If you’re anything like me with your graphics and your creativeness and such, you’re probably a fan of fonts. This goes without saying that you hate ‘Comic Sans MS’, as any serious font fan should. It’s the Brussel Sprout of fonts, with the added spite that it’s not even welcome at Christmas. But hey – let’s leave Comic Sans alone for today, and focus this little entry on some of the cooler fonts out there.
Now personally I’m a fan of a good, clean, easily readable font. I don’t like serif fonts, so even that wonderful old standard Times New Roman is a bit tiresome to me. I do like stuff like ‘Tahoma’, ‘Futura’ – I’ve even got a fond place in my heart for ‘Helvetica’ and ‘Arial’, thoroughly overused as they are. Occasionally though you’ll have a hankering to use a font that you see everyday, but probably not realised.
One such font I’ve realised I quite like is the UK vehicle number-plate font. The font that legally has to be used is called ‘Charles Wright’, and is the standard across the UK. Now, you can download this cheeky little number from http://www.charles-wright.com, but it’ll cost you £40. If you’re a bit of a tight bastard (or if like me, a REALLY tight bastard) you’ll probably want a cheaper alternative. A good number plate style font similar to ‘Charles-Wright’ is one called ‘Mandatory’- you can download that one for free here.
Another neat font that you see everyday without really seeing is the font used throughout the UK on most road & street signage. It’s called ‘Transport’ oddly enough, and was designed by Jock Kinneir and Margaret Calvert between 1957 and 1963, so you know this font has legs. It’s even been used a lot overseas in various permutations. You can download a free version of this font here. There’s also an informative (if you’re a nerd like me) Wikipedia article about this font here, which also has handy links to other transport-related fonts. Fontastic!
Spinning off from ‘Transport’, is ‘Rail Alphabet’, created by the very same designers in 1965. A slightly modified version is still in use today, and in a somewhat comforting move of continuity, is even used across the differing companies who now manage each rail region. It’s even used by a variety of airports, and the NHS. There’s a website for the font here with ludicrously expensive prices – http://www.newrailalphabet.co.uk/ If you’re on a budget, or if you’re still in tight bastard territory, you can find a variety of free downloads by searching online, but I can’t vouch for the quality of these myself. Another alternative is to simply use Helvetica, as they are quite similar anyway… but I digress.
Before I finish with the transportation end of things, I have to mention the font in use on the London Underground (and later, as Transport For London). ‘Johnston Sans’ (as it was originally known when created by Edward Johnston in 1915) came to redefine modern fonts in its time, and it has been continuously updated over the years right up to the present day. There’s a very good article detailing the evolution of the font and it’s creator (and his successors) at http://londonreconnections.blogspot.com/2009/09/typeface-for-underground.html. It’s a nicely informative read. Again, it’ll cost you to obtain the official version of these fonts, but a good, free alternative is available in the form of ‘Paddington’, and that can be found here.
The final font I’m going to highlight today is not transport-related in the least you’ll be pleased to hear. While looking for a font to letter my latest comic strip in, I stumbled across several fonts that were comic-book styled, but just didn’t fit with my hastily scribbled artwork. I remembered a font that my friend Ben Paddon used on his brilliant web-comic Jump Leads that I knew would fit my style, so I decided to use that one as well. It’s called ‘Ashcan’, and it’s a squirrely, jagged little effort that suits sparsely detailed art quite nicely, so it was a good fit for me (and you’ll see it works nicely for the Jump Leads strips as well). You can download it for free here. As I say, it’s a fun little font.
I guess that’s enough gibbering about fonts for now, if you haven’t died of boredom already. If you have, I’m sorry. But I’d recommend ‘Gill Sans’ for your headstone, it’s clean and highly readable from a distance…