When Bad Type Happens to Good People

Monotype Bembo, a good font

The good Bembo G

I may have suspect taste in some things. My food tastes are rather plebian, I’m not so keen on subtle beiges, and I have no issue with Melmac. But I am a type snob. I try to be open minded, but I’m rigid and uptight. I mentioned at the AIGA Conference in Memphis, “Pretend there is no such thing as a bold serif and life will be better.” Ok, back off, I’m not including slab serifs. And for those who disagree, I don’t think Claude Garamond spent years in the middle of the 16th century slaving over the letterforms, hoping that someone would make them fat someday. For the same reason, ITC Garamond isn’t at the top of my list. Type should not be cute. I advise my students to stay away from anything too hip and groovy. These fonts that are all the rage will be like senior class photo from high school and your hair style. “What in God’s name was I thinking?” you’ll ask years later.

When I first started working as a designer I was at The New York Public Library. Many of my projects were for Library trustees or donors. We know money doesn’t buy good taste, and this is especially true with typography. Tiffany (the typeface, not the store) seemed to be all the rage on the upper east side of Manhattan in the mid 1980s. I don’t know why, but it was a disease. I would present an invitation or book design set in Bembo, and someone would pull out something with Tiffany and suggest we use it because it was “classy”. I learned the best response was to explain that these kinds of typefaces were like green shag carpeting. Good people really don’t use that.

The Scholar Adventurer, NYPL, 1987, Sean Adams, good Bembo

The Scholar Adventurer, NYPL, 1987, Sean Adams, good Bembo

The Scholar Adventurer, NYPL, Sean Adams, more Bembo

The Scholar Adventurer, NYPL, Sean Adams, more Bembo

Bembo, Stinehour Press sample

Bembo, Stinehour Press sample

Garamond, Stinehour Press sample: this is what Garamond should look like

Garamond, Stinehour Press sample: this is what Garamond should look like

ITC Garamond Bold, very bad, like short sleeve dress shirts, pretend it doesn't exist

ITC Garamond Bold, very bad, like short sleeve dress shirts, pretend it doesn't exist

Do you want your type to look like this?

Do you want your type to look like this?

FacebookTwitterTumblrGoogle+PinterestShare This Story

Tags: , , , , , ,

7 Responses to “When Bad Type Happens to Good People”

  1. Joseph Says:

    Oh Sean! Ha ha ha, what a wonderful post… but you know you are not in the minority of designers when you claim to be a type snob. By the way, what are your thoughts on Papyrus?

  2. Nancy Bernard Says:

    You are a very funny man. Do you want your type to look like this, indeed.

  3. Sean Says:

    It’s a warning to all who dare to use evil

  4. Sean Says:

    I hope not. Please tell me it’s true.

  5. David Says:

    I have a friend who teaches university type classes and the senior portfolio class for the graphic design department. (I was one of her students, actually.) I’ve passed this blog post long to her with the suggestion and hopes that she sends the link to her students. I was in Memphis, and I’d forgotten your admonition until this. It’s excellent advice from a designer of impeccable taste. Sick title page from The Scholar Adventurer, by the way.

  6. Sean Says:

    Thanks for passing it along. Let’s make it our type mission. Thanks again for the kind words.

  7. forex robot Says:

    Amazing as always :)