Fast Company, "The 8 Worst Fonts in the World"

BlueStreak's picture

"In 'Just My Type,' Simon Garfield counts down his least favorite typefaces. And Comic Sans isn't among them... Fonts are like cars on the street—we notice only the most beautiful or ugly, the funniest or the flashiest. The vast majority roll on regardless."

Nick Shinn's picture

"Fonts are like cars on the street—we notice only the most beautiful or ugly, the funniest or the flashiest."

That is the Typophile's beef with Mr Garfield, that he trivializes typography by focusing on those aspects of it which are most conducive to sensationalizing with his flashy wit.

If he were to write a book on another mainstay of civilization, cutlery (What The Fork?), one would no doubt discover the sexual peccadilloes of the inventor of the pickle fork, be treated to a rehash of the Macdonalds coke spoon incident, and the story of how Ginsu revolutionized TV advertising.

tmac's picture

That sounds like a pretty good cutlery book.

I haven't read the book, but Mr Garfield was just on CBC Radio 1. If this means my next new client's understanding of type has increased even a fraction, then I'm a fan. I might even buy the book for my Dad.

David Rault's picture

I'd be happy if Mr. Garfield stopped talking about stuff he knows nothing about, i.e. typography.

quadibloc's picture

At least he included Papyrus. But finding Brush Script to be worse than Comic Sans is an error.

Té Rowan's picture

" Font A is worse than Font B" usually means "I like Font A less than Font B".

Nick Shinn's picture

Thomas Phinney has philosophized that bad fonts do actually exist.
They are those which have missing glyphs, wrongly encoded characters, inconsistent character widths, unkerned accented characters, or which don't show up in the font menu.
Also to be considered: certain Cyrillic and Greek fonts designed by Westerners with ignorance of the conventions of indigenous letter forms.

jonathanhughes's picture

His comments about Brush Script seem particularly off base:

"Brush Script was made available by American Type Founders (ATF) in 1942, and its designer Robert E Smith gave it a lower case with joining loops, creating a quaint and consistent type that looked as if it was written by a fluid, carefree human. The problem was, no one you had ever met actually wrote like that"

BRUSH Script isn't supposed to look like someone's writing. It's supposed to look like someone painted it with a BRUSH.

Té Rowan's picture

And this, Nick, circabout covers what I would accept for 'bad font'. Even that Nth-level clone of a Rundfunk I adopted a coupla years ago to see how far I could go just hand-hacking the SFD file isn't exactly a bad font, just clumsy as 'eck.

Aside: The hand-hacking took me further than I expected, but some stuff was just too hard to visualise.

TurtleType's picture

I just think it is funny that it takes someone outside of typography to create a digestable book on type and type history. I find learning about type history especially to be a piecemeal process. This forum is a good place to pick up new ideas, but don't blame the general population if they know more about Cubism than the historical context of Brush Script.

Té Rowan's picture

Maybe it's because Real {Fonto,Typo}graphers don't write coffee-table books for the laity?

TurtleType's picture

Maybe it's because Real {Fonto,Typo}graphers don't write coffee-table books for the laity?

And why not? I'm sure you want to hemorrage when you see bad design. Yet, designers still want to protect this "insider status" they had previous to desktop publishing. I kind of see typographers circling their wagons instead of confronting the problem. While every ignorant lay person thinks that if they know the alphabet they know typography. I believe this is short-sighted. Unless we expose the "normal" population to an understanding of typography beyond Comic Sans and Papyrus we are just going to have more of the same. Have you seen how popular LetterMpress is on the Mac App store. I believe people do care about type they just don't have many places to look...unless textbooks and reference guides are your thing.

eliason's picture

Adrian Frutiger Typefaces is by real typographers, is IMO comprehensible and inviting to the laity, and would look great on a coffee table.

hrant's picture

There's a difference between simplifying things for laymen
versus cavalierly whipping up some garbage to make money.
I mean, when they don't even go to the trouble of replacing
a caricature rendering on a website with the real thing...


Nick Shinn's picture

I just think it is funny that it takes someone outside of typography to create a digestable book on type and type history.

The guy is an accomplished hack.
It's what they do.
For a "digestible" insider introduction to type and type history, (for lay folk or first year design students), I recommend:

TurtleType's picture

That's the designer in you talking hrant. Which makes another point. It seems to be a double edged sword that there is so much opportunity to create and express on the web...but at what expense. There is no one to hire or fire you. Nothing that "qualifies" you for your particular work. The "professional" is becoming arbitrary. A person can design or write anything and it might be the shoddyiest stuff ever, but yet there it is for everyone to see. Garfield is a product of the times it seems.

Nick Shinn's picture

Not these times; journalists have been writing general interest compendiums for ages.
It could be said that he is a product of The Radio Times, according to his Wiki page.

dezcom's picture

The "My Favorite Lollypop Flavor" is worse than "Top Ten Things you Should..." or "101 Ways to WeeWee". If you are appealing to the laymen, give them something of value rather than blessing your own preferences as missives from on high.

What would do the most service to the audience? Surely not: "I like Grape and I hate Lemon".

TurtleType's picture

It could be said that he is a product of The Radio Times, according to his Wiki page.

Zing! It also shows he has under his belt a book about British Wrestling and Stamp Collecting. I can only imagine what those book signings must be like.

ex-height's picture

In terms of serving an introduction to typography Garfield did a good job.

What is wrong with writing a book to give some depth to a topic in which most don't even realize exist? Every typography book I have ever opened starts with kerning and readability, typically an instant turn-off. Think about the first time all of you have come across that "aha" moment when you actually realized letters and words are packed with various functionality and personalities. Did this moment come when you had a personal experience with type, or were you force fed principles of typography by someone who knew more than you? 98% of the people I know “breath helvetica” not only ignorant to its rich history but in addition there are thousands of other faces that have crazy and interesting backgrounds. This allows the average reader to create a connection with a typeface and then hopefully realizing there is much to be learned about the topic as a whole.

The book is a open door that invites people to learn more about a topic they didn't even know existed.

Coffee Table Book? Sure. Successful in its intent? Yes.

dezcom's picture

I must have read a different book.

Té Rowan's picture

A hundred mans can read the same book and see a hundred books.

TurtleType's picture

Is there any difference between this book tainting the landscape and the typographer who sends his "type babies" out into the world with no say as to how they could be used.

Maybe the discomfort of this book is a displaced outcry from all the typographers who have quietly groaned in the background when their own "type babies" were used in vain.

quadibloc's picture

An example of a competent book about typefaces might be "Anatomy of a Typeface" by Alexander Lawson... and I don't think one needs a technical background to read it, although an interest in the subject would be helpful.

Mark Simonson's picture

Maybe he should have chosen Dorling Kindersley as the publisher.

Té Rowan's picture

You Know You Watch Too Much Sailor Moon When... "DK means Dark Kingdom, not Dorling Kindersley."

PJay's picture

Do agree with some of Garfield's least favorites - could never stand Souvenir, for instance, or Avant Guard or Rotis (with which The Economist had a brief flirtation).

The small type in the original, great little Penguin historical atlases by Colin McEvedy was economical, attractive and read legibly and fluently in Times. Times was replaced by the higher x-height Rotis in new editions of some of the books. Trying to be contemporary, I suppose, they made the books look and read ugly: with Rotis, the sense is chopped up - it's harder to take in whole phrases and thought units at one time.

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