Holy Font Batman! What's wrong with Gotham?

Daniel Bennett - 22.06.12

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For those familiar with the Batman franchise, Gotham is the dark and ominous metropolis in which Batman fights crime against evil villians and characters. In the less animated, but by no means less graphic world of typography, Gotham is a font family with exceptionally whole, balanced characters across a vast array of weights and styles. 

Hoefler & Frere Jones, creators of this unique typeface surely must have bittersweet feelings for their monumental font family; (H) 'Yep, mission accomplished, we've created a  useful and diverse typeface that is super versatile and legible '. (FJ) 'Whoa hang on, we've created a typeface so good that it's used by every man and his monkey to the point of almost global saturation'.

Alas, Gotham seems to be the next victim of that nasty trend in western society that virally consumes popular creations, uses them to exhaustion, and then casts them aside with scorn. It seems even a utilitarian object such as a font can be treated with such cruelty as if it was last season's clutch purse in The Devil Wears Prada.

This trend has become prevalent to any keen voyeur of various design-related blogs, whereby a new concept incorporating Gotham will be showcased, only to be followed by a flurry of cynical comments from apparent design experts, who behind the safety of avatars shoot down what are on the whole effective design solutions.

This is by no means a new occurence, in fact it's almost the low budget sequel to the Helvetica motion picture: the story of an effective and successful typeface created in the 1957, built on solid design principles, but used extensively over time to leave a sour taste on many a designer palette.

Unfortunately, Gotham seems to be heading down the same road, unjustly in my opinion. If you were to compare Gotham to Helvetica, you would say that Helvetica was always destined to be thrashed as it's defining attributes revolve around maximum functionality with the minimum amount of frills throughout the entire font family, meaning it's an easy choice for designers of varying skill.

Gotham, although similar in it's utilitarian qualities has so much more choice within it's huge font family, with far more combinations on hand not just within the family but working effectively with other faces too. 

Ironically, Roger came back from our local deli the other day stating he'd seen the lunch menu set out rather poorly in Gotham Book which was disconcerting as his look of dissatisfaction had little to do with a less-than-fresh chicken roll. I admit that Gotham easily becomes monochromatic as you see the standard formatting applied in many a crude context or by the hands of an inexperienced typesetter. However, I've witnessed some beautiful logos and pieces of communication using the best Gotham has on offer. Ultimately I'd prefer to see 100 solid logos using Gotham than 5 logos using fonts from all those free libraries out there, handled with minimal sensitivity. 

My glass-half-full mentality leaves me to believe that Gotham and Helvetica for that matter will rise despite the use and abuse attitude out there. There is too much intelligence injected into a typeface like Gotham to render it a washed up child-actor. 

Yep, the de.co wordmark uses Gotham, and we proudly brand our company with the compact yet beautifully rounded character forms. I was personally inspired by the origins of the font; based on classic hand-crafted signage from a New York City golden era. 


Who knows?, perhaps this is why Gotham as a name was chosen, for when Batman finally rids the city of all the seedy characters and scum it will become  a desirable place to be with a whole lot of white space. 

Thanks to Richard Baird, a fellow advocator of saturated fonts with this interesting article. Images in this article attributed to Hoefler & Frere Jones - www.typography.com 

1 responses

Daniel

Proof of the above: http://gothamlogos.tumblr.com/

12.07.12

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