Look closely at a good typeface, with your nose touching the paper or the screen, and things will get weird. The black/white/space/counterspace of each letter will soon evaporate until there’s only one thing you’ll be able to notice: the sleight of hand that is great type design.
For example, Ayer by Commercial Type has been sitting in my Mega Font Spreadsheet for quite some time—and I know I’ve mentioned how lovely it is before—but earlier in the week I pulled the ripcord and redesigned my website with it in mind. Why did I use Ayer? I’m not so sure. The letterforms have a hard-to-describe sort of bumbling elegance to them. Each letter is beautiful but they have a wonky power that I want to bottle up and pass around. I reckon that’s because so many websites are SeRiOuS and iMpOrTaNt—descriptions of work in the third person, blog posts that have a tone that is ughhhhh and sometimes ehhhhhh.
But what if we took things less seriously—and what if we made our websites weird again?
Ayer is a big hello, a loud and goofy laugh after a good joke that bombs unfairly. It’s the long eye-roll from a smart friend, a sibling’s friendly punch to the arm. Ayer is someone well dressed at a party—but things are wrapping up now and all ties are undone, all waistcoats unbuttoned.
Where was I? Ah! Ayer’s quirks only begin to multiply in charm the closer we get to them, only when we pay attention to the smallest of details. In fact, when I zoom in, when I type, when my eye dots the curves of each letter I feel that Ayer is in the palm of my hand; Ayer is a worry stone.
What on earth is going on here? Why are these lines made so purposefully incorrect? I have no earthly idea, but it shows that great type design is more of an art than it is a science.
And it makes me want to make weird things because of them.
Unrelatedly, Gary Hustwit is streaming one documentary of his a week for free, starting with Helvetica. If you’ve never seen it before then I’d certainly recommend making tea first (the most important thing in the world) and then sitting down to watch it.
On this note, I love that everyone interviewed disagrees with each other (I think the healthy and punk rock thing to do is to disagree with everyone at all times and forever).
Glyphfinder is a nifty macOS and Windows app that lets you search through the list of characters available—whether that’s an emoji, punctuation mark, or obscure letter that you’re looking for. It’s been pretty handy so far as I tend to forget the right commands for ellipses and whatnot often.
And finally, the other day I watched The last punchcutter which I’d also highly recommend because of how intensely relaxing it all is. The video follows Giuseppe Bracchino carving a capital letter G into a block of metal and, as I watched, it shocked me awake again. So much focus and attention is required for this work! I felt like I was watching a camera pan out as a man was trekking across desert sands and you see how far left he has to walk—hundreds of miles before the nearest city.
Anyway, stay safe (and inside) out there.