Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Font Fascists or Friends?

A friend recently sent me this link about a group of people who want to ban the comic sans font.

Initially, I thought that this is a harmless kooky idea devised by people with a little bit too much time on their hands (not unlike most bloggers...) but who are making a relatively serious point about homogenisation across the media.

But alarm bells began to clang with unwelcome cacophany when I realised that the opening line on the home page was in need of a sub or two.

"In 1995 Microsoft released the font Comic Sans originally designed for comic book style talk bubbles containing informational help text."

Aside from the fact that a comma wouldn't go amiss, I was distressed by the phrase 'informational help text', and pondered on why they thought the simple 'information' wouldn't have sufficed. So instead of simply replying to the friend who sent me the link with cursory gratitude, I investigated further.

Turning to the statistics section of the site, I was greeted with an almost entire absence of data. I think by statistics they mean suppositions. There are also examples of the comic sans menace... McDonald's, Starbucks. Now am I alone in not expecting typographical stimulation from multinational US companies, companies that design their logos to be appeasing and instantly recognisable? Yes, it would be a shame if everything I read online and in print used the same font, particularly if that font was one as aesthetically unchallenging as Comic Sans, but that will never be the case. And while the proliferation of Comic Sans is possibly a little annoying, there is plenty of typographical innovation to counteract the over-reliance of some on Comic Sans.

But my real problem with this site emerged when I started on the 'about' section.

"The patriarchs of this profession [typography] were highly educated men. However, today the widespread heretical uses of this medium prove that even the uneducated have opportunities to desecrate this art form; therefore, destroying the historical integrity of typography."

An absence of free time means I shall revert to a list format to share why this disturbs me...

* patriachs... men... there are overtones (undertones?) of women coming along and disrupting the typographical canon with their crazy font ideas, dotting 'i's with hearts and the like.
* 'even the uneducated'... the suggestion that only the educated should be allowed to create art, or contribute to the development of art forms, is bizarrely Victorian and hideously elitist, quite aside from any debate as to what narrow pedagogic approaches the Ban Comic Sans group have in mind.
* 'historical integrity of typography'... I'm not sure what this means but the implication is that egalitarian innovation within art (something facilitated in no small part by the expansion of computer literacy in large parts of the world and the increase in PC ownership) is something to be suspicious of. And that we should leave it all to the font fascists.

Blummy. They'll be suggesting that we all revert to pen and paper. I just hope they don't start analysing people's handwriting as mine may well suggest an element of ANGER.


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