Thursday, September 22, 2011

What color should I paint the hall?

Caller: Is this the architect to whom I am speaking?

Architect: Yes. How may I help you?

Caller: Well, I’m thinking about building a house. I don’t have a piece of property yet, and I don’t know how big the lot will be or whether it will be in town or in the country or near the ocean or near the mountains or what direction it will face or whether it will be in a neighborhood where it’s safe to have picture windows or what style I want the house to be, but there’s a paint sale on at Sears, and I want to know what color I should paint the hall.

The other day in a LinkedIn group called Creative Designers and Writers, someone began a discussion thread under the heading “How do you choose the best font?” [If you can access the group link and then find the discussion, go ahead and do so. I think access is restricted group members, though, so you may not be able to until you are accepted into the group.]

The question, though, is like asking what color to paint the hall. It’s approximately the last question to ask when designing a block of text for a book or a website or anything else. This is old ground for me, but it’s worth repeating. A few of us old type hands tried to put the question in context. Alas, others kept extolling their favorite typefaces (and continuing the confusion about the difference between a font and a typeface, which are not the same). As I said in my comment, “Context. Context. Context. What’s the medium? Who’s the audience? What is the content about? Does the type have to be read, or is it just there to make a statement or draw the eye? If it is to be read, what are the page dimensions, margins, line length, character count, leading, …?”

Details matter.

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