Notes Information Apocalypse

One size doesn't fit all

As languages change, so do typefaces. These changes are not radical; they are subtle evolutions that address culture and technology. Modern typography requires modern typefaces, designed by the people of our time for the people of our time. There are cultural considerations as well. Is it appropriate to set contemporary Pasifika poetry in a typeface designed by a seventeenth-century Italian philanderer? What about using an eighteenth-century clanger for a twenty-first century New Zealand political polemic?

Kris Sowersby thinks that Bembo sucks. Personally, I love it! Maybe because I'm so used to it. I've always liked the influence of subtle hand-drawn curves and flow of reading in books set in Bembo that find its sweet spot at a certain well spaced size.

Much attention within NZ literature is paid to the cult of the book cover, but there's less awareness of the visual characteristics of actual text. Consider - the average book being thousands and thousands of words long - where the cover is superficial and important to create a sense of the package, for readers, the actual surface contact with the book comes through the flow of the type on each page.

As reading habits change with the onslaught of screen based media, it becomes appropriate to reconsider what is most appropriate for book typefaces in the here and now. While it would be foolish to forget what we have already learned, I agree with Kris that designers and publishers shouldn't blithely select digitized versions of classic typefaces, without consideration of what is most appropriate for the context. Many classic fonts are digitized with appropriate optical design for each point size, it's mainly a matter of understanding, craft, and care.