H is for Helvetica
March 9, 2009 8:04 PM   Subscribe

The Periodic Table of Typefaces (fully-readable close-up) Two great nerd-memes (Periodic Tables and Font Collecting) that look great together. After looking it over, I'm happy to say it has no room for Comic Sans or Arial or Hobo, but sad to say it's also missing my personal guilty pleasure, Bookman. What's in it (or not in it) to your liking?
posted by wendell (37 comments total) 47 users marked this as a favorite

 
sweet.... but...Comic Sans?
posted by HuronBob at 8:18 PM on March 9, 2009


Oh man, Gotham's in it! Yay, Obamafont!

I'm also partial to Spectrum, Walbaum, Cheltenham, Interstate, and Bodoni.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 8:18 PM on March 9, 2009


Only #25? Trajan wuz robbed.
posted by dydecker at 8:20 PM on March 9, 2009


I'd love to get this as a poster and hang it in my office. Optima, Frutiger, Bodoni, Arnhem, Swift ..... yes!
posted by blucevalo at 8:26 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Rotis?
Let's get serious, people.
posted by signal at 8:29 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I am partial to Hoefler Text, myself, but this is a thing of beauty despite its absence.
posted by newrambler at 8:55 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Okay, font aficionados, I have a question. Some of these say "Serif, Sans-Serif" in the space for "Family and/or Class." How can they be serif and sans-serif? I noticed that Thesis, which has some serif letters and some sans-serif letters, is labeled specifically as "Serif, Sans-Serif, Mixed," which I understand. But Stone, Rotis, Officina, etc don't specify that "Mixed," so I presume there is something else going on there?
posted by bookish at 8:59 PM on March 9, 2009


I can't find molybdenum.
posted by mazola at 9:02 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also: these novelty periodic tables always remind me just how totally amazing the original periodic table of elements is. This table does a nice job of using the class/family categories as periods/ types of elements, as well as making the typefaces get more ornate and "heavier" as they near the bottom. But as a result, the rank numbers get garbled. With elements, on the other hand, the size of the element resonates quite clearly with its qualities, and does so in clear periodic patterns. It's a nice reminder of how special the ol' periodic table of elements is, for not just displaying the elements in an organized and user-friendly fashion, but for actually revealing something about what these elements are and how they function.
posted by bookish at 9:13 PM on March 9, 2009


Yay! Meta made it! Shouldn't this be sidebarred?

How can they be serif and sans-serif?

Simple. They come in both.
Scala
Scala Sans

I loves me some Palatino and I can't believe it's only ranked 64 -- but then there are plenty of nice modern serifs ahead of it. There are too many Gothics (five with Gothic in the name alone) and the selection of Displays is idiosyncratic (although there is so much variation in that class it's impossible to be representative), with some odd, dated choices like Peignoir (fixed in time by e.g. The Mary Tyler Moore Show).
posted by dhartung at 9:14 PM on March 9, 2009


No Monaco or Consola? Us programmers with our silly fixed width fonts and preference for distinct i/l O/0 get no love.
posted by cj_ at 9:16 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


To be honest, I expected this chart to be, well, organized. I wanted to see a chart of the basic building blocks of fonts. The stuff fonts are made of. The fundamentals of fonts. The heavies. The go-to's. The tried and true's. Not just this designer's smattering of what he has enabled in FontBook.

And yes, Comic Sans is the poisonous lead of all fonts, but it belongs with its brethren in the danged chart. And Copperplate not in slot 29? fuck this thing.
posted by iamkimiam at 9:18 PM on March 9, 2009


It's a cute idea but doesn't illuminate more than any list of favorite or "important" fonts by designers.

Also, some idiocy: An unidentified digital version of Bembo is credited to its historical source (Griffo 1496) but Adobe Jenson (listed as just "Jenson") is credited to the creator of that specific modern revival (Slimbach 1995). If you're going to do that, you might as well credit Stanley Morison for Monotype Bembo (in metal).
posted by D.C. at 9:24 PM on March 9, 2009


No Arial? Really? I always thought Times was #1 and Arial was #2. Guess that's why I ain't a writer.
posted by Xezlec at 9:38 PM on March 9, 2009


All of the heavy metals are located in the lower right.
posted by not_on_display at 10:21 PM on March 9, 2009


No Arial? Really? I always thought Times was #1 and Arial was #2. Guess that's why I ain't a writer.

I can't tell if that was a joke, a troll, or geniune confusion.
posted by amuseDetachment at 10:31 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Where is Mercury?
posted by reductiondesign at 12:30 AM on March 10, 2009


Like it or not, but Arial and Comic Sans are the most abundant fonts in the Univers. It would be like Mendeleev leaving out iron from the original table, simply because he hated using his rusty old spoons.
posted by Timeless at 3:10 AM on March 10, 2009


…Comic Sans is the poisonous lead of all fonts, but it belongs with its brethren…
…Like it or not, but Arial and Comic Sans are the most abundant fonts…

Actually, the chart is explicitly made up from various lists of designers' favorite / most used fonts, so what fonts middle school teachers choose for their newsletters doesn't come into it.
posted by signal at 5:24 AM on March 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Can you tell Arial from Helvetica?
posted by dydecker at 6:31 AM on March 10, 2009


i got 7/10
posted by dydecker at 6:33 AM on March 10, 2009


8/10

i was afraid of taking this test.
posted by fuzzypantalones at 6:57 AM on March 10, 2009


I'd like it better if the 1st 2 elements were serif & sans serif.
posted by theora55 at 6:59 AM on March 10, 2009


People seem to think that if you put a bunch of things in boxes and arrange them in a vaguely Mendeleevian way, it's a periodic table. There's a cool chart to be made here, but I don't think this is it. What if you organized fonts along three axes: light-heavy, serif-sans, and organic-inorganic (handwritten script with lots of flourishes to, say, Helvetica).

You might see some interesting patterns emerge. Gothic fonts tend to be very heavy, very serifed, and somewhat organic. Copperplate is slightly serifed but mostly sans. At least there would be some overall pattern. This one is basically just a list with a bit of loose grouping. It could've been better but for the 'ranking' constraint, which is arbitrary and really has nothing to do with the measurable properties of the font.

Perhaps I'm overthinking this, eh?
posted by echo target at 7:18 AM on March 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


Doesn't a periodic table chart, um, periods, i.e. progression?

Like, for example, shouldn't Akzidenz Grotesk (date is way off, btw) come before Helvetica?
posted by Sys Rq at 9:57 AM on March 10, 2009


For a moment, I worried about the MetaNitPicking that was emerging in this thread. But after a second long look at the original content... it's clear to me that it deserves all the criticism it's getting.

So, what's next?

The Periodic Table of Programming Languages?
The Periodic Table of Classic TV Shows?
The Periodic Table of Superheroes (or has this one already been done)?
The Periodic Table of Junk Food?
The Periodic Table of MetaFilter Comments?
posted by wendell at 12:00 PM on March 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


I might actually try doing the Classic TV one...
posted by Sys Rq at 12:05 PM on March 10, 2009


(I think the nitpickiness has more to do with detail-obsessed typography nerds and People Who Studied Chemistry In High School than the snarky MeFi genpop.)
posted by Sys Rq at 12:10 PM on March 10, 2009



Perhaps I'm overthinking this, eh?

Not at all. I would also like to see this compelling idea executed in a competent way.
posted by Meatbomb at 12:51 PM on March 10, 2009


The structure of the periodic table of the elements comes from (and thus elucidates)... the structure and properties of the elements. That's what makes it so brilliant. Taking that structure and shoehorning fonts into it ensures that what you get is not a periodic table.

When you do a periodic table with beer, it's obvious that it's just harmless fun, but in this case, there is an honest, misguided, attempt to replicate the structural informativeness of the periodic table but with no attempt to base this on a structure that actually underlies fonts, choosing instead to use valence electrons by atomic weight to decide how many families of typeface there must be and where fonts should go. It's a bizarre muddle that is visually quite pretty if not given a second thought, and suddenly ugly if given a second though.

Props to the artist. But next time, aim higher.
posted by -harlequin- at 3:27 PM on March 10, 2009


I'm with echo on this one. I'd like to see fonts laid out like that. As far as I know there are a few defining features of a font: There's probably more I can't think of, but you get the idea. Is there a chart that can show all this?
posted by joelf at 3:45 PM on March 10, 2009


some sort of diagram with intersecting circles?
posted by joelf at 3:46 PM on March 10, 2009


Oh my god, the Periodic Table of Superheroes? Someone's asking for an internet-wide nerd-war.

... I've *gotta* try this.
posted by bettafish at 4:08 PM on March 10, 2009


So, what's next?

The Periodic Table of Perl Operators, of course.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 7:46 PM on March 10, 2009


I can't tell if that was a joke, a troll, or geniune confusion.

I almost never troll on purpose. Just once in a while on YouTube videos for songs by rock legends.

It was genuine confusion, though I try to phrase things like that in an ambiguous way, so people won't find out my dirty secret that I'm really not that much of a typeface geek. Consider me duly educated.
posted by Xezlec at 9:32 PM on March 10, 2009


Needs more Goudy.
posted by snuffleupagus at 11:51 AM on March 11, 2009


A well done Periodic Table of MeFites would be awesometacular.
posted by theora55 at 3:31 PM on March 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


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