Friday, July 06, 2007


True Types

Over on his blog, feuilleton, John Coulthart has an interesting meditation on fonts, inspired by the the recently released trailer for the film adaptation of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials, and it's use of Jonathan Barnbrook’s Mason font for the titles and typography.
Distinctive fonts take a while to get around and I don’t recall seeing Mason until at least 1994. From 1995 to 2000 it began to appear everywhere, even in newspaper ads for a while, before finding a permanent place in the book world. The trouble with this kind of ubiquity is that the novelty the design once possessed quickly vanishes and it begins to runs the risk of becoming a design cliché. Many typefaces go this way especially in the publishing world where the choice of font is often dictated by genre expectations. So Orbit-B and its variants used to signify “science fiction” or “the future” in the 1970s, Caslon Antique and Farquharson frequently indicate “horror” while FF Confidential has been over-used for crime titles.
John goes on to talk a bit about why he's used the Mason font in the past, and a bit about decorative typefaces in general. An interesting discussion, well worth checking out.

I adore fonts. I'm often drawn to them, no pun intended, before I even "see" the cover art on a title.
I'm with you, Patty. We spend a lot of time thinking and talking about fonts over here (and try to identify them on signage as we drive around town, from time to time).
I, too, Chris, am a fontophile, and I do find myself wondering what a particular font is in a movie's credits, or a sign, or elsewhere.

I used to have a large collection of freeware fonts lost in a HD crash. I've never been able to find some of them again.

So, Chris, what are the fonts you use on the cover of Paragaea (the only book of yours I've read so far--but I loved it)?
That's a good question, Paul. The layout and design for that one was actually done by the designer at Pyr/Prometheus, whose name I should know but don't recall at the moment. The fonts were actually changed at the last minute (a distinct improvement!), and I'm sorry to say I never got the name of the new ones they used.
I posted a tribute to this in my own blog.

I'm terrible with doing design by myself, but I so appreciate other's finished products. It's definitely a case of the saw "I don't know much about art, but I know what I like".

I shot off an e-mail to you last night about a separate matter, just to give you a heads-up.
Thanks for the link, Patty! And while I've been getting a little better with my type design the last few years, I'm still far from proficient, myself.
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