At least, that’s how this comes off to me. To ex-Ninja Pete, it’s probably a love letter.
That’s the problem with loving typography. It’s always a pleasure to discover a formally gorgeous, subtly expressive typeface while walking along a street or leafing through a magazine. (Among my current favorites are the very elegant letters in the new identity of the Paris fashion house, Céline, and the jolly jumble of multi-colored fonts on the back of the Rossi Ice Cream vans purring around London.) But that joy is swiftly obliterated by the sight of a typographic howler. It’s like having a heightened sense of smell. You spend much more of your time wincing at noxious stinks, than reveling in delightful aromas.
If it’s bad for me (an amateur enthusiast who is interested in typography, but isn’t hugely knowledgeable about it), what must it be like for the purists? Dreadful, it seems. I feel guilty enough about grumbling to my friends whenever I see this or that typographic gaffe, but am too ignorant to spot all of them, unlike the designers who work with typefaces on a daily basis, and study them lovingly.
“I think sometimes that being overly type-sensitive is like an allergy,” said Michael Bierut, a partner in the Pentagram design group in New York. “My font nerdiness makes me have bad reactions to things that spoil otherwise pleasant moments.” One of his (least) favorite examples is the Cooper Black typeface on the Mass sign outside a beautifully restored 1885 Carpenter Gothic church near his weekend home in Cape May Point, New Jersey. “Cooper Black is a perfectly good font, but in my mind it is a fat, happy font associated with the logo for the ‘National Lampoon,’ the sleeve of the Beach Boys’ ‘Pet Sounds’ album and discount retailers up and down the U.S.,” Mr. Bierut explained. “I wouldn’t choose it as a font for St. Agnes Church even as a joke. Every time I go by, my vacation is, for a moment, ruined.”