Writer. Warning: opinions. My lawyer advised a disclaimer, but didn't include any jokes to go with. Damned if I can think of any either.

Atlanta Bicycle Scandal: Font Mixing

When I started writing this blog, I never thought I’d be the first to break an actual local news story. I also thought it was okay to write poorly and swear a lot, but that is neither here nor there. What is here and there, is that Atlanta Bicycle Coalition is scandalously mixing Helvetica and Myriad Pro fonts in their header. Scandalous!

True, Myriad Pro and Helvetica can be mistaken for one another, but as a trained graphic designer and webular site constructor, I have the power to discern them. More importantly, I have sufficient nerdiness to care. Most importantly of all, it doesn’t take any training whatsoever to call yourself a graphic designer or a web designer, but I digress.

Behold, Exhibit A:

And here is the area of concern, highlighted ( highlit? ):

Again, if you’re not a font nerd the difference may escape you, but trust me when I say that this is a grave error on the part of my friends at ABC. I only want to warn them before this gets out of hand because they do a lot of excellent work for cycling in Atlanta.

You see, like a new dating partner, every font brings a certain amount of baggage with it. Some baggages can be easier to live with than others, but each suitcase and shoulder bag must be considered before a lasting partnership can be formed. In the case of fonts, this baggage is the font’s unspoken connotations. Here is a short guide to the connotations of these fonts in easy-to-refer-to form:

If you use Myriad Pro you (or your project):

  • probably walk around all the time with ipod earphones in your ears
  • put Apple stickers on your iPhone for extra brand recognition
  • Wear a lot of white belts

If you use Helvetica you (or your project):

  • wish for some of Helvetica’s hip city dweller style, thanks to its wide use in the New York MTA subway system, to rub off on you
  • might have watched the Helvetica documentary
  • wear colorful hosiery instead of pants

In short, Helvetica is the Brooks saddle of fonts. Both find themselves highly fashionable once again and in use in the city despite being considered passé by some. In fact, if you want to move in hipster circles, your Brooks-equipped fixed gear bike and the Helvetica font are going to be your second and third most important tools after you yourself. Myriad Pro lacks this cachet.

What I recommend for my friends at ABC is that they get ahead of the curve. Sure, Brooks saddles and Helvetica are cool now, but what out-of fashion font will be coming back to prominance? Thanks to my years of slaving over Photoshop in an effort to make a few dollars, and perhaps also to alter photos of my friends to include some very inappropriate farm animals, I can tell you that the coming font is, without a doubt, Papyrus.

In fact it’s already back thanks to James Cameron and that movie he made about the giant blue people who don’t have nipples.

Here is the Papyrus connotational baggage:

  • Wholesome green eco-friendly holistic herbal organic (use any of these words interchangeably, the more the better)
  • Family friendly, nipple-free, but still scantily clad
  • Attending, possibly even instructing a yoga class

Here’s the ABC header edited to include the soon-to-be-hip Papyrus font. I think you will agree that it is a great improvement.

I’m just glad that I have the sufficient font skills and interest in cycling to come to the aid of ABC, and it also makes me feel good that this otherwise specialized — which is to say, uselessly nerdtastic — knowledge can stretch its pasty legs in the light of day. I once got into an in-depth discussion of bracketed vs slab-serif fonts with Cheryl and her eyes glazed over so hard I think she was technically comatose for a second and a half.

Damn it, Cheryl! Why can’t we talk about things I’m interested in?

2 thoughts on “Atlanta Bicycle Scandal: Font Mixing”

  1. Deborah Wolfe

    We lived in Santa Fe, NM from 2003 – 2006 and now refer to Papyrus as ‘the Santa Fe default font’.

  2. Tony Bullard

    Font snobbery and bikes in one blog? This may be my heaven.