If you’re a Twitter user, you may have noticed a slight change on your Twitter (apparently more obvious on the web browser version), and that is the typography. The article I read screamed the headline, “Twitter abandons one of humanity’s most widely used fonts” which sounds a little dramatic for a change of design. The font has changed from Helvetica to Gotham. I’m not too sure what that means, but looking at it now, I don’t see any change. Maybe it hasn’t been laden out yet? Even if it has, I’m not sure I’ll be able to tell the difference.
But the talk of fonts brings me to something I may have mentioned before on this blog — and that is the mysterious nature of fonts. No ordinary human being can write perfectly like any font type, and yet we are able to recognise instantly what word is being reflected on the screen, even if the letters are sometimes so deviant from our own written way — think, for example, of the small letters “a” and “g”. We can distinguish so easily the words in hundreds of fonts out there, no matter how different they may be. This seems quite fantastic to me. It’s almost like being able to tell instantly what a person is saying despite his accent, which we can’t always do.
Of course, majority of the fonts out there have very subtle differences, and look rather plain and businesslike. As we grow older, we realise that these are the best fonts for looking professional yet chic, and we start to grow out of our Comic Sans MS. To the font experts out there, there are 2 main groups of fonts, “serif” and “sans serif”. Serif fonts are fonts that have a line attached to the end of each stroke in a letter. An example is Garamond, where you see every letter has these little strokes at their ends. The idea is that these strokes distinguish letters in a typeface and make them easier to read (though research shows this isn’t always true).
You will notice the font on this blog is also very vaguely serif. Typewriter fonts are of course also serif. Times New Roman is also serif, even though it’s considered a “transitional serif”, meaning it’s more modern and less pronounced than Garamond.
Some designers prefer sans serif, and indeed these are better to give off a casual, playful feel, and also go better with art. “Sans” means “without”, so sans serif fonts have no stroke at the ends of their letters. Sans serif fonts include Century Gothic and Arial. Just a note, in some olden terms, serif fonts are known as “Roman” and sans serif fonts known as “Gothic” or “Grotesque”, which explains the names of Times New Roman and Century Gothic. Sans serif fonts are typically used amidst serif writing to give emphasis on particular words because they are typically darker (which is why some people really like Arial).
I personally dislike Arial and much prefer serif fonts, which I think seem much more refined. What do you think?
Also, to refer back to the Twitter fonts to compare, here’s the link: http://www.engadget.com/2014/05/30/twitter-switches-from-helvetica-to-gotham/