Monday, February 12, 2007

Times New Roman vs. Garamond

I know this is silly, but sometimes I find myself thinking about fonts. I know, too, that I’m not the only one. For, really, why are there so many? And why do so many books have “a note about the font” at the back?

I used to write everything in Palomino. I thought it was a beautiful font. Then, at some point a few years ago, its very beauty became offensive and shameful to me: a sign of my dilettantism, yet another indication that I would never get my book done. I switched to Times and, occasionally Times New Roman. I cannot tell the difference. Both are fine, functional typefaces and I like them for the way they pass, on the printed page, almost unnoted. But the reign of austerity could not continue forever. When I taught my first graduate class on modernism in 1999 or so, I wanted the posters advertising my class to be as pretty as those of my colleagues, both Victorianists. But I needed, too, for my work to look modern, to look new. I found Skia, a lovely, squat sans-serif font that has a look of the twenties about it. I continue to use Skia in my teaching from time to time.

But I stuck with Times for my writing life. There, I needed to be ramrod-straight, serious, intellectual, and uncompromising until the book came out.

Well, the book is out. Where does that leave me?

Rudderless, of course, and amazed to find that I am free to do what I have always been free to do: abandon Times. I am working on a new project, an edition of Mrs. Dalloway, and, to do it, I need an electronic copy of the novel. Someone in duplicating services scanned it into Word for me, after much grumbling, and now I am laboriously correcting the scan. I need an exact copy of the book--what was on page 23 will be in my word document on page 23, with all the same dashes, hyphens, etc. This means that I will have--and need to have--lots and lots of white space surrounding the text. It turns out that Garamond lets me do this really well. And what a lovely font! Elegant and old-fashioned without looking Victorian, it pleases me.

Looking at it, day after day, I realized that I could easily turn my back on Times forever, should I so choose. I’m writing this in Georgia now. It’s lovely for writing: round and bold, easy to read (Garamond can be hard on the eyes when reading a screen), but with a little more personality than bland old Times.

Still, when I have to write something official, I will return to Times, I think.

16 comments:

Matthew Tiffany said...

I love font chat. It matters.

Michelle said...

Hi Anne,
trust me, you're not the only person who thinks about font. Graphic designers talk about font all the time (I know: I'm related to one!). I actually do not like the look of Times New Roman size 12 on the computer. When you print it out, it's ok. I do like the look of Times New Roman size 11, though. And I agree--when I started using my computer, I wrote in Palatino all the time. Also in Monotype Corsiva, but that became illegible after being printed out on my dad's dot matrix printer. I hate Courier...it's so ugly!

Ok, now that I have officially demonstrated my nerdiness, I'll leave now... :)

Geoffrey Philp's Blog Spot said...

Dear Anne,

Times does make you think straight and I use it for teaching.

But most of the time, I use either Georgia or Garamond.

I guess it's something about how the text looks on the page surrounded by white space. It's searching for elegance and perhaps, beauty in the mundane.

Peace

ted said...

This is a matter of the utmost importance! I very much enjoyed reading your font-memoir.

I too find that I use Times when I want the font to be a non-factor. I like Georgia best for the web, and agree that Garamond is lovely. How wonderful that it solved your dilemma as well.

Shana said...

Palatino, maybe? *grin* Writing on a Palomino would be bumpy.

Bud Parr said...

Uncanny! I'm being interviewed tomorrow for a UK internet magazine on...Fonts!
and part of it is just what authors think about the fonts their work shows up in.

If anyone in this thread sees my note, feel free to send me a note with their thoughts.

Bud

Anne said...

oy! palatino is right.

hilarious and touching that we're all mad for this stuff together.

Bud--good luck! enjoy!

Dave Munger said...

I love fonts! I used to keep a web site called "font of the month." I even found an archive of it on the Wayback Machine.

That was a long time ago--1998!

genevieve said...

There's a drippy character in Steve Martin's rather sweet film, Shopgirl(?) who designs fonts and is never quite good enough to get the girl. Otherwise, I am a Garamond girl through and through. But I take your point exactly, Anne, about being occasionally seized with doubt about whether a graceful font is in fact also a serious one :)
congratulations on the Dalloway ed. too, what lovely news.
Enjoy your interview, Bud, sounds right up your alley. Where/when will it appear?

Sally said...

Anne,

I think that strictly speaking you mean typeface not font (though they are used interchangeably in recent times). Welcome to the world of the type-obsessed. You might check out the blogs TypeCulture, Typographica, and Typotheque.

shawnc said...

I was fond of Sylfaen for a time, but am pretty loyal to Palatino these days (18pt italic is just beautiful!). I've an intriguing question for you and your readers: Is there an official name, or "industry name", for the part of a book that generally bears the heading: A Note About The Font ?

It's driving me a little batty trying to find an answer, which is actually what led me to your blog: a Google search for the string inside book "a note about the font"

Ashish said...

Anne,

must say was a nice little piece there... for once i thought i wouldnt write a report in times new.. and had almost finalised Georgia (which isnt much different but atleast its somehting else) when i read this. now you've confused me just enough to start thinking again.

cheers

GregorianLovers said...

Heya Fernham... im from indonesia, and i am a leader for my people to against "Times New Roman", well our target is schools, universities, and government. As we know, that TIMES NEW ROMAN IS BORING... ! so i suggest you to follow our mission, and keep use Georgia. it's much better and elegant, i like your blog, coz of ur GEORGIA!

Shawn said...

Ah, one of my favorite threads! Just a little update: I write reviews for our local college radio station here in Tallahassee, Florida. Those reviews get printed onto paper, cut out in blocks, and pasted to the front of new CDs that get added to the station's library. For this reason, choosing the right typeface is very important. These days, I've moved from Palatino (see my previous comment) over to Cambria, one of the new fonts bundled with Windows Vista. For a proprietary, pre-installed font, I must say that it makes a beautiful impression!

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sofia m. said...

Personally my favourite font is Trebuchet, but I've always been fond of Tahoma and Verdana.

Before, Times New Roman was my favourite font but then I realized how poor it looked as a first default font.

I believe that font is important and I actually just wrote a small piece about it in my blog though it has no relation to what my blog is about.

It's important to know typeface, even if some look very much alike, such as Arial and Helvetica.

Serious designers will laugh at you for using Arial and will have numerous fonts on their computer that are not easily distinguishable or told apart.

Some of my friends who are into graphic design and the graphic design teacher at my school are obsessed with fonts and always talk about them. Sometimes I join in on the conversation, but my typeface knowledge is inferior to theirs.


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