Thursday, February 3, 2022

Musings on Typefaces

It was interesting waking up to a discussion about Garamond this morning, as Garamond was my favourite typeface during my teens.
I'd grown up using Times New Roman (and really quite liking it in general - definitely much more than the Sans Serif fonts that were all the rage back then - Arial, Tahoma, and Verdana IIRC). However, being a teenager, I ended up finding it to look a bit too "plain" and "boring". So when I first discovered Garamond, it was a breath of fresh air - like, here's this elegant and fancy looking font that's like an improved version of what I'd liked for years. While others were veering off into simpleton land with Sans Serif fonts, I would have this fancy font to use instead!
That, and it was way better than the butt ugly Computer Modern font that LaTeX uses by default. Ugh, I hate that thing. The normal weight letters are too thin / light-weight, with and have a weird aspect ratio (narrow + tall). Meanwhile, the serifs on the heading / bolded fonts look so heavy + wide + "baroque" (as in, the original sense - i.e. "grotesque").

Fonts for My Thesis

Fast forward many years: When it came time to writing my thesis, I ultimately ended up using Palatino instead. I'd originally wanted to use my old favourite Garamond again for this, but I quickly discovered a bunch of issues that made it not such a great idea:
  1) The zero's (0's) were really really ugly. They are so bloody wide (and even seem to have flat patches!), making them look like car tires stretched around a football stadium.
  2) The sizing of the numerals was really irregular. Like, some were half-sized, others were a rag-tag array of sizes, etc. Overall, it was just quite a creaky collection of canal houses. (I mean sure, they have their appeal, and given another context, would be really cute. But, for that application, they were probably too much amateur hour).
  3) The italic variant (back when we were not all talking about the latest viral strains of the day... remember those times!)  was rather... "meh"!  Looking at some screenshots this morning, it's got this weird sharp-edged jagged / askew quality to it. The pointiness of those m's in particular (and the way they are on a different angle to the rest) just sticks out in a bad way.
  4) Overall, Palatino just seems more well balanced on a page with lots of text. Less "wide" looking, and a good medium weight.  (Garamond in comparison was a little lighter than I wanted / remembered, while being too fat/wide, blowing out the page count by a fair chunk) 
Thus, that's how I ended up using Palatino instead. IIRC, I auditioned a few other typefaces too at the time (including in particular, Century Schoolbook (too "solid"), probably Gentium and/or Fira, and Times Roman (too boring)). But, I ultimately ended up using Palatino as it was one of the common + decent yet slightly-fancy "professional" looking ones that I'd encountered in use on various books around that time.

Mini-Rant About Quote / Apostrophe / Comma Styles

While Palatino is an overall well-rounded font, it does have a few faults. Most notably, the one really big downside to Palatino are the quotes, which are in "minimalist ugly" style (i.e. they're thin slanted wedges... no, they're more like "simple lines"). In particular, the opening/closing ones even slant the same way, causing confusion during the "draft revision process"... (*cough* *cough*)
I ended up needing to replace all the quotes in my Latex source to use custom commands (i.e. \enquote{...}), so that I could configure it to patch-in Times Roman quote glyphs for those. The overall effect is not perfect (i.e. they still clash a bit, especially when dealing with italics), but at least they're clear-looking quotes.

While trying to find a solution for this issue, I remember also trying the Garamond ones, but found that they were actually also quite bad / ugly (i.e. while they had the nice fat ball, they were also too horizontally wide).

Ultimately, when it comes to the quote / apostrophe / comma styles, I've admittedly always been a massive fan of the Times New Roman ones. I especially like seeing them blown up (i.e. to "hero" status) - e.g. when placed beside/around a quote box for instance, slightly faded.
Dalliances with Other Fonts
For a few years during Uni though, I switched to using "whatever" (i.e. whatever the defaults were). So, that ended up being Calibri (since this was around the time of the big MsOffice revamp, with the Ribbon + new default typefaces + styles), occasionally dropping back to the trusty Times New Roman for some things.

Somewhere around this time, I also just got waaay more used to seeing and reading things presented using Sans Serif fonts. This has probably gotten to the point where, I realised that a big reason why I probably like reading things on a screen vs printed books (truth be told, I actually rarely finish any printed books, if I pick them up at all) is because most digital stuff uses Sans Serif fonts instead.

Hence, why my personal website these days uses a Sans Serif font. It's just easier for folks to quickly read / scan, as digital / screen-presented content.

On the other hand, this blog uses Georgia. Admittedly, that's kindof because Google/Blogger forced my hand on this (the only other portable Serif'ed font here is Times Roman; choosing anything else would require doing some Google Font / external webfont loading, which would cause those nasty unreadable text + reflow problems other pages have on slower connections). It works a lot better than I would've expected, but

No comments:

Post a Comment