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: