I shuffled through several drawers in MICA’s printing studio, looking for the perfect typeface to spell out the title of one of Edgar Allen Poe’s most famous and haunting poems, “Annabel Lee”. Not only was looking for an appropriate size for the title, one that could properly visualize and foreshadow the magnitude of the poem, a challenge, but also finding a font that had the right “feel”. I believe I have a vague sense of what fonts should be used in what situations. Some fonts feel very traditional like Times New Roman, while others feel very modern like Helvetica, and some are rage inducing, like Comic Sans. I’m fascinated by how different fonts can have different personalities, and I’m not quite sure what is it about the anatomy of typefaces that can integrate an emotional dimension to type.
The closest analogy I can think of is that different fonts are like different voices, each with a unique character. Just as the voice of a speaker can influence the impact of his words, I strongly believe that printed material has the capacity to do the same with the use of fonts. This is clearly evident in commercially printed material like magazines and advertisements.
After shuffling through a dozen more drawers, I found it the perfect font, “Dante”. The serifs resembled sharp horns, but the overall shape of the font was bold enough to carry the “weight” of the poem’s title.
If it weren’t for the invention of the printing press, the art of typography would not nearly be a flourished as it is today. It has opened a new world of visual arts that has allowed designers to explore how text can express different emotions, detached from the content of the text. Normally when we read books, we forget acknowledge the effort that was put in to designing the typeface. It’s a subtle art that only those who read between the lines can begin to appreciate.