ON A SCALE OF 1 TO 10…
We live in a time of disruption for design and media.
And yet, our new biennial type survey shows significant
continuity with regard to type and type decisions.
First, the vast majority of professional graphic
designers – roughly nine-in-ten – continue
to assert purchasing influence over type for their
firms, agencies or departments. Second, designers still
judge a typeface based on first principles: how well
a face or collection is crafted and how well it
communicates the message of the project. Third,
creatives still believe in their gut that type has
the power to make or break a project, and they
affirm that type still matters in a most transcendent
way. “On a scale of 1 to 10,” says
Creative Director Lynell Wilcha, “type is a
9.” That sentiment is common throughout the results.
DIGGING INTO THE NUMBERS
The survey was sent to 10,000 art directors and graphic
designers in early November. Of the respondents, 89 percent
say they are actively involved in the purchase or specification
of fonts and font collections. This is precisely the
average of our past four type surveys, which have fallen
consistently between 86 percent and 91 percent. The respondents
are predominantly Mac users, though a solid one-in-five use
Windows for their design work. The results show that the
vast majority of these type purchasers design for both
print and online ‒ over 70 percent in fact.
Interestingly, those who answered say their budgets
have remained stable for type purchases,
though “price” is a slightly weightier
factor in buying decisions than in past surveys. That
budgets have remained stable is a bit surprising since
those for other design elements – imagery or
premium papers, for example – have been
contracting under the pressure of a relentlessly
NOT AMUSED BY COMIC SANS OR PAPYRUS
We asked readers which typefaces are the most abused or overused.
Not surprisingly, GDUSA readers have intense feelings about
such matters. The winner – loser? – for most
overused typeface is Comic Sans. Alvin Wilcox of Finishline
Creative Group spoke for many when he named his three least
favorite faces: “Comic Sans, Comic Sans and Comic
Sans.” Nathan Adams of Studio Opolis also caught the
spirit when he asserts: “Comic Sans needs to just
disappear.” At the same time, we saw a new candidate
emerge this time around for king of the bad fonts: Papyrus.
Mona Johns of Mona Lisa Graphic Design argues: “Papyrus
is the worst. Every time I see it I know it's used by a wannabe
designer, it's usually an administrative assistant looking for
the most decorative font on the system. And Papyrus or any
script font in all caps is a clear sign of an amateur or a do-it-yourselfer who doesn't want to hire a designer.”
Indeed, Papyrus came within a few precious votes of toppling
Comic Sans from its pedestal. Maybe next time. Meanwhile, a
broad range of fonts were cited for overuse or abuse. These
included: Hobo, Impact, Trajan, Garamond, Arial, Times New
Roman, Grunge, Neutra, Helvetica, Souvenir, Gill Sans, Futura,
“the Pinterest font,” and “all handwriting
fonts.” But Mary Richinick of Mary Richinick Graphic
Design summed up the view of the vast majority: “I am
tired of Papyrus. My least favorite is Comic Sans.”
MORE CONTROL OF TYPE ON THE INTERNET
In our previous surveys, the consensus among typophiles has
been that web design was limiting, sometimes frustrating,
and therefore not a place for type to shine. Indeed, the most
common strategy in designing for the web was clear: keep the
choice of fonts simple, clean, web safe, and cross-browser
compatible. Certainly, that sense of constraint still exists.
But today’s survey suggests that a gradual evolution is
taking place as technology advances. Says Keith Smerak, Partner,
Element Six Creative Group: “Many designers and developers
seem to see type as an afterthought. I'm happy to see type
control getting more prominence on the internet – the
trend is changing for the good. Type is equally important on
the web as it is in print.” In the same spirit, Woody
Schauer, Art Director, Schauer Design, says: “Type is
still not as important on the web as in print but it is becoming
more so with the use of Google fonts and other web based
fonts.” Adds Amber Sawaya, Partner, Sawaya Consulting:
“Type selection is incredibly important now that we have
web fonts and retina iPads. Three years ago we weren’t
allowed to care about type as web/app developers.” Says
Joy Panos Stauber, President & Creative Director, Stauber
Design Studio: “Type decisions for the web are still
important. Not to replicate print, but to make sure the type
supports functionality and creative direction – that
it supports communication… Type online is getting better
all the time.”
Do you buy, recommend or specify type/fonts for yourself or company?
Do you design for?
Has your budget for type?
Least favorite/most abused typefaces?
1. Comic Sans
Type is usually my first priority. It’s about how my viewer will take in the communication and if that’s clear then other elements can follow.
Kisha Williams, Graphics Communication Specialist, IKEA
Type decisions are of the utmost importance. Type is a critical element in setting the tone for a creative direction and supporting any form of communication.
Joy Panos Stauber, President & Creative Director, Stauber Design Studio
Type is on the same level as image in many of my designs and layouts. It must be handled as a design and communication element - following form and function to create the ultimate message.
Sue Taube, Art Director & Designer, Taube/Violante
Type is very important. When hiring, I always look for people who love to work with type.
Vernon Ellis, Creative Director, Studio G at Grossman Marketing Group
On a scale of 1 to 10, type is a 9.
Lynell Wilcha, Creative Director, Lynell Wilcha Design
Just as we cannot survive drinking polluted water, a design cannot survive bad type. Choosing the right typeface for conceptual, contextual, and legibility purposes is essential.
Kevin Hagan, Assistant Professor of Graphic Design, University of Louisiana at Lafayette
Very important - the type gives a visual voice and needs to be in harmony with the message and the brand.
Jimmy Ball, Senior Art Director, [x]cube LABS
Type is right at the top. Looking through my type book is one of my first steps.
Gail Kearney, Art Director & Designer, One Flight Up Design
Type is very important as each font and weight of that font conveys a story that should relate to the message and concept of the project.
Susan Hutton DeAngelus, Exhibit & Graphic Designer, StudioMUSarx
Type is at the very top of the hierarchy. Image may be more important in some cases - but the type is critical to the polish of the project.
Christine Landry-Briggs, Art Director, Deluxe Corp
Typography takes top priority because it begins to tell your story.
Kim Brown Irvis, Freelance Art Director, KBI Design
Type is just as important as the message or imagery. I'd probably say that type is second on my list of elements.
Ed Roberts, Creative Print, ElectriCities of NC, Inc.
Extremely important. Type needs to match the specific event or project design or company identity.
Regina Key, Manager, Creative Services/Destination Concepts
Very important. Type is one of the first things I look at and define.
Yasuyo Takeo, Art Director, Keaton Row
YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR
How do professional designers feel about the free font offerings?
The good news about free fonts is that they are… well …
free. In the immediate monetary sense. The bad news, according
to our readers, is multifold: the files can be risky and
unreliable, the quality and craftsmanship inconsistent,
the looks derivative and overly decorative. Not to mention
the ethical dilemma presented to creatives who are adament
about being paid for their own labor. When all is said and
done, the balance comes down against the use of free fonts
– except in an emergency or for a rare one-off use or
when students are involved. A few comments capture the
tradeoffs. Tracy Drake, Marketing and Sales Support,
Electrolux Professional states: “It is dangerous
because viruses await unsuspecting downloaders of free
fonts.” Matt Heximer of 10four Design Group says:
“Free fonts are usually total crap. However, if you
are willing to look long and hard you can find the odd gem.
Most often it is not worth the effort to search through the
duds.”Adds Steve Lasko, Creative Director, Lasko Design
+ Consulting: “Very mixed bag. I notice a lot more issues
with spacing and kerning refinements and letter combinations
with free fonts. I rarely use free fonts.”
WHAT DESIGNERS WANT
We asked what type sellers could do better. Designers know
what they want and do not hold back. Indeed, there are many
more suggestions than we can publish here. But here is a brief
wish list: lower prices (surprise!), more flexible licenses,
easier search, more Open Fonts, more education and customer
service, and better promotion to let customers know what is
new and available. In fairness, type designers and sellers
got more than the usual share of praise. “Keep up the
good work” was a general refrain.
What are the most important factors in your type purchasing decision?
2. Specific Needs of A Project
4. Ability to Preview Typefaces
5. Open Type Format
6. Reputation of Designer/Seller
7. Potential Use in Multiple Projects
8. Desire to Try New Fonts
For what kind of projects do you purchase or specify type?
6. Direct Mail
10. Annual/Corporate Reports
12. Apps/Mobile Devices