Saturday, November 25, 2017

Comic Sans, the Font People Love to Hate by Paige Shelton


JENN McKINLAY: I've known Paige for so long, I actually can't remember how we met or when we met. I'm just grateful that we did. And now that geography is our friend, too, she lives close enough to do lunch whenever one of us is going sideways in our writing or we just want to have a few laughs (she's very funny) before we get back on the wordsmith chain gang.
Without further ado, here's Paige!


PAIGE SHELTON: I chuckled when someone retweeted a tweet about my upcoming book, COMIC SANS MURDER. They said, “This is perfect! I’ve often wanted to kill someone for using Comic Sans.”

Yes, Comic Sans tends to get the short end of the Bic. In fact, Twitter once tweeted that most server space complaints are first about airlines, second about Comic Sans, and third, Justin Bieber.

Available December 5th!
Poor font. I didn’t understand such derision. A little research was in order.  

Comic Sans was created in 1995 by Microsoft designer Vincent Connare. In fact, he was trying to right a wrong. He had been given a beta version of Microsoft Bob, a software package designed for kids. The package included a dog, Rover, and message balloons with messages written in Times New Roman. Well, that seemed unfitting, so Vincent set out to create something more . . . fun, I expect. I think he nailed it.


Sadly, Comic Sans wasn’t ready in time for Rover, so instead the font was released with Windows 95, and all Helvetica broke loose. New life was breathed into bake sale flyers and birthday party invitations everywhere. For a while, people loved it. I think most people actually still like the font, but maybe akin to liking Justin Bieber, it’s just not a cool thing to admit. (Or is it cool to admit you like Justin Bieber? Well, you know what I mean.)
To me, Comic Sans is like Helvetica’s slightly tipsy cousin, the fun one who laughs too loud when they’re out in public, but is still loveable. The cute one we all just smile and shake our heads at.

JENN: I love Comic Sans, then again, I think I might be the tipsy cousin. LOL!

Anyway, as research sometimes will do, I felt a need to look deeper. What if I could design my own font? Surely, it would be a creative challenge, and if I came up with something good, that no one could resist using, maybe I could trademark it and make everyone pay me money to use it. It would have a real Impact, and I’d be rich!

It’s a real thing. People really do design fonts. Sadly, it’s not a quick and easy undertaking. The process can be long, and it takes quite a bit of thought. You have to consider where the typeface will be used, the people who will be reading it, blah, blah, blah. Clearly, probably not my Forte.

However, it’s also an artistic pursuit. You begin with your hands, your handwriting, and your creative genius. You digitize that genius and work from there. After much experimenting with all the letters, in both cases, and all the symbols, you just might have your own font.

Let’s say you want to protect your font, there are ways. Those copyright and patents options fall under something called The Black Letter Law. Isn’t that a cool name for a boring old law? I would like to write a book with that title someday.

And then, marketing isn’t easy, but it’s doable. There are type resellers that sell fonts to graphic design companies. Sadly, I didn’t get the impression there was a lot of big money there. Oh, well, maybe I’ll win the lottery.

My artistic senses tingled a little at the idea though, so I grabbed a piece of paper and a pencil. And, here it is, my one letter, one case font. Dragonbite. I won’t be seeking any special protection for it, so feel free to use at will. I signed it just to give it that extra-special Flair. 



JENN: I love it! I see a big Futura for you in font design, Paige!

COMIC SANS MURDER is the third book in my Dangerous Type mysteries. It will be available December 5.

Thanks to Jenn McKinlay, all the amazing Jungle Red Writers, and everyone reading today for letting me stop by.

JENN: Delighted to spend time with you, as always, Paige. And now, Reds and Readers, what's your go to font? What font do you despise? Or are you scratching your head, asking "What's a font?"

Most of my research came from these articles:

67 comments:

  1. Congratulations on the new book, Paige . . . would you please tell us a bit about it?

    I am chuckling over this post, mostly because I have a love/hate relationship with some fonts. I really, really, really dislike Times New Roman. I do like Comic Sans, but my go-to font of choice is the ever-so-easy-to-read Century Gothic. I think it must be a holdover from teaching Little Ones to print . . . all those circle and stick letters that Century Gothic does so well . . . .

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    1. Hi Joan - I love Century Gothic! It's so wonderfully clean and calming. I actually use it for a round of edits. When I switch fonts from something like TNR, Century Gothic gives my eyes a whole new look at the words.

      COMIC SANS MURDER is the third book in my Dangerous Type series. The series is set in the imaginary ski town of Star City, Utah - quite a bit like Park City, Utah. Clare and her grandfather own an old shop on Bygone Alley - The Rescued Word - where they repair old typewriters and old books, and sell stationery from all over the world. The mystery in COMIC SANS revolves around a disembodied foot found inside a ski boot on the slopes, Clare's old high school friends, and some Hoovens - which are valuable old typewriters that used player piano parts and Underwoods to create the first automated multiple copy system (the first computer, some say). A horror author has also come to town, making the discovery of the foot and then the murder even more mysterious. It was very fun to write. Thanks so much for asking.

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  2. My big sister is a graphic designer, so I was introduced to the concept of font design at a relatively tender age. I lean toward Palatino in personal letters, but Times New Roman gets my vote for grant proposals, just because it's reassuring to folks with lots of money that my company is not so artsy and frivolous as to use Baskerville or Bookman. I was fascinated to discover that there's a whole realm of font design devoted to making it easier for people with dyslexia to read. What a great idea! (You can see one of the more elegant fonts for that here: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-font-that-helps-dyslexics-read-better/).

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    1. Gigi - that is so fascinating! Thanks for sharing. The thought and care that went into creating Dyslexia makes my heart skip a beat or two. Lovely. And Palatino is definitely one of the best!

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  3. Thanks for an education on font design, Paige. Some font designers must be the most widely "published" designers on the planet! I'm one of those people who like Comic Sans, when used in the proper setting, of course. My go to fonts are Times New Roman and Calibri.

    I second Joan's request for more info on the new book!

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    1. Thanks, Ingrid! Do you switch fonts from version to version of a single book? Or, do you stick with one font through the whole process?

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  4. Congratulations on the new book, Paige! I enjoyed reading the first two Dangerous Type mysteries.

    I worked for the Canadian federal government and wrote many technical reports and scientific journal articles. Publishers have rigid formatting guidelines on how you format your manuscript. I would say they used Times New Roman 12 pt for the main text 90% of the time!

    We have more flexibility with emails but generally used Helvetica (or Arial) fonts.

    Pretty boring, right? Not much room for creative font choice!

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    1. Not boring at all! It only makes sense that government documents have the continuity, and Times New Roman is familiar and easy to read. I turn in my manuscripts with TNR, but use different fonts with different drafts that only I and a few early readers see along the way. If I remember correctly, back when I first was published Publishers required either Times New Roman or Courier. I don't know if that's still the same. Anyone?

      Thanks for reading the books!

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  5. Love this ! The font I despise is Zapf Fino. SO hard to read.
    I sat by a guy on the Acela once who was a font designer/expert and he told me all kinds of great stories..all of which I forget right now.!Of course.

    But I was recently in a huge font discussion—my new book is a book in a book —so the real action is in Times New Roman. But what is the most opposite and differentiated so that readers instantly know it is the “book”?
    We eventually decided on the one I had used in the original manuscript—Franklin Gothic Bokd.
    What a fun discussion! Hurray , Paige!

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  6. And my secret story idea is that soneonr sends a code—in Wingdings.

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    1. I always thought that would make a great code, Hank!

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    2. Thanks, Hank! And, I love what you're doing with your new book - different font/different book-time. I can't wait to read it!

      Sign me up for a Wingding secret message club, Karen and Hank. Dingbats unite!

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  7. Welcome Paige! I'm so jealous about you and Jenn getting to pop off and have lunch! and I haven't tried this series but it sounds delightful. Like Joan, I want to hear more about the new book!

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    1. Thanks, Roberta/Lucy! Lunches with Jenn are way too much fun. :) I blurbed a bit of the book back at the top comment. Thanks for asking. Come to Arizona and lunch with us!

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  8. I love this post! I love playing around with fonts. I don’t like Times new Roman. My favorite font for “official” documents is Arial.

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    1. Thanks, Chris! My husband and I were recently debating if the Arial font was appropriate to the restaurant menu we were reading. We decided it worked well. :)

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  9. Comic Sans is annoying but there is (or was) a even more annoying font. I don't know the the name but it looked like letters cut out of random magazines. I always thought of it as the ransom note font!

    I teach college writing and while I don't require a specific font for student papers, I tell them it has to be a medium, easy-to-read font with serifs. Most settle in good old Times News Roman. Whew!

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    1. Thanks, Cathy! I would love to know the name of the ransom note font. I think I can picture it in my head, but if anyone knows, please share. I bet teaching college writing is quite fun, and satisfying. Do college students today automatically know what serifs are, or do you have to explain? I wouldn't have known when I was in college.

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    2. Hi Paige! I googled looking for the name of that font and I'm finding similar fonts called "Rasom" and "Ransomizer"! LOL.

      Teach college writing is fun, although the grading often feels overwhelming. I usually have to explain serifs and why they make text easier to read. I've seen some hilarious memes on Facebook about writing teachers and fonts. One said something like "If your research papers is written in anything other than Times New Roman, I will set it on fire!" RTFL

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  10. One of my favorite fonts is Garamond--originally created by French engravers in the sixteenth century--with modern variations available in the computer age. Times New Roman--like Grace and Gigi--mandatory in government reports, proposals, etc. Serviceable, but so boring. For making my own greeting cards, letters, poetry, etc., I love to experiment with fonts. I'll be looking out for the Dangerous Font series, Paige, congrats on the new title!

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    1. Love Garamond! I use it in my e-mails at work.

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    2. Very cool history, Flora. I can even imagine the French engravers at work. Thanks so much!

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  11. I find that I have way better things to do with my time and to vent my easily burned out rage on than a darn font.

    I generally use Times New Roman or Calibri but not out of any long bit of research to determine what I like best. The former is pretty much default and the latter came by accident.

    Either way, I have no hatred of Comic Sans or any other font. It seems a bit silly that there is all this metaphorical rending of clothes or tearing out of hair over it.

    As for Paige's new book, I haven't read the Dangerous Type series, though I do have Book 1. But I must say that I absolutely loved The Cracked Spine, the first in your Scottish Bookshop series and I am so eager to read the second one that is due out early in 2018. I loved that book and those characters from Page 1. It may have to do a little with the fact that Scotland is one of the three countries I would like to visit someday but the well told tale was also a big factor.

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    1. Thanks so much, Jay! Oh, I do hope you get to visit Scotland someday. It's an incredible place. Thanks again!

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  12. Such fun, and such a great topic for puns. Please tell us more about the book. We've been doing a lot of online signing of official documents lately, as we buy a house, and I don't just accept the default font that is provided for electronic signatures. No, I have to go through and see what my signature looks like in different fonts. The key element is often what they do with the capital F, my middle initial; there is more variation there than elsewhere in my name. Cathy's ransom note font sounds like a good story hook.

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    1. Hi Jim - I blurbed a bit of the book back up at the first comment. Thanks for asking! I'm just like you - signing electronic documents definitely requires choosing something other than the default font. I think it's fascinating that the F is something to watch out for - I bet I start noticing F's now. Thanks again!

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  13. I generally use what is set up for fonts: Times New Roman or Arial. I think I played with Baskerville(?) once but decided it was too hard to read. I like your Dragonbite A. Very distinguished looking (GOT fan?) Looking out for your books, Paige!

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    1. Thanks so much, Pat! The cat in COMIC SANS MURDER is named Baskerville. He's the offspring of Arial. See what I did there? :) Thank you!

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  14. American Typewriter and Chalkboard are what I use -- but I love Comic Sans - great for so many things. I am always interested in the note at the end of books that tells what the font was. See Gutenberg's print was a high point of my life.

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    1. I LOVE Chalkboard. I can only imagine what it was like to see a Gutenberg print. I swoon at the mere thought. Thanks, Denise Ann!

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  15. Okay, I admit to being a recovering Comic Sans users; that was a long time ago. I write almost entirely in Calibri, submit mss in Times New Roman, and any websites I manage are in Verdana.

    The font I loathe.... Courier. Too typewritery.

    Thanks for this discussion, Paige. Font geeks will always find each other.

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    1. "Recovering Comic Sans user." LOL! I'm not a fan of Courier either. It makes me feel . . . intrusive, I think. It's too spread out maybe? Thanks, Susan!

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  16. So interesting to learn the history of Comic Sans -- I've always thought it kind of a happy font, and now I know why. I love picking a random font to write in occasionally, changing it back to a standard like Arial or TNR before submitting, but then I learned the hard way, with a chiding note from a magazine editor, that certain formatting elements are lost in translation. So now I confine such play to personal notes and email -- and isn't it great that we can do that? Thanks for making word nerds happy!

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    1. Thank you, Leslie! Yeah, I once turned in a book with three lines in a different font than the rest. It did not go well for me. Always good to find more word nerds. :)

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  17. This was such a fun post! I actually like Comic Sans. The font I loathe is Times New Roman, and almost become violent when documents default to it. It's just so stodgy and BORING! Thanks for sharing the history with us. I look forward to reading your latest book.

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    1. Thanks, Pattie, Times New Roman conqueror. ;)

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  18. Great topic, Paige, and the book title intrigues!

    Garamond is an elegant typeface, and I used it for awhile for a business newsletter I wrote for several years. The woman who designed the title and cover of my first book, which I self published in 1993, used Poppl Laudatio. Which was an Apple type, and which I could not reproduce on my own later when I decided to turn it into electronic format.

    Now I mostly use boring old Times New Roman and Calibri, but I like Arial for email.

    Except for Halloween invitations. I spend a lot of time designing them, and found a cool font called Captain Howdy to use for invitations that looked like Ouija boards. Don't you wonder where some of these names came from?

    A young friend and her husband have a graphic design firm, ad she designed a lovely, fluid font that I see used all the time in signs and other hip decorative items.

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    1. So cool, Karen! I had to look up both Poppl Laudatio and Captain Howdy. Both are great - and I was taken right back to my Jr. High slumber party Ouija board event when I saw Captain Howdy. Thanks so much!

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  19. I'm a Times New Romans man. I don't have time to play with all these other fonts.

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    1. Thanks, Mark - all Times New Roman, all the time. :)

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  20. I love Garamond! We should form a Garamond club:-) And I HATE Times New Roman. It looks all squished to me. For business I usually use Arial or Calibri. For manuscripts, I still write the way I was taught, in Courier New. It's so easy to read, and to edit.

    My hubby and I design our own Christmas cards every year and we always have fun picking out the font--but we can never remember what we used the year before.

    Jim Collins, I'm going to try your signature test. What fun!

    And Paige, congrats on the book and the clever idea for a series. Can you tell us more?

    And can you tell us about your Scottish Bookshop series? That really intrigues me.

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    1. Thanks, Deborah - I blurbed a bit about the new book up at the top comment. The Scottish Bookshop series is set in Edinburgh. Delaney Nichols, Kansas native, takes a job at The Cracked Spine, a used and rare manuscript and bookshop in Edinburgh. Secret back rooms full of valuable treasures, mysterious coworkers, and handsome pub owners in kilts are only the beginning for Delaney as murders ensue. The third book, LOST BOOKS AND OLD BONES, pubs next April. Thanks for asking. :)

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    2. Debs, I think it's so cool that you and your husband design your own cards and pick out a font.

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  21. Loved your background on Comic Sans... which I do like. I enjoy using all sorts of fonts (check out the site 1001freefonts.com - I can spend way too much time looking at all the fonts!) but lean towards using more fun script fonts when I'm being creative.

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    1. Hi Kim! Thank you - I will check out that site. You are a recipe magician. Do you switch up your fonts for your posts, or do you like one more than the others? Thank you!

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  22. Fontastic post, Paige! Thanks for visiting us today and congrats on the new book! I love Comic Sans but then I love all the fonts!

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    1. Thanks for letting me stop by, Jenn! Hope to see you soon.

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    2. Hahaha! I love a good pun, Jenn!

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    3. Definitely, Paige! Thanks, Kathy :)

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  23. Comic sans is such a fun font. Used it on the job for a while for my work e-mail font, then they made me stop. Silly old law firm.

    Like Jenn, I love all the fonts. When IBM Selectrics were popular I wrote a short story where the ransom notes and kidnappers directions were typed using different symbol and letter elements (the font balls) to comprise a single ransom note. Of course, only one typewriter was used....

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    1. Oh now see - that's cool. Did you have to change the font balls, or was there a different way, like a shift key or something? Thanks, Kait!

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  24. I enjoyed Comic Sans when teaching my junior high students to use computers. Now I'm intrigued by the font designed to aid dyslexic readers, because its clarity could be helpful to aging eyes as well. Whatever font we choose, it's so nice to use a computer for organizing all the words. My ex helped with printing software in the early '70s, replacing tons of lead type with computer files (and stacks of punch cards) -- we've come so far.

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    1. Thanks, Storyteller Mary - goodness, I can only imagine the job your ex had to do. Sounds tedious and wonderfully interesting at the same time. I'm right there with you on the font for dyslexic readers - completely intrigued.

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  25. Paige, your post has had me playing with fonts this morning and adding your books to my Amazon wish list. Actually, I already have A Christmas Tartan on my Kindle for a Christmas read, and I've pre-ordered Comic Sans Murder, with the plan to order the first two also for my Christmas books I get myself. But then I really want to start the Scottish Bookshop Mysteries, too, and I have other series I've been trying to get to. What's a gal to do with so much great reading to enjoy? Hahaha!

    The reason I've thought about fonts before is because of my reading blog. I can't seem to find an available one I'm completely pleased with. Helvetica is the closest thus far, although I've used Verdana, too. For my word documents, my font is usually Calibri.

    Your information here about fonts, Paige, is so interesting. To create a new font must be loads of work. I like the Comic Sans font, and now that I'm aware of it, I might use it more. And, I've enjoyed reading what others here have to say about fonts, too. I may be starting an obsession with fonts today. I know I will start paying more attention to the end of books where it states what font was used.

    I don't know if any of you have seen the Tracey Ullman video about blaming the victim, in this case a man who has been robbed and is dressed for success. A police officer interrupts the conversation with the robbing victim to tell Tracey, the detective, that there is a man waiting to see her who has been receiving harassing emails for months. She tells the officer to find out what kind of font the victim has been using in his emails, because if it's a certain font (and it sounds like it's a type of Helvetica she says), the man has probably brought it on himself.

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    1. Oh Kathy, thanks for sharing the Tracey Ullman story! I have had a few colleagues that enjoyed using creative fonts in interesting colors for emails and the like. It was probably loads of fun for them, but not so much for the person trying to decipher/read the emails!

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    2. Hi Kathy - I replied, but apparently I didn't hit "reply." My reply is the next post. Sorry about that, and thanks!

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  26. Hi Kathy - I have seen that video, and loved it, with a little extra personal fondness for the font part. Good luck on your font journey! It's truly a fun and interesting ride, as well as a creative outlet. And thanks for taking a look at my books; much appreciated. :)

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  27. I love Comic Sans! Other favorites are Century Gothic and some of the Lucida fonts. At work I usually use Arial or Times New Roman. I've had to fight with my computer to have it not revert to Calibri, which I hate. Among my duties I conduct several kinds of audits each year. I keep a progress notes file for each one. Nobody sees the notes except for me, and I pick a different font each year, just for variety.

    DebRo

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    1. Very smart - a different one for every year! Your own personal secret code. Thanks, Deborah!

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  28. I love playing around with fonts. My current fave is Candara - serif with elegance, I call it. Now I must go and find Paige’s books to read. Thanks for the post today; an interesting topic, indeed.

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  29. My Greeting Card program has a huge selection of fonts, and I do use a variety but I have to avoid the more elaborate ones because I'm sending to older people who can't see well. When I was working, I had to tell the people who were putting out alerts for the building that they had to stop using colored backgrounds. I have myopic degeneration that makes words against most colored backgrounds unreadable.

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    1. Myopic degeneration is a challenge. Hopefully, coworkers are abiding. You've got me searching for good greeting card programs. I'm intrigued. Thanks, Sally!

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  30. I hardly pay conscious attention any more to fonts. (Except when by mistake someone switches from serif to sans serif with no apparent rhyme or reason.) However, my love affair probably started when IBM introduced the Selectric typewriter (mentioned above) at the New York World's Fair in 1964, I think. I was just ten but I made such a fuss about it, that my dad promised to buy me one (they were selling for something like $800 at the time) if I got all A's in my senior year of high school. Later on, as an adult, I was to . become a typographer. Hot type with lead was becoming passe and cold type was becoming the standard. And close on its heals came digitization. Not just word processing, but fonts were being digitized. The company I worked for was a moderately big client of Merganthaler-Linotype. We took a field trip one Saturday to their plant and studios. I remember the date only because those of us who had those new fangled digital watches let everyone know that it was soon going to be 12:34 5/6/78 (12:34 pm May 6, 1978) They gave us a tour of the whole plant but the most fascinating thing was the demonstration of an artist digitizing a font and editing it pixel by pixel. He would use a large screen on the wall to see enlarged the font many times, character by character to change microscopically the shape. The scent of revolution was in the air. People in the industry talked about how soon we would be able to see on the screen what a final layout in print would look like. I pooh-poohed the notion. It seemed that the programming of such a computer would be just too expensive to be viable. I was wrong and when Macintosh was followed by Windows all the shackles came undone. It was WYSIWYG. What You See Is What You Get. My favorite typeface was Baskerville (only because it reminded me of Sherlock Holmes).

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    1. Fascinating! My father worked at IBM and my mother taught first grade. Early on in the life of Selectics there were replaceable balls with different fonts. At my mother's suggestion,my dad put forward the idea of a ball that would have elementary text book font, so the teachers could make their mimeographs look like the books. And he got some sort of $ for it.

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    2. David - I agree with Denise, that was an utterly fascinating story. Thanks for sharing!

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  31. I pay no attention to font, do most reading on my Kindke and pick my own anyway. Presently I’m using Amazon Ember but also like Helvetica. Plain and bold. That’s me!

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