Computer Arts

Typographic overload

When an abundance of choice leads to dithering away design time, perhaps we don't need any more new fonts, says Jason Arber. So how should we go about stopping the designers responsible from creating more and more choices?

If you're at all like me, a trip to your computer's Font menu can become a long and tedious experience. These days, by the time you include the system fonts and fonts installed by Adobe and Microsoft's Office applications, you're faced with a Font menu that's bursting at the seams.

If you're a designer, too, then you probably make use of a font manager, such as Linotype's free FontExplorer X, Extensis's Suitcase Fusion or Insider Software's Font Agent Pro, which is my weapon of choice for taming the thousands of fonts currently filling up my computer's hard drive.

A quick glance around my office reveals an abundance of font specimen catalogues, which ooze from within every drawer and occupy every available flat surface like the parasitic red weed from HG Wells' The War of the Worlds. Whenever I need to find a new font for a job, these catalogues call to me, flaunting their ascenders and descenders and fluttering their typographic eyelashes at me in a rather comely fashion.

I find it ridiculously easy to lose myself in the pages of the beautiful, exquisitely designed portfolios supplied by big names such as House Industries or T26, or the fetching websites from Veer and smaller foundries, so trying to find a specific typeface often becomes an uphill struggle, a battle I very rarely seem to win.

I have a theory. I believe there exists an international cabal of typographers with a secret agenda to stop honest designers like you and me from doing our jobs, by clogging up our already buzzing heads with a myriad of choices. What other reason is there to explain the unstoppable flow of new fonts, even though there are tens of thousands, possibly even hundreds of thousands, of commercially available and free fonts.

Enough is enough
It's time to make a stand. Surely we have enough fonts by now. Do we really need another version of Garamond, another clean sans serif, another pixel font, or another handwritten font, for crying out loud?

Let's draw a line in the sand and send a message to these evil purveyors of type, telling them that we have enough fonts, thank you very much, and perhaps they could do something really useful, like invent new colours or wear funny hats. In time, and with enough re-training, these poor creatures could become normal members of society.

To be honest, many font designers will secretly be relieved. No longer will they have to suck the ends of their pencils, staring into the middle distance, trying to come up with a catchy name for their fonts that hasn't been used before. Bello? C'mon, pal, you can do better than that. Chevin? My grandmother could think of a better name than this bizarre contraction of Chav and Kevin. Ultura? Refracta? Now you're just making words up.

Unless we stamp out this problem right now, where will it end? Do you think these sick font designers will be happy when they've created a million fonts? Two million? A billion? I can see a future where the world's servers are clogged with new typefaces while their creators cackle, rubbing their hands, the domination of the planet nearly within their grasp.

It's us versus the type designers in a battle for your Font menu. Are you with me?

Jason Arber is a designer and co-founder of www.pixelsurgeon.com. Email him at jason@pixelsurgeon.com.

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