Why It Really Bothers Me When Designers Don’t Care About Typeface


If I bring together 10 designers and ask them the simple question – what’s your favourite font and why, I reckon I’d be lucky to have 2 of them provide a detailed and compelling response.

Yet in Steve Jobs’ most famous speech – a commencement talk at Stanford university – in which he could have spoken about any of his dozen world changing technological contributions, he instead opened by talking about his early experience with typeface.

The world’s greatest ever businessperson, marketer and innovator. Yet that’s what he chose to start with – typeface – describing it as “beautiful, historical and artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture.”

So is it really that important, or is typeface obsession the marketers equivalent of being a wine snob, fixating over details that, real or imagined, often mean precisely nothing to the average person?

Well, we know that typeface can significantly impact legibility and therefore UX. We also know that certain styles evoke different feelings, and through years of conditioning we have learnt to associate particular typefaces with specific industries and products.

Yet it’s also true that to the average user, the precise shape of a serif or the number of white pixels between letters is not only something they don’t care about, but not even something they notice.

And that’s the reason it’s important. It matters precisely because to most people it doesn’t.

If I visit a restaurant and the waiter can’t talk me through they best wines in detail, it’s unlikely to impact my experience, not least because I don’t even drink wine. However, if the waiter takes that little interest in the wine, it’s probably safe to assume that indifference will be extended to the other drinks. And if they don’t care about the drinks, why should they care about the food? Or indeed anything else that might add up to form my experience.

This is why it matters. I want to work with designers that care about the smallest detail, because if they care about those then I know they’re going to care about the big obvious stuff too, and everything in between.

And I want to work with people who care.

See you next time.


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