20071003

What happened to the serif font?

I've just watched a commercial break on TV and every ad was dominated by a sans-serif font. Ok, ok, so my new header contains a sans font, but since this blog's conception, my content has been published in a distinct serif font.

The impact of the sans font is being eroded away and it's becoming the easy safe font for marketing. The font tide will turn. Designers moved on from the "techno" and "grunge" fonts of the 80's and early 90's and it became cool to have clean lines for corporate identity. After the greed boom of the 80's and the crash that followed in the early 90's people wanted stability, honesty and no shonky hidden dealings. Merge the brand and the sans font. Its clean lines and bold character strengths signified to the punter that it displayed a brand with integrity. Helvetica is the main culprit.

Don't get me wrong here, I like Helvetica. It has the classiest set of derivatives and sub sets of any font. But, it's spoilt by it's dirtier cousin - Arial. It's the Microsoft font designed in 1982 that every Powerpoint in the business world displays with some sort of banal superiority. So where is the class? Sans fonts no longer have the same message to the consumer. We fill our lives with make-over shows, lifestyle shows and talent quests who's message is that if we want to succeed we need to "pull something extra out of the hat". Not only do we need to be good at what we do, we have to appear good...

The serif font. It sells a message that is not only readable, it looks classy. It is classical. Its beauty, strength and desirability lie in its origins. It will stand the test of time... now isn't that what you want from a product?

14 comments:

Crystal said...

Do you really look that deeply into commercials on TV? You notice details that most of us wouldn't even understand. But, I will notice these things a little more now... not that I really ever know what font is what.

Anonymous said...

How could you call yourself a font fanatic, when you can't even spell "Arial" instead of "Ariel"?

Muzbot said...

How 'bout that. I hadn't even noticed. I shall go and correct that. Luckily, I've nevah claimed to be a grate spella.

Jase68 said...

I like Helvetica too... It's great for print in its super thin form, but not so good for screen work.

Tom Cat from Bondi Beach said...

Actually it is Arial not Aerial :)

I quite like Verdana but have a feeling you wont, Muz.

Muzbot said...

TC: Verdana is one of my fave screen fonts. It's width makes it an ideal web font.

And yep, Anon really showed me up there. That'll teach me to not go back and proof my own work... But I'm sure I'll be making many more mistakes in the future.

Tom said...

I tend to use a boring predictable Arial for headings and Times for the main text when I write things. I'm actually not too fussed about which fonts people use per see if it holds together, but I really hate inconsistency - differing sizes for the headings, bullet points on one page not at the same indent as those on another, differing line spacing... grrrr... where's my red pen?!

kookyknut said...

I don't think you mentioned that the serifs help lead your eye across the lines of type, which is what makes it easier to read. (i'm a bit hungover so i could have missed that)

My fave fonts: Helvetica, Futura, Century Cothic, Lunchbox...

Its only now that I notice that none of them are serif fonts, although if i design something I tend to use Times for body text, although i'm not particularly fond of it.

yani said...

I must admit I do have a longstanding fondness for Arial... but a slightly more intense obsession with Century Gothic...

And I keep looking at the post title and thinking "I shot the serif, but I did not shoot the deputy"... somebody needs to stop me...

Bazbear said...

I confess, I use Arial for powerpoint although at work they insist on Tahoma for word documents.

Now I am going to explore Serif

Kim said...

I love it when you talk dirty

Canberrabiker said...

Arial captions, Times New Roman text for all my documents - bog standard for legislation (which is what I tend to write). But the Minister likes his briefings in palatino, which I find terrible to read. And frankly I doubt if he even reads them !

judo said...

Personally, I can never get enough Comic Sans and Mistral. Nerds!

sandy said...

When I was responsible for the layout the newsletters at an ASO I used to work for, the managing editor said to me, "Serif fonts are easier to read, so always use one." I suppose now that I am so used to sans fonts from all the work/reading I do on the 'Net, I don't much notice. Thanks for making me realize better only one of the reasons I enjoy nytimes.com... and your blog.