Fontology

You know you work with text too much when you see a commercial on TV or a billboard or an ad and you know the fonts they’re using. If you’re a writer at heart, the words are what matter. But in advertising you soon learn that font usage is about more than the words – text is another graphic element. Using fonts to convey the message can be as important as the words themselves in capturing the attention of your audience.


Gotham

This is a big, fat, in-your-face font, full of slashed superhero characters and villainous curves. The good versus evil dichotomy can be seen in it’s powerful, nostalgic construction and it’s use for something so treacherous as Obama campaign materials. It is a new font, developed in 2000 by American type designer Tobias Frere-Jones and released in 2002. The lettering that inspired this typeface originated from the style of 1920’s era san-serif fonts. It’s new take on these classic styles has fueled it’s quick rise in popularity, and it can be seen in advertising materials for everything from Coca-Cola to the Saturday Night Live show. Is Gotham good or is Gotham bad? You decide, but it is rising.

Interstate

The ubiquitous Interstate typeface is a relatively new font, 1990s vintage. It is a clean, san serif type with a wide spacing between letters and unique angle-cut ascending and descending strokes. I think what makes it so popular – think Southwest Airlines, Citibank, The Weather Channel and Army Strong (just to name a few) – is that the face works well in large formats and as body text or online. Whatever the reason, chances are you’ve seen it used before. History of Interstate Interstate is a digital typeface closely related to the signage alphabet drawn for the U.S. Federal Highway Administration in 1949. It was designed by Tobias Frere-Jones from 1993-1999.

Sabon

This is my favorite serif font. The serifs are heavy enough to stand up well in small printed text. There is also a uniqueness to the characters, especially in the italic, in the descenders and roundness that distinguishes it from most commonly used serif fonts. When I researched it, I liked the font even more. It was designed in 1967 by Jan Tschichold, but is based on types by Claude Garamond from the 16th century and named after a printer of the period, Jacques Sabon. That deriving something new out of something old is appealing to me. To seal the deal, some of the first printed materials to use Sabon was the Washburn College Bible in 1973 and the 1979 Book of Common Prayer for the Episcopal Church. That ecclesiastical connection is also interesting. After all, if it’s good enough for the Bible, it should be good enough for my clients.

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