In Richard Pérez-Peña‘s recent New York Times profile of Condé Nast chairman Samuel I. “Si” Newhouse (pictured at right, pixellated by Lacie Argyle into hundreds of tiny magazine covers): the magazine magnate knows his kerning!
When the wizards at Condé Nast Publications recently marched a pre-press issue of Brides magazine through an in-house review, Si Newhouse…wondered aloud whether a few of the letters on the cover were a tad too close together.As it turned out, they were.
Further endearing us to Newhouse (who is the owner of a pug named Cicero) is the profile’s revealation that he is knowledgeable in matters equine. “I had a picture of a fox hunt, and Si had a question about the saddle we used,” says Vanity Fair editor-in-chief Graydon Carter. Newhouse offered a correction of the caption’s description of the pictured saddle.
Erik Spiekermann, courtesy of frog design / design mind:
my favorite number of all is the 2 in Akzidenz Grotesk Light. It looks like a swan that has a big neck. It doesn’t come back. American 2s always curve back. That one just has this big neck that ends short. Maybe the swan is a childish association, but to me it has this majestic “don’t touch me; leave me alone” quality, but still elegant. Swans aren’t cuddly. They’re bitches. But that’s what I like about the 2. It’s different. And it’s very difficult to do because you have this big white space, then it gets very black down there. You get some light into the top. It’s really a bitch, a total bitch to get that curve right so that it doesn’t fall over, so that it doesn’t sit on its ass. Designing a 2 or any number is always really difficult.
But maybe that’s why I like them so much.
From a Tokyo subway station.
Tokyo’s Shibuya Station.
Why do so many architecture firms use Arial? For some it’s an ideological decision—based on speed and cheapness and an idea about dumbness in design. For others it’s pure laziness.
Much of the history of Arial has been recounted before, but here is a synopsis: Microsoft bastardized Helvetic to avoid licensing fees. Now it is default on every Windows or Microsoft Office computer, and many architecture firms, perhaps seeking the ubiquity and cleanness of Helvetic, use Arial as their standard fonts. (I know, because I’ve worked in a couple of these offices. There is a moment in the workplace when I ask if there is an office font and someone senior to me proudly says, Arial. Or if they have some slight graphic sensibility, they say Arial Narrow, thinking they are quite advanced in the realm of graphic design.)
Architects, listen up. You’re designers. You don’t have to be cutting-edge graphic designers knowledgeable about arcane font facts, but you should care enough about design to think about how you present yourself. Whether you use the el cheapo Helvetica knock-off from Arial (which kerns horribly) or you use Interstate like Norman Foster or Gotham like Barack Obama, your font choice is part of your image, part of your message, and it is part of how potential clients will judge you. Would you produce default setting architecture, following dimensions and materials purely from Autodesk or, egads!, Sketch-Up? Then, why use Arial??
Some consideration of your graphic identity could help you become better architects. If you have an ideological reason, like Rem, to use Arial, then okay, fine. At least have a reason. Give it a few minutes and think about whether Arial makes sense for your approach to architecture.
postscript: Some may wonder about my use of Trebuchet and Verdana on this blog. It’s because blogger gives you so few choices! Until I can figure out how to customize this blog further, this is it. Sorry!