Whether or not you take an active interest in typography, I’m sure you’ve seen something like this before. A document whose writer (or, worse still, its designer) tried to be overly creative, and did some horrible font matching. I don’t just mean “used Comic Sans MS” (the perennial “awful font” everybody loves to hate), but even if the writer or designer used “sane” fonts, they don’t always go together.
Type Connection is a fun, simple game you play in the browser, where you take fonts out “on a date”, pick a strategy, and then check how things went.
Picking The Main Character
The first thing you do in Type Connection is pick a starting font. You don’t get to pick any old font. The game is based on a narrow selection of five high-profile fonts – Adobe Garamond Pro, ITC Century, Univers, Archer, and ITC Stone Sans. All of these are premium fonts, and all of them cost money or are included in high-end graphics software (like CorelDRAW or Adobe CS5.5). Each of these fonts has its own history, and if you’re curious about typography, you can hover over the font and learn something new.
So if all the fonts cost money, why should you even care about this game? Let me answer with a screenshot:
Look at those glyphs (or characters). Don’t they seem familiar? I mean, forget about the big names here for a moment, and just look. There’s a sedate serif, a blocky serif, a thin sans-serif, and so on. Type Connection can teach you to mix and match fonts, even if you don’t have access to these particular premium fonts. Also, you might be surprised to discover one or more of these already installed on your machine.
So now, let’s pick a font to start with. I like Univers, so I’m going to go with that.
Picking The Strategy
Now that you have a font to start with, it’s time to decide how you’re going to approach the date. Type Connection lets you pick one of four strategies with which to try and win the heart of the other font, or in other words, create a successful match. A funny metaphor, but also true in a way. When setting type, are we trying to create intentional clashes? Or is the goal to create a more uniform look and use fonts that share the same typographical influences?
I’ve picked Embrace the Other, because I like bold differences in typography.
Picking a Partner
Now that we have a main font and a strategy, the time has come to pick a date. Type Connection offers three possible fonts at this stage, based on your previous selections. Again, these are premium fonts, and in my opinion, the font “bios” alone are worth playing the game – very interesting stuff, if you’re into typography.
As you can probably guess, I went with futuristic Eurostile.
This next part is my favorite. Type Connection overlays specimens of both fonts on top of each other, and you can compare specific areas of difference and similarity. Differences are subtle at this resolution, but if I zoom in you can see both of these fonts are somewhat different:
At this resolution you can also get a better look at the circles highlighting particular typography choices the typeface’s designer made – for example, in Eurostile, the diagonals of the K touch a crossbar, while in Univers, both legs meet at a point on the stem itself.
Still, those subtle differences may not go well with the strategy I picked, which calls for radically different fonts.
Sending Your Fonts On a Date
I clicked the button that said “Send them on a date”, and found out that indeed my selection of fonts and strategy really doesn’t match, and I’ve learned something new (the whole point of the game, really). I was now taken back to the partner selection screen, where I decided to go with the serif Linotype Centennial:
And now when I sent Univers and Linotype Centennial on a date – success! I get an explanation showing why this pairing works, as well as a specimen showing both typefaces used in combination:
Type Connection is a really fun game, and I think anyone who cares about what their documents look like can get something out of a quick spin or two. It’s a great way to learn the terminology of typography, and get to know important fonts.
Also, if this post got your typographical juices flowing but you don’t have the premium fonts highlighted here, worry not. All you have to do is wait for tomorrow, when my Free Font Friday column will be published with a selection of sleek, free typefaces for you to enjoy.