An old sweet serif

Friday, 22 January 2010 — 8:16am | Computing, Journalism

This just in: I can’t believe I crapped out a thousand words on a niche issue that might have mattered to half a dozen of my acquaintances three or four years ago, when I have academic work to do and a deadline coming up fast. It bothers me. It is costing me sleep.

But I know why I did it. It was Georgia.

You won’t have noticed it if you only read my site on Facebook or your RSS reader, but this week I made some minor tweaks to my layout, and it got me thinking about web design again for the first time in many moons. It began innocently enough. I’d fallen in love with Georgia again, thanks to the online edition of the The New York Times. This is what happens when you read the Times as much as I do: the typesetting becomes inseparable from the text, the text indivisible from the Web; and so daintily, transitively, your memories of other faces slip away like dingbats in the cold, long night.

I’m usually cautious around these upstart fonts for the screen—Georgia is practically an infant, designed in 1993—and ever since I brought my site into its present incarnation I’d stuck with old, reliable Garamond the whole way through. Garamond the Wise, Garamond of Many Colours! How soon had I forgotten that in my former locale, Georgia was once my face of choice. Maybe this is why typographic fashion has borrowed the language of haute couture: one look at the Times and you tell yourself, I want to look like that. Those curves, those stately majuscules.

So I opened up my stylesheet and changed the type. Before I knew it I was fiddling with a margin here, a colour there—minor cosmetic obsessions, nothing big. Then the title image; then a plank for recent comments along the starboard side. It’s not perfect, but it’s tidier now and I felt an overpowering urge to write some copy just to give myself an excuse to look at it.

Don’t worry, though—I’ve not cast away my classical tastes. Jenson remains the champion of the page.


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2 rejoinders to “An old sweet serif”

  1. Georgia makes me happy inside; I’d use it more often, but sans-serif generally makes for better readability on screens, so I stick with the classics (Lucida *, Helvetica, etc.)

    Friday, 29 January 2010 at 4:24am

  2. The Lucida family is lovely on the screen. I think the readability of sans-serif versus serif fonts for the Web depends heavily on the length of the text you are reading as well – there’s something about sans-serif that says “short and snippy”.

    Friday, 29 January 2010 at 8:49pm

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