From soulful poets to Sunday crossword enthusiasts, the world is full of word lovers. But how about the letters that make up the words? No, scratch that. How about the design of the characters that make up the text, both alphanumeric and punctuational alike?
Typography is incredibly important to all varieties of human environment and has been for centuries. It helps us to inform, educate, guide, express and, of course, sell. The creation of a typeface can be a painstaking process but, as with all other forms of design, the repetition of trial and error before achieving perfection is crucial.
Put simply, how the characters look by themselves is one thing, and how they work in unison is another thing entirely. These factors combine to form the essence of any font: how it conveys the text, and how it will be received by the reader.
Helvetica is a widely used font that's been around since 1957 and is still considered one of the finest sans-serif typefaces ever created. Having said that, many designers believe that it’s overused and applied by either pretentious hipsters or the inherently lazy, and often a combination of the two.
Still, many normal people (i.e. non-designers) wouldn’t know Helvetica by sight if it slapped them around the chops with an upper case H, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is the precision of its structure, resulting in clean, comfortable and quietly charismatic readability.
I’d love to take a peek fifty years into the future and find out if a typeface is created that’s universally recognised as superior to Helvetica, but only time will tell. Until then, we should digest this sage clarification of the art of typography from British designer @markboulton:
"Most people think typography is about fonts. Most designers think typography is about fonts. Typography is more than that, it’s expressing language through type. Placement, composition, typechoice."
Eloquently put, yet perhaps I can phrase it even more concisely:
"We each have a favourite font for a unique reason, but we can all agree that Comic Sans is just plain horrendous."
Copyright © 2020 Rich Sutherland