Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Font (of) Knowledge

Something that's always irked my inner snob/typesetter is that the unbearably unfunny Everybody Loves Raymond dares to use the New Yorker's typeface in its logo and credits—just compare these New Yorker cover logos with this Raymond-logo hat. Now, I disdain the snotty attitude of David Remnick et al. and love Us Weekly as much as the next pop whore, but !as if! Raymond could even begin to compare with the New Yorker. Regardless, the font is quite nice, if I do say so myself—and at least it's also used for Frasier, which has a lot more ideologically/snobbily in common with the New Yorker than Ray Romano's amateur hour. Hey, did you know the font was created specifically for the New Yorker and is named "Irvin," after Rea Irvin, the New Yorker's first art editor? And he not only designed the typeface and the magazine's overall layout (still used today), but also sketched Eustace Tilley, the foppish dandy who is the magazine's appropriately emasculated and pretentious mascot. Neat.

The site 'Mastication is Normal' comments on the Raymond/Remnick/Frasier connection, while noting that Les Miz and Lemony Snicket also share a same font. I've linked to 'Mastication' before (re: book covers), but in the discussion of fontography he must be mentioned again because of the fantastic Behind the Typeface, a VH1 Behind the Music-inspired short he made charting the celebrity-style rise, fall, and eventual kitsch comeback of Cooper Black, a chubby 70s-era font now gaining popularity thanks to its use on indie-rock DIY t-shirts (BONO FOR PRESIDENT!). I nearly pissed myself.

Speaking of font stories, the site Daidala has elegant vignettes inspired by fonts, riffing on both the font's name and its look and feel. My favorite is the austere prairie morality of the New Century Schoolbook piece (so perfect!), though I'm also intrigued by the idea of Helvetica as a sleek but slutty bondage font. But hey, where's the stupid drunken rambling (with :-) lots of smiley faces :-)), written in bubbly Comic Sans? Perhaps you'd rather just Ban Comic Sans (great cubicle decor ideas there)—or at least learn the origin of the :-) before you use it. Or let's say, hypothetically, that you love fontography as much as I do and want to instill those values in your children: I say just take them to Bembo's Zoo, a flash site that creates breathtaking pictures of animals out of the letters of that animal's name, set in the font face Bembo; the "P is for Peacock" and "U is for Unicorn" are totally the coolest. Of course, Bembo is the font used by Dave Eggers's unbearably unfunny McSweeney's "literary" "magazine"....Ack! Scratch that; I think there's some blogging rule that you can only mention one pretentious magazine per post.

OK, since we're talking about the Daves Eggers and Remnick (turns out the latter is actually Choire incognito), let's say you're so incredibly vain and self-centered that you want to make a font out of your own handwriting. Well guess what? You can! But why stop at pretending that you're just a font? Why not pretend you're one or more of the most important (visual) artists of the modern age? We all know about Mr. Picassohead, where you can wreak Guernica-style havoc on someone's face; and I'm pretty sure I've mentioned the online Andy Warhol silkscreener for do-it-yourself Blue Marilyns and the like. But this Make Your Own Mondrian site has got to be the coolest one of all. I am like sehr Dutch Modern right now, neen denken jou?


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