Thought for the day, on type

Just My Type, by Simon Garfield

Spiekermann teaches a course at the University in Berlin and says that he tells his students, above all other things, that digital type can be too harsh. ‘When letters were cut from metal and wood there was a warmth, some fuzziness, that came about when it was printed. Now we have to add warmth to our letters, but we can’t do it through the printing. So I add it by not making my type too perfect – I leave stuff alone, I won’t make it mathematically, so it can look unfinished and handmade. Nylon can be perfect, but I’d rather wear wool, because it feels different on the skin on different parts of the body.’

He refers to his Meta font as an example. ‘If you look at the data, it’s a mess. The thickness is all over the place, nothing is identical. But I’ve resisted any attempt to clean it up, because then it wouldn’t be Meta any more, it would be a mechanical clone. And that’s the challenge for all of us – to create warmth in a digital world. Not many people can do it. You see a lot of stuff that looks great but simply doesn’t turn you on. It’s like making a song on a synthesizer. To make a drum machine sound good is really difficult – you might as well play real drums. We’re still analogue beings. Our brains and eyes are analogue.’

Just My Type, Simon Garfield, pp. 185-6