We don't need new fonts...

Chris Dean's picture

A post I twittered across:

http://www.typotheque.com/articles/we_dont_need_new_fonts


Figure 1: A can of worms.

russellm's picture

you can say that about almost anything.

J. Tillman's picture

I have enormous faith in the marketplace to resolve all issues discussed in the article.

blank's picture

I have enormous faith in the marketplace to resolve all issues discussed in the article.

It already has. Type consumers continue to display confidence in the established model of type development and reject the neophilia of design pundits who feel the need to recycle the design writing of the 1990s.

k.l.'s picture

Your link misses a link.

What exactly did you say? I don't get the sentence following "It already has." ...

quadibloc's picture

Of course "the marketplace" will "resolve all" of the "issues discussed in the article".

The marketplace will also resolve what stock prices will be a week from today, but that doesn't mean the Wall Street Journal should cease publication. So, while it certainly is true that if new typefaces have value, the marketplace will pick them up... some helpful advice to people that will help them avoid wasting their time is not a bad thing.

Of course, "we don't need X" is not the same thing as "there is no money to be made by providing X". Britney Spears, after all, has made quite a bit of money through her singing career.

Also, the article is focused on originality as a criterion for the value of a new typeface. There are other figures of merit to be considered as well, such as craftsmanship. But maybe the problem is that I'm unable to tell how its author defines originality.

I think, for example, that Williams Caslon is a very valuable typeface, and I'm very glad it exists. The same is true of Starling - which was original when it first came out in obscurity, but is Font Bureau's revival of it "original"?

It's the wild and crazy display fonts that clutter up sites like dafont that are often of little value; maybe version #10001 of a child's scrawled handprinting is not really original, but it's likely to be graphically unique. Distressed typewriter faces are also available in excessive number, but again, each one is as unique as a fingerprint.

Maybe the problem is the distinction between real and apparent originality - the writer was writing for a typographically (and artistically) sophisticated audience that was in no danger of falling into the trap I've outlined. An innocent like myself would use terms like "utility" and "craftsmanship" to make things clearer, or in some other way distinguish genuine creativity from mere novelty.

But on the general issue, rather than the article itself:

We have Baskerville and Caledonia and Century Expanded and Times Roman and Garamond. And Imprint and Adobe Caslon too! I could indeed say on the one hand that with all those choices, one hardly needs a "new" typeface for workhorse text usage - these all are highly readable.

And, of course, on top of those, we also have Bembo, Optima, and Palatino and Bodoni Book - so it's not as if the palette of existing typefaces is a Spartan one without variety.

We - that is, the speakers of Latin-alphabet languages without exotic accents - probably don't "need" new typefaces. Others are less fortunate. But then, we don't need new ladies' fashions either, but the market will continue to inflict them on us, whatever those dedicated to rationality might desire.

Seeing the world in a new way, even if that means perfectly legible and readable typefaces will start to look dated, and thus increase the cost of printing due to the need to purchase replacements (so that what one prints will appeal to its target audience or market, so "need" it is)... is not a wholly bad thing. We have a rich selection of typefaces today to choose from partly because of the cycle of fashion from Caslon to Scotch Roman to the "standard" text faces listed earlier.

So, even if the last half of the nineteenth century was largely a dismal era of typography, it still contributed to the era that followed being richer than the era that went before.

blank's picture

There was no link. I think that I just incorrectly coded an cite tag.

What I meant was that the font market seems to prefer a gradual evolution based on existing styles. Designers Peter seems to consider original—“Peter Verheul, Cyrus Highsmith, Fred Smeijers, or Underware”—are not dominating font sales or use. Design criticism has had plenty of calls to abandon slow advancement in favor of more sudden change in both typography and type design. While Peter's call for originality does not echo this desire to such an extreme as 1990s writing—Peter is not asking for more Dead History and David Carson—the sentiment is still just as familiar as the types he complains about.

Of course one could argue that the market is only addressing the needs and desires of the Latin alphabet. But it could also be that the lack of a market for many non-Latin fonts suggests readers of those scripts have more pressing concerns than type. Just because there are thousands fewer good typefaces for Devanagari than Latin does not mean that Indians are clamoring to stop worrying about drinking water and start setting books with new fonts.

Nick Shinn's picture

The "that's not type design" argument doesn't go over well at Typophile, where a number of frequent contributors are heavily invested in revivals. Hence the can of worms, no doubt. (BTW Christopher, are Typophile readers really so visually illiterate you have to spell it out for them?)

Having fought that battle, I've moved on to "that's not science"!

However, I will say that EVB's statement "If an existing typeface does the job, there is no reason to make a new one" is incorrect.
There is plenty of reason if people will buy your revival, me-too, or knock-off, and they may be persuaded to do so by extra-typographic, marketing factors such as:
- Price
- Branding
- Advertising, promotion and collateral
- Buying experience
- Support
- Licensing terms

The present situation may be compared to that prior to the ATF consolidation, when there were many foundries in the USA, and each had its version of the popular genres.

Chris Dean's picture

Sometimes a picture is just fun. The caption is just a reference to how figures are treated in journals. Nothing condescending was meant. Lighten up.

Chris Dean's picture

Side note, does anyone know why when we look at the list we see
“don’t” in the title of this thread, yet on the thread itself we see “don2019t”? I understand the difference between ' & ’ but is that really enough to cause a glitch?

quadibloc's picture

@Dunwich Type:
Of course one could argue that the market is only addressing the needs and desires of the Latin alphabet. But it could also be that the lack of a market for many non-Latin fonts suggests readers of those scripts have more pressing concerns than type. Just because there are thousands fewer good typefaces for Devanagari than Latin does not mean that Indians are clamoring to stop worrying about drinking water and start setting books with new fonts.

That is a good point. Currently, in my country, there is a big controversy over our exports of asbestos to the Third World. While asbestos has health risks, these pale in comparison to the danger from fire. Telling Third World countries they have to do without industrial development unless they do it to our very expensive safety standards shows a lack of awareness of their conditions.

Obviously, though, the market won't create much in the way of typefaces for people who don't have a lot of money to spend on font purchases. For people to have a basic set of different styles of printing in which to express themselves is of value because it helps people maintain their language and culture. So I praise the efforts of those working on various open-source typeface projects to cover more of Unicode.

@Christopher Dean:
I understand the difference between ' & ’ but is that really enough to cause a glitch?

Believe it. There is the typewriter quote, ', and there is the opening single quote, `, which are both part of ASCII, but the true apostrophe and closing single quote are outside the standard 7-bit subset on the U.S. computer keyboard.

At U+00B4, there is a candidate for the closing single quote. That's in the 8-bit ISO 8859-1 set, and so it shouldn't be enough to cause a glitch with most systems or typefaces.

But if you go to U+2018 and U+2019 in the "General Punctuation" area of Unicode, I fear you are asking for trouble. Instead of the capacity required for accented letters in French words - 8-bit ISO 8859-1 - what is required is the 16-bit Basic Multilingual Plane of Unicode, that is, the big guns that can also handle Chinese characters.

Would you have been as surprised if Chinese text had caused a glitch?

blank's picture

Unicode glitches are fairly common with forum software. Typophile actually handles this stuff very well, many forums puke up garbage characters when I use apostrophes, real quotes, dashs, and so on.

Frode Bo Helland's picture

For the headlines though, the problem might just be the limited character set included in and the encoding settings of the Flash files. Why Typophile is not graced with the face of the @font- is probably a matter of funding. And why we still see Georgia in the paragraphs: a matter of quality. We definitely need better web fonts :) You can say that for sure.

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