Access to the full diversity of fonts

Someone from Europe posted me a letter and I fell in love with the text’s unusual font. It turned out to be Scala Sans, a font created ten years ago by a Dutch typographer, Martin Majoor. I bought a copy of the typeface on MyFonts and now use it everywhere I can – except on the web, where typography is still in the dark ages.

It wasn’t too long ago that only about 271 people in the world cared about typographic fonts and kerning and serif trapping. Then PCs turned typography from a black art into a tool for the masses. Getting and installing a particularly distinctive font is a no-brainer on the web, and yes, one can learn to use it with grace. (See The Elements of Typographical Style elsewhere on this site).

The best portal into the world of typography is the website My Fonts. They have over 23,000 fonts from just about every known foundry (many just one person shops), and a pretty good way to navigate among all those choices. Their “more fonts like this one” option is helpful. With a forum for newbies the site is very friendly to those just starting out and for pros, too.

There is one small weirdness about type that is worth pointing out. The differences between two fonts may be hardly noticeable in their details, although the effect of each font is pronounced. It’s a lot like wine; it’s hard to describe why good ones are good. If you find a typeface in a magazine or brochure that you really like it can be extremely difficult to identify that face by name. There is no working heuristic for identifying fonts. You may be forced to ask a type maven, if you know one. Or, you can try a new service of My Font called WhatTheFont? Scan your typeface and submit it to the site; it will identify it.

08/22/03 -- KK