April 29, 2008

Type-Off: The Prelude

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Wanted: A Venetian masculine type with a strong chin and distinct ligatures for an open-type relationship. Must be an ambitious ascender who can raise my baselines. No light weights or aliasing, please.

While the above may seem like a corny set-up for a “That’s what she said” joke, serious requests for certain typefaces run rampant on graphic designer forums. (Yes, those exist.) Every day, a graphic designer sits down at his or her computer, makes a text box and proceeds to contemplate the holy grail of designer life: the font type.

As graphic designers, we work with very few elements. Sure, we place a stellar photo on the page every now and then, but we’re not the ones taking the photos. Instead, the true mark of a good graphic designer is the ability to make a visually appealing page using only lines, space, boxes, and type. Of the four basic design elements, typography clearly affords the most design options. The right ligatures, descenders, x-heights, figure widths and kerning can make or break a font face.

Wait, liga-what? To the average layperson, the above terms sound like a language invented by J.R.R. Tolkien and are about as useful to the average layperson as a language invented by J. R.R. Tolkien. Regardless, there are two terms that you should be familiar with: the basic division of font types into serif and sans-serif. Serifs refer to the little lines, or “feet” at the bottom of characters in fonts such as Times New Roman. For a cleaner look, sans-serif fonts such as Helvetica do the trick. A little something to distract you the next time you’re trying to write that 15-page paper.

Some people devote their entire lives to thinking about and creating new fonts. Luckily, we’re not that crazy. But we’re close. Assistant Designers Munier Salem, Deborah Tan and [img_assist|nid=30316|title=An example of a sans-serif font.|desc=|link=node|align=right|width=|height=0][img_assist|nid=30318|title=A font type with serifs.|desc=|link=node|align=right|width=|height=0]I have taken it upon ourselves to investigate the fonts that continue to define and make up The Cornell Daily Sun.

However, we thought that all our yammering about serifs and dropcaps would be lost among the text of a written blog entry. So instead, we made a video blog entry, moderated by the one of our lovely Arts Editors Julie Block, in which you can watch us argue about typography in all our nerdy graphic designer glory. Check it out here at CMYK: the Type-Off! And don’t be afraid to let us know what you think.

P.S. Since the semester is drawing to a close, thank you so much to all the readers who have made our experimental design blog into a success! Continue reading us over the summer for more design-related updates!