. I may not go to the lengths of learning about 'glyphs' and 'kerning' and actually create my own, nor may I ever understand the whole of messages like these. But this much I know- sometimes, a well-laid out page, with well-thought out typography, can be beautiful.

Actually, this proportional spacing thing's quite nice isn't it? Might make it a habit...

[Original link via Boing Boing]

One thought on “character

  1. i like ‘harrington’ and ‘bart’ myself.

    of course, for general consumption it has to be good old ‘arial’ really, as it’s a good sturdy font with no twiddly bits to make it difficult for those with visual impairment or eyesight probs to read.

    i’m not keen on the font of said church, as it provokes an unwanted emotive response from me. i’m sure there are other fonts which do this as well, that perhaps i haven’t explored fully.

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