BMP in the Road: You’re Not My Type

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“Renaissance” may not be the best word to use, but typography, more specifically font faces, underwent an explosion in the past ten years. Thankfully, it’s slowed down a bit and the waters are beginning to clear.

The computer, which set desktop publishing afire, allowed just about anyone to design a typeface or create a flyer. The results have not been pretty. A quick search will turn up thousands of typefaces based on people’s own handwriting. Where typeface designers used to spend months giving faces a matching look and feel, where weight mattered and the kerning between the letters would allow elegance to come through, we now have wild one-offs with absolutely no consideration for how the letters fit together is taken. Sometimes classic faces are simply tweaked and given a new name. Think of the ubiquitous “Arial” font, a Helvetica stand-in that has awkward tweaks (like the slant on the top of the lowercase “t”) that apparently were made to simply avoid paying royalties to Helvetica.

People love their fonts, and for some people, the uglier the better. “Comic Sans” is the reigning leader of a long line of fonts that are seldom appropriate for anything. Yes, you could add “Bradley Hand” and “Papyrus” to round out the podium, but using a single ugly font is not the most grievous assault to the senses. That comes from those who insist on mixing it up a bit. Perfectly reasonable people, who know better than to wear polka dots and stripes together, or plaid and paisley, will somehow feel comfortable creating a four font ensemble that would scare even the most stalwart “Dingbat” off of the page. Alternatively, though you’d think most would know better than to wear two different shades of red together, it’s not uncommon to see two fonts that are close enough to be siblings mashing it up on the same page. Just ground one of them and let the other hog the spotlight. The less fighting the better.

Fortunately, the internet has largely been free of this assault, due to the limitations of HTML 4. The upcoming HTML 5 allows “designers” to embed their fonts in the pages. The future is looking bright. And tacky.   - j

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About Jay Scheuerle

Jay Scheuerle, our Creative Services department's Art Director, could have been a doctor, but chose to work amongst us mere mortals. An even-tempered designer and telescope enthusiast who's been shutting out co-worker chatter for more than nine years, Jay sees the angles others don't.