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Old 06-26-2008, 08:18 AM   #1
ktinkel
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Default Fonts can shape reality?

From “Down With Helvetica: Design Your Own Font” in today’s New York Times comes this quote:
“Fonts can shape reality in intangible ways, as Phil Renaud, a graphic designer from Phoenix, discovered when he studied the relationship between his grades and the fonts he used for his college papers. Papers set in Georgia, a less common font with serifs, generally received A’s while those rendered in Times Roman averaged B’s.”
The article includes links to font-related sites, including FontShop’s FontStruct site, where you can create your own blocky fonts and try to shape (or reshape) reality. There are other font-making sites mentioned as well.

   
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Old 06-26-2008, 03:23 PM   #2
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Papers set in Georgia, a less common font with serifs, generally received A’s while those rendered in Times Roman averaged B’s.”
Yep. And so, how do we determine when the choice of font is affecting how something we write is perceived by the reader? Or for that matter choices in layout? I know font choice has to be involved on how well an argument is received, but how can I figure out how to control it. I always knew when I was in college that my grades came out well in part, because I had my papers typed on the best electric typewriter made at the time. The same has to be true in some way with how positions in articles are presented. If only there were studies.

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Old 06-26-2008, 06:14 PM   #3
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Yep. And so, how do we determine when the choice of font is affecting how something we write is perceived by the reader? Or for that matter choices in layout? I know font choice has to be involved on how well an argument is received, but how can I figure out how to control it. … If only there were studies.
There have been many studies, but none of the results are conclusive (that I have seen, and I have many of the reports).

There are too many variables. Not only font choice, not only type size, not only page size/shape, not only margins and measure (line width), not only leading (line-height), not only typographic quality (good spacing, well-drawn characters), not only printing quality, but paper color, opacity, and reflectiveness, ambient lighting, other conditions affecting the reader (bumpy train, glare, distractions including noise), and more.

The content (text, writing style) is another factor. The general openness of a reader to a particular argument.

And on and on. It is probably fortunate that people are not easy to persuade of any argument, and that simple manipulation of type and printing can overcome common sense. No?

   
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Old 06-26-2008, 07:10 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by ktinkel View Post
From “Down With Helvetica: Design Your Own Font” in today’s New York Times comes this quote:
“Fonts can shape reality in intangible ways, as Phil Renaud, a graphic designer from Phoenix, discovered when he studied the relationship between his grades and the fonts he used for his college papers. Papers set in Georgia, a less common font with serifs, generally received A’s while those rendered in Times Roman averaged B’s.”
The article includes links to font-related sites, including FontShop’s FontStruct site, where you can create your own blocky fonts and try to shape (or reshape) reality. There are other font-making sites mentioned as well.
I'm curious about the notion of the papers; how were they compared? I mean, if the font was the only difference, were they still turned into the same reader? Or could the papers set in a less common font just have been, well, far better written?

   
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Old 06-27-2008, 05:06 AM   #5
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It is probably fortunate that people are not easy to persuade of any argument, and that simple manipulation of type and printing can overcome common sense. No?
Well, I’m not actually talking about manipulating type and layout to affect the argument, but I’m wondering how the packaging affects reception and perception. Some arguments, I think, get dismissed quickly and unfairly because they were put in the wrong package, and some get deeper consideration because of a pleasant presentation. It can be difficult to persuade, especially when a line of reasoning is subtly but still fundamentally flawed, but even when a position is supported by an abundant supply of high quality facts, the packaging can nullify the weight of the truth involved. I think of manipulation occurring when lines of facts and logic are twisted for effect, but a valid position still needs a high quality form of communication.

The best way to prevail in an argument is to align it as close as possible with the truth. And the truth always argues for itself. Any aspect of an advocated position that deviates from truth has to be eliminated or made to conform with reality, or eventually it fails to convince anyone of anything. But who wants to support an argument that isn’t really true – actually, a lot of people. By their prejudice they want to remake truth, and when a true argument fails even over a long period of discussion and debate, ultimately it is prejudice that is the cause. So to prevail with an argument, there have to be techniques that deal with prejudices, and that involves more than just lines of reasoning, but knowing how to get people’s attention on key facts, that forces them to question whether they are actually only being dishonest with themselves. Therefore, the manner of communication must become an art and must consider every small detail, with an awareness of how the false or deceptive positions rely on every available means to an end.

Americans believe that the truth can always be stated in simple terms, but deception is laid out with complexity. The problem with persuasion is not the simple layout of the truth, but dealing with the complexity of what is falsely advocated – and I think there is nothing more difficult in life than unraveling the complications of deception (at times in accounting it seems utterly hopeless). Finding the weaknesses within the complexity of the false position is one thing by itself, but setting out the best way to communicate those flaws is also a challenge, and that requires reviewing all the details. Still, persuasion finally rests with a simple focus on key facts, but a bad choice of fonts and layout does not enhance that simplicity – a symbolic diagram of the logic involved might in many circumstances

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Old 06-27-2008, 05:38 AM   #6
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I'm curious about the notion of the papers; how were they compared? I mean, if the font was the only difference, were they still turned into the same reader? Or could the papers set in a less common font just have been, well, far better written?
Beats me. I would say this was a subjective “study” with far too few samples!

   
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Old 06-27-2008, 06:25 AM   #7
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I would say this was a subjective “study” with far too few samples
Georgia is a nice typeface, but its most outstanding feature is that its default numerals are old style; few other common faces have that. If there were numerals in the candidates scripts, a marker might be influenced if he preferred old style numerals (or vice versa!).

   
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Old 06-27-2008, 06:51 PM   #8
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Beats me. I would say this was a subjective “study” with far too few samples!
Sad but true, most "studies" are like that

   
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Old 06-30-2008, 07:39 PM   #9
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Default NYT: Down With Helvetica: Design Your Own Font

06/26/08, in the New York Times, "Personal Tech":

http://tinyurl.com/3wj55s

While not a Helvetica fan, I was put off by the headline, even though I'm always happy to see anything about typography in the "mainstream media."

On reading the article and discovering that it's mainly about advertising and display, I calmed down; you're certainly welcome to do anything you want to with your restaurant menu, in good taste or not.

I do think that digitizing your own handwriting -- except maybe a signature -- is usually pretty pointless. Anyone can tell that it's not really written by hand. I guess losing your ability to write, and wanting to salvage something of the look of your hand would be an exception.

Still, always nice when the Times notices type.

--Eric
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Old 07-01-2008, 11:25 AM   #10
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"Papers set in Georgia, a less common font with serifs, generally received A’s while those rendered in Times Roman averaged B’s.”

I mentioned this to my daughter, who majored in psychology. She thought it was an interesting idea, but pointed out that most of her instructors had required papers to be submitted in 10-point Times.
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