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Commentary

The Times Covers Clearview, Public Begins to Notice Type

Stephen Coles on August 13, 2007

Clearview in the Times

Typography is enjoying an unusually active year in the mainstream press. Helvetica’s 50th anniversary and documentary is getting reams of coverage outside the standard design media. The film will even show to general audiences in New York and San Francisco.

Now Clearview, the new typeface for U.S. Highways, is getting public exposure after an excellent article by Joshua Jaffa in New York Times Magazine. Those that missed the print version, can see the layout, courtesy of Khoi Vinh, art director for NYTimes.com.

Not since the scandal surrounding Bush’s National Guard service, has so much information about type permeated the public sphere. As Rick Poynor so eloquently states in “Helvetica”, thanks to the digital age and accessibility of tools for visual communication, people today are vastly more aware of design in general than at any other time in history.

Some type freaks might fear that they’re losing the geek cred that comes from claiming expertise in an esoteric subject. (I loved that band before they got famous!) Fear not: typography is still way geeky. This trend can only be a good thing for the craft.

11 Comments

  1. Joe Clark says:

    I can’t stand him myself, but someday people across the globe will learn how to spell Rick Poynor’s name. He isn’t engaged in poyning.

  2. ermin says:

    Great article, but Mr. Rick is Poynor.

  3. Thank you, (cranky) Joe and (gentle) Ermin. Fixed.

  4. Tom says:

    “The company [AT&T] had been using Gill Sans, a leaden, staid typeface from the 1920s”

    A tad harsh, I’d say.

  5. Not too harsh for me. Though I’d call it more clumsy than staid.

  6. Hrant says:

    Great coverage of type design, in a well-written piece! I’ve always liked Clearview, and this is highly deserved. This does get me wondering about something however: this is the first I’ve heard of O’Hara and Spear, and I thought I was paying attention. I wonder how much credit they deserve for the eventual Clearview. Maybe not much, but maybe more than they’ve been getting. It would be great to see their preliminary sketches, especially since even that “poorly drawn type” apparently marked a “16 percent improvement in recognition over Highway Gothic”. What’s extra spooky is that 16 percent is the improvement claimed on the official Clearview site for the final release; plus this is after Montalbano apparently increased the x-height to further improve legibility…

    (Did you guys miss me? ;-)

  7. It’s great to see typography getting plum coverage in a “legit” publication like the New York Times. Type will forever be a geeky pursuit but its relevance to culture and related arts is coming into its own, just at the right time.

    Stephen, I love that picture — you and Nick can really boogie.

    With a mind as active as yours Hrant, yah I kept thinking, It’s too quiet around here ;-)

  8. Oh, but I can’t dance, James. That’s Shu Lai, San Francisco art director and curator of TypeGallery.

  9. Oops, sorry I misidentified you. Awww, I can’t dance none neither. It looks like Shu Lai and Nick are having a great time anyway.

  10. nick shinn says:

    They shouldn’t publicize this.
    People will just drive 16% faster.

  11. Hrant says:

    No, it’s all good: it would make pedestrians walk 16% faster to avoid being run over, thus reducing the obesity epidemic. Who says a font can’t save a life?

    hhp

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Typographica is a review of typefaces and type books, with occasional commentary on fonts and typographic design. Edited by Stephen Coles and designed by Chris Hamamoto. Founded in 2002 by Joshua Lurie-Terrell. Relaunched in 2009 by Coles and Hamamoto.

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