News & Opinion » Weekly Wide Web

Weekly Wide Web

What's in a Font?

by

comment

It's not what Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert said; it's how he said it.

There's a way of speaking that makes you simultaneously come off as inexperienced, whiny and out of touch with technology. Its computer equivalent is the Comic Sans font—that's the font Gilbert used to pen a letter to fans on the Cavs website decrying LeBron James' decision to move to a team that can actually help him win an NBA championship.

It didn't take long after Gilbert's letter was posted for stories to emerge asking the burning question: Why would a sports big-shot choose a font that looks like it was created by a fourth-grader with a Sharpie?

Fonts are tricky things. You are supposed to read a block of text without noticing the font—until you do. Why else would nearly all of the latest best-sellers, from the Harry Potter books to the latest Ian McEwan novel, devote a page of their postscript to the history of the font you've just spent the last hundred-plus pages not noticing?

If there's one lesson IKEA learned last year, it's this: Don't underestimate the power of the letter. After thinking no one would care about a simple change from Futura to the lesser Verdana in their catalogs, the budget-furniture-maker faced a backlash that's akin to what Dan Gilbert must be berating himself over right now.

A good font choice can go a long way.

If you've driven down a freeway lately, you've seen an easy to read sans-serif typeface on the road signs. Microsoft, JCPenney and American Airlines all use Helvetica, one of the most widely-used sans-serifs. The font is so ubiquitous that someone devoted a feature-length documentary to its history and usage.

Unlike Comic Sans, Helvetica is both simple and elegant. It's something no fourth-grader could come up with.


THE WEEK ON THE RANGE

We shared reports from The Daily Show highlighting the general idiocy that comes with living in Arizona these days; let you know that the Center for Biological Diversity was trying to block the Rosemont Mine by seeking endangered-species protection for two rare plants found in the area; and told you that state Treasurer Dean Martin quit the governor's race, while Republican Andy Goss dropped out of the Congressional District 8 race.

In border news: We shared a report by Michel Marizco (of borderreporter.com) about the ongoing gang wars in Sonora; linked to a New York Times report about Gov. Jan Brewer's troubles in hosting a conference with other governors from border states; brought you reaction to the news that the Obama administration had filed suit against the state over SB 1070; and shared a report from the Weekly World News that Obama had ordered U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to unleash a chupacabra in Saguaro National Park in response to SB 1070. (We're pretty sure that last report was satirical, especially given the following quote from Brewer: "Bring it on! We've dealt with aliens, monsters and mutants in Arizona for the last 50 years—especially since Don Imus moved into the state.")

On the music beat: We told you that laser-light shows would be returning to UA's Flandrau Science Center, much to the delight of fans of Pink Floyd; and told you how you can make a local band's dream of opening for Kiss come true.

We suggested you try the Prince Pizza and Family Restaurant; told you about the fine honey available at Southwest Bee Supply; and shared the multimedia work of UA student Blair Kurland.


COMMENT OF THE WEEK

"'You can have your Emmys. I have that letter in a frame.' Oh Paaleeze. Really? How much truck is that letter gonna get you in finding a new job as a reporter? How much would an Emmy give you? What a gasbag. 'It's hard to rip me out of Tucson.' Another gagger. How much time did it take for the words, 'I'll take it!!!' to come out of her mouth when she was offered the job? Just tell the truth: 'You know, I couldn't wait to get out this steaming pile of backwater. Indy may be an over-the-hill metro, but it's better than here. My career as a news bunny requires that I move up and out, so I'm outta here!'"

TucsonWeekly.com user "retrorv," in response to quotes in "Media Watch" (July 8) from departing reporters Jim Becker and Jenny Anchondo.


BEST OF WWW

If you've seen Calexico or Sergio Mendoza y la Orkesta, or you've had a chance to go to one of the Tucson Weekly's Club Crawl® events (the next one is on Oct. 16), you've probably come across Salvador Duran. The musician and artist is not only featured in this week's cover story, but also on TucsonWeeklyTV.com. You can find videos of him there (or with the online version of this column). You'll also want to check out our slideshow featuring the sights of the downtown Tucson walkabout enjoyed by Dave Devine, as detailed in this week's Currents section.



Correction: The original article misstated freeway signs used the Helvetica typeface. Highway signs appear in a series of sans-serif fonts commonly called Highway Gothic. (Return to corrected sentence)

Add a comment