These People Really Care About Fonts
A regular mixer brings together designers and typography nerds who get consumed by spacing and serifs.
At TypeThursday, a monthly meet-up in cities including Los Angeles; London; and Bucharest, Romania, font designers critique each other’s letter forms over wine. They hold forth about negative space, consistent strokes and serif experimentation. The group’s website bills the gathering as “three hours of fantastic fun.”
But when dozens of professionals congregate to talk about their craft, things can get heated.
“Are those C’s exactly the same?” asked Evan Sult, an art director in Brooklyn, during a TypeThursday event in December in New York. He was examining a designer’s sketches for a Cuban restaurant’s logo. “They don’t look exactly the same.”
“And why should they be?” said Paul Shaw, a type historian who lives in Manhattan.
“Hey, hey, hey! Don’t make me ask the volunteers to get physical,” said Mirko Velimirovic, 28, the event’s organizer, jokingly.
Typefaces are everywhere. The New York City subway communicates mostly in Helvetica. The lifestyle companies advertising in its cars may use another modern sans-serif font or, increasingly, something more retro. Many large tech companies have designed or commissioned their own house styles, including Netflix Sans, Airbnb Cereal, PayPal Sans, Uber Move and Google’s Product Sans. (You are currently reading this in Imperial, by the way.)
Matthew Rechs, a business coach for type designers, whose arms are covered in ampersand tattoos, argued that a font can be a brand’s most potent signifier. For example, “if you try to imagine a bottle of Jack Daniel’s, or really any bottle, without the type on it, you’re left with very little to differentiate it,” he said.
And it’s not just products. Political campaigns may be remembered or forgotten by their choices of fonts. Many of the 2020 Democratic candidates have picked Gotham-like typefaces, which could be a nod to the geometric font used by Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign.