Or at least have an expiration date after which they delete from your hard drive and fade from wherever they were used (on posters, signs, business cards…). We’re all guilty of jumping on the this-face-is-so-hot-right-now train or the I-chose-this-face-because-it’s-alphabetically-within-the-first-600-fonts-in-my-library bandwagon. But some typefaces should go away…and stay there.
I’m not saying that font fads don’t have their place or that we all don’t get caught using our favorite “it” typeface. In fact, I’m just getting over my torrid love affair with DIN. While writing this, I pulled out my college yearbook (which I edited) and was completely shocked to find that I was a huge fan of Laser. But wait, it get’s worse, I used the other version of it…Laser Chrome. Of course we had to set the type by burnishing down the Letraset dry transfer lettering…yikes! I recall another story from college, when my friend Lisa and I were introduced to two partners of a design firm who were colleagues of her father. We met over lunch and discussed the industry and our post-graduation plans. We got talking about type fads and I remember saying “ugh…If I have to see another brochure or logo made with Lithos I’m going to shoot myself in the head.” You can imagine my chagrin when we visited their offices after lunch only to discover Lithos being used in 70% of their portfolio.
This past weekend, while driving in Brooklyn, I was assaulted by the ugly stare of the typeface Paisley as I passed a local shop. Set in purple on a hot pink background, it’s curly,swirly letters just screeched mid-nineties. At least I hope it was mid-nineties. If not, then my second biggest gripe is also true: people should be licensed to use typefaces much like you’re licensed to carry a handgun. To some of us, they are equally as dangerous. Do you see me putting on scrubs, grabbing a scalpel and performing bypass surgery? No, you don’t. But it seems anybody with a Mac and Word can claim the title “designer.” You know them, they’re the ones that take a perfectly respectable face, like Garamond, and then spruce it up with an outline and a drop shadow or maybe a strike-thru. Or, they’ll use the dreaded TypeStyler where they can twist it and stretch it or rape it in other new and inventive ways. (Listen closely, somewhere in Paris the faint grinding of Claude Garamond’s skeleton twisting over in his grave can be heard.)
I’m not saying that you have to go to school to be a great designer (though I certainly encourage it). There are some incredibly talented self-taught folks out there. But you should have a respect for the craft and be full of passion for it (I used to tell people that I’m a designer because I believe that there IS a difference between 1/32nd and 1/64th of an inch!). You should always have your eyes open and look for incredible design everywhere. And your iPhone should be full of pics of great typefaces you’ve seen on street posters or book jackets and of cool color combinations found on a delivery truck or in a window display. And, most importantly, you should be able to understand when to stop. It’s an old adage but a great one nonetheless: Less is more. Which reminds me of the follow-up warning: Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.
And if “everything old is new again” then we can all look forward to seeing Laser Chrome splattered on the pages of the next Comm Arts design annual (and then listen carefully and you’ll hear the muffled shot of my gun).