Flowers and bricks

With my first printed and bound work sitting on the desk beside me, I might be forgiven for having delved a bit into typography and printing. Most people will be familiar with Helvetica, one of the most commonly used sans serif fonts in history. Fewer will know as much about it as is provided by this article. Quoted therein is Eric Gill, the British sculptor who designed the font I ultimately chose for my thesis. More on Helvetica can be found on Metafilter.

Typefaces have an interesting effect on the presentation of data. Usually, the differences between them are subtle enough to evade perception. Nevertheless, the shape they give to individual words or whole pages of text immediately conveys a great deal of information about the source: in terms of elegance, audience, and approach.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

8 thoughts on “Helvetica”

  1. Eric Gill’s Wikipedia page includes some lurid personal history:

    “Gill’s devout Roman Catholicism did not prevent him sexually abusing his own children, having an incestuous relationship with his sister or performing sexual acts on his dog. His personal diaries describe his sexual activity in great detail. This aspect of Gill’s life was little known until publication of the 1989 biography by Fiona MacCarthy. Robert Speaight’s earlier biography mentioned none of it.”

    Also related: how to tell Helvetica from arial

  2. Kerrie,

    Garamond is nice, but it is overly common and has ugly italics.

    My new favourite sans serif font is Gill Sans. It looks a lot more modern than Helvetica.

  3. Gill Sans is ok, very clean but less boring than Arial. It’s true Garamond has ugly italics, but what’s wrong with being common?

    I can’t believe I care this much about fonts.

  4. Kerrie,

    Nothing is wrong with a font being common, in and of itself. Garamond is certainly a classic, and a much more elegant alternative to the ubiquitous Times New Roman. That said, there is a certain appreciation to be taken from a font that is unfamiliar enough to draw some appreciation: especially one as nicely cut as Perpetua.

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