Monday, June 22, 2009

Font vs typeface

Today I had a discussion with a guy who works making professional signage - when I say make, I mean design and execution. He said he gets a project, gets ideas from the client, and then creates appropriate wayfinding signs in order to make the client happy. He was telling me all about how his day will differ between working on the computer and designing the sign, to welding and putting the sign together.

Then I asked him, does he happen to create signs with a specific typeface most frequently. And he just looked at me with a blank stare. So I said again,"What is your favorite typeface, you know, for your signs?" Again a blank stare. I tried again, this time just saying type and simplifying the sentence. Still nothing. So then I changed my language - "Do you use a lot of different fonts?" bingo.

"Oh yea, all the time, we get discs of fonts. I have to font match a lot, you know...recognize what font something is..."

This is where he lost me. From what I recall, working on a PC, there are 3 typefaces - or fonts: Times New Roman, Courier, Arial. Fonts, as I know them, are type for the web, faces that aren't loved by designers, or not created by type bureaus (although there are type bureaus called fontfont, thefontshop etc.) Which raises the question, just because he didn't know the word typeface, does that mean he doesn't know type? I didn't really ask any further, but this made me think about the communication rift that I've heard about between designers and everyone else.

And truly, what is the difference between a font and a typeface? Maybe AIGA knows or the Font Feed.