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Monday
Apr252011

Fonts Matter.

© DoubleM2If you're reading this blog, you're probably the visual type. You might own a pretty nice camera, and you might even take pretty nice pictures with it. You might geek out over After Effects and cutting-edge cinematography, just like I do. You're likely drawn to good stories, and probably enjoy the challenge of visualizing them. But how much do you pay attention to fonts? That stuff is just for graphic designers, right? Not so fast. If you're relying on text to guide a video, you should be giving typography just as much thought as you would quotes and images and music. But don't worry—TDN Contributor Morgan Heim did a bunch of research, so that you don't have to. Read on to learn more...

 

With names like Seven Monkey Fury, Kontrapunkt, and Rational Integers, no one would blame you for thinking I was just talking about some new bands… or as in the case of the last one, the most awesome math club ever. What all of these share, though, is the art of the 26-character design. You got it: fonts.

Fonts are a generally underappreciated art form. A graphic-designer friend recently stated that no one notices fonts until you screw one up. And who would want to get caught using the wrong kind of font? Embarrassing! So I’d like us all to buck that trend a little, and instead pay attention to fonts—or as some like to refer to it, typography—for the good things they bring to a multimedia piece.

Letters come in more shapes and sizes than you can doodle. Some look like slight variations on common themes, while others, such as Kontrapunkt, definitely carry their own sort of panache.

Regardless of your fancy, fonts—I mean typography—can influence the mood and style of a piece just as surely as photos and music can. Done well, I dare say, you don’t need much else. In fact there’s a whole genre of multimedia out there that specializes in doing just that—it’s called kinetic typography. Check out the following links to see what I mean:

http://vimeo.com/5674874
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WIvmE4_KMNw
http://vimeo.com/5863651?ab
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ejweI0EQpX8&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AiVKfNeRbPQ&feature=pyv&ad=10585655874&kw=typography
http://vimeo.com/6095806

Now, before we go any further, try this exercise: Look at each of the following fonts and think of three words that you would use to describe them—one word for era (eg: space age, hipster, classic), one for style (eg: clean, robotic, grunge) and another for emotion (eg: thrilling, somber, scary). You might use slightly different words to describe each font, but I bet in general, each of your choices will convey a fairly universal theme, regardless of your bias. Some fonts just scream scary, while others hint at old carnival posters.

This illustrates the different feelings a font can add to your project. A punk-rock skateboard flick just wouldn’t look right with font that reminds you of The Great Gatsby. (For the sake of convenience, I'm picking obvious mismatches; you’ll likely have to choose among much subtler differences.)

This brings me to my next point: variety.

By default, most of the fonts that come with your standard software setup aren’t that interesting. Plus, everyone is using them. Thankfully, there is a wealth of options out there for people who want to expand their design repertoire. Below is a list of creative-commons sources for typography; incorporating them into your existing editing suite is almost as easy as downloading them.

I have to admit, I recently spent an entire Friday night in a downloading frenzy, but already my multimedia is bearing the fruits of this labor. So, in the spirit of typography, embrace your inner font nerd. Your work can only benefit from it.

Morgan Heim is a photojournalist living in Boulder, Colorado.

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