Just my type: how fashion became all about the font

As with any obsession that encourages rummaging into minutiae, fashion’s current font preoccupation has schisms probably being debated heatedly on page 23 of a thread on The Fashion Spot. Broadly speaking, to put it in font language, it’s all about serif and sans-serif. For everyone else, it’s the fonts with the curly edges on the ends of letters vs the ones without.

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Lena Groeger: How Typography Can Save Your Life

An argument I’ve made a lot in the past (as have others) is that as important as we think typography might be, no one ever died because of a bit of bad kerning.

It’s a deliberately flippant and incendiary comment, designed to focus people’s attention on what really matters in design rather than navel gazing and obsessing about serifs and ligatures. But it turns out that typography has more impact on health and safety than you might think, as Lena Groeger points out in this fascinating article:

Even NASA clearly understands the importance of typography — they have a whole report about it. It’s called “On the Typography of Flight-Deck Documentation.” In it, NASA scientist Asaf Degani notes, “Although flight-deck documentation are an important (and sometimes critical) form of display in the modern cockpit, there is a dearth of information on how to effectively design these displays.” Effectively designing those displays can indeed be critical. The report describes an incident on May 26, 1987, when Air New Orleans Flight 962 took off for Florida. Before the plane could reach even a few hundred feet, the captain had to make an emergency landing — and in the process managed to roll onto into a nearby highway and crash into several vehicles. It turned out that the aircrew had forgotten to advance the engine levers, which the National Transportation Safety Board said indicated “a lack of checklist discipline.” But also possibly to blame? The bad design of that checklist.

Read the rest of the story here. I’ll need to be a bit more careful when I dismiss type in the future.

Punctuation matters: See how novels look without words

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It’s an author’s words, rather than their punctuation, that we think of as defining their style. But as Adam J. Calhoun found out this week, the periods, colons, semicolons, and commas a writer uses can have just as much impact on their output as their choice of language. In a Medium post, Calhoun stripped the words out of some of his favorite books, leaving them as streams of pure punctuation. The results showed a stark contrast between the way authors use the tools in their texts, with some exhibiting a preference for dialogue, some using commas and semicolons to construct breathless sentences, and some making almost exclusive use of the most common marks to tell their stories.

Via The Verge

US road signs ditch new font for old

image by CountyLemonade on Twitter

The Verge reports on changes to road signs in the USA:

Unless you’re a typography buff, you might not have noticed the new font that’s been popping up on highway signs over the past decade. It’s called Clearview and it’s been around since 2004. For much of its life, researchers (including its designer, Meeker & Associates) believed the font could provide for better legibility at night and at longer distances. But, it turns out, later research has not backed up this initial belief. It turns out that all that research suggesting the new font might be more legible was more due to the fact that older, worn signs were being replaced with nice, fresh, clean signs which were, naturally, more legible. Clearview also made legibility worse on signs with what’s called negative-contrast color orientations — dark letters on light backgrounds — like speed limit or yellow warning signs. As such, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is killing off Clearview after 12 years, and all new highway signs again be labeled in Highway Gothic, the old standard font.

It’s funny, isn’t it, how simple things like roadsigns can make you feel at home, or far from it. When I visited Limerick in the Republic of Ireland about ten years ago, almost everything made me feel like I was still in the UK. The only thing that made me think ‘I’m in a foreign country’ were the road signs and road markings which were almost – but ever so slightly not – the same as in Britain.

And of course we always think our own approach to these things is the best. Which in the case of British roadsigns is, of course, entirely true…

Elderly crossing sign UK

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Hermann Zapf Dies at 96

Hermann Zapf, the designer of fonts such as Palatino, Optima, Zapfino, Melior, Aldus, and the bizarre but much beloved Zapf Dingbats, has died at age 96. The revered German typographer and calligrapher passed away on June 4. In his long and prolific career, Zapf worked on many fonts, but his personal favorite was the humanist sans serif typeface Optima, the lettering chosen for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall in Washington, DC.

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From grotesque to quirky: a history of Berlin told through U-Bahn typography

The quirky station signs at Berlin’s 81 listed subway stations are as easy to overlook on a first visit as they are hard to ignore once one has developed an eye for them. Each font spells out its own history of the city. If the U8’s avant-garde modernism seems a good fit for the graphic designers and fashionistas that now frequent the line on their way to trendy Neukölln, other station signs still hark back to the capital’s authoritarian past.

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