Ever walked into a room where you’ve never been and felt that something just wasn’t right about it?  Tried to read a book or magazine and just couldn’t stand it, even though you should be interested in the subject?  Or something is just a little bit out of place on your messy desk – you can tell something happened, even if you can’t place what it is.

I’m that way about fonts.  I might spend ten minutes writing up something and five minutes deciding on the font to use.  My current favorite is Tahoma.  That’s what I use in my work emails.  I use Courier New for monospaced computer code.  And sometimes if I see a page full of Arial I want to run away.

Why all the fuss over fonts?  Don’t they all communicate the same thing?

Answer this one: Is it the same to hear “I love you” from your spouse whispering in your ear, as compared to hearing it in the same announcement as a K-Mart blue light special?

No, not the same at all.  The envelope it’s delivered in contributes to the meaning.  I don’t go as far as The medium is the message where Marshall McLuhan argued that the

medium itself, not the content it carries, should be the focus of study.

There are cues and clues indicated by the wrapping that something is delivered in.  Book covers entice you.  Infomercials are laden with “but wait – there’s more!”, even if those words aren’t used.  And more subtle: You know the main character isn’t going to get killed off in the first hour of a movie, and the case isn’t going to be solved in the first ten minutes of a TV show.  The format requires that.  A story from a friend could be long or short, funny, sad, or informative.  But an hour-long show will always fill up an hour.  (This conveniently ignores the Monty Python episode where they rolled credits and went to black a few minutes early – and then continued with the show.  But the gag wouldn’t have worked unless people were already conditioned to “know” the show was over after the credits.)

So anyway, to roll all this back towards something nearing normal, the fonts chosen for a sign, an email, a book – they all have meanings.  Some fonts look like college athletics.  Don’t use those for a love letter.  Something like Drift Type is strongly anti-recommended for your corporate resume, and Dutch and Harley would be wasted on a shopping list.  Those fonts all have their place, and they can all be used incorrectly.

Now you’re convinced that type faces matter.  Good first step.  But how do you choose the right one?  You could always check out the Periodic Table of Typefaces (large image here), but you can’t see your message in all those fonts, and you probably don’t own most of them.  You need something that can show you your personal message, in the fonts on your computer.

You need FontViewOK, from my friend Nenad Hrg.  Yes, the Nenad Hrg who wrote QDir and DesktopOK.  And like his other programs, this one doesn’t really need explaining.  But so that you don’t feel left out, here you go: download it (only 35K – how does he do this?), unzip it to somewhere known, put a shortcut on your desktop, and run it.  In short order you’ll be choosing the right font for your particular message.

One final recommendation: use a font that people can read and understand.  That whole communication thing, don’t you know . . .