Thursday, February 08, 2007

Typeface Comedy

In “Invisible Numbers” here, I pointed a finger at architects and builders who delight in hiding street numbers, making them impossible to see while you’re driving by.

I also introduced myself (and you) to APHont, designed specifically by the American Printing House for the Blind for “low-vision” readers. It’s worth noting that APH doesn’t use this font on its own website. (And you should really take a peek at the Society of Typographic Aficionados’ site. It’s worse.) Paul Nini was subtle in his criticism about it, as you can read in the February 4 post. Which lead us to into the realm of type and design.

Designer/writer Susan Kirkland is very direct in “Tips on Type.”

Personal computers have lifted the barriers to copysetting and I know more than a few typographers who get their share of hearty laughs each time an award show goes up. The amateur typesetters are everywhere, sitting at their keyboards pecking away at the regression of professional typesetting. I hope when they see the new readable typeface for the visually impaired, it inspires them to take the lead and design something beyond APHont.

The “history” of type can be comically short. Designing type started just after the printing press was invented. Designing with type became an art form in the past couple of hundred years max, with particular emphasis on the last century. Wrecking a layout with bad type, ignoring the wise rules of type design: these have been with us forever. Sometimes it’s hanging right in front of us. If you can’t think of an immediate example of your own, just Google “bad typography.” The results are laughable – or downright ugly.

There’s no substitute for a talented eye on the font front. I’ll admit I’ve been lucky. I’ve worked with designers and art directors who genuinely cherish great type. Susan is one. Rosario Laudicina of Pensar LLC is another.

But just as the advent of “desktop publishing” empowered everyone to make their own brochures, the computer (as Susan says) makes miss-designing with type too easy. There are plenty of typefaces to go around and most of them are used badly. Learn the rules – or team up with a great designer – and produce outstanding creative.

To start with, read more about good type design in Susan’s recent post.

Patricia Breen Treat Seeker Ornament from Neiman-Marcus. No longer available, thank goodness.

1 comment:

Susan Kirkland said...

Do you know what it is that you hate so very much about that ornament and the type on it?

The whole ornament, if you flatten it in your mind into a 2-D image, is clip art. Think about it.