Typoholism. An Addict’s Tale

Part 1: Symptoms

A disorder characterized by the excessive consumption of and dependence on type, leading to physical and psychological harm and impaired social and vocational functioning. Also called typographical abuse, font dependence.

You awake in a cold sweat, your hands trembling, your body stiff, eyes bloodshot; you need your fix. In every town, in every city there’s one; you may pass her in the street and not even notice; it may be your neighbour, your son, your husband, your wife, your dog (don’t be silly [ed.]).

Yesterday, I interviewed a recovering addict. Robert from California wishes to remain anonymous, so we’ll call him Brian from Birmingham.


So, tell us how your addiction started?


As a kid, my mother gave me those plastic letters, you know the ones with magnets that you put on the refrigerator. It all started innocently enough, just making up words like cat and dog, then one day I rearranged the letters, and there it was, staring at me, goading me really, “font”; it was my typographic epiphany, you could say.


How did your habit grow?


I used to meet the FontShop guy in the alley on fourth and Main, behind Benny’s Burgers; I gave him the dough and he handed over a floppy disc. Of course, things are different now. I can feed my addiction online.

Of course, Brian is not alone, and it appears that Typoholism is on the increase. If you’re concerned about family or friends or, for that matter, yourself, then here are some of the symptoms to look out for:

01 While your neighbour’s kids are playing Fatman 3 – Return of the Cybertronic Mutant Warrior from Hades, your children play this:

Wii Love Typography

02 Early-stage symptom: you stop actually reading type, and ask yourself, “What typeface is that?”;

03 You think The Hounds of the Baskerville is a book about fonts;

04 You seriously consider naming your children after typefaces (Georgia, Lucida, etc); that’s bad enough. However, if you actually do name your children after typefaces, then your condition is most likely terminal;

05 You email me asking if the I Love Typography T-shirt is available set in another typeface;

06 You have type-themed dreams. I once dreamt that I had a “g” tattooed on my arm (it was Optima, I think);

07 You buy things because the type on the packaging is nice. I’m guilty of this one: I recently bought a ham and egg sandwich (I hate this filling), simply because the packaging was set in Clarendon, and in a rather nice green, to boot;

08 Your neighbour’s child’s homework looks like the sample on the left. Your child’s homework is on the right:


09 You play typography-themed I Spy with your children. I Spy with my little eye, a typeface beginning with…

10 You use your typographic knowledge in chat-up lines (more on that in a future article).

Of course, the best way to get to grips with your addiction is to share your experiences (in the comments below). And, subscribing to iLT will ensure that you don’t miss out on future therapy.

Coming up next is the bout you’ve all been waiting for: In the blue corner, Helvetica; in the red corner, Arial. Let the carnage begin. Oh, and there will be a fun little tool for comparing fonts, and discovering what makes them unique. [Arial vs Helvetica] [The Last Word on Helvetica]

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