A few weeks back, esteemed colleague André Paquin turned me onto a great video from the California College of the Arts. “Enter the Serif” is a less-than-two-minute-long gem, and it’s all in good fun. Still, it got me thinking about how our words actually look on paper (screen) and how they work with type fonts.
If I were writing a humorous piece, for example, I’d never choose Times New Roman, that conservative type style so beloved by accountants and lawyers. It wouldn’t be wrong, exactly, but it just wouldn’t strike the right note. If I were sending someone a serious letter, then I probably wouldn’t go for Comic Sans MS, which actually does seem to work o.k. as my default email font. If I wanted to get someone’s attention, Courier New would lack impact. And both Verdana and Tahoma feel just about right for web posts. As I get older, Arial is getting harder to read, and though I like Calibri, it feels slightly lumpy.
According to “Enter the Serif,” there’s been a secret 200-year battle going on between the Serif and Sans Serif factions. Not being a designer, I don’t know much about that, but I do know what feels and looks good, at least to me. I’m going keep on experimenting with fonts, unless a style guide says “no.” (More about style guides soon.)
I never thought about fonts this way before, but it makes total sense. In the world of written communication, font choice and punctuation become all the more mandatory. I think that the use of the two differentiates a sloppy communicator from a serious and more thoughtful one. Thanks for an awesome post!
Susan Monroe says
Thanks, Bianca, for such a great reply. It’s always nice to know that someone “out there” is listening. Words, font choice, and punctuation all work together. And sometimes, I’m astounded at how good my stuff looks when it’s laid out and accompanied by great graphic design.
Debbie Goldman says
I love fonts. They express how I’m feeling when I’m typing or making a poster. And if I can add color, all the better. I do have to be careful of exclamation marks because I love them too much!!!! Thanks for the insight, Susan.
Michael Neuendorff says
Hmm, this is very thought provoking. I like to write, but I hardly ever think of the font except when my wife and I are designing invitations to parties. You’ve made me realize that fonts are also very important to consider in business communications, too.
Will a font ever topple Times New Roman and Arial from their lofty perches? Thanks for the great post.
Christy Miles says
Susan, I agree wholeheartedly. Fonts can make or break a mood or a piece. That’s one of my favorite parts about working with graphic designers–they know just how to nail the mood of a piece of writing and visually create the scene I paint with words. It’s an art!
Susan Monroe says
It sure is. When crafting copy for a website, for example, it’s helpful to know what the graphic designer has in mind. A lot of people don’t realize that, so one ends up writing in a vacuum…
Tim Steele says
Susan, I too agree that fonts are really important. I remember being in my 20s (a LONG time ago now) and mentioning to a client that there were really just two different fonts – serif and sans-serif. I got quite an education from that client and now have more than 600 “favorite” fonts on my computer. Having that many fonts requires great restraint! It’s incredibly easy to overwhelm, to look unprofessional, or just to set the wrong “mood.” As such, I almost always use Arial and Times New Roman for my professional writing. As cool as many of my fonts are, their use would be a distraction in a business setting. Thanks for the reminder about the importance of a good font choice!
Laurel Standley says
Ah, now you’ve got me inspecting people’s email signatures for evidence of their personalities, modern day Sherlock Holmes’ checking the hands of his visitors for evidence of their profession. Just ran across an accountant’s assistant’s email signature, very colorful and artistic – I’m thinking her cubicle decor is probably a warm spot in the office.
Susan Monroe says
Lovely comment, Laurel. The small things like type font choice echo across someone’s persona. I used to work with an editor, a quirky and brilliant woman who had the most wonderful cubicle I’ve ever seen. To visit was to want to stay.