4. Choosing Typefaces 1


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Fonts surround us every day, on street signs and buildings, on movie posters and books, and on just about every product that we buy. But where do fonts come from and why do we need so many? Who is behind the businesslike subtlety of Times New Roman, the cool detachment of Arial, or the maddening lightness of Comic Sans (and the movement to ban it)?

Typefaces are now 560 years old, but we barely knew their names until about twenty years ago, when the pull-down font menus on our first computers made us all the gods of type. From the early days of Gutenberg to today’s most adventurous digital fonts, typography investigates a range of modern mysteries, including how Helvetica took over the world, what inspires the seemingly ubiquitous use of Trajan on bad movie posters, and what makes a font look presidential, male or female, American, British, German, or Jewish. Perhaps most influential of all, what fonts present their content as being more believable or truthful? From the typeface on Ringo Starr’s Beatlemania drum kit to the graphic vision of the Obama campaign, fonts can signal a musical revolution or the rise of an American president.

For each of the 10 groups of words below find two typefaces that best exemplify the feeling or personality that they represent.

  1. Ferocious, Aggressive, Menacing
  2. Friendly, Inviting, Approachable
  3. Economical, Affordable
  4. Well-made, Sturdy, Craftsmanship
  5. Future, Contemporary, Modern
  6. Nostalgic, Old-time, Antique
  7. Corporate, Business
  8. Formal, Organized
  9. Informal, Casual
  10. Exotic, Foreign, Exciting



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