Architects of the Human Experience


It seems a pompous title for a post about fonts, but that’s really what this post is about. Fonts.

Whether we like it or not, the online world has become a huge part of the human experience.  There’s still playtime, and art, and books, and pro wrestling, of course– but even those special industries are seeing a transition into the digital age.  We are slowly translating their powerful presence into invisible 1s and 0s.

And it’s a good thing.

It’s scary, and it’s confusing, and so often we find ourselves out of balance– but it is, overwhelmingly, a good thing.  We are making more and more of life accessible to more and more people every day.  This is a golden age of information and global insight, and every step builds a web of constructed human thoughts that is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.

And we do see it.

The web, for all its inhuman neurons and missing limbs, is a primarily visual platform.  We experience it with our eyes more than anything else.

This is why typography is so important. 

Typefaces are our building blocks– subtleties in the architecture of our digital human interactions.  In this world, visual aids like fonts are the basis of our thin-slicing, acceptance, judgement, and connections.  They change the shape of our living web.

The internet community is endlessly humored by geek rage, and the idea that anyone could get worked up over a font.  I get it. I really do.  A font is such a simple thing.

Much like a vote.
Or a seat at the front of a bus.
Or a wall.

Dramatized? Yes.  The point here is not to equate well-used fonts with civil rights movements, it’s just a reminder that simple things often carry big consequence.  It’s a reminder that sometimes only a small group of people are standing at a vantage point where they understand the significance of a seemingly small cause.  It’s a reminder that perception is a pervasive and core element to everything we do.

Offline, we say that it is not just what you say, but how you say it, and how it makes someone feel.

Online, we say the same. Only here, the “how” does not refer to tonality and pace– it refers to serifs, colors, shapes, kerning, and other things you might not ever want to know about.  Fonts are the centerpoint of influence in these online perceptions.

In other words, if the message matters, the font matters.
If the message doesn’t matter, don’t waste precious space in our new frontier with it.

We’re building the internet.  Use materials that shape us into something awesome.

________________________________

How to Determine If You’ve Selected the Right Font

Method 1 – The Greeting Card

Think about the message you are trying to convey.  Summarize its core message in a few words.  Imagine the scene in which it would flourish.

Now imagine a greeting card– a beautiful, full color, glossy card that features a perfectly compatible scape.  Imprint your summarized message on the front.

How does it look?

Grossly inappropriate?
Grossly inappropriate?
Mediocre, if not particularly effective?
Mediocre, if not particularly effective?
Plain, but effective?
Plain, but effective?
Illegible, and perhaps more a reflection of you than your point?
Illegible, and perhaps more a reflection of you than your point?
Method 2 – The Cat

Really look at your font.  Ignore your message.  If your composition was absolutely required to be accompanied by a photo of an internet cat, would that cat also be a compatible fit for your message?

Is it perhaps too formal?
Is it perhaps too formal?
Is it maybe too childish?
Is it maybe too childish?
Would anyone be able to relate?
Would anyone be able to relate?
Are you shouting?
Are you shouting?

In the right context, any of these fonts can find their way to their perfect home. There’s all manner of thoughts and ideas in the ‘verse, and I really do believe each has the perfect font companion.

It’s just a matter of searching, and the searching is just part of taking your part of the web seriously.

As you should.

You are more than just an internet tinkerer.
You are an architect, laying forth the blueprint of our global reality.

Build wisely.

_____________________________

This is an old post that has been languishing in drafts for quite a while, but since I just recently outed myself as a Papyrus-font-hater, I thought I’d dig it up.

Other than smart font choices, what else can we do to build a better internet?

34 Comments

    1. You’re not a nincompoop at all! 🙂 And nope, without the upgrade which is $30/year, or without changing themes, we can’t change the fonts of our posts. I’ve played with the upgrade, though, and it’s sort of awesome– if you’re really attached to your theme, I recommend it. 🙂 Still, most of our post fonts are just basic. I’m referring more to the headers, and gifs, and memes, custom jpgs, and website illustrations. 🙂

      Like

  1. My post scheduled for today appears to use two fonts. I’m waiting with bated breath to see whether this really is the case. Part of it was copied and pasted and the other part written into the Edit post window.:-?
    I get the Red Dwarf allusion. There are adherents here – it is (often) cold outside! Sue

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    1. 🙂 Sometimes that happens if you use MS Word or equivalent and don’t “paste” into the editor by using the special paste button for such things. I don’t think the fonts will show differently, but the spacing may be off.

      It’s warm outside here, today, but there’s definitely some kind of atmosphere… 🙂 Glad you caught the reference! 😀

      Like

  2. Whoa, that’s pretty awesome. Also I think I missed when you’ve upgraded the look of your page, it’s even more awesome. And those comments? They look like little thank you cards! I’m so jealous and feeling special at the same time!

    Also, since I’m changing jobs now, I’ve decided my job title will be the Human Experience Architect. I don’t care if it’s irrelevant. I WANT IT.

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    1. I think you are an amazing Human Experience Architect. Have you picked out a new job yet? 🙂

      I’m glad you like the new look! It’s fairly new and I’m still adjusting to it, but I’m so glad that y’alls comments are big and vivid now. 😀

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      1. It’s stunning, that theme, seriously, and somehow I feel it’s so you! Like you’re Giving Back with it but making our comments as important as I know they are to you. So that’s pretty cool.

        I’m considering two positions still, but I think I know which I’ll go for (of course assuming they have me, but I think they will) – I’ll be working my way through to the director to make sure my job title is renamed such 😛

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  3. it’s so nice not to feel alone about fonts mattering!
    “Goldfish shoals nibbling at my toes!” 🙂

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  4. Rawr? I feel like I’m in Katie Perry’s song. Anyway, fonts……… I read your post as it came into my email on my phone. Like all the other WordPress blogs I get notified for, it has a very nice, soft pastel quality to it that enhances the reading experience. I had the feeling, though, that when I clicked on the in-email comment link, that I would be transferred to your home page with a completely different font. Actually not that different. But that was on the phone. Now I am on my computer and the feel I got from reading it on my phone is lost. Unfortunately, technology is such that there are too many unknowns even after we, who can afford it, upgrade to a greater degree of font control. I generally haven’t paid too much attention to my WP fonts (after I set up the look of my site) but I like what turned out (mostly by accident) and I really like the rate at which I’m picking up followers without even looking for them, while still feeling largely unknown on the massive seas of Facebook and Twitter, where you have no font control unless you use one of those picture posts like the pictures you display above.
    For my script writing, I follow the time-honored rule that you won’t even get your script read unless formatted correctly, which includes Courier New 12-point,no exceptions, and I am enjoying this font for my dramatic creations. I will typically use Times New Roman (the business font) for my query letters to set it off from the actual script, but I am still stuck in Courier for my synopses and body of work document, a fact with which I am none too pleased (I may consider, based on your drawing attention to it), using a contrasting font for the synopses, such as Arial, which would additionally enable me to keep them to one page each as well as set them apart. Thanks for the suggestion.

    I did use font variation for my DNC Chairman Promo Letter (https://onedrive.live.com/view.aspx?cid=25778F2B4FD49BA2&resid=25778F2B4FD49BA2!1855&app=Word&wdo=1) as it has to be an attention grabber. I think the font changes in the three headlines (that give it the feel of a movie trailer, preview or ad introducing the film by 3 different voices) is very effective and illustrates some of what you are saying.

    As you illustrate, pictures, visuals are part of the whole design. Suzie81speaks has now moving pictures which are both gimmicky and effective.

    Ultimately, however, the work must speak for itself. No woman will stay with or find happiness with a gorgeous hunk if there isn’t a real, genuine person inside, and while external presentation is crucial whether in dating or getting people to read what you have to say, the message is always more the medium than the medium is the message.

    Great article and thought provoker!

    Like

  5. What a clever blog post. Loved it. I never pay much attention to fonts. I just stick with the basic ones. Thanks to you, I’ll put more thought into them in the future. 🙂 (Love the hoity toity kitty one.)

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  6. Alright! I get it! I will buy the customization package and fix the font on my theme.

    Wait, this wasn’t directed to me and the super thin, super light font my theme defaults to?

    Never mind 😉

    Like

  7. Yay, cute kitten 🙂

    The Red Dwarf “Final Notice” would work well in case you have to send another one:
    “Looks like you do have to tell me twice”! (Polymorph II – Emohawk?)

    Like

  8. Rara, you blow me away! I am a big fan of fonts and trying to stylize things a bit, but I’m clueless when it comes to how to do it on my blog. I keep trying to read WP tutorials, etc, but still lost… love what you did here, even if I still don’t really know how to do it, myself. This post is (like so many of yours) visually great! Again, you blow me away.

    Like

  9. Rara, Sometimes I think about sprucing up my blog, but the reality is I can’t find a theme I like besides the one I use. And once the theme is decided you have so few choices. I realize I have a long way to go and far as computer savy, I just want folks to be able to read it and not have to jump thru hoops to get it. Take care, Bill

    Like

  10. When Word Perfect first came out with their many fonts, I went crazy trying out everyone. As with all new things, I finally settled down and realized one can use too many and bury the message in the glitz.

    Great idea for a post. I’m happy to have one or three choices and I’m good. The bottom line, I have one choice only. Makes for more time to concentrate on content. 😀

    Like

  11. “You are more than just an internet tinkerer.
    You are an architect, laying forth the blueprint of our global reality.”

    Oh crap, feeling the pressure now… :-/ here I thought I was just sharing my shit with whomever wanted to snoop into my life.

    Like

  12. Oh, how I love fonts. I have refused to buy books I would probably have enjoyed greatly–but I just couldn’t get past the annoying font. But may I ask why you hate Papyrus, O Wise Architect of the Human Experience?

    Like

  13. I read this; then headed straight to my blog to look at my font. I think the appearance of your blog represents you, so font is important. I hated my blog’s Title font. Temporarily (or permanently) it is now the standard Times New Roman. It still beats the horrible skinny stencil font that was my theme’s default.

    I wrestle with blog appearance. I love your Title. It looks like art. I like a blog that isn’t too cluttered, yet I find myself adding stuff to the side bar or footer. Some blogs make me dizzy when I look at them. And there is one theme that actually gives me motion sickness because of the navigation. Your new theme is very appealing to look at.

    Like

  14. Love the font you have here on your blog, Rara, and what a great post. 🙂 So often people don’t realize what impact a font can have.

    And just as an aside, not sure if you were aware, sometimes a theme will let you change fonts when you use a stand-along blogging tool like Windows Live Writer, without having to buy the WP upgrade. I can change fonts on some themes but not on others when I use it, and I can sometimes also alter the size. 🙂

    Like

  15. I read recently about someone looking at a large organization.
    They found if the default font was changed from what they were using (Times New Roman) to Garamond (Similar, but thinner strokes), they would save millions. in paper and ink.

    So if you have to send Final Notice warnings to millions, the economic considerations of font should be included as well.

    Like

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