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21 December 2017

Like a great many people, PG hadn’t spent much time thinking about fonts until he acquired his first laser printer. This was in the glory days of WordPerfect (RIP) and a person who wanted fonts other than Courier had to download them into the printer at the beginning of the day if the printer had been turned off overnight. (Somehow, it didn’t seem right back then to have a device consuming electricity when no one was around. You turned off the lights when you left the office, didn’t you? So why would you leave a computer running without someone pounding the keyboard? To be clear, PG never collected string.)

This was a Depression Era of font poverty. You only had a few fonts and used them sparingly so they wouldn’t wear out.

But that changed. Fonts boomed.

Windows made it very easy to collect fonts and PG has some he installed a long time ago and hasn’t used since. However these fonts haven’t disappeared, but have traveled from computer to computer like displaced persons, waiting to be rediscovered.

This font post was triggered by an email PG received this morning that described a font as “a gregarious slab serif design.”

This started PG on a generally useless train of thought – What makes a font “gregarious”?

PG has never heard the sounds of a font party emanating from behind the little cooling fins on his computer. He’s never had to summon the police to put a stop to an overly-loud group of drunken fonts singing beneath his desk.

In PG’s experience, fonts are probably the ultimate introverts. Of course you can change the size of each font, but even when greatly enlarged, fonts are gentle giants and try to avoid treading on their smaller brothers and sisters. (Do fonts have gender? If so do some fonts suffer from gender discrimination? Does PG need to acknowledge trans-gender fonts in some way?)

With “gregarious slab serifs”, it is clear fonts must each have some sort of personality.

PG is going to search for Prudent Lawyer fonts to see what he can find. Or maybe Gregarious Prudent Lawyer might be a better choice.


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12 Comments to “Type”

  1. The birth of TrueType is an interesting business case worth looking up. One of the rate occasions when Bill Gates and Steve Jobs teamed up to rid themselves of a common annoyance.

    The world of computing and end-user publishing greatly benefited from the alliance.
    (Consumer-grade font prices dropped from $50 a font to a $1 and eventually lower. Including free.)

  2. You don’t have Comic Sans on your hard drive somewhere? Those characters are purely obnoxious.

    • Comic Sans is like roaches, W.O. It multiplies in the dark and can’t be exterminated.

    • I used to love Comic Sans, still do. Why? Because the driest, most boring, jargon filled corporate report reads a little more easily when converted to Comic Sans! There are other fonts now that do the same job, try reading an earnings press release in Curlz, but good old Comic Sans is always around.

  3. Ever since I started creating covers and print-on-demand editions, fonts have become an obsession. I’ve collected hundreds of them. I often find myself staring at the screen, trying out different fonts, and thinking (or muttering to myself), “Nope, too whimsical… too somber, too happy, not enough authority, too wimpy, too strong, too silly…” I’ll bet anything that the word “gregarious” had slipped out at least once. Heh.

    I imagine a gregarious font has a big, bold appearance, with curlicues, like a hefty grandma urging visitors to come inside the house.

    Oh, PG, sometimes I think the inside of your head must be like a carnival. The wonders it sees and the places it takes you (and us)…

  4. The book “Just My Type” by Simon Garfield is a fascinating look at the history of typography, printing, and design.

  5. Um, I still turn off my printer at night. And my computer. And the power strip!

    I experiment with fonts for covers, titles, and chapter headings, but I stick with Georgia for the ms and ebooks. Kindle readers switch it out to whatever they like. 🙂

  6. Are you now the font of all knowledge? This post made me chuckle.

  7. I greatly enjoyed this. Thank you!

  8. This was fun! Thanks!
    I think the term “gregarious” is used to describe a font that can be paired with another font with suitable aesthetics.
    Another term used is “affable.”
    But now I feel that my Fonts folder must be a hangout spot where characters are chatting when not busy doing their job.

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