Sunday, 4 September 2011

Confessions of a Type

Of all the truly calamitous afflictions of the modern world, typomania is one of the most alarming and least understood. It was first diagnosed by the German designer Erik Spiekermann as a condition peculiar to the font-obsessed, and it has one common symptom: an inability to walk past a sign (or pick up a book or a menu) without needing to identify the typeface. Sometimes font freaks find this task easy, and they move on; and sometimes their entire day is wrecked until they nail it.
This week saw a flare-up of fontroversies with the news that New York's street signs were getting a reprieve from a 2018 deadline requiring the replacement of their iconic all-capitals format with a combination of capitals and lowercase. There will now be a more relaxed approach, the change occurring merely when the signs wear out. But. the debate rages on: Are lowercase letters really safer in traffic (studies say they're easier to read at speed) than capitals?

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