Even Kevin Drum is getting into the game, reading this NY Times piece about type purists. Following up his comment about how bemused he is that font enthusiasts bother to get bothered about anachronistic signage in films and on TV, may I recommend these pages from one of the folks quoted in the piece, Mark Simonson: Typecasting, and Son of Typecasting. It’s pretty amusing and comprehensive pickiness. (I think I remember reading an interview with one or the other half of the Hoefler/Frere-Jones type team in which the interviewee groused mildly about how it’s almost impossible for him to immerse himself in period films because there is usually some glaring type anachronism at some point. Like that guy in the Far Side cartoon, complaining about the SF film, only this time he’s shouting at the audience ‘they couldn’t possibly have Helvetica yet, because it happened a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away from Switzerland!’ Simonson, on the other hand, is pleased one of his own fonts got used, in passing, in Star Trek. But that’s totally different. It’s in the future.)
I really ought to find that passage from Nietzsche to plug in here but I can remember where it is. Ah well. The wages of a hyper-refined type sense (I am not speaking from experience here) is apparently a kind of inky hemophilia, through which you are capable of bleeding profusely from a minor cut. The world fills up with little letter-y fishhooks that snag your eyes, painfully, but leave the ordinary mass of readers untroubled in their reading passage. Being able to appreciate truly great typography means sacrificing the capacity to find sloppy typography to be perfectly legible. A common enough trade-off, in a sense. Coming to appreciate really good anything means becoming annoyed by merely mediocre samples of the same. But it’s a bit different when the thing is such an everyday functional item. It’s one thing to like really good beer, and come to hate cheap beer. It’s another thing to come to appreciate why a particular sort of hammer is really well-made, and be rendered slightly butterfingered by any $9 hammer from the hardware store ever after. Not a major paradox, I do concede, but kinda funny.