Neutral Sans

dan's picture
Nick Shinn's picture

Yes, it is.

Forrest L Norvell's picture

I like how he doesn't really answer the question he poses: are truly neutral typefaces possible?

It also seeme a little weird to pass over Linotype faces like Basic Commercial and Neuzeit-Grotesk, which are arguably more characterless (and therefore more neutral?) than Helvetica or Univers. Basic Commercial has some funkiness going on with the line widths, but Neuzeit-S, at least, has very few unique characteristics at all, and doesn't have the curved-leg R I find so distracting in Helvetica.

It's also weird even to bring a geometric sans like Futura into a discussion of neutral typefaces. In fact, most of the humanist sans he mentions in the later part of the article are far too "warm" to be considered neutral at all. During one of the previous go-rounds in the never-ending "Helvetica is the Devil" wars on Typophile, Hrant suggested Kievit. I went and looked, and Kievit, too, is just too friendly to be useful in neutral contexts.

I like some of Berry's columns and I realize it must be tough writing about typography for a more or less general audience, but this one seemed pretty muddled.

Chris Rugen's picture

Just to make it a little more interesting...

"the question he poses: are truly neutral typefaces possible?"

I'd say it's possible to use a 'contextually neutral' font, by which I mean a font that draws no attention to itself in a particular context (cultural, temporal, setting, etc.). An example would be TNR on a business document. But even that's pretty hard. It's more like a fulfillment of visual expectations than any inherent feature of the face.

So perhaps I mean that a font can be used neutrally, but the font isn't neutral.

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