Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Fontography: Type on the Internet

I promised I would have something on this yesterday, and after a couple of hours wrestling with the US Postal Service's website, not only did I not want to look at a computer screen for a while, I also was looking for painkillers in the form of Kentucky sipping bourbon. Safe to say, I wasn't interested in posting font source links last night.

Since college, I have been a typography geek. All kinds, all styles, anywhere I can find new typography, I'm there looking for something interesting. So much so that while still in college at Northern Illinois University's Visual Communications program, I was developing a typeface of my own. Not a very normal thing for a college student to be producing in his spare time, but I'm not what you call normal, either.

Collecting "fonts" as they had become known at the cusp of the computer design age (a type 'font' is actually the term for the metal slugs that each size of a particular typeface for setting up a page of words in printing presses), had become an obsession for me. I loved anything with good typography on it. Still do, as a matter of fact, though today I take much more appreciation in things that were done long before computers ruled the communications world.

Anyway, the internet has changed typography for ever. You can acquire any number of thousands of typefaces with the click of a mouse for free, and the best ones out there for not very many bucks. Pay for them when you come across ones you like, because I can tell you first hand, typeface designers don't make a whole lot of money for the large amounts of labor they do.

Using custom typefaces in your presentations can add a massive degree of professionalism and style, without a lot of effort or stress. Please avoid ornate, decorative or script faces, though, as readability and legibility (I'll get into those more later) are of major importance in the success of your written words. Anything described as a "headline" or "display" face should not be used for any amount of copy more than a few large words. Avoid compressed, condensed and even italic in anything but the most minimal of needs. Leave those decisions to the people that do it for a living, and keep it as simple as possible.

In fact, only in certain situations would I use a serif face in place of a cleaner, easier to read sans serif face (which is what Arial is).

Clean, simple, easy to read. These are what you should look for in a new typeface—if you already don't have a corporate typographical standards manual to follow.

Having said that, there are more than a few places on the internet that I really love to go to find new typography. Here's a list of some of my sources for new ideas in type:

Free Typography:

Pay Typography:

Both Free and Pay:

Great Typography Resources:

These are only a few of the literally thousands of wonderful typography resources out there on the interwebs, but are some of my bookmarked favorites. I'm always looking for new sources of typography so if you know of new ones, please do pass them along.

Now, I do realize that this may be like giving a loaded gun to a toddler, but with a little restraint, a beautiful typeface can go a long way in really projecting the right style and image to your audience. Just don't over-do it with the type—keep it to one or two faces that work well together and you will be golden. It isn't easy—that's why there are professionals that do this sort of thing for a living. :)

Have fun, and keep it clean and simple.

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