Type Matters

Christian Watts

I was over half way through my first article for Vada, after spending far too much time trying to figure out what I should write about when an email from a certain large pub chain dropped into my inbox, stating that I was unsuccessful in an application. Fair enough I thought, I didn’t mind in the slightest. What caught my attention however was something I still haven’t got over. The automated email was written in Comic Sans. For those people who don’t know about this infamous font, feel free to Google the name and rest assured you will be searching through pages of articles on why people hate this particular font.

At this point, after double checking my eyes were not deceiving me, my inner graphic designer screamed out. How could such a professional company use such a font? You may ask why does it even matter what kind of font people use? Is it really that important? Yes. Yes it is.

People say don’t judge a book by its cover, but with increasing competition first impressions are becoming ever more important. They now do count. To me font is very similar to a suit. The tiny details count. There is probably a whole separate article on Vada somewhere that explains the importance of a well tailored suit so I shall leave it to the fashionistas, but for a professional, sophisticated look you need a clean cut, well fitted blazer. The edgy clean lines make the suit stand out, taking into account structure and form. Everyone will have seen that one poor lad that is wearing an ill fitting blazer that is just crying out to be tailored. The statement blazer that was almost just right.

This can be applied to font in the exact same way. Comic Sans is the over-sized bulky blazer of the typography world.  There is no uniform with the font, there is no symmetry or structure behind each individual letter. Some letters look bulky and out of place and there is an air that is completely unprofessional. By all means I’m sure there is a purpose somewhere in the world for fonts like Comic Sans, however, if you’re going for a formal, professional finish to design, then it is definitely not there.

It may surprise some people how much of an impact some of these tiny details have; it even surprised me as a design student when I had to research typography in depth. Even though I don’t confine myself to being a ‘graphic’ designer, I find type to still be incredibly powerful. You only need to walk down a city’s high street to notice that stores such as Topshop and River Island use incredibly similar fonts for their design. It reflects the nature of what you’re going to find in the store: modern, classy and clean cut.

If Topman’s design for example was created using a ‘quirky’ font such as comic sans: a) graphic designers would either laugh or cry and b) you’d expect to find a toy or joke with every purchase. Font is incredibly, incredibly important in saying who we are and what you should expect. There’s a lovely little coffee shop called Rococo in Liverpool’s city centre. The name is scrawled across the top of the café in this curly decorative writing. You expect it to be twee, elegant and fancy, and that is exactly what you will find. It is this first impression that will stick with you.

This will hopefully have given you an insight into the stress a graphic designer goes through when having to pick out the tiny details like font. It is the clean cut lines with a fitted structure that will wow and impress, not the odd, blocky shapes that you think are ‘quirky’. Remember, type matters, and please never ever use comic sans in the work place. Unless you work in the entertainment industry as a clown, then feel free.

About Christian Watts

Christian is a soon-to-be design student at Goldsmiths, London. Originally from (near) Liverpool, he can usually be found with a camera or sketchbook. Works at art galleries pretending he knows what he's talking about. Follow on twitter @cjfwatts