THE TYPE SAFARI
Fonts are part of the raw material stockpile that we, as designers, use to build the products we sell. There are many decisions that go into the search for an appropriate face, but in this fast-paced world it is probably availability that becomes the primary factor in type selection. To that end, we are constantly on "type safari," searching for interesting fonts before the mad rush happens. Of course, functionality, tone of voice, cross platform compatibility, quality and price are all considered, but if we like a font, there's always a way to make it work.
Before computers changed the designer's toolbox, type houses would provide large catalogues that displayed all manner of type style, size, specification tables (remember "specing type"?) and the like, for a wide variety of font families. We kept a huge library of these catalogues that we would "troll" for the appropriate font. The web has pretty much replaced this huge library, but nothing beats having the font resources right at hand.
Obviously we cannot purchase every available font on the planet so I would suggest to type designers and foundries that they send more mailers, promotions and reminders that they have the right "building block" at the "right time" for the design I am putting together.
Ron Kalina, Kalina Design,
Creative veteran Noel Petter (Noel Petter Graphic Design, Glendale CA) concludes, "I specify fonts I personally feel convey the mood of the ad, logo, package, label, brochure, sign, film title or any purpose for which copy is needed. If I cannot find what I want, I will handletter it, which is what I have done for 42 years! I am a one-man service trained in the 'old school.'"
Yet a third theme emerges from the survey, as well. Type buyers must be concerned with function and practicality as well as form. This is particularly true in an era in which design and production increasingly blur together — and in which designers are increasingly responsible for the production process over multiple platforms and in multiple media.
At the top of the list here is cross-platform compatibility. The vast majority of designer surveyed were not just concerned with Mac and PC compatibility, but also with compatibility between different Mac operating systems. Other practical matters frequently cited include price, the potential to use a font over several projects, the need for more robust e-commerce sites and the desire to preview fonts online. Enthusiasm for the preview function showed up especially strongly in this year's survey.
A representative comment comes from Mark Krumel of Markitecture in Athens OH, who writes, "Cross platform compatibility is what I most want from a type font. The specialty fonts are okay; you just don't get a lot of use from them. I tend to buy fonts that will solve several applications or work for several projects." Dean Kosson (Design Kosson Designs, Laguna Hills CA) makes a similar point: "Cross-platform compatibility is a major concern — especially in Mac from OS9 to OSX. As far as Mac to PC, PDF has helped quite a bit. Font price is a second factor in choosing to purchase a font or font collection."
A similar emphasis comes from Sally Wassink of Coit Services, Burlingame CA: "Cross-platform compatibility is important, as we have a large franchise group using our materials." A different take on the cross-platform issue, though, comes from Vandna Jain of Syracuse NY, who asserts, "While it is great to go back to favorite designers, etc. for type, it's really going to be about how the type works with the overall design. I'm always up for trying new fonts, but classic fonts like Bodoni or Din are always in the mix. There are so many fonts out there that cross-compatibility isn't really the big thing on my mind. There are plenty of conversion options, as well as Mac or PC Duplicates that may be available."
Which operating system does your
company use for those purposes?|
As noted above, previewing appears prominently in many comments. Says Maranda Byram (Research Mannikins Inc., Lebanon OR), "My first priorities are the ability to preview typefaces as well as price. Second is the particular type designer or foundry. More Mac fonts would be helpful. There are lots of PC fonts." Similarly, Lori A. Fields of Alexandria VA, writes, "I want to convey the message of the project. I like it when I can preview fonts, as well. I really don't buy a lot of fonts, so I am not sure about how vendors can serve me better. They can advertise their offerings more often and offer package deals, because some fonts are expensive." Sandy Gin of San Carlos CA, states, "The most important factor in purchasing fonts for me is useability, whether or not I will be using that font in my design work. Another factor is how well the type is drawn. I really like the ability to preview type faces before the purchasing. For the most part, vendors are doing a good job."
The award for capturing the most key survey points in one pithy statement is a tie this year, going to two of our valued readers.
Brett Pfender (Brett Allen Internet, Evansville IN), when asked about his purchasing priorities, said, "Relevance to design project. Cross-platform compatibility. Ability to preview typefaces. Distinctive, unusual, even quirky styles."
And Dennis Brennan (The Simon Group, Sellersville PA) writes, "Appropriateness for project, range of faces within the family, cross-platform compatibility. Vendor websites could do a better job of providing search functions for finding styles or specific facts."
That about sums it up.