Monday, September 28, 2009

The Unkindest Font (a designer's rant)

The perception of good design is that it is deceptively simple, so simple in fact, that most people question it's credibility and challenge its elemental process.
"Process,what process? It's just three squares, I could do that."
In other words there an awful lot of people out there who feel qualified to practice without an artist's license.

This is for all the people who: have a knack, have a good eye, know what they want when they see it, want it to match the couch, want to change that one color to purple instead of green and then it will be perfect...

This is a rant that is as old as our profession and yet, still has the power to strike me dumb and curse the anathema that is desktop publishing.

The perfect logo in this business is the holy grail, and as rare as the perfect poem sprung word for word in one sitting, whole and unedited, pure in prose and emotion, each word measured and spot-on with no extras, clean, direct, and evocative, no more- no less-

So, when a client called recently with the problem of not being able to open and rearrange a few things in her final identity assets files, so that she could "lay out a new business card and flyer" I was a little upset.
I was able to maintain an outward calm and asked if she would send me her attempts so far-
I wasn't surprised at the Frankenstein document that was intended for the printer, but I admit to a total meltdown at her suggestion to the printer that they use COMIC SANS, instead of the subtle and elegant Garamond for her business card and  flyer.
"Do you want this to look like a ransom note?"
"Do you realize that there are even tee shirts that advocate the destruction of that ridiculously cheesy font?"
"Do you want your logo to be followed by a punch line?"
"It IS called COMIC sans"

To my client's credit, she did not hang up on me and admitted that Comic Sans was the only typeface on her computer that was the right size and weight.

In the end, she got ten minutes of free design work and I got the logo in it's original form- without the punch line.

Actually the punch line came later, in a follow up call-
as I said in my sternest, most professional voice "Please don't try this at home"


  1. just got done with a similar call from a client who had requested a globe for a cover illustration. Then it was a puzzle globe, then it was a puzzle without the globe, now it is no puzzle but add the globe in the background. I guess I can take solace in the fact that he lets me choose the typeface.

  2. sometimes we just have to cling to the small victories.

  3. Advertising's working without a net.