Sunday, May 27, 2007


As someone who likes fonts but doesn't know that much about them, I found this Slate piece on Helvetica absolutely fascinating. I know, sounds boring, but it's not. I notice fonts a lot, but Helvetica is so ubiquitous that I never really identify it when I see it everywhere. I love the story behind it, and the confirmation that Arial is literally a cut-rate alternative.

I also like that there's an anti-Comic-Sans movement out there. Shame about the merchandise, though. I understand the necessity of including the Comic Sans font on their shirts but that also makes designing an attractive shirt impossible. For me, the most aggravating thing about Comic Sans is that it doesn't actually look like comic lettering at all. It's an insult to comic lettering, is what it is; comic lettering as imagined by someone who hates comics and has never read one. The photo gallery is also amusing in light of the site's manifesto--the implicit criticism of every sign pictured is somehow hilarious.

Also, this site takes to task anachronistic typesetting in movies, something else I've occasionally noticed but never to this extent, with this amazing depth of expertise.



lyan! said...

I think Helvetica is the bomb, however it took me years to realize it.

Zack said...

Yeah, it's an attractive font, but for me it's got associations of both boredom and elitism, even though it's just a nice but unexceptional font caught up on the cool side of a computer turf war.

I understand the necessity of including the Comic Sans font on their shirts but that also makes designing an attractive shirt impossible.

I don't think that's true. You could definitely incorporate Comic Sans into shirt designs and end up with attractive shirts. But see, if they did that, they'd be undercutting their own message.

Kid Fabulous said...

Yay, fonts!

Helvetica - I agree it's definitely more curvy and attractive than the more crass and pointy Arial. However, I also think the description of Helvetica as the equivalent of off-white (or beige) in the font world is spot on. It is a very clean, simple, and elegant font - and, like beige, is both versatile, and totally over-used...especially in corporate branding and logos where companies are supposed to differentiate themselves. Still, however boring it may be, I appreciate how easily readable and clean Helvetica is, and am glad that Apple has it in their standard font lineup.

Some random trivia: Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple and Pixar, took calligraphy classes before he dropped out of college. Years later, when designing some of the first Apple computers, Jobs of course took this love of fonts into the design. Why do you think Apple's products are so goddamn gorgeous?

Yes, Comic Sans (serif) is totally butt-ugly!! My friend Ben refers to it as the "passive-agressive font" since people use it when they're being bastards. However, in the spirit of freedom of choice, I would like to keep this f-ugly font in use. If people want to use butt-ugly fonts, let them. I mean, you don't make people stay inside or sentence them to death because they're ugly - do you? Do you???

BTW, why isn't the movement called "sans comic sans"??

Zack said...

Because you should never use an Italic word when a Saxon word will do. You know, "sans" is a really wishy washy way to put something so absolute. I don't think you've thought this through.