What's in a font?

7th October, 2010

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To the majority of people it doesn't matter which font is used when creating a document, but to others it is part of the fundamental make up and the basis of a good design.

Graphic designers spend a great deal of time and effort searching for the right font, which will effectively represent and communicate a clients message and values.

But it isn't just designers who are aware of the impact that fonts and typefaces have on consumers. Major brands have spent huge sums of money on re-branding and developing new corporate identities as a way of refreshing their image and engaging new customers. Take Gatwick Airport as an example. Back in June, the airport unveiled a new logo which replaced its rather bland text with a handwritten style font designed to emphasise the airport's personal touch.


Julie Strawson, Director of Monotype Imaging, states that selecting a font is like getting dressed. Just as one chooses an outfit according to the occasion, one decides on a font according to the kind of message you are seeking to convey.

There are thousands of styles to choose from and within the creative community there are specific fonts which will make designers shudder at the mere thought of using them. Comic Sans is a good example of this. Within the studios I've worked in, this font brings out a particularly nasty side to the creative team and the thought of having to use this in a project has even resulted in pure refusal to get on with the job!

When reading a document or studying an advert you are not consciously thinking about the font which has been used. It is normally the unconscious that has the emotional influence, as with shapes and colours. It is down to the designer to consider this when creating the finished product.

In an article published by the BBC, Jonathan Bambrook, founder of the website Virus Fonts states that "A good typeface creates an emotional response in relation to the message it is conveying. Typography is closely associated with language so you can express irony and get the whole complexity of emotion in there."

But deciding which font to use can also save you money. A University in America has recently changed its font from Arial to Century Gothic in a bid to cut the cost of ink used whilst printing. The University has reported that the new font requires about 30% less ink, which can cost up to $10,000 per gallon. The only problem I can see with this is that Century Gothic is a much wider font than Arial, so therefore must use up more paper to print the same document?

Fonts and typefaces may be seen as an unimportant detail by some, but to me they are an art form within themselves. Even though these days fonts are created digitally through software programs installed on computers, historically each character and symbol would have been created by hand. A painstaking process involving skill and patience which ensured that every curl, flick, spur, loop, serif, descender, ascender, counter and bowl was accurately recreated for each individual letter, number and punctuation mark. The art of typography.




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