Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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Typography and Books

683 words

I am a bit of a typo geek - and people who live with me may claim that this admission is pure understatement. I get this warm fuzzy feeling when seeing wonderful classics as Garamond or Palatino (and in these Arial ridden days even the proper Helvetica…), I admire the titles of many films, and I chuckle if I see nice typography in the wild. And as this site proves - to those who are using well-equipped machines for viewing it anyway - I still love Zapfino despite it having been badly abused by marketing in the past years.

So yeah, it’s Zapfino for the Mac users here… and it’s perhaps worth mentioning that Safari doesn’t fully exploit the features of the font and thus you’ll not see all the nice ligatures. Amusingly this is an area where the otherwise less attractive browsers Opera and iCab can shine and give you a nicer rendering of the page. Actually you can get those special features in Safari as well by using the option ‘Use ATSU For All Text’ in Safari’s Debug menu - but be warned that this tends to screw up font spacing otherwise.

As I am not working with many fonts regularly these days, I started to lose my ability to just ‘spot’ fonts and say which one I’m looking at - which is a shame, but requires more exposure I guess. And for those challenges I really love the Identifont page which leads you through a series of questions on a typeface to narrow down the choices. That comes very handy and helped me identify a number of things.

You could just use it to try and find out what Band of Horses used on their record cover….

Band of Horses

For their band name I mean. The cover art graphic is a bit too small to recognise some Akzidenz Grotesk here. (If you can’t be arsed to do all those clicks, just try this.)

So, yes, I like that identifont site, there’s just one thing that irks me every time I click my way through their font questionnaire. When asking whether it’s a ‘handwritten’ typeface, this picture is displayed:

Identifont geometric vs. Handwritten images.

The problem I have with this is that for ‘geometric precision’ I’d expect an image of something like Helvetica or a well-defined serif. But not a typeface with unnecessarily bendy lines in it. In my opinion both of these examples could be considered to be geometrically precise or handwritten - depending of the angle you’re coming from. And thus I have to read the accompanying text to make sure I’m going to click the correct option.

A small quirk for sure, perhaps just the wrong graphic being linked to… but it just puts a dent in the usability of an otherwise refreshingly simple and useful site.

And while I’m at the topic of recognising fonts… I just have to mention another great book. I discovered it when browsing the library while I was a fresher. It’s Rookledge’s International Typefinder. An offline way of identifying typefaces from the 1980s. I really enjoyed it back then and it seems to be a rare book these days. But thanks to the wonderfully networked world of libraries, I now found out that not only the next copies of that book seem to be in The Netherlands (Groningen, Amsterdam, Den Haag) and in the UK (London, Cambridge, Kent) but also that there is a newer edition from 1990. Which in turn made me check amazon once more and find out that there is a new and mostly affordable 2005 paperback edition of the book. Marked for my christmas wishlist. [Buy at amazon .com, .uk, .de]

And if you followed the links above conscientiously, you will have come to the WorldCat site which is an amazing global book catalogue with links back to many libraries. Just a fantastic tool. They have just been joined by the redlightgreen people and the service seems nicer to use but a bit weaker in total (it feels faster and looks a bit cleaner but seems to lack the clever grouping of different editions and languages that redlightgreen had).

October 20, 2006, 20:25

Tagged as arial, helvetica, zapfino.


Comment by riccard0: User icon

I myself prefer WTF (WhatTheFont, that is). Pretty fun and effective.

October 21, 2006, 11:37

Comment by ssp: User icon

For me WTF is my second choice. The one I prefer when having text of that font in an image file though… that analysis feature is really cool.

October 21, 2006, 11:47

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