Fonts: true meaning

by Javier on 27/07/2010

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There are 20 comments in this article:

  1. 27/07/2010 says:

    So postmodern 😛

    I really love to see Helvetica is in (and, seemingly, Spiekermann is not involved, ha ha).

    But it is not the only pedigree font in the table: Morison’s Times Roman and Excoffon’s Mistral are part of the type history. Use (maybe bad use) has cracked them.

    It makes me think about how design means nothing without context.

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  3. 27/07/2010anon says:

    If it’s legible who gives a shit?

  4. 27/07/2010 says:

    @anon, I think readability is more important than legibility.
    All the fonts above are legible, but only some of them are really readable in their context.

  5. 27/07/2010Aaron says:

    Courier New — Uh, most of the time scripts are REQUIRED to be in Courier New. Anything else will end up in the shredder.

  6. 28/07/2010Fonts: true meaning | RSS Lens says:

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  7. 28/07/2010Jason says:

    This is awesome. We have conversations about typeface all the time in my office. As designers, we often have to fight with clients and explain the difference between what THEY think their document says, and what the READER thinks it says.

    Context can be lost in presentation. So think before you design.

  8. 28/07/2010Fonts: true meaning. Do your font choices say what you mean to say? | Xedly says:

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  9. 29/07/2010 says:

    This delicious poster is to fonts what Gérard Lauzier comics are for people: no matter what your stance is, you will never be safe from ridicule. And yes, the poster could have went on and on and on…

    Helvetica Rounded
    What you want the font to do: This is so “small pieces loosely joined” and “embrace the wisdom of crowds” I’m wetting my pants now.
    What it does: What’s this, Fisher Price’s site?

    What you want the font to do: ah, so smart, direct, in-your-face, and unapologetic. Like a diagnostic from Dr. House.
    What it does: Can I has cheeseburger?

    Rockwell Bold
    What you want the font to do: If this does not bring me straight to a “2010 trends” post in Smashing Magazine, I don’t know what will.
    What it does: Is there someone in the room who can teach this poor guy some self-respect?

  10. 29/07/2010 says:

    I just can’t stop:

    What you want the font to do: This subtle homage to the Hochschule für Gestaltung speaks volumes about integrity, simplicity, and a perfect balance between geometry and humanism.
    What it does: Why do I suddenly have this image of grandpa’s med closet?

  11. 29/07/2010 says:

    @César Shhh… don’t make fun of uncle Otl here! 😀

  12. 29/07/2010Lorenzo Polstreas says:

    Frickin Brilliant. So funny.

    What would Bank Gothic be?
    What you want: I am really successful and I make a lot of money. Everyone will be impressed by how sophisticated and professional my mark is.
    What it does: If you’re really that professional you probably should have hired a professional.

    Let’s keep it going…

  13. 29/07/2010Javier Cañada says:

    @Carlos Úbeda, no problem at all with Rotis. In fact I kinda hate it 🙂 It’s been overused by trendy graphic designers who didn’t dare to read Aicher’s books, they just knew it was “scientific and modern” without even knowing what was that about.

  14. 29/07/2010 says:

    @Javier hmm.. overused by trendy graphic designers AND Norman Foster 😛

  15. 29/07/2010César Astudillo says:

    One thing I love about fonts is they are a bit like names for babies: there is this inextricable relationship between their intrinsic attributes and the attributes they acquire with use. The best of the best fonts will start looking moronic the minute too many morons start using them. With the possible exception, as far as I’m concerned, of Helvetica, a typeface I fail to hate even though It should be considered as terribly vulgar by now, judging by its usage. There are two possible explanations for this: the first is that there really is such a thing as intrinsic elegance, Helvetica has it, and this intrinsically elegance makes it immune to overusage; and the second is that in the last fifteen years Arial has operated as Helvetica’s decoy for vulgarity, which would lead us to the conclusion that Arial is the best thing that could have happenned to its Swiss ancestor. Typefaces, like many human creations, have this fascinating dialogue between the intrinsic and the acquired.

  16. 30/07/2010 says:

    @César, I understand you but I don’t agree with some points…

    First of all, I think there are some fonts that are well designed and other ones that not. It is not (only) a matter of taste. For example, Comic Sans is poorly designed (kerning, serifs…). Ok, that could be enough for its initial purpose as the “Bob” interface font, but not for a good type.

    Second, context. Helvetica is properly designed. But a press book in Helvetica is (99%) a total fail. And a proper context could help to even the worst font. Have you seen Caldo Aneto’s packaging?

    For last, as you said, the acquired. A good type in the most proper context could be boring, annoying or even disgusting. Overuse, bad use, etc.
    Nowadays, I understand that a smart designer could prefer to use Comic Sans for a logo than to use Obama’s Gotham again. But it would be a very funny postmodernist attitude (“you know that I know that you know…”), specially if you add tons of hypocrisy (“Comic Sans is the people’s font, up with the people”)

    Ok, trends are important, but fonts are not just like fashion.

    (Sorry for the speech!)

  17. 30/07/2010 says:

    Carlos, you and me are in agreement except in a matter of quantity. I do think there *are* intrinsic properties to good design, and then there *are* socially constructed properties that are the result of the influence of culture on design (culture in a broad sense). What I believe is that cultural context plays a huge and broadly dismissed influence on what many consider “intrinsic”. I bet if you wrote down a list of twenty distinguishing features of what you consider a “well-designed font”, and then you went through the list, chances are you would have to ultimately admit seventeen or eighteen of the elements in the list are socially/culturally/historically situated, and only two or three would be based on a few relatively invariant laws of perception that have been well-known for decades. A lot of the features of good design are the features we have been *incultured* (you might as well say “*trained*”) to consider as good design. If you made a readability lab test today with a 11th century monk, I bet you a dinner in an expensive restaurant that he would read and understand texts set in, say, Clairbaux much faster and with less fatigue than texts set in, say, Bookman. I bet most designers today would be surprised to see the extent to which assertions about the right kerning, the right x-height, the right stroke width difference and so on, are dependent on cultural context. And the things you might dismiss as “trends” or “fashion” or “acquired tastes” are no other than short-term fluctuations of cultural context, whereas many of the things you would categorise as “intemporal, intrinsic, dependable good design principles” depend on no other than longer-term fluctuations of the same cultural context. Most of the principles you cling to as intemporal, would look as childish fads to any designer with a one-thousand-year career under his belt. The difference between a “trend” and a “design principle” is just a difference of scale.

  18. 30/07/2010trigger finger says:


  19. 30/07/2010Tergenev says:

    All this really tells me is that graphic designers are too snarky and self-important for their own good. And I say this as someone who, unfortunately, must spend a great deal of my time doing graphic design.

  20. 2/08/2010bathroom tiles says:

    Every wonder what the fonts you choose *really* mean?

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