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Font love

  February 12, 2009 — written by Chris Sloan | 0 comments »

I am probably going to sound like a fan-boy jumping on the band wagon from writing this post, but I have to say I don't really care. For the past year or so, I have been making sure that all my website designs are set in Helvetica, or even Helvetica Neue when possible. I went through phases of using Trebuchet, which is a decent font, but honestly, too me it never looked professional. I will have to say I have tried to stay away from using Arial, as I feel that it is the "poor man's" Helvetica.

The challenge

When I was in school, during one of the lectures my professor was giving — I believe it was one of the print design classes, he mentioned another student who had graduated a few years ago. He went on saying how this student tried for a year to use nothing but one font out of his library to compose his projects. I do not remember the exact font, but apparently he was not only successful in doing so, but also gained a greater knowledge for utilizing his font of choice. I wanted to take on that challenge, but at the time was not ready or knew how to do so since it was early in my design career.

If you are a designer and are like me, I am sure you have a ton of fonts in your library that you didn't know existed or not sure how or why you would ever apply them to a design. To this date, I currently have over 3,500 individual font files on my machine. They are from past projects I had worked on, system fonts and of course the free fonts that I have downloaded over the years at the time being a naive designer. I can honestly say, I probably have only touched or worked with less than five percent of those said font files.

This is why I have decided to give up on those plethora of fonts and stick to my guns with Helvetica.

The font

Helvetica is one of the most widely known and used fonts found in today's society. It was originally designed in 1957 by Max Miedinger, a Swiss typeface designer. For more information, visit its Wikipedia page. If you have looked at any signage for modern store fronts or even rode the New York subway system as of late, you have had the pleasure of being in front of Helvetica.

About a year ago, I added and viewed the movie Helvetica from my Netflix. I had heard rave reviews about this documentary and needed to check it out myself. Not only was it enlightening, but it also sparked in me to start using it more. From those that know me and have seen my design work, my work can be classified as very modern and professional. Helvetica seemed to fit right in.

Browsers and font definition

Just recently, the Safari — the default browser for Mac OS and also available for Windows, had been updated to v.3 which included many enhancements, especially to their CSS 3 standards. Now, if you are running Safari 3, as a developer, I can specify fonts found on a system that are not considered standard. Most machines include Helvetica as a default font, but I have started to define my sheets to include Helvetica Neue Light, ultimately defaulting to Helvetica, then Arial, sans-serif. If you are one of the lucky ones to have Helvetica Neue Light installed and running Safari 3, you will be able to see the font on this blog; otherwise you are just out of luck.

I chose to define Helvetica Neue as I believe, not that I don't think regular Helvetica is good for web, it has a nicer line height and better default letter spacing. The light version is just for an added bonus.

Now, I can only hope that other modern browsers such as Firefox will adopt this method of CSS 3 that Safari has. Unfortunately, I am not keeping my fingers crossed for Internet Explorer. That browser is so far behind on everything, even with the new IE8 slated to come out sometime this year. I'll probably end up entering a post about that browser too.

Basically, that is why I am classifying myself as a Helvetica fan-boy. Take it as you will, but I have to say, Helvetica has definitely brought me great inspiration for my designs.

filed in: CSS, Web design | permalink

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