Redesigning the New York subway system with Helvetica

Thursday, 31 March, 2011

In the 1960s graphic designers Massimo Vignelli and Bob Noorda, attempting to make the New York subway system easier for commuters to use, proposed standardised signage, made with the Helvetica font, be deployed in stations across the network.

By the 1960s, using the New York subway meant navigating what a John Lindsay-era task force called “the most squalid public environment of the United States: dank, dingily lit, fetid, raucous with screeching clatter, one of the world’s meanest transit facilities.” The ugly and baffling signs underlined the city government’s loss of control.

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Choose your own font with the typographic version of Scrabble

Wednesday, 9 March, 2011

Scrabble board design by Andrew Clifford Capener

Andrew Clifford Capener has devised a version of the popular word game Scrabble especially for lovers of typography… the A-1 Scrabble designer edition:

The purpose of this project was to revive an old, but loved game. The idea was to excite people about typography by giving them the ability to choose what font their scrabble set would come in. The set would be available in the font of your choice or with an assorted font pack.

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MoMA adds 23 influential fonts to its permanent collection

Tuesday, 1 February, 2011

New York’s MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) has recently added 23 fonts to its Architecture and Design Collection, which were chosen on account of the significant role each had in the development of font design during the last 50 years of the twentieth century.

This first selection of 23 typefaces represent a new branch in our collection tree. They are all digital or designed with a foresight of the scope of the digital revolution, and they all significantly respond to the technological advancements occurring in the second half of the twentieth century. Each is a milestone in the history of typography. These newly acquired typefaces will all be on display in Standard Deviations, an installation of the contemporary design galleries opening March 2 on the third floor.

For anyone curious as to how an institution such as a museum can add commercially available fonts for their permanent collections, Jason Kottke recently interviewed Jonathan Hoefler of font foundry Hoefler & Frere-Jones – four of their typefaces joined the MoMA collection – about the legalities of the acquisition.

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Type designers and their postage stamp creations

Wednesday, 12 January, 2011

Nice, a collection of postage stamps created by type designers.

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Sans-serif fonts making reading easier for dyslexic people

Tuesday, 28 December, 2010

Serif fonts, such as Times New Roman, or Georgia – which I use here by the way, mostly in post titles and headings though – tend to be harder for dyslexic people to read. Sans-serif fonts, such as Arial, or Helvetica – used here for most post text – are preferable, though fonts resembling handwriting are the easiest for dyslexic people to read.

Serif fonts, with their “ticks” and “tails” at the end of most strokes (as found in traditional print fonts such as Georgia or Times New Roman), tend to obscure the shapes of letters, so sans-serif fonts are generally preferred. Many dyslexic people also find it easier to read a font that looks similar to hand writing as they are familiar with this style, and some teachers prefer them. However these types of fonts can lead to confusion with some letter combinations, such as “oa” and “oo”; “rn” and “m”.

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To the letter of the poster, how many of these films can you name?

Wednesday, 1 December, 2010

For movie buffs, guess the title of the film based on just letter from its poster… I’m too embarrassed to reveal how I fared.

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How many pixels can you fit onto a small yet legible font set?

Monday, 22 November, 2010

A font set designed by Ken Perlin, a computer scientist, said to be the world’s smallest, yet still legible typeface… though Adam Borowski, who in 2004 created a minuscule yet also legible font set, for side messages in a MUD client, believes his set is smaller.

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You won’t have fun with Comic Sans but you’ll learn more with it

Thursday, 28 October, 2010

You are more likely to recall information that is difficult to read, say because the text is slightly obscured or is composed with a font that is not so easy to comprehend, because you are required to concentrate more in order to absorb the material you are reading, something that scientists refer to as disfluency.

“Disfluency is just a subjective feeling of difficulty associated with any mental task,” explained psychology Prof Daniel Oppenheimer, one of the co-authors of the study. “So if something is hard to see or hear, it feels disfluent… We’d found that disfluency led people to think harder about things.”

If I’m reading the report correctly Comic Sans was one of the fonts that was harder to comprehend… another plank in the case for bringing the often reviled font in from the cold?

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The case for Comic Sans, it wasn’t meant to be taken seriously

Tuesday, 26 October, 2010

Not my first choice in a font, but Comic Sans, originally created by Vincent Connare, a “typographic engineer” with Microsoft, as a less “boring” alternative to Times New Roman, certainly has its applications.

But why, more than any other font, has Comic Sans inspired so much revulsion? Partly because its ubiquity has led to such misuse (or at least to uses far beyond its original intentions). And partly because it is so irritably simple, so apparently written by a small child. Helvetica is everywhere and simple too, but it usually has the air of modern Swiss sophistication about it, or at least corporate authority. Comic Sans just smirks at you, and begs to be printed in multiple colours.

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The history of type, upper case wasn’t always considered shouting

Thursday, 21 October, 2010

From an excerpt from British author Simon Garfield’s new book, Just My Type, on the history of typefaces, the way they influence our perceptions, and even some of the unimaginable outcomes our use of them can bring about:

The correct use of type varies over time. These days, corporate edicts are common, and memos come down from on high like tablets of stone: thou shalt use only on both internal and external communications. But who is to say that lower-case Arial from 1982 is preferable to the way we communicated in TRAJAN CAPITALS on the pediments of public buildings in ancient Rome? And how did our eyes switch from accepting one over the other, to the point where a thoughtless choice of capitals-all-the-way became a cause of headaches and dismissals? Walker was sacked three months after her email was deemed to have caused “disharmony in the workplace”, which would have been laughable had it not caused her so much distress. Twenty months later, after remortgaging her house and borrowing money from her sister to fight her case, Walker appealed successfully for unfair dismissal, and was awarded $17,000 (£10,000).

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