Wednesday, October 13, 2010

On Fonts and Their Uses

I spend a lot of time thinking about fonts. One of the things I love most about books of poetry is that, in the back of the book, there is usually a mention of the font the publisher used and the reasons behind it. For instance, in Diwata, by Barbara Jane Reyes, they mention the font they chose and part of its history:
  • "Diwata, poems by Barbara Jane Reyes, is set in Centaur, a digitized version of the font designed for Monotype by Bruce Rogers in 1928. The italic, based on drawings by Frederic Warde, is an interpretation of the work of the sixteenth-century printer and calligrapher Ludovico delgi Arrighi, after whom it is named."
This kind of information thrills me, because it sets the font up not as something randomly chosen, but rather as being informed by a history and a tradition and it makes the text come alive in a new way for me. Sure, many fonts look alike, something that's just plain going to happen when you have twenty-six finite letters and readability is a concern, but I like the idea of an artistic tradition going on with fonts themselves, in addition to the art of the poet or author.

What got me thinking about this is a post by Kathryn on the bark in which she rails a bit against the use of Comic Sans. Comic Sans is, admittedly, an atrocious font, one that should almost never be used except by used car salesmen and ex-boyfriends, you know, people you should stay away from. But that got me thinking about the internet and how fonts function here. For instance, the font I'm typing in now is one of seven that are available on Blogger. When I think about it, it's very limiting, not being able to select a nicer font, a font with, not necessarily more history, but a more unique history than that of Times New Roman or Ariel. I understand that with tens of thousands of blogs, Blogger needs more standardization than that, but a little more variety might be nice, if only so I could write a post about how interesting and unusual the font we're using is.

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