When you think of it, words get in the way of appreciating typography. You find yourself reading what’s said and paying scant attention to the characters from which the words are composed. In fact, idiosyncratic typefaces can be distracting and irritating if you are trying to read long passages. Type should affect the reader on a subliminal level, adding to the reader’s enjoyment, not stressing the eyes or competing for the reader’s attention. But as graphic forms, typefaces can be beautiful, elegant, whimsical, futuristic, historic, geometric, sculptural, and even funny, if you count Comic Sans. Used as a design element, quirky fonts can add a lot of spice to a page.
This skit from “Burnistoun,” the comedy sketch show broadcast by BBC Scotland, reminds me of all the devices that, at first, seem like marvelous inventions, but still need work. An example is a recent exchange with that annoying automated iPhone twit, Siri. She keeps calling me “Del-fiend-E,” even though I’ve corrected her multiple times. Last week I asked Siri for the cross street of Gump’s, San Francisco’s venerable luxury home décor and jewelry store. Everybody in the Bay Area knows the 150-year-old Gump’s — except Siri. She said, “There are three dumps in San Francisco, which one do you want?” I enunciated more slowly, spelling out G-u-m-p-’s. She ignored me and started telling me the addresses of the local dumps. I finally asked a passerby for directions.