Archive for March, 2009

My First Typefaces

Add comment March 22nd, 2009

The first typeface I used, once I had a laser printer and no longer relied on dot matrix output, was Avant Garde. Two things about this sans serif type stuck me: its interestingly large x-height and the fact that it was not Helvetica.

This was back in 1989, long before the movie, the hoopla, and the inevitable backlash against Helvetica (the typeface). Tired of it after a dozen years of mostly math and science proofreading, I had seen enough Helvetica to last a long, long time.

A geometric sans, Avant Garde’s strokes seemed to run thinner than Helvetica. This makes for a page lighter in color and a kind of artiness in type that I had never noticed before.

The second typeface I cottoned to was the serif Palatino. To my eye—and this continues to hold to this day—Palatino possesses an easy elegance. This is likely not an unusual observation and I am not alone in my admiration of Palatino, as if it is one of the ten most used typefaces, according to Wikipedia.

Unlike many newcomers to computer typesetting—I never cared for the expression “desktop publishing”—I knew enough not to use every font in my arsenal in a single document simply because I could. In that respect my proofreading background served me well, helping me make good judgments (for the most part) about how words should look on the printed page.

Maybe because of that, I ran Avant Garde and Palatino into the ground. Probably a whole year passed before I even tried the other typefaces my LaserWriter IInt came with. None of those others hit the spot the way the first two had.

And yet all these years later, I find it fun that the choice of a typeface for body text can be determined by a client’s asking me to find a serif type with a lowercase g that, looked at sideways, suggests a pair of eyeglasses.


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