RE: Font Selection Process (Was: Fonts used in print)

Subject: RE: Font Selection Process (Was: Fonts used in print)
From: Doug -dot- Brode -at- valiantmachine -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 17 Dec 2002 08:59:08 -0500

I agree with Keith on this whole font thing. I've been in tech writing since
1983. When I first started working with desktop publishing I loved fooling
around with different fonts. I had thousands, and we've never paid a dime for
any of them. After a while we went with Arial and Times Roman. Those two fonts
have done everything we need to do - deliver information. Just about everyone
has them on their computers. (We are in a PC environment.)

We write operation and maintenance manuals for large industrial machines. Our
end users are engineers, electricians, mill wrights, and machine operators. They
have never heard of kerning. They don't know what an 'expert set' is, and
wouldn't know a serif if it came up and hit them in a face. If I were to start
talking ligatures with these guys out on the shop floor, I'd probably get a dope
slap and a , "We doan need no steenkin' ligatures!"

They want to know what to do if a high-pressure pump starts cavitating. They
want to know how to properly lock out a machine so they don't get killed when
they work inside it. They want to know how to reset a machine after an automatic
shutdown when there is a fault. It's production they are interested in -- and
maintaining the machines to keep them running, while still going home with the
usual number of limbs.

Fonts just aren't important to us. I have never had anyone -- supervisors,
managers, VPs, engineers, operators, welders, fork-lift operators -- even
mention fonts in our manuals. If I were to ask any of them if they thought Arial
was ugly, they'd probably ask if she was that new chick in shipping/receiving.


Keith Cronin said....

I went through a brief font-fondling phase, but now I'm all about whatever
works. My target audiences all use PCs, not Macs. These people are used to
seeing Arial and Times New Roman, so I give them one of those 95% of the

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