POLONIUS: What do you read, my lord?
HAMLET: Words, words, words.
Words, words. They’re all we have to go on.
Because I don’t do graphic design and have no clue what kerning is (or at least didn’t until I stopped typing this sentence and went and looked it up) I often take letters for granted. And that may seem strange given that words are my medium, but most of the time I just stick with the Times New Roman font or whatever the default is and don’t think about changing it unless I want to use italics for emphasis or bold to make something really stand out. Occasionally if I’m adding a caption to a picture I might look for a funny font but mostly I’m just lazy and use the default.
And this is true most of the time when I’m reading. I read the words but I don’t think about the design of the font, unless I happen to flip to the back and it’s a book with one of those little notes. “This book is typeset in Whillickers, a 12th century Belgian font designed by an amateur cowl maker.” If you say so. Looks like Times New Roman to me.
It even seems more than a little odd to me that there’s some controversy over U.S. highway signs which switched to a more legible font called Clearview in 2004 but is now switching back to one called Highway Gothic. They don’t look that different to me, except for some kerning, but Clearview is expensive while Highway Gothic is free.
Anyway when I look at graffiti, or any art that turns abstract language into something visual–think Robert Indiana’s LOVE sculpture–I do notice the font because it’s not just the word. It’s also how it’s designed.
That’s what I like about this particular work. It makes me think about how printed language has two ways of conveying meaning: what it says is tied to how it looks. And as a bonus there’s a sense of menace.
Seen any graffiti? Send your pictures to email@example.com. Full credit will be given or you can remain anonymous. I’m easy.