Search THE READING ROOM

Monday, December 9, 2013

Font memories

Blogger gives me a choice of seven fonts:
  • Arial
  • Courier
  • Georgia
  • Helvetica
  • Times
  • Trebuchet 
  • Verdana
I don't care for either Arial or Courier, the former because it is ubiquitous and the latter because it looks ugly. Our college newspaper, The Chronicle, uses Georgia; Helvetica and Times, like Arial, are commonplace, while Verdana leaves me cold.

Which leaves me with Trebuchet, the font that, as it turns out, is perfect for blogging. Here's why:

This "humanist sans serif typeface" was designed by Vincent Connare, according to a note on Wikipedia, "for the Microsoft Corporation in 1996. It is named after the trebuchet, a medieval siege engine. The name was inspired by a puzzle question that Connare heard at Microsoft headquarters: 'Can you make a trebuchet that could launch a person from main campus to the new consumer campus about a mile away? Mathematically, is it possible and how?' Connare 'thought that would be a great name for a font that launches words across the Internet'."

Isn't that a great story?

STEVE JOBS KNEW HIS FONTS.

To move on: I may be a huge fan of Trebuchet, but I learnt recently after reading an article in Bloomberg Businessweek that there are "Helvetica men", too, and Richard Turley is one of them. In his piece about Apple iOS 7's "design problem", Turley spends a lot of time discussing the font chosen by Apple while explaining why Tim Cook & Co. should have used a particular variant of Helvetica.

If I have a single criticism of Apple’s font, it’s that the designers didn’t go back to the source. The desire for the purity of essence and obsessive detail on which Apple prides itself should have led the company to Christian Schwartz’s recut of Helvetica... Schwartz went back to the original forms of Max Miedinger’s Neue Haas Grotesk, before it evolved through various compromises and mutated into Helvetica. That’s even before you get to Neue Helvetica, a further mutation, which Apple is using here. More weights, more rational, more square, designed by committee, and even less like the original. So. You make a big play of spending every waking hour committed to perfection, Apple? Not in my book.

Read the piece in its entirety here: "Apple iOS 7's Biggest Design Problem".
  • There is also a feature-length independent film about typography, graphic design, and global visual culture. Titled (what else?) Helvetica, it "looks at the proliferation of one typeface (which celebrated its 50th birthday in 2007) as part of a larger conversation about the way type affects our lives". To learn more, go to "Helvetica: A Documentary Film by Gary Hustwit".
UPDATE (January 10, 2014): Searching for something about the origins of the ampersand, I discovered this very interesting page on typography on the Adobe website. And that's how I learnt that the symbol & is derived from the ligature of ET or et, which is the Latin word for "and". Learn more about the ampersand here and then go on to the Type Topics page.