I recently read this article from Planet Typography about the impact that one class in Typography had on Steve Jobs, and thus on the typography of Mac and essentially all computer systems as we know them today.
It's hard to have a conversation in an agency today about typography without a young creative speaking in terms of fonts. Specifically, the numerous ones loaded into his or her system. But if you came up when I did in the late 80s, you spent a small fortune on Chartpak books and presstype. And because they were so freaking expensive for a college student, you really needed to think about the typography before you committed to it.
One spring I actually used Cooper Black solely because it was the only set I had with enough of the letter "e" left to complete my headlines. Sometimes I would actually rewrite the headline to fit the letters I did have. Not ideal, of course. But I'm a writer... so perhaps a bit more excusable. But when you have $5 in your pocket and hundreds of dollars of type left (lots of q, x, u, v, y...) you had to make the tough calls. Still, I would stand in the art store and stare longingly at the various typefaces. Each one a completely different emotion, a different tone.
The easyJet logo is a great example of Cooper Black in use today
We take for granted today the access we have to all of the wonderful artistry that has been put into the design and creation of every typeface. To the layman, the hundreds of 'fonts' available may be seen to be too many, and I've heard more than one person state that they will never have a use for Zapfino or complain that Palatino is exactly like Times. OOF! It pains me when I hear it. (As does the rampant use of Comic Sans in inappropriate settings, but we can save that for another day.)
Once in awhile that rare person walks into my office and asks if they can buy a new typeface we don't already own. My heart skips a beat! And I longingly recall the hours spent making those decisions, thinking about the repercussions of each choice.
I'm a writer, so my love of typography is perhaps only cursory when compared to the passion of a true designer. But I know how much more powerful my words can be when arranged by the hand of a skilled and passionate art director who lovingly selects the perfect typeface, and arranges it in the most beautiful way.
Which is probably why I was so thrilled to read that Steve Jobs' own passion is what brought about such democratization of typography. He too understood the beauty of a ligature, the grace of an ascender, the mood of a square serif foot.
So to our young creatives I say "one more into the breach, dear friends, once more!" Settle not for the first font that comes to mind. Think beyond not only your favorites, but beyond the ones loaded into your system. Discover something new, or new to you. Consult the wise sages in the building, desribe what your intentions are, and ask for a suggestion. You will be amazed and perhaps even delighted. Hopefully it will fuel in you a desire to seek always the perfect face for every wonderfully crafted word. At the very least, remember that a much larger world exists beyond the confines of your font list.
A couple of fun sites to visit: (Please share more of your favorites via the comment link!)