What the Font!

By Paul Lombino

For years, I was a Times New Roman guy. That was my font of choice.

Times New Roman was everything a writer could ask for — visual good looks, conservative demeanor and Roman conveyed an image of eternalness. I thought Times New Roman and I were set for life.

Changing times. Then in 2012, I worked with a financial services client who required frequent email exchanges. My principal contact was an avid Verdana gal. For months, our written exchanges never sat right with me — optically speaking. Her Verdana type face and my Times New Roman font seemed to clash side-by-side in our long chain of communications. To be honest, I expected her to see the light and evolve to Times New Roman. But just the opposite happened.

Her richer, broader Verdana structural features tugged relentlessly at me like some wayward brother-in-law trying to convince me to have one more drink before calling it a night. After months of fighting temptation, the contours of Verdana’s type face finally won me over and I’ve been using that font ever since.

That should have been the end of it. But recently I came across an article that explored what font typography may say about personality. Here’s what it suggested about Verdana users:

“If you use Verdana, you probably still use Myspace and Blogspot. Consider switching to Bookman Old Style, which is Tumblr’s typeface. When it comes to Verdana, the name is the most interesting part of this font. Using it says the same about you — unless you have a common name, and then you don’t even have that going for you.”

Gulp. I don’t even remember Blogspot. And when I checked out Bookman Old Style, I felt empty inside. So I took an informal poll of writer friends and asked them what font they typically used. Based on that unscientific survey, the most frequently named fonts included Arial, Calibri, Garamond as well as Times New Roman. When I asked my limited subject pool what they thought of Verdana, I was typically met with “huh, what, don’t you have anything better to do?”

I didn’t. So I revisited the most frequently used fonts on my computer plus those mentioned by my colleagues. If you have absolutely nothing to do today, here are my thoughts on that:

Times New Roman

Observation: An old friend. But Times New Roman has come and gone from my life. Arrivederci, amore mio.

Verdana

Observation: Stout and true. I’m not willing to give up on you  — dear Verdana — just yet.

CalibriObservation: Thin and anemic. Calibri looks like it could use a good meal.

Arial

Observation: Hmm. Arial is compact, yet nimble. Tall, but not overwhelming. Strong contender to replace Verdana.

Garamond

Observation: Garamond makes me squint. Next.

Century

Observation: Century offers a surprisingly classic type face. This may call for a font playoff.

Closing thoughts. Occasional self-introspection is important to dislodge the cobwebs of complacency. As I move toward a full final font decision, keep two things in mind: One, type face selection for graphic designers is a totally different ballgame. And two, except to squeeze copy onto a one-page letter or to set compliance language apart from the main body, I see little reason to ever use a point size of less than 12.

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