Once there was a typeface called Helvetica
December 2, 2003 7:19 PM   Subscribe

I'm proud not be a font geek, so I did very poorly. 4/10. The thing is, every time I saw text that looked a bit "ugly", I assumed it was Arial rather than Helvetica - and often I was wrong!
posted by Jimbob at 7:31 PM on December 2, 2003

I choose C.

Lucida Grande.

For no other reason than I like saying Grande... it rolls off the tongue like a latte. Grrrande. Latttte. Grrrande. Latttte. Grrrande. Latttte.

This is fun. I'll go do it someplace else now.
posted by cedar at 7:40 PM on December 2, 2003

9 of 10. The things that catch my eye.

1) The tops of "t" is slanted in Arial, flat in Helvitica.

2) The tail on the "a" is longer on Helvitica.

3) The "C" and "R" are dramatically different in the two fonts -- the C is more closed, and the R has a curved leg in Helvitica.

And, of course, the correct answer is "Optima."
posted by eriko at 7:48 PM on December 2, 2003

8/10 first try! The lowercase "o" is longer in one than the other. that helped.
posted by demannu at 7:48 PM on December 2, 2003

I stopped the quiz halfway through because I was doing so badly. But then I read the referenced article and saw how the sexy Helvetica 'a' contrasts with the blunt Arial 'a'. Now I'm going to go back and update all the MS Word documents I've written in the last couple of years.

Cool link.
posted by alms at 8:13 PM on December 2, 2003

I was just happily downloading fonts. More font stories!
posted by JohnR at 8:31 PM on December 2, 2003

8/10. I screwed up on the upper case. Nice link, btwillig.

Apropos, one of my small nerdy obsessions is trying to catch calligraphic/cursive fonts vs. free-hand calligraphy, e.g. on history book covers .
posted by carter at 8:35 PM on December 2, 2003

M$ redeemed themselves with the wonderful Verdana by Matthew Carter (of Helvetica Compressed fame). It kicks the arses of both Apple's Helvetica and M$'s Arial in terms of readability and cleanliness.
posted by meehawl at 8:44 PM on December 2, 2003

meehawl: true -- though Verdana looks quite hideous in print, something that seems to be lost on some webheads.
posted by Ptrin at 9:03 PM on December 2, 2003

7/10. you can have my helvetica when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers. i just wish windows would let you use type 1 fonts as system fonts.
posted by kjh at 9:12 PM on December 2, 2003

Umm.. am I the only person who actually likes Arial, maybe even a bit better than Helvetica? And I hate MS, too....

8/10. Uppercase versions got me too.
posted by namespan at 9:13 PM on December 2, 2003

Also from Kibo's article (I'm trying to convince you to read it):

It would have either been better if they had tried to do an exact plagiarism of Helvetica, or if they had done a grotesque that didn't space like Helvetica, but trying to straddle this line between fonts that don't look like Helvetica and fonts that work just like Helvetica resulted in what just looks like a sloppy design...Helvetica would be interestingly avant-garde if you hadn't been seeing it a thousand times a day for your entire life, while Arial is wholly uninteresting.
posted by straight at 9:24 PM on December 2, 2003

I don't care, I format all my documents in Comic Sans.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:35 PM on December 2, 2003

meehawl: The only problem with Verdana is that it looks like ass at anything larger than 11-12 px.

I tend to use Verdana for body text and look to Helvetica or Lucida for anything larger... even Arial once you get to 14-16px.

Or what mr_crash_davis said, you really can't go wrong with Comic Sans, I like it unaliased with a hint of a shadow. If it moves, so much the better.
posted by cedar at 9:46 PM on December 2, 2003

The most anal people I've ever met were font freaks.
posted by HTuttle at 9:48 PM on December 2, 2003

Verdana looks quite hideous in print, something that seems to be lost on some webheads.

Yeah, but a print style sheet can fix that right up.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:00 PM on December 2, 2003

Font freaks are more often than not designers. Who are paid to be anal - I should know. 8/10.
posted by Jubey at 10:36 PM on December 2, 2003

Someday, when I am king, online quizzes and such will start giving scores in d' instead of percent correct...
posted by dmd at 11:16 PM on December 2, 2003

7/10- the capitals squashed me, too, and darned if Eriko didn't give away the secret of my (lower-case) success!
posted by headspace at 11:55 PM on December 2, 2003

I'm a big fan of Trebuchet, even if it isn't a standard font...
posted by wibbler at 12:11 AM on December 3, 2003

I send all of my formal letters out in Jokerman. For the kids.
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:17 AM on December 3, 2003

- 9/10 with no cheating,
- Love Verdana,
- HATE Comic Sans with a passion, and
- Use Lucida Console when writing code, though I have thought about using ProFont (thanks to Joel).
posted by crankydoodle at 12:30 AM on December 3, 2003

I prefer courier (new or otherwise).

Disclaimer: I also make "typewriter sounds" when I write.
posted by The God Complex at 12:59 AM on December 3, 2003

Verdana is your friend. Especially for legal texts because you can make it so damned small but still legible. (8/10)
posted by twine42 at 1:15 AM on December 3, 2003

I guessed the first three incorrectly. Then my Mum came in and commented that, judging by my first answers, the gap between the letters in arial was greater. Using this theory for the last 7, I only got one of them wrong.
posted by nthdegx at 3:11 AM on December 3, 2003

It's curlz for me.
posted by damnitkage at 4:54 AM on December 3, 2003

M$ redeemed themselves with the wonderful Verdana

I love Verdana aliased, but I'm finding it doesn't look nearly as good anti-aliased, as the newest browers and operating systems present it. I've actually been prefering Arial on a lot of my pages. And Verdana has always looked terrible at larger sizes.
posted by jalexei at 5:00 AM on December 3, 2003

nthdegx: I did the whole page working on the theory on that theory. I got 8/10 by choosing Arial on all of the ones that had slight kerning issues.
posted by mosch at 5:14 AM on December 3, 2003

Verdana and the Lucida faces were made to be extremely readable at low resolution. They don't work very well at higher resolutions, because of the exaggerations of the shapes used to make sure they are readable at lower resolutions.

They're both crap at print -- but there's the opposite case. Optima is a wonderful face, if printed at very high resolutions (at least 600dpi, if under 12pt, 1200 dpi is better) and is utter crap at low resolutions. Optima has very fine transitions in line width that get mauled on low resolution output devices.

And, much like jalexei, I find them less clear antialiased, but that's very dependant on how well your antialiasing system works.

Personally, I prefer Linotype's Helvitica Neue series, esp. the condensed versions. Lino redrew the entire series from ultra-light to black faces, and they're much more consistent -- the condensed version work extremely well.
posted by eriko at 5:41 AM on December 3, 2003

8/10. And I prefer Arial, much to my surprise.

I will never support a business using Comic Sans on it's signage. It's not wacky, people! It's SUCKY.
posted by glenwood at 5:42 AM on December 3, 2003

Was Verdana created as a web-font? What jalexei said is definitely true - it looks a lot better aliased. Damn new browsers - if it's possible to render aliased or anti-aliased, shouldn't we be able to control this with CSS?

I've been seeing a lot of Trebuchet MS on the web lately, it seems to be the "body font of the moment" - goes well with Georgia as a serif companion.

8/10 btw, and I got the caps ones right (pure fluke).

Seems we're getting back to the old days of multiple fonts willy-nilly everywhere on a page, it's just a specific, more tasteful subset of fonts than were prevalent in the early home DTP days. Is having Georgia as your headline font, Trebuchet MS as your body font, and Verdana for all of your sidebar links really acceptable?

Also, web pages mixing Verdana and Arial at similar pixel sizes is a real pet-peeve of mine. Even more so than people who set Comic Sans as their system font.
posted by dvdg at 5:47 AM on December 3, 2003

And, of course, the correct answer is "Optima."

That's so 90s. Get with the times. :-P
posted by oissubke at 5:50 AM on December 3, 2003

You scored 7/10. Go delete ComicSans.ttf from your machine, and try again.

posted by fuzz at 6:02 AM on December 3, 2003

Whatever happened to serifs? Serif typefaces are still used in books and newspapers, but pretty much have disappeared from the web.

I googled around and found the following statement repeated a few times:

"Serif fonts are easier to read than sans serif fonts. They work very well where large blocks of text are necessary. Sans serif fonts work best for headlines, captions, or any other situation in which only brief phrases are necessary."

On the other hand, the general view is that serif fonts do not translate well to the computer screen.

The nytimes.com web site is one of the few news sites that still uses a serif font, and I find it very legible.
posted by SteveInMaine at 6:16 AM on December 3, 2003

I refuse to give a crap until and unless my output device (screen or printer) can go better than 600 dpi.
posted by alumshubby at 6:44 AM on December 3, 2003

Songs about Typography!
posted by ColdChef at 7:03 AM on December 3, 2003

Another advantage of serifed typefaces is that they degrade more legibly after repeated photocopying. Not that this is as much of an advantage nowadays, but when you have a copy of a copy of a copy of an original, the serifs remain.
posted by Avogadro at 7:11 AM on December 3, 2003

Let's keep the heat off of arial and put it where it belongs, on Orator Lowercase. Is it a serif font? Is it not? YOU DECIDE!
posted by shepd at 7:15 AM on December 3, 2003

10 / 10, first try.

No font geek here, but a little attention to detail and a systematic approach to the problem makes it difficult not to get a 10/10 on the first go-around.
posted by syzygy at 7:53 AM on December 3, 2003

Behind the Typeface: Cooper Black. Via boingboing.
posted by carter at 7:56 AM on December 3, 2003

I use Andale Mono for my fixed font -- I like the dotted 0s. Very readable and kind of funky. It also greeks well.
posted by meehawl at 9:01 AM on December 3, 2003

I missed one.
I use Arial for my site, but Helvetica is the backup font in my stylesheet. It's really a toss-up as far as I'm concerned.
posted by me3dia at 9:04 AM on December 3, 2003

That's so 90s. Get with the times. :-P

Good thing I started using it in the 80's, then....

Optima was designed by Herman Zapf in 1958, based on faces from the Renaissance and stone carvings from the Roman Empires.

I like it because it's a sans-serif font that reads as if it were serifed. It looks simple, but the letterforms are all very complicated -- lines are always changing width, junctions are rounded, flats are bowed slightly -- detail upon detail, making it look cleaner than a simpler form would.
posted by eriko at 11:47 AM on December 3, 2003

So, what is wrong with Tahoma and why is no one mentioning it? It's easily my most popular font...
posted by tuxster at 12:45 PM on December 3, 2003

7/10; my only hope is (was) that I am wedded to a graphic designer. I've used Optima and Wunderlich for my "office standard" but my true love lies with Eurostile -- sadly (for me) noted as titles-only! by my wife. :-(
posted by Dick Paris at 4:25 PM on December 3, 2003

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