Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Fonts on Display

Ever since taking a two-semester course on the History of the Printed Book in library school, I have been fascinated with fonts. MIT Musem's Compton Gallery is hosting a show, "Types We Can Make," that highlights new fonts created by Swiss designers from the University of Art and Design in Lausanne. The MIT show is the subject of an article in today's Boston Globe. Switzerland has a distinguished tradition of modern font design starting with Helvetica, which the Globe describes as at once "humble" but "eminently readable," "a giant among fonts." Helvetica is a sans-serif font, which means the letters are clean, and don't have extra strokes on them. The modern Swiss designs are like Helvetica in that they are "exacting and verging on mathematical. White space plays as pivotal a role as curves, stems, and serifs. And, although forward-looking, the Swiss designers are always mindful of tradition."

The Globe article asks why any of this matters. "Type conveys ideas and emotion." Fonts, although easier to create through the use of design software, are more important than ever in order to create custom branding for corporations. Marketers devote a lot of attention to fonts because they know that fonts convey a message to potential consumers of their products.

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