Summer 1996

What your choice of font says about you

Type has become a consumer product and foundries use carefully crafted images to sell it

Ooga Booga, Narly, Crackhouse, Crash,Fandango, Lunatix, Mutoid, Luscious, Vivi-section, OutWest, Beowolf and X-pain are just a few of the hundreds of typefaces now up for sale. Our only task is to pick one, but unlike consumer goods that can be tried out or tried on, we can ask for sample artwork, but cannot usually take typefaces out for a real test run. Buying type is more like choosing clothes from a catalogue: we have to be able to visualise how it will work before we purchase it.

Digital technology has been responsible for the biggest change that type has seen, allowing it to evolve from an industrial product into a consumer product. With that has come a change in the process of how and why you select it: your choice becomes a reflection of your design attitude and even your way of life. It is up to the digital foundries churning out endless fonts to persuade us, the designers, to prefer their product.


Susan Agre Waterman, associate professor of art, Portland State University, Oregon
Mark Kippenhan, graphic designer, Portland, Oregon

Read the full version in Eye no. 21 vol. 6, 1996

Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published quarterly for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It is available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions and single issues.