Words are hard

I want to begin by prefacing with the fact that I am utterly shocked in the work put into creating a typeface. That being said, I now understand why there are so many variables and complexities in type. One man in the screening said it the best: “How the message is dressed affects our reaction.” I agree. We want to look your best when we go out, so do our words.

What bothered me the most during the film was the fact that Mathew Carter had the nerve to say that there are only about a dozen “good” typefaces. He went on to say that even that is “generous.” How he found success only using around three different typefaces baffles me. I want to bring your attention back to the aforementioned dressing metaphor. A human does not just have three outfits. He/she would have tens or even countless and, personally, I think our words deserve the same. If everyone wore the same outfit, (Helvetica) that would be torture. So why are the world’s Mathew Carters using Helvetica so much?

Another point that bothered me was the description of Helvetica: “neutral, fits-in, blends-in.” If advertisements are meant to catch one’s attention and promote a subject, then why use something that is so common, so everywhere? It just flys under the radar, going unnoticed.

I could be completely wrong. Helvetica’s beauty could be in its mundane simplicity. It could be that the simplicity makes it stand out in a busy, wild city, however, I just do not understand it. I have a lot of questions and words just got a whole lot harder.

Thomas Hoare


  1. I love your honesty, Tom, and enjoyed the post. I just want to make sure you blame the right person for the dozen-good-fonts comments. : ) That was Massimo Vignelli. Matthew Carter was the one whose father sent him to cut type by hand during his gap year; the one who showed us how a type designer begins, by creating the h, then the o.

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