As someone who is obsessed with fonts (as you know if you’ve followed me for any length of time), watching this TED Talk about typefaces was inspiring and interesting. I’d love to be a designer of typefaces, but that might take a little too much drawing talent for me. Matthew Carter, the designer of several fonts that you use every day, like Verdana and Georgia, is extraordinary.
Carter’s talk was like a history of typography. He created Bell Centennial, the font that’s used in phonebooks. That font was created to be read in a very small size. He created Verdana for screens, which shows the progression of technology over time. Carter’s work is some of the most widely-known, but I had never heard his name before watching this talk.
“I said to Microsoft, a typeface designed for a particular technology is a self-obsoleting typeface.”
I learned a lot that I never knew about fonts from this video. For instance, did you know that sans serif typefaces were the most widely used fonts for computers because they took up less space? Amazing what the foot of a letter can do, or how much space the lack of a foot can save. Sans serif fonts are more economical. Carter designed a much more efficient serif font that took up even less space on a computer than a sans serif font. Little did he know, the company he was working for had invented a font compression software that allowed computers to have copious amounts of fonts on them (like mine today!). Instead of throwing out his newly created, streamlined font, it became Charter Roman, an airy, light serif font.
Carter designed for Microsoft’s screen, as well. He designed Verdana and Georgia here. Microsoft wanted a screen-specific typeface, which Carter did not like. He said that “a typeface designed for a particular technology is a self-obsoleting typeface.” Microsoft continued with the screen-focused design, and he came up with some of the most recognized fonts today.
Overall, the video provided an interesting view on typography and its development. It opened my eyes to the battles that typeface creators have with the people and companies that they design for, although I suppose that is a given. Knowing the backgrounds behind some of the most popular fonts of today is just another thing I can add to my bank of trivia knowledge.