I Love Typography

Sunday Type: Freudian Type

The Psychopathology of Fonts

Yet another week whizzes by. I’m in the UK now. I must say, that living in Japan, I don’t miss the British weather. First, apologies to everyone who tried to access iLT yesterday, and got a blank page. My host Media Temple has been dreadful of late. iLT was off-line for over seven hours. Their Grid-Service hosting is turning out to be a waste of time, so I’ll be looking for a decent host.

Anyway, back to Sunday Type. I’ve added some typefaces to the December Fonts in the sidebar. Be sure to check them out. I’m quite a fan of National and Rongel in particular. Tired of Helvetica? Then buy National.

I recently came across the blog davidthedesigner.com and am enjoying it. I really like the idea of his recent first post in an ambitious series of 52—52 fonts you could use instead of Helvetica; the idea is to choose two fonts for each of the letters of the alphabet, posting them weekly. Strictly speaking the types he chooses will not be drop-in replacements for Helvetica, but I like the idea, and it was enough to make me a subscriber. Richard from the wonderful Ace Jet 170 also wrote a guest post for David’s blog (never Dave), titled Psycho-fontology (only Richard could come up with a title like that). Anyway, the post is well worth a read, as he analyses what our font libraries reveal about our personalities.

If Freud was checking out your Font Book or Suitcase what would he think? We all know horizontal scaling suggests criminal tendencies but what would he make of the habitual setting of Bembo or Bliss?

Another David sent me this ad. I think I need to have another toilet tissue category for these.

And, no, I did not model for this video.

Feeling Hungry?

Well, get on down to the Font Diner and ‘fill your boots’. In looking for a typeface to describe my mood when iLT went off-line yesterday, I found the free font Xerker (which rhymes with berserker[well, kind of]), which I’ve used to set the header for this post.

Font Diner

Alec Julien, who is fast becoming a regular iLT contributor with his So You Want to Create a Font Series, and his recent Case Study, has just launched another sans serif called Loge.

Type For Kids

I’m still working on the Type For Kids article. The idea is to propose ways of introducing type and type design to young children. If you have ideas, or have any experience in this field, then do send me a mail. You might be surprised to know how often I receive emails asking for my opinion on this topic.

I’m not sure what to make of this next item brought to my attention by Dan Reynolds from TypeOff: The Ascender Hanukkah Card Kit Font.

This package contains five Certified TrueType fonts and five Hanukkah Card templates ready for customizing in Microsoft Word.

I wonder if anyone has ideas for a similar set of fonts for Christmas.

700 Penguins

I’ve just bought a copy of Seven Hundred Penguins—this is the sort of book you’d expect to find on Richard’s (of Ace Jet 170 fame) bedside table. It’s a book that will be of interest to book designers, graphic designers, those with an interest in type…well, just about anyone really. Would make a great Christmas present too. 700 hundred covers from Penguin-published books, spanning some 70-odd years. If you’re ever lacking inspiration, then a quick flick through this tome, will recharge your creative batteries.

seven hundred penguins book

Oddly enough, I couldn’t find this title on Amazon.com. However, it is available on Amazon.co.uk.

Meta + Meta Sans Candidate?

I bought a copy of New Scientist magazine the other day, and had a thought: presently it uses Fago (I think) for titles and Luc de Groot’s TheAntiqua for the body. I just thought that this magazine would be a good candidate for FF Meta and FF Meta Serif for titling and running text respectively. Just thinking aloud really. Any thoughts?

100 Best Fonts

I’m always being pressed to publish a list of good fonts, or a list of my favourite types. Perhaps I will at some stage. In the meantime there’s a wonderful list called Die 100 Besten Schriften (100 Best Fonts); this list has been around for a while, but it’s pretty good, and there’s also a good-looking PDF to download—containing samples of most of the faces in the list (does anyone know if this list is available in English translation?).


One of my favourite typefaces (I adore it), Martin Majoor’s Scala, is in 34th position; would have liked to see it higher up the list. How about you? Are there glaring omissions, or would your own list of 100 look similar?


Today Julian Schrader posted about a free, rather handsome-looking catalogue available from Typografie.com. I’ve requested a copy, though I’m not sure whether they will post for free outside of Germany. Anyway, if you take a look at Julian’s Very Nice Typography Inspiration post, you’ll find details on how to order your copy.

If you read German, then they have a wonderful selection of Typography titles.

Where Questions Mean Prizes

Coming soon is an interview with Kris Sowersby. I’d like to include a question from readers, so if you’d like to ask Kris a question (preferably type related), then leave it in the comments below, or mail me. If your question is chosen, then you’ll win a copy of 700 Penguins (the book, not 700 penguins. Only one copy available, so if several people have the same question, then I’ll choose a winner at random).

Have a great Sunday.


  1. >I wonder if anyone has ideas for a similar set of fonts for Christmas.

    Ascender has a Christmas collection as well. You can see that here. Christmas font specials are very normal. Many foundries have them, and I’ve seen them for years (I’ve even helped put one or two together). I was intrigued by the Hannukah version because, well, Hannukah seems to get less love from the font crowd. The only thing that surprised me a bit was that they put together a Hanukkah kit without any Hebrew fonts in it. I’d have tried to make one of the five fonts a Hebrew one.

  2. I just downloaded Xerker as well as the “100 Beste Schriften” PDF — Funny Velvet ad by the way ;-)

    Thanks for pointing at them and many thanks for mentioning my post!

  3. Dan
    Thanks for the Christmas link. It is odd that they don’t include at least one Hebrew font—it’s like a Bar Mitzvah without the Torah.
    That reminds me: perhaps you could write a piece here, introducing our readers to Hebrew type. I, for one, would love to know more.

    Yes, those Christmas collections aren’t rarities; I was subtly suggesting that readers propose their own sets :)

    Let me know if you use Xerker for something. Twitter certainly has its uses ;)

  4. I’ll keep you updated — for now I just stuck it into my collection of fonts.

  5. I flipped through “Seven Hundred Penguins” just yesterday, and can recommend it to everyone.
    Unfortunately, I don’t think that “Die 100 Besten Schriften” is available in English, but you might want to contact the guy behind fontblog.de: He probably knows.

    That header properly freaked me out when I loaded the page. (Little bit out of the ordinary.)

  6. Squawk
    That was pretty much my intention with the header type. Yesterday’s downtime pretty much ‘freaked me out’. I’ll contact the fontblog people and ask. I haven’t forgotten about the illustrations, BTW; just a little busy these days. Will be in touch.

  7. I was a bit concerned about your Media Temple statement there. I was thinking of switching to them from Dreamhost. It seems you have had a bad experience? Now I am having second thoughts.

  8. 700 Penguins sounds wonderful. What a great idea for a book!

    The 100 best fonts list is good, though I could certainly quibble with the ordering and with some of the choices. Is it just me, or is Cooper Black so dated that it shouldn’t be on the list? Personally, every time I see that font I shudder a little — it might make it onto my 100 worst font list, although it’s certainly well-constructed.

    Potential question for Kris: When you design a custom typeface, do you sell the rights to that face? I.e., can the client do anything they want with the face, and are you then restricted in your use of it?

    Johno — I’m glad you didn’t model for that video, as it pretty much would destroy my mental picture of you. Oh, and thanks for the Loge mention!

  9. Uh oh… MT is not working out? Erm… should I switch my hosting again?

    You know what I like about National? It’s a sans serif with personality. And the o (and p, q, g, c, etc) isn’t so round that it makes a gaping hole in the middle of the copy. It’s something that’s starting to bug me every time I try to use a sans.

    Aww, I wouldn’t win 700 real penguins? I’m not posting a question then. On a side note, there used to be this really funny site (penguinwarehouse.com) that was a mock penguin ordering site, like for ordering them as pets. It was a school project for someone and they had it all set up to look very real. It always said “out of stock” for everything though :P Unfortunately now they just have penguin plushes, books, jewlery and such. Not nearly as funny.

    Actually I would be interested in knowing many things about Kris, some may be obvious questions:

    - How did you get into type design?
    - What is your favorite font? What is your favorite font that you’ve designed? Why?
    - If you could only design with one font for the rest of your life, what would it be? Why?
    - What advice would you give to new type designers?
    - What is your biggest typographical embarrassment?
    - What is your biggest type-related pet peeve?

    That’s all I can think of off the top of my head. I’ll post some more if I think of them. Alec’s question was good too!

  10. OH MY! That header font is the most prickly and dangerous looking font I’ve ever seen! Ouch!

    Re type for kids, I’m glad you’re considering an article about it. As a newbie designer, the only font I would use is Comic Sans, purely out of ignorance of other good ‘kid fonts’. Talking of Comic Sans, I’ve just spent WAY too much time reading a totally boring and pointless discussion on how bad it is by people who could offer no alternatives. I look forward to what you’re going to suggest :)

    OK, here’s my question for the type fundi:

    What one thing would you like every designer to know about type?
    (I’m a complete type novice, so this will no doubt be of use to me, too.)

  11. That header type certainly is scaring everyone—it’s the ‘my web host is killing me’ font ;)

    iLT was down again today. I would steer clear of MT Grid-Service—just one disaster after another. Anyway, good to see you here.

    It’s interesting that you use the term “kids fonts”. I’m in the midst of sorting out problems caused by my host, but briefly:
    I think we don’t need to think in terms of fonts for kids; the best types are the best types for pretty much everyone. If you’re thinking of “fun” or “casual” types, then there are hundreds of alternatives to Comic Sans. As soon as I’ve fixed my hosting, I’ll get back to you with a list to get you started. I’m sure others here could also offer their own alternatives.
    Thanks too for your question, Roger. Hope to see you here again.

  12. Good reads again! I always enjoy the Sunday post.

    Question for Kris
    What era of type to you most draw inspiration from? From looking through you work, it seems very 70’s. Off? Dead on? Share! If you are to choose a specific era, why do you think that you draw from that era? Age? Location you grew up? Family traditions?

  13. You’re welcome, Johno.
    Yes, by ‘kid’ I did mean ‘casual and fun’. I imagine that the reason that Comic Sans has become so popular is because it is casual and fun, and therefore appeals (or so most adults believe) to kids.

  14. Anyone else have a problem with Blur being in the top 100?

    for Kris (I actually went to primary school with him but havent seen him since):

    Amazing work on MetaS, National and in particular feijoa.
    Being from New Zealand I cant help but feel that it has a strong presence in the Feijoa face, maybe that it feels so organic. For those who arent from NZ (and for myself) could you state how being from there influences the way design your typefaces, if so at all?

  15. Lauren & Cody
    Interesting questions. Thanks. It’s going to be difficult to choose one; perhaps I’ll throw several of your questions at Kris.

    Not sure that Comic San’s ubiquity is related to its being fun; more likely owing to its distribution with Windows. I’d love to interview the chap who designed Comic Sans (Vincent Connare), though I guess he’s in something like the Witness Protection Program.

    Seriously though, there’s an interesting piece written by Vincent, entitled Why Comic Sans?

    Who’s Blur? ;)

    No doubt Kris complained about the kerning in your Primary School text books. Again an interesting question; something I’ve been thinking of these days; I was thinking of asking a similar question to Jean François Porchez—to me, his types feel French; I’m not sure if that’s influenced by the fact that I know he’s French. I wonder if there is something in this—one’s cultural heritage reflected in one’s typefaces. Are Spiekermann’s types German (with a British twist)? Are Martin Majoor’s types Dutch-looking? Would make an interesting post or discussion, perhaps.

  16. A little late but yeah. Awesome Sunday type edition! The blog davidthedesigner.com is pretty interesting, I’m gonna have to keep posted on that. Font Diner is a real time saver when it comes to looking for just the right retro font, love that site! And I’m very interested to read this Type For Kids article. I’m sure when I have kids they’ll understand typography before they can read ha ha. :) Good Stuff!

  17. zachary

    I subscribe to New Scientist and I think that would be an interesting change to use Meta. It would give it a little more style in the titles.

    Yes, typografie.de has some books that look beautiful. A couple have already been mentioned here and I’ve been eyeing them myself, but the price has stopped me for the moment. I’d love to look at Detailtypografie and Die [neue] Lesetypografie.

    Die 100 Besten Schriften is definitely a nice overview. I’m sure there are a few people who would help translate it into English if there is no English version anywhere. I wouldn’t want to do the whole thing myself right now, but if we split it up and each take a selection then we could get a nice English version. Johno, have you checked with anyone about an English version? I’d actually like to translate some other works like the above-mentioned books from typografie.de. Those look like qualilty books that should be available to those who don’t read German.

  18. Johno
    I think my question was linked to the same comment you made below. Does where you grow up influence your type design? I have been thinking about this topic for a little while now and I would love to see a case study done on it.

  19. Blue

    I’m so surprise that Rotis is 32nd. I think it should be lower than that :P

  20. I stay away a few days and come back to find some great reading, John. Thanks for a real lift when the batteries are running down.

    I’m still not so sure about National. But, then, I realize that I have kind of an “issue” with sans serifs: many of them look pretty much the same to me. Right now Futura and Optima—I know, I know, not strictly a “straight out sans”—are my sans serifs of choice. I need to refine, I think, how I look at them, so that I more readily appreciate the diffs, which are so often subtle, unless we’re talking about wild or exotic display sans serifs.

    Odd thing, this year—it’s the very busiest I’ve been this late in the year … well, ever. I finished up a straight layout project, did a paid design proposal, and am laying out a longish book right now—all before a trip. Anyone noticing that? For all the talk of a slowing economy, my neck of the publishing uni seems very, very healthy. I’ll need to carve out some time to read the most interesting-sounding “Psycho-fontology”.

  21. That Quicktime video keeps crashing my browser. (Firefox Anyone else having issues with it?

  22. Alec
    I’m using (Intel Mac) and it’s not crashing mine. However, when FF does crash on me, it’s usually video that does it. If others are experiencing problems, then let me know and I’ll convert the video to another format. Sorry about that, Alec.

    Update: I’m in the process of converting it now, and will host off-site; hopefully that should fix things for just about everyone.

  23. I’m sure it’s just me. (I probably shouldn’t be so quick to upgrade Firefox. Sometimes older is better.) On the other hand, it could be a conspiracy by Microsoft to make sure Quicktime doesn’t work properly in Windows… ;)

  24. Alec
    I’ve changed it now. Let me know if it’s working for you. If the previous version caused you problems, then in all likelihood, others have experienced it too. If you’re right, then Windows users will be stuck with Windows Media Player—scary.

  25. Very scary!

    Seems to be working fine now. Thanks!

  26. Well! Lots to think and talk about, as usual.

    First I just want to make a confession: I actually dreamed last night that I was entering the workshop of a typographer, and was very excited to look at their notebooks in shelves on the wall. This for a girl who a month ago didn’t even know what typography meant. Should I be scared? Excited? Both? :)

    Second, Font Diner is pretty frackin’ awesome. Well done on that link, John!

    And third, I’m going to throw my hat in the ring with a question or two for Kris Sowersby, although I have to say all the questions up until now are really good, and I’d love to hear them all answered! Well-thought, guys! I guess I just want 700 penguins as much as the next type nut, so here goes.

    Q. You have written that you do this (make type) for the love of it, and also for art, for the longevity of art, and of well-made things. For you, what is the role of a typographer? What do you see as your contribution to the design community and to society in general? Maybe another way of saying this, or another side of this question is, what does typography satisfy in you?

  27. Leah
    You’re certainly expanding my vocabulary; frackin’ is a new one for me.

    Interesting question. It’s going to be difficult to choose one. However, I do have a number of interviews with type designers lined up, so none of them will be wasted.

    Lovely to see your enthusiasm, Leah.

  28. Johno, frackin is from Battlestar Galactica (at least that’s where I first heard it). I guess you have to be a geek to know that one *blush* For a real what-can-we-get-away-with-saying-on-tv treat, check out the Firefly series (and the recent Serenity movie… just don’t look at the typography). They cuss in Chinese!!

  29. alison

    Saw the post ref MT Dec 2 and believe that week there was scheduled maintenance but our site didn’t go down…….we’ve been using them for years and haven’t had any problems - happy with the GS too - it’s the first time I’ve ever seen a negative post about MT so caught my eye

  30. A list of the 100 best types? There’s bound to be some trouble, I thought. But, you know what, after reading through 100 types, trying to remember what each look like, and running into some that I couldn’t picture without help, I have to admit it was well-done.

    Yes, there are some wildly out of whack listings. I mean, please, Helvetica number 1? That’s simply because of ubiquity. Frankly—here’s an argument coming—I can’t see a sans as number 1. Akzidenz Grotesk number 7? Some kind of homage to Mr. Tschichold. Garamond number 2—okay, that’s better. But Frutiger and Bodoni that high? I don’t think so.

    I don’t like to use it much anymore, but Times deserves its place in the top 10. Perhaps an argument can be made for it at number 1. Futura in the top 10 is certainly fair. But not Optima? Boo, hiss! Bembo rates much higher.

    I should stop now.

  31. Lauren
    Thanks for that. I had to check what Battlestar Galactica was too ;) I still have Firefly and the movie Serenity to Google.

    Yes, it was scheduled and unscheduled maintenance (suggesting minutes of downtime, rather than 11 hours of downtime in two days); however, it went terribly wrong, and MT have admitted such in this We Apologize post on their blog. They have also refunded me for every month I’ve been with them (for the Grid Service)—proof that it has performed very poorly. I must say that I also have a Dedicated Server with them which has performed very well (but doesn’t take kindly to big Diggs). Thanks for your comment.

    These lists are certainly difficult; and there will never be a list that pleases everyone; however, ‘good’ lists often times help us to look anew and afresh at some types we’d previously ignored or even disliked. Great that they provoke discussion though, isn’t it. Helvetica is a tough one; you’re right in suggesting that its ubiquity has led to something of a backlash—but then, I guess that happens with just about anything. (a cult movie loses its cult status if too many like it).

    I once thought about having a list that readers could vote on; however, the difficulty is which list of types to begin with? And, one would have to determine the criteria for voting. Suggestions on a postcard, please.

  32. You could have a two-round vote. Round 1: People submit their own lists of favorite fonts. You take the top 100 of those and create Round 2: the top 100 fonts from the previous round are voted on for ordering. It’d take a lot of people in Round 1 to make the resulting top 100 statistically significant.

  33. Alec
    That’s a good idea; but, as you write, getting a large enough sample size might be a problem. Might be worth a go.

  34. About frackin’ — to be honest, I had no idea where it came from. I do, however, have a number of friends who are huge fans of Battlestar Galactica, so that’s probably how the word found its way into my vocabulary.

    This is a blog I found via Google, where the author explains why the shows uses “frack” instead of other F words. I know this is off the topic of typography, but what the hey. :)

  35. zachary

    It hadn’t really occurred to me to consider the Best 100 as being in order of best to least best. I don’t think any single person could possibly agree 100% with any list. I’d rather see it in alphabetical order or with no numbers attached. I think having numbers focuses attention on the order instead of on the fonts.

    It reminds me of the Zen koan Everything Is Best

    When Banzan was walking through a market he overheard a conversation between a butcher and his customer.

    “Give me the best piece of meat you have,” said the customer.

    “Everything in my shop is the best,” replied the butcher. “You cannot find here any piece of meat that is not the best.”

    At these words Banzan became enlightened.

    Johno, give me the best font you have.

  36. Leah
    Thanks for the link.

    Lovely quotation. Keep your eyes peeled for the best fonts.

  37. Thank god the Comic Sans discussion quieted down again. I don’t think I could handle another of those. Awaiting your thoughts on type for kids, though.

    Die 100 Besten Schriften was pretty good to me. Not in agreement with the ordering, but the list as a whole was good. Frankly, Times bores the crap out of me. Prefer Garamond, or Slimbach (many folks’ early work often has a style that is lacking in later stuff, doncha think?)

    Happy to see Antique Olive made it. I’ve been loving that lately (though Nord is challengingly wide and heavy), and have been able to use it full time as a sort of brand around here as the non-generic version of the in-every-Apple-template Gill Sans.

    previous post: Font Creation Case Study: Joules

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