Due in large part to my long friendship with J.C. Burns, I know a little bit more about typefaces than most people, which is to say: Not much. I know serifs from sans, ascenders from descenders, and have a few watery opinions on what works and what doesn’t. (I think Wired magazine, in its early days, set a whole new standard for “what doesn’t.” Also, my Volkswagen dealer uses the Mary Tyler Moore Show font, which I used to love and now hate. Your opinions may differ.)
J.C. — John — does not have watery opinions. He has very strong ones. (Most graphic designers do, I’ve noticed. They’re always swearing blood oaths over Optima.) I listen to these opinions because he knows his fonts. He carries them around in his capacious hard drive of a head, and at a glance can say, “Caslon.” or “Step away from the Copperplate. Right now.”
So when I started noticing a new font on highway signs about a year ago, I knew just who to call. John wasn’t home, but I left a message on his machine. By the time I reached my destination, I had an e-mail introducing me to Clearview Highway,
We’ve had lots of highway construction in the D in 2005, and on a trip to Ann Arbor this afternoon, I noticed how many Clearview signs are up now, and how much easier they are to read.
Predictably, not all graphic designers are pleased. Here’s a typical argument, which also offers some nice side-by-side comparisons of new and old.
(My guess is, most people won’t even notice. I think you have to cultivate an eye for typography. More than once in Fort Wayne, a computer glitch at the paper would make our typesetter switch fonts in the middle of a story, causing, for example, the second half to come out in the other paper’s body-copy font. I could always see this, but I was amazed at how many people simply couldn’t.)
One final note: Besides being a fine friend, a great website designer and my numero-uno computer troubleshooter, John has also offered to design the new name for Alan’s boat. AND he did our wedding invitations. A designer? Is a good friend to have.
A story you don’t have to be a typographical nitpicker to appreciate: Shame about the Helvetica.
Go ahead, drive yourself insane with the flag game. (I cheated like crazy, and still scored abysmally low.)
Also, a fine read on an actor who’s been in “The Phantom of the Opera” for its entire 18-year NYC run: Imagine it. Eighteen years of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s NutraSweet score, a hybrid that suggests Puccini as rendered by A Flock of Seagulls. Plus numbingly sentimental lyrics, courtesy of Charles Hart and Richard Stilgoe, such as “Anywhere you go let me go too/Love me, that’s all I ask of you.” It’s the sort of punishment that the Geneva Conventions were supposed to ban, isn’t it? But the math doesn’t lie. Tally up all the actual stage time — not counting rehearsals — and each of these three actors has spent a total of 750 24-hour days, more than two years of their respective lives, performing “Phantom of the Opera.”
“People ask me if I get bored,” says Andrews, who seems the very opposite of aggrieved and rarely stops smiling. “That’s not really an issue for me.”