Typography is one of my favorite aspects of design. Even as a kid, I would spend the longest time selecting which font to write my reports in—and not for the normal reason. I didn’t care which one was widest (Courier) and would thus make for the least paper-writing effort. Instead, I chose them for their appropriateness to my subject matter. I didn’t know a thing about it back then, and many of my fonts were downloaded from sketchy websites, either cheap themselves or cheap knockoffs of better typefaces I wouldn’t dream of spending my babysitting money on.
In college, my understanding of typography, as well as my tastes, were refined. Among many other things, I learned that I passionately hate the ubiquity of Futura. I don’t necessarily hate Futura itself—it serves its purpose—but many students of the Swiss schools of design (of which my alma mater Arizona State University is a descendent) use it indiscriminately, as if it’s the only font that is worthy of their minimalist, grid-based designs. I cringe looking through student work that uses it, because I know students are using it as a “safe” choice—one their professors won’t censor. And many of those students, never told otherwise, grow up to use Futura for everything they do in their professional careers as well.
Stop doing that. It’s not nice to Futura, and it’s not nice to the myriad (no pun intended) other fonts out there that deserve your attention. So in the interest of expanding the hearts and minds of my fellow designers to include some other fantastic typography, I’m starting a series of blog entries on my favorite typographic workhorses. Try these out, get out of the Futura rut, and start thinking of typography as the major component of your design that it should be.
First on my list, since you’ve already seen it in the design of Studio Pattern’s website, is Aeron. I came upon this font only last year when we were looking to revitalize our online presence. Since our logo uses geometric lettering, I wanted to stick with something that had some round forms in common, but brought in something new. Using Chalet or Gill Sans would have worked, but it would have been so similar to the logo that the logo would have lost some impact and the typography would have been awfully boring.
Aeron was developed by Galen Lawson at Communication Visual, which does marketing and campaign consulting for nonprofits, as well as having a rather accomplished type design branch, CV Type. It sounds like the design process for this font was quite similar to the logic I followed in choosing it: the sketches were first of a simple geometric sans-serif (like the Pattern logo), and morphed into the finished product, which has “semi-serifs” and a lot more personality than most geometrics.
This is one of those typefaces that I can only really call a workhorse because we use it for our own branding. It’s unique enough that I would feel weird about applying it to another brand—it feels too “Pattern-ey” to me now to get away with that. But it’s not so unique as to usurp prominence from the logo or from our portfolio work, which after all is the point of this website. I also feel that with its underlying geometric structure it is timeless and works well in grid-based design, which we like a lot here at Pattern. Like Futura, however, its all-caps self is a little more neutral and I find myself wanting to use it for type treatments outside our brand now and again. My relationship with Aeron is just beginning; stay tuned to see the beautiful stuff we make together!
Next up on the list (alphabetically, as it turns out!): Arno Pro.