Week 3: Thinking about type

Typography was on my mind this week as I traveled one evening through Vienna, Virginia. Local zoning severely restricts and regulates business signage in terms of size, illumination, and movement (strictly prohibited). Businesses are allowed to use two colors, including the background color.  The net effect is that typography is the only possible way to make a particular sign distinctive and easy for a driver to pick out from the other signs.  If you like living in an HOA, Vienna is the place to be.

Since it was rush hour, I had plenty of time to observe the variety of fonts used in the signs. I saw many effective designs that implemented many of the principles discussed in our readings: most were sans-serif (the few serif fonts typically used types that limited the flourishes), kerning helped to make the lettering more distinctive to people traveling at speed, and the typefaces included well-formed letters and interior space.

Web pages are like a busy street – a person may scroll through several web sites while searching for information on a subject.  A distinctive, readable type improves competitiveness for attention.

Turning to selection of a font for my final project, I’ve decided that applying the principles of a clean design will support my purposes. Although my subject is the history of a west Texas ranch, the typical western fonts encourage the reader towards the very stereotypes I am seeking to avoid in my work. Instead, I am looking for display fonts that reflect the primary time period (1900-1930) without gravitating too much toward any particular artistic emphasis (such as art deco).

Here’s an example of a Texas newspaper font from the era:

The death of Mary Nettles made front page news.
The death of Mary Nettles made front page news.

Commenting: I’ve commented on Josh’s post about font choices, and suggested a printer’s recommendation for a source of good (and free) fonts: fontspace.com

 

One comment

  1. It is nice to see that you are looking at the world around you when dealing with fonts. I am going to start doing the same. I had never really paid attention about font in print and computer, and your post has made me more aware of another avenue in which font is important. My topic will be from 100 years ago (100 year anniversary of MCB Quantico) and possibly range through some of the 1930s as well, so I’m sure we’ll be considering some of the same fonts.

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