Sunday, January 2, 2011


Before she retired, my mother was the head of the marketing department at Econar GeoSystems. She was a workaholic like my father, and because of that, knew all the fonts and type styles you could find. There wasn't a brochure, billboard, commercial, or item with the company's name that she didn't look over. She always told me how important it was to use a maximum of three fonts, and the impact each had. For example, someone who knows little about graphic arts will still look at an advertisement and judge it if it looks unprofessional. There are looks that marketing strives for. Fonts are incredibly important to companies because advertising involves a lot of psychology. And yes, fonts are psychological.

How can they be? My communications professor at my old college told me that it was proven students who write papers in a serif font get a higher grade. (She probably didn't let this influence her giving me a C, because I definitely typed with Times New Roman.) But it's interesting because if you see something written in Arial compared to Georgia, yeah, the serif font looks more intelligent. That's probably because most textbooks and reference books are written with serif fonts. 

The film Helvetica appealed to me because of my background knowledge in the power of fonts and my interest in the history of everyday things we never stop to think about. Helvetica. One font, but suddenly you realize that it really is everywhere. And it's not like it's the only font to ever use; it's more the effect it had in the history of advertising and style. 

Like the film mentioned, posters before Helvetica were messy and confusing and full of exclamation points! Super Duper! Let's capitalize Random words while We're at It! Italicize it, too. Make it BOLD because we want customers who are masculine. It's too much. With a font like Helvetica, things are cleaner and easier to understand. This is who we are. This is what we have. Anyone in advertising knows that a company needs to grab someone's attention and make their point known in a few seconds. The most effective slogans are the shortest. Think of a few that you know and you'll see what I mean.

When it comes down to it all, I enjoyed Helvetica. Sure, it was a little long and I might've fallen asleep on the floor, but I'm blaming that on sleep deprivation. The history of mundane, everyday things like fonts is necessary in my opinion. Shouldn't artists and designers be aware of the importance of the things they handle? You don't have to love it. It's just good to know why that particular thing works. 

Ashley Overholser

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