Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Fonts, Fonts, Fonts, Too Many Freakin’ Fonts

We live in a world of words. Wherever we go, we are surrounded by words.

On television, we are bombarded with slogans, pitches, jingles, animated words wiping across the screen, words on items on the screen and more.

Even when we go to that one sacred place where everyone is entitled to be alone, words still hound us. I was a the gym recently, and they now have ads on the bathroom stalls. While I’m – ahem – doing my business, I can read up on the latest cars from General Motors.

Naturally, our wordy society requires ways to differentiate all these messages to us. Fonts tell us a lot about the person or company which created the words.

Big sweeping fonts often indicate openness, creativeness, even slightly off the beaten path. Closed fonts may indicate a more formal, logical and closed minded thought process.

However the fonts were used, one thing is for certain – there are just too many freakin’ fonts out there!

From the classics like Times New Roman, Arial, and Verdana, to new wave fonts like Acme Secret Agent, Balloon and Checkers, to silly fonts like the dingbats, there are thousands of font faces available to choose from.

There are also just as many countless font styles – many fonts come in different font types, from wide, narrow, compressed, expanded, outline, bold, extra bold, extra fine, thin, bold italic and more.

I’ve been exploring the fonts on my system and found there are just too many to categorize. I have my favourite fonts which I use often, but occasionally it is nice to play with fonts, to change things up.

But changing things up is time consuming, simply because there are so many fonts. You can even buy more fonts – why anyone in their right mind would want MORE fonts is beyond me.

And, when you embed fonts into some documents, you actually give the font to anyone who opens that document. This way, they too have new fonts on their computers.

I sometimes wonder if one day, I’ll turn on my computer and it will bury me in a sea of fonts.

In the old days, well before computers existed, typographers were professional fontsmisths. They carefully and painfully created complete font sets on huge chunks of metal and wood, for installation in gigantic printing presses.

These printing presses would literally hammer out each letter like a typewriter, to create the words on the page. As a block of wood or metal had to be created for every character conceivable, naturally there weren’t that many fonts to choose from.

Technology has ended those days of single use fonts, and replaced it with so many different fonts, it can take hours and in some cases days, to find just the right font for the job.

How easy it must have been in the old days to simply go to press, knowing the font was pretty much set in stone.

Oh well – back to searching for just the right font. . .

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