Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Fonts and personalities

On his Presentation Zen blog last Friday, Garr Reynolds posted In Defense of Helvetica. He described that familiar sans serif font (circa 1957) as neutral and helpful, like white rice (or presumably to us Westerners, cracked wheat bread).

There is a wide variety of sans serif fonts out there. They do not have serifs - those little “feet” which may not reproduce well when projected. Each font is slightly different, and has a somewhat distinct personality. Artists and designers notice these details more than the rest of us.

Two of the most common fonts are Helvetica and Arial. Arial has been called a knockoff of Helvetica and a scourge. Gill Sans, Tahoma, and Impact are three others. Examples of them all are shown above.

The first photo editing program I used on my PC was MS Picture It 2001, which used Comic Sans as the default font for making captions. Comic sans is bolder than most other fonts. As the name suggests it is highly inappropriate for serious purposes like layoff notices or funeral announcements. The Bold version of Comic Sans almost shouts.

Impact is another very bold font. Several years ago I read a column by sales guru Jeffrey Gitomer describing how Your Presentation May Lack Power and a Point. He advised using 44 point Impact (with shadow). I tried it, but it left me cold. Impact is already so bold that Impact Bold is almost illegible. It has almost no space left between the lines that form a letter.

Over on YouTube there are a couple of CollegeHumor videos showing both a Font Conference and a Font Fight.

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