Typography arts : How to know if a font sucks

by Fred Showker

How to know if a font sucks THREE DECADES AGO, with the advent of electronic publishing and nouveau design practitioners, many either didn't know basic typography, or they didn't care to remember. The roots of type and typography is evidenced in every letter we see. We're taught at a very young age to recognize letter forms. It's a basic common denominator in our society.

Type and typography also happens to be the single most powerful tool available in all the communication arts. Oh, some will argue that video, photography or illustration are perhaps more powerful -- but I challenge anyone to report any graphic communication that succeeds to the expectations of the communicator without the printed word.

In search of better typography...

At the dawn of desktop publishing I paid substantial amounts to have the Mac SE slaved to our Compugraphic photo typesetter. There was a special card, and special bridge software that did the trick for galley type. Otherwise, the only output we had available for a Mac was on an ImageWriter dot matrix printer, at 72 pixels per inche. There were about 400 fonts available at that time via shareware or public domain. Then Adobe appeared on the scene, and in 1987 introduced the Adobe Fonts while Apple rolled out the Laserprinter and the "Mac Office." We were all seriously happy, and the race was on to accumulate the most fonts. Suddenly everyone and his brother were font designers, and the field of faces exploded.

There was a small start-up company called FontBank who began selling commercial fonts about the same time Adobe did. Except FontBank was built mostly on free or public domain fonts. (So far as we could tell.) But most of the product was horrible. Below is what I'm talking about -- and if you think the image is a bit crabby, you're right, it was captured in 1989 as a GIF file.

You know a font sucks when . . .

Surprizingly enough many of those font makers are still around -- some just the same old crap, but others now refined and making great fonts. Of the 3,500 fonts I accumulated into our collection, most are still around, populating those "free download" sites. You'll have to be careful. I've included a link to my original 1995 article online below. In today’s terms though, you do not want to miss this article by our friend and fontmeister Thomas Phinney

How to know if a font sucks

creative graphic arts & design

Thomas PhinneyWhile times change ... some things remain the same! Thomas Phinney, friend of the Design Center and noted fonts luminary has just posted a three-page article that walks you through the steps of evaluating type! Now pay attention : he'll teach you twelve things to look for to help you judge font quality. Armed with that wisdom, you can avoid choosing -- or creating -- fonts that suck, even if some blog or downloads site says it's cool.

Thomas takes you through the various aspects of fonts where you can really see the difference between the good, the bad and the ugly ... Characteristics of fonts Points, point placement and extrema Characteristics of fonts Spacing Characteristics of fonts Kerning Characteristics of fonts Overshoot Characteristics of fonts Cap vs. lowercase Characteristics of fonts Round vs. straight Characteristics of fonts Sharp intersections Straight-to-curve transitions Characteristics of fonts Even weight (monoline) Characteristics of fonts Stretching and squishing Characteristics of fonts Midline position Characteristics of fonts Perfect circles Characteristics of fonts and a lot more. If you're not an expert on fonts yet, this article pushes you along nicely. THANK YOU THOMAS!

UGNN Full story : Thomas Phinney shows you how to know if a font sucks
Creative TidBits The 1995 article "The Good, The Bad and the Ugly"
Thomas Phinney A Brief History of Typography also by Thomas Phinney

GO What did you miss in the last Creative Tidbits?

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And, ... Thanks for reading

Fred Showker

      Editor/Publisher : DTG Magazine
      +FredShowker on Google+ or most social medias @Showker
      Published online since 1988


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