Posts Tagged ‘fonts’


Microsoft marketing needs a proofreader

October 18, 2013


microsoftAnd what on earth is that font they’ve used for the email where the ‘i’ and ‘t’ letters are all smaller than usual, and the ‘p’ is more bulbous than usual and bulges into the descender space? It just doesn’t ‘read’ well — the eye doesn’t flow naturally across the word and letter forms and so the brain has to hesitate (microseconds) to interpret the word.

One other thing: I read this email in Outlook 2010 on a Windows 7 computer, so it was was unlikely that it was a font rendering problem.


Unfortunate kerning…

October 17, 2013

If you choose a font for your website or documentation that’s not from one of the standard/common/well-known font families, you should check the kerning (the spacing between various letters) before making it public, especially the kerning between round and straight letters.

Otherwise, you might get something like this:

kerning I read it as ‘The rapists working…’ at first, then my brain went ‘Whoa!’ and reinterpreted it correctly as ‘Therapists working…’

While this kerning issue may not be a problem with most letters (our brain adjusts quickly to slightly odd spacing), when it creates a new set of words totally unrelated to the context, then there’s an issue. Bottom line: Test your font choices before publication/distribution!


What’s in a letter?

October 4, 2010

Michael Opsteegh, over at his Putting your best font forward blog, wrote Anatomy 101, a blog post that dissects a piece of typography and describes (with illustrations) all the parts that make up an individual letter.

See also:

[Links last checked September 2010]


Test fonts before adding them to your website’s CSS

September 30, 2010

There are many font testers around that show you what a font will look like before you apply it to your website, but I think that Font Tester is one of the easiest to use.

You enter the parameters for the font and can see the example text change immediately to match your selections.

Once you’re happy with what you’ve chosen, you click Get CSS Code and a new window opens that contains the CSS for the selections you made, gives you the option of setting the HTML element to which it will apply, allows you to name your own class or ID, and shows the HTML of how that CSS class/ID etc. should be written.

Neat. And useful for any web designer who doesn’t already have such a tool in the HTML editor they use. Oh, and it’s free to use!

[Links last checked September 2010]


Default Vista fonts not available in Office 2007 applications

August 9, 2010

Several fonts were set as the default in Windows XP, and thus were available to all applications, including Office 2003 apps — fonts like ‘Arial Bold’ (which is different from ‘Arial’ with bold formatting).

My main client has *thousands* of documents created in Word 2003 (or earlier) that use ‘Arial Bold’ for some heading, caption and TOC styles, as set by their templates. In 2009, the company switched to Vista and Office 2007. No big deal — their Word 2003 documents all open happily in Word 2007. And a new template for the project I’m working on was created for Word 2007, based on the existing Word 2003 template.

Because it was based on the existing Word 2003 template, ‘Arial Bold’ remained the style for those headings, captions etc. as there was NO indication or information that it was no longer part of the default fonts in Office 2007 or that it would create problems. It seemed to display fine on screen and in print, and it was still listed as the font in the style definitions in Word 2007.

We all went on, blissfully unaware that it was no longer available in Office 2007 applications. Until I tried to PDF a document using Word 2007 and Acrobat 9. The heading, caption and TOC styles that used ‘Arial Bold’ came out in a serif font, similar to Times New Roman! On further investigation, I noticed that ‘Arial Bold’ was no longer listed in the list of fonts in Word 2007, though it was listed in the Windows Fonts folder in Vista.

Changing the Acrobat embedded and font substitution settings made no difference either. No matter what I did, the PDF still came out with very weird styles wherever ‘Arial Bold’ was used.

I had to go through the rigmarole of getting local admin privileges to reinstall ‘Arial Bold’ font, but that didn’t work either. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get ‘Arial Bold’ listed in the fonts list in Word 2007. Or any other Office 2007 application for that matter. I contacted the creator of the template, and he had exactly the same results as I did — no ‘Arial Bold’. So he changed the template so that those heading etc. styles used ‘Arial’ with bold formatting. However, many documents I’m still working on are based on the earlier template, so I have to manually change the styles that use ‘Arial Bold’ to ‘Arial’ with bold formatting. It doesn’t take long, but it’s another step in the reviewing and editing process I have to add to my checklist.

I did some more investigating and found that while ‘Arial Bold’ is a default font in Windows Vista and Windows 7, it DOES NOT display in my copies of Word 2007, Excel 2007, etc. on either my own Vista PC or my client’s Vista PC, or on the PCs of others in the company whom I’ve asked to check this.

A bit more investigation shows that ‘Arial Bold’ is not a default Office 2007 font — see highlighted section in screen shot below.

Surely a font installed in the system’s Fonts folder should list in all the Office 2007 apps too?

I searched various online forums but while people have reported this issue, no-one seems to have a solution. Of course, I now wonder how many other fonts listed in the system’s Fonts folder aren’t displaying either.

Does anyone know how to get that pesky ‘Arial Bold’, which is correctly installed and listed in Vista’s Fonts folder, listed in my Office 2007 application font lists?


[Links last checked August 2010]


Logos and fonts: Channeling my inner feminist

July 15, 2010

One of my tech writer colleagues in the US is involved as a leader in the Girl Scouts. She asked our tech writing group what we thought of the new logo and font that have been designed for the Girl Scouts and sent us a link to the new designs (

Here are before and after images of the logo:

And before and after images of the font with the logo:

As I looked closely at both, I got angry — and my inner feminist started to emerge. Here was a group that supposedly empowers young girls, teenagers, and young adult women to be independent and resourceful, yet by the subtlety of the logo and font change the designers have stepped back from that — in my opinion.

Here’s my reaction to these changes, showing how subtle changes logo and font  styles can change perceptions. I thought these battles had all been fought back in the 60s and 70s. Apparently not.

I don’t like the logo. I particularly don’t like how the stylised girls are depicted. Why?

  • They look like women, not girls
  • Straight noses are obviously not acceptable — they had to make them all little upturned perky noses that most people can only get through surgery
  • Long flowing locks are the look, and oh, we’ll cover the first figure’s eyes with her hair (demure coquette?)
  • Pouty bee-sting lips and gapey ‘vacant’ mouths are obviously in
  • And let’s straighten their long necks. We couldn’t have any hint of a roundness or a double chin, could we?

The logo doesn’t show strong, independent girls/teenagers to me. It shows vacuous princesses.

And the problem with the font? By making it all lower case, it takes away strength. It makes it look like little girls’ printing — I almost expected a little heart over the ‘i’. Compare the before/afters of the aqua logo and text with the new green one. The new font is more rounded, all lower case, without a period (registered mark). It’s submissive! The aqua one is MUCH stronger (even though I’m not fussed with the aqua colour). It makes a statement.

And the green? It’s an awful shade. Are they trying to cash in on the ‘green washing’ going on with other products/labels/logos?

I scrolled further down the page and found that the same logo is used for the Brownies. Now I don’t know what age you have to be in the US to be a Brownie, but when I was a kid, it was pretty much open to girls from about 6 to 10 or 12. There’s NO WAY that logo depicts a girl of that age — it depicts a woman. Talk about not-so-subtle messages to little girls about growing up early and into one of those vacuous princesses.

You can see the design changes for yourself here (at least, you could on 11 July 2010 when I wrote this post):

[Links last checked July 2010]


Typeface decision tree

April 20, 2010

Bill S (@techcommdood) tweeted the link to this clever infographic on choosing a typeface/font based on the type of material you’re producing. Here’s a snippet of the ‘Invitation’ decision tree:

You can see the entire infographic here:

See also:

[Link last checked April 2010; thanks to Bill S for sharing]


Word: Changing the default font

August 17, 2009

You might think you can just change the font in (Word 2003) or normal.dotx/normal.dotm (Word 2007), but it’s not *quite* that simple.

The ever-useful WordTips website details the various methods for changing the default font in all versions of Word since Word 97 in this article:

(If you’re a Word user and want to learn more about the idiosyncracies and workarounds for this software, sign up for WordTips’ free weekly email tips — you get four Word tips in one email each week.)

[Links last checked July 2009]


Fonts: Reading PDFs and ebooks on screen

April 13, 2009

When I flew to the US recently for the WritersUA Conference in Seattle, I spent a LOT of time on planes, and hanging around in airports and hotel rooms. As I don’t sleep on a fight — even a 14 hour one — I need something to occupy my time. I’m not a big movie fan so I usually only watch one or two of the 40+ typically on offer, and maybe a TV episode or two. That takes care of about 6 hours. Likewise, I rarely read much fiction these days and rarely buy physical books or borrow them from the library any more.

Prior to leaving, I created a folder of all those PDFs I’ve been meaning to read and podcasts I’ve been meaning to listen to. On this latest trip, I mostly listened to podcasts while driving to/from the airport (it’s a 3+ hour drive, so I can usually knock off a few!). On the plane and when I didn’t have internet access, I read some of the PDFs.

And this is what I found: serif fonts are much harder for me to read on screen than sans serif fonts.

I was zooming the PDF text up to 125% or 150% so that I could sit back comfortably to read it on my laptop. Even at that zoom factor, the thin stokes of fonts like those in the Times and similar font families got lost against the white background. One factor for this lack of readability could have been that I had the brightness on my laptop turned down a lot so that the light from the screen didn’t disturb those around me too much. But it wasn’t just the thin strokes — the serifs also affected the readability as they added ‘noise’ to the text.

This is by no way a scientific study ;-), just a personal observation after reading some 500+ PDF pages on screen over many hours.

I guess the take-away from this is to consider how your reader will be reading the PDF or ebook you create. Do you expect them to print it out or read it online? If online, have you considered how the brightness settings and zoom factors may affect readability of the font you have chosen? You may not know or be able to find out the answers to these questions, but consider them when you are creating a PDF or ebook.

[Link last checked April 2009]


The perennial font argument: Serif or Sans serif?

January 14, 2009

Many studies have been done into whether serif or sans serif fonts are best for print or online. My personal preference is sans serif for both, but that’s a *personal* preference. If your corporate style guide dictates what you have to use, you don’t get a choice.

But what about those studies? What do *they* say about which style of font is most legible for a particular format? Well, that depends on which study you read!

Instead of reading all the studies and analyzing them, Alex Poole has done it for you:

Alex ‘reviewed over 50 empirical studies in typography’ and came to this conclusion:

… we should accept that most reasonably designed typefaces in mainstream use will be equally legible, and that it makes much more sense to argue in favour of serif or sans serif typefaces on aesthetic grounds than on the question of legibility.