GDUSA SPECIAL TYPE SURVEY PREVIEW
SPONSORED BY VEER
PUBLISHER’S NOTE: GOOD NEWS FOR THOSE WHO VALUE TYPE
Type is one of the pillars of graphic design. But like all the traditional tools, the sweeping changes wrought by the digital era have challenged graphic designers — and their suppliers — to adjust. To explore this premise, GDUSA conducted its largest type reader survey ever, reaching out to roughly 20,000 creative professionals and logging in more than 1,000 survey responses. And here is what it comes down to. For those who value type and respect it’s communicative power, there is good news in the results of our 2010 Type Survey for Designers. Here is a preview of selected findings from the survey; a full report will be published in the May edition of Graphic Design USA magazine, which should reach mailboxes mid-month.
— Gordon Kaye
DEEPLY ROOTED IMPORTANCE
Four “good news” findings can be gleaned from the 2010 type survey. First, more than nine-in-ten graphic design professionals have purchasing influence over type in their firms, agencies or departments. Second, the leading reason designers choose a typeface is it’s ability to communicate the message of the project or client for which it is purchased. Third, creatives have a deeply rooted sense of type’s importance in graphic communications and send a ringing messate that type still matters in a most transcendent way. And, fourth, our readers reject the cheap and easy fix of “free” fonts, affirming the adage that quality matters and “you get what you pay for.”
NINE-IN-TEN CONTROL DECISION
More than 1,000 art directors and designers responded to the survey, which was sent out online and in print in late April. Of these, 91% of respondents this year report being actively involved in the specifying and purchasing of fonts and font collections. This is above the running average of 86.5% in our recent past surveys. These readers are predominantly Mac users, though a surprisingly robust one-in-four use Windows for their design work. The results show that the vast majority design for both print and online — over 70% in fact.
LIFE (AND TYPE) IS COMPLEX
Life is complex, and so is the decision as to which fonts to purchase. As noted above, the ability to communicate the message of a project stands above all. After that, a host of other factors intercede. These include the staples of all purchasing decisions (quality and price); the functionality of the fons and the vendor’s website (e.g., cross platform compatiblity and ability to preview typefaces); reputation and branding (the type foundry and the type designer); and the ever-present desire to experiment with new looks and faces.
THIS IS NO PLACE TO SKIMP
In an era where the popular narrative is that the graphic arts are being turned into a commodity business, perhaps the most striking result of this survey is that the respondents overwhelming reject free fonts. As the many comments reported later indicate, there is a consensus view that type is too important to cut corners and no place top skimp, that an investment in quality type pays off, and that free fonts are plagued with ugly surprises and notable shortcomings.
THIS IS NO PLACE TO SKIMP
In past GDUSA surveys, readers have expressed fear that a new generation of designers, divorced from the traditional craft of graphic design, are not learning the basics of typographic excellence. Computerization, so the argument goes, sacrifices cratfmanship for speed and ease. In this survey, the concern continues: more than half of respondents say that today’s designers are worse at integrating type into their design work. At the same time, the angry edge to this intergenerational argument is abating: the recorded comments have lost the “world is going to hell in a handbasket” attitude. This could mean that the traditionalist are retiring (or worse) or that designers and design schools are returning to type fundamentals. In any event, when we asked designers what advice they would give today’s graphic design students, the message is learn history, master fundamentals, exercise restraint, emphasize readability and communication.
KEEPING IT SIMPLE ONLINE
If there is a common feeling among typophiles, it is that web design is limiting, sometimes frustrating. The challenge in designing for the web is clear: keep the fonts simple, clean, web safe, cross browser compatible, and fairly common. Sans serifs are considered a basic go-to style, but not always. Among the most popular families for web design: Verdana, Helvetica, Arial, Garamond, Georgia, Futura, Gill Sans, Geneva, Times, Frutiger. A handful of designers are experimenting with web font innovations (e.g. CSS and TypeKit) and find them promising, but the technology has not yet permeated into the general graphic design marketplace.
COMIC SANS NOT SO FUNNY
We also asked readers which typefaces are the most abused or overused by the design community. Not surprisingly, people have intense feelings about such things. (“Brush Script is satan's spawn,” wrote Mike Tyer, Partner & Creative Director, at Cohesive Creative & Code.) The winner (or is it loser?) for the most overused typeface? Comic Sans. This was followed by Papyrus, Zapfino and Helvetica. Other top/bottom scorers: Trajan, Times Roman or Times New Roman, Futura, Arial, Myriad, Gotham, and all Grunge fonts.
THANKS, AGAIN, TO VEER
A special thanks to Veer for helping us bring this special online preview to the creative community. Veer provides photography, illustration, type — and inspiration — creative elements craved by professionals in a vertising, publishing, and multimedia design. You can browse Veer Type by styles, collections and what’s hot!