Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Look at the Typeface

You might have figured this out by now but, if there is an NYU tag at the bottom of the post, that means I have to do that post for a class. Sometimes those posts don't relate to gaming, though regardless of the post I'll probably tie it back to gaming somehow. Also, that means in those posts I should probably keep my language PG, meaning I can't just randomly say penis or things like that. Either way, the post will still be enjoyable, so feel free to read them.

Helvetica:


Helvetica is both the name of a certain typeface (font) and of a documentary I recently watched in class. The movie was surprisingly awesome, as it highlighted the birth and overuse of the Helvetica typeface in our culture. Pretty much every sign you see, either corporate or public, uses this typeface. Helvetica is widely used because of its perceived normality and non-assuming tone.

Different types of font can display different sorts of emotions. Times New Roman has a sense of formality to it, for example. And that's not just because we use Times New Roman for boring Word documents. Graphic designers would argue that Times New Roman has a sense of formality because of the way the letters are shaped and formatted.

Typeface is very important in video games as well as designers always want to convey as much emotion as possible within the confines of a text box. A game that used typeface very well was Super Paper Mario. The text was usually the same for most characters but, by either using wavy text, shaky text or all caps, you could feel more emotion coming out from the characters. Take a look at this clip below (you only need to see the first two minutes) from when Mario faces a boss called Fracktail. Notice how each character gains a different voice by the different styles in the text and the text box.



That scene actually made me laugh. In retrospect, I probably would not have laughed if Fracktail's text was not in all caps.

Obama's Typeface:
Typeface also makes a different in politics, since politicians want you to feel good when you observe their ads. Obama's campaign workers have a great grasp on how to effectively use graphic design and typeface in order to invoke positive feelings. Take a look a the campaign poster below.


The font used in this poster is called Gotham. A recent New York Times article analyzed the impact of the typeface Gotham in this poster. Here's a perplexing quote from the analyst:

"...there’s an oxymoronic quality to Gotham, which is why I think it’s become so popular. It has a blunt, geometric simplicity, which usually makes words feel cold and analytical, but it also feels warm. It’s substantial yet friendly. Up-to-date yet familiar. That’s a tough hat trick. And Gotham has another quality that makes it succeed: it just looks matter-of-fact."

It just goes to show that every little piece matters, even how the text is displayed in politics or video games makes a difference as to how you feel or interact with that object.

Augmenting Human Intellect:
Thinking in terms of typeface (and its effects) is something we really never thought about until we started using computers. The printing press was made way back in 1439 and more fonts came about over the generations. However, just look at the oddity of advertisements from as recent as the 1950's.


Text is all over the place. The ad is hokey and a little hard to read. One possible reason for why ads are smoother now (and more effective in terms of marketing) is because computers have allowed us to tackle those difficult problems of expressing emotion through print. Instead of having to conceptualize an ad, draw it, and print it, we can use computers to fine tune the ad so that it is more pleasing to the eye.

Not only have computers made processes more complex, they have also made them faster. In addition, once we have learned how to effectively use a program in order to make something more complex and faster, we then learn how to manipulate which, in turn, makes things even more complex and speedier. Humans therefore, grow with the technology, become smarter and more efficient.
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If you've read this far, you probably have two things burning in your mind right now. Go outside and see for yourself how almost everything uses Helvetica. Then, you might think about how the knowledge of Helvetica's power has grown with computers, and how you might be a bit smarter with this knowledge. Regardless, now you are at least more aware.

7 comments:

Will said...

I was able to break the secret code of your NYU tag before you told us.

I agree, Super Paper Mario's font was very memorable. Obama's definitely does have those qualities; it's crazy what an effect font has.

I'm not sure why, but I really like Tahoma. Hopefully when people see it, they will think of Will and Beyond. I know I do.

calightning1 said...

Rich,

Thanks for relating the HELVETICA info to typefaces in gaming:

"A game that used typeface very well was Super Paper Mario."

Oh, you may want to link 1439 to the Wikipedia article on the PRINTING PRESS rather than the date itself, though that year WAS interesting.

Cynthia

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