Favorite Fonts from a Font Fanatic
By Lucy Wu
Volume 2 Issue 2
November 19, 2021
Image provided by The Trendy Timber
Usually, I try not to develop strong feelings on any topic, but this time I’ll allow myself to unapologetically voice my opinions. No one asked for this article, but here I am revealing my innermost thoughts on a seemingly minute detail of life: fonts. But typeface permeates (nearly) everything. Personally, I believe how you choose to present these letters matters as much, and dare I say even more, as what you choose to say in those words. Each font tells a story, evoking a subconscious emotion in the reader from infusing each phrase with its personality. Like metaphors, onomatopoeia, and imagery, typography should be deemed a literary device, or a visual one at least. With all that said, some certainly function better than others to accomplish your goals.
Note: Serifs refer to the little annexed feet at the ends of each letter stroke. (If you look closely, this font has serifs for example.) Sans-serif is the opposite: it lacks any extraneous tips.
The Good Ones
Times New Roman – The Classic
Even if you’re not a font connoisseur (a.k.a. someone with a mildly unhealthy obsession with the way letters look on a page who is totally not me), chances are you can easily identify this font, because it’s so universal. That book from English you’re (not) reading? Probably Times New Roman. It strikes the balance of classy and sophisticated perfectly, without being overbearing and gaudy. Arguably, this is the best serif font because of its steadfastness over time and trustworthiness as sworn by from professionals of all kinds.
Not to mention, it’s incredibly versatile for any application in life: long research papers, an essay you drafted at 11:26 PM due at 11:59 PM, or even an email to the dean explaining how you definitely did not cut class 8th period and that the sub just neglected to take attendance that day even though you were clearly alive and present (just a hypothetical situation, of course). Times New Roman doesn’t imply anything you don’t want it to: it’s neutral and unassuming. Plus, if your favorite hobby is procrastination from indecisiveness (which is totally not me), it gives you the peace of mind of choosing because it’s unobtrusive and understated in its simplicity, but still elegant enough to show you care (at least a little). And let’s be honest, even the name sounds cool too. While Times New Roman can be perceived as boring or old fashioned, everyone knows it’s the safe choice. When in doubt, use Times New Roman.
Century Gothic – The Beauty
When I’m not writing academically, I love using Century Gothic for headings to accent my work. But I didn’t always know this font existed. In 8th grade, our social studies teacher Mrs. Kovalsky, used a certain font with Times New Roman body text to accentuate her titles. She used it so much so, that it became part of her personal brand and we accordingly dubbed it the “Kovalsky font.” While some loathed her vocabulary lists or never-ending packets, I developed a deep veneration for this woman because she understood typography and knew how to use it well, employing it to keep the class organized and stable. After much speculation and a subsequent deep investigation, I uncovered her signature font was none other than Century Gothic.
For me, looking at this font gives me internal tranquility and constancy. Oddly enough, it’s nostalgic, reminding me of a time when life could be reduced to a few vocabulary lists and the chaos of high school did not exist yet. Even if you didn’t have the experience I did, just look at the perfect circles of ‘o’ and the precision of lines in ‘x.’ Nothing is wasted with this font, and I can appreciate the geometric design and succinct aesthetic as much as the orderliness it evokes for me.
The Less Good Ones
Arial – The Default
Ack. All I can say. Something about it just irritates me on a sub-dermal level. The way the letters are shaped is just so banal. To the untrained eye, it looks like any other sans serif font, but I can assure you it is not nearly as deserving of the praise it receives. If I told you that you live in a world where the dot of the ‘i’ is not a circle, but a square, can you still have faith in humanity? Exactly. I can’t quite pinpoint overarchingly what it is about Arial that annoys me, but maybe that in of itself is enough to say “no thanks.” Please, do yourself a favor and change your default font on Google Docs from Arial to something much more respectable and reputable, like Times New Roman.
Comic Sans – The First Grader
To preface this discussion, it’s easy to lose friends over the strong emotions that Comic Sans elicits, so read on with your own caution (don’t say I didn’t warn you). If you’re in first grade or younger, I’ll give you a pass. This the only age range where font typography should that closely resemble bad handwriting. From that point forward, it would be a disservice to impressionable young children to use a font that has zero structure. Just look at each character. Not one of them has a spine, and if anything, it adds little wobbles and bends to each letter. It doesn’t even commit fully to those imperfections, which otherwise could have made it an interesting font. The fact that I live in a world where this font exists makes me shudder to even think about it. The reaction to this abomination of a font is visceral for me. I can’t remember when I started hating this font (yes, I know hate is a strong word, but this is justified), but I can’t remember a time when I remotely liked this font either.
On a brighter note, a friend had mentioned dyslexics particularly benefit from using this font, because of its unorthodox lettering pattern. If you’re dyslexic, you get a pass, too. Everyone else? We may have to reevaluate our friendship if you feel otherwise.
Jazz Font – The Nightmare
This one is not explicitly used as a conventional writing font, but if you play a non-string instrument or experienced the misfortune of encountering this writing style, you know exactly what I’m talking about. (For those of you who don’t, here it is: https://www.mozart.co.uk/about-mozart/fonts/mozartjazzfont.htm.) It’s like taking Times New Roman, a perfectly readable and elegant font, and unnecessarily italicizing and bolding it so already complex chords bleed into each other. It’s sacrilegious.
Seriously, why is all jazz or syncopated music written with this font?? I’m certain the creators must think it helps me “feel the swing,” and I can’t fault them for that sentiment. But this is one of the rare times writing in a style is not conducive to producing the desired effect because of the poor execution. From my perspective, if I’m reading a chart for the first time and my part is the integral baseline, I can’t be squinting at my notes, trying to decipher them (plus I’m nearsighted, so this really helps no one). If anything, now I’m confused if my E flat minor augmented chord has an extraneous double flat on the D, or if it’s meant for the B. And merged with the other chords in the measure, I might as well throw away any hope of trying to read what’s happening. Don’t even get me started on trying to interpret if there are now six or seven sharps among the five thousand key changes because I guess half the time. Yeah. If the goal was to hinder my ability to read the music so much so that I resort to inventing new chord progressions to enhance the jazz-icantplaythecorrectnotesanywaysbutitsjazzsoitdoesntmatter, then I guess they succeeded on that end.
North Star Fonts
Lastly, because you’ve read this far, I’ll let you in on the intentional but subtle secrets of North Star’s typography. Getting the intricate and minute details right was an unexpectedly important part of the process for designing this website since I wanted to emphasize a fresh modern take, but still remain professional for our publication.
Futura – The Sans Serif
I’ve always liked this font a lot. I like the thin lines and its uncomplicated design. It’s clean and modern, everything you can want in a sans serif font. It’s Century Gothic’s younger sister, if you will. What more can I say? When I had the option to pick a font, this font saturated the thoughts in the back of my mind. Eventually, I realized I would need a thinner font anyways to accommodate for the sizing constraints of the website, so the decision was fate.
(Sidenote: how do you pronounce the name of this font? Future – ah or foo-tur-ah? It makes sense the first way but intuitively I’ve just pronounced it the latter way. Please help because I’ve never figured it out to this day.)
Museo – The Schrödinger
However, I still wanted a statement font, something to make us truly unique. I was in the midst of debating serif or sans-serif for the main North Star font, a looming choice which caused me much stress, to be completely honest. I felt serif would be playing it safe, but I didn’t want to be safe, I wanted to be unapologetically bold. At the same time, a sans serif font with Futura, which is already a strong sans serif, felt unnecessary and didn’t provide enough contrast. Plus, it would all be a little too modern, taking away from the literary experience. Not to mention, this would be the first font seen by those who visited the website, and thus the one to make a first impression: an invaluable experience. Thus, it needed to be perfect. So when I stumbled across this font, I immediately knew it was a top contender because it is neither serif or sans-serif but the perfectly unique mix of both all at once.
What finally sold it for me though, was not the font itself. ‘Museo’ is a Spanish cognate for ‘museum’ in English, which functions perfectly if you view the body of work on North Star as a collection of student masterpieces set out for display. Additionally, the word can also be interpreted to mean ‘muse,’ or someone who inspires artistic thought, which is exactly what our publication strives to function as. And because we all know I love a word with multiple meanings, the stars aligned for a brief moment, and thus it was settled. The rest is history.
With that, I conclude my list of good and less good fonts, alongside my reasoning for each. Alas, you exclaim “how dare you bash Comic Sans, my favorite font!” Firstly, that’s a hot take, but if you want to contest my unabashedly intense opinions, I gladly challenge you to a (friendly) duel in the next North Star article. Until then, I implore you to choose common sense over Comic Sans.