Font Storm

Posted in General at 6 pm

The wind is really starting to kick up. Portland’s supposed to have quite a wind storm tonight. Gusts up to 100 mph in parts of the state. A few things have already been blowing around on the veranda but the major part of the storm should pass through after midnight some time.

This should be the first entry in a san-serif type face. I thought I had the journal in a san-serif face, but I was mistaken. Amy and I got in a discussion about type faces and the differences between print and screen resolutions with regards to readability of type.

A number of ‘design’ sites on the web that are put up by print designers that have only recently come to the web often bring the baggage of print design along with them. Among these silly nuggets of so-called knowledge is that type with “serifs” such as Times and Garamond are easier to read when it comes to body text, or text that is over two lines in length.

This is all good and fine when you have the resolution of a printing press and good paper stock (hell even with bad paper stock). However in the very grainy world of the computer screen, these serifs (the little dangly things at the very ends of the capital T or at the bottom of a P) simply get in the way of the character’s basic shape.

Once we get those 300 dpi ‘electronic paper’ screens that Xerox and MIT have been talking about, we’ll revisit this notion, but for now, I’ll stick with easier san-serif fonts like Helvetica, or Geneva, or even… yes, Verdana.

Ah, the guilt of using a Microsoft product.

Yes, Verdana is one of the two important typefaces that Microsoft has released to the public for free. The other (Georgia?) is a a serif face and is less important here. But for PC people, it’s important to download Verdana and set your default web typeface (or font) to it. It takes up a lllot of room on a line, but it’s *sooooooo* much easier to read than Arial.

On the Mac side, you can either grab Verdana from Microsoft’s web site, or simply start using the most under appreciated face on the Mac, Geneva.

Oh sure, there’s not a real outline font for it, and it’s one of Apple’s original ‘city fonts’ (following along with Chicago, New York, Monaco, and (good lord) San Francisco), But Geneva rocks.

Chicago, of course, was *the* special typeface used in commercials that wanted to have an ‘engaging’ computer feel. I think Dell or Compaq used it a few times. Chicago is the font used in the menu bar of the Mac, up at the top of the screen. Ugly and it had some serious legibility problems. Apple’s gone ahead and made a replacement for it, but until I upgrade my machine, I’ll be using Chicago in my menus.

Anyway, back to Geneva. Geneva is used for every other part of the MacOS, as it ships. It’s the work horse, the font that does the real lifting in the interface on the screen. It has good variation between the 0, O and the 1 and l. It’s just about perfect, and doesn’t take up as much room as the second runner-up, Verdana. Geneva has good letter spacing, wonderfully subtle decenders, and a fabulous x-height.

I know, I’m too into this. It’s just a typeface. But it’s these details that are the polish in a project. Something’s only done when you’ve thought through every step, or the step comes out of a trained reflex.

Leave nothing to default.

It seems like I’m blowing more in this entry than the storm is outside. 🙂

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