20 February 2024

Favorite fonts, both "As" from an "A" country, an obscure rant

Some few of my farflung correspondents may share my interest in typefaces (commonly nowadays called "fonts," although the technical term is typeface). I have a deep and abiding loathing for both Times New Roman and Arial, probably the two most common computer "printer fonts" (except on Apple, where real Helvetica, rather than knockoff Arial, is standard). I regard both as lifeless and ugly, each in its own uniquely awful way (Helvetica is only slightly better, associated as it is with the 1960s brutalist esthetic). I would dearly love to see all three consigned to the scrap heap of typographic history. TNR was literally designed to make more text fit in a newspaper column, and it sacrifices all proportion and even legibility for that end. The less said about the deliberately minimal and ugly Arial the better.

So here's something I'm pretty sure is not a coincidence. Among the newer font families I've come across, there are two, one a classic serif and the other a unique "baroque humanist" semi-serif, that I really like and use whenever I can, in their respective milieus. These are classic serif Alegreya, designed by Juan Pablo del Peral, and Asul, designed by Mariela Monsalve, after unnamed typefaces used in the 1920s. Both were designed in the early 2010s in Argentina. Alegreya is a sort of modernized and more legible version of Garamond, or possibly Bembo; whereas Asul is really unique; combining the best of the virtues of sans serif fonts like Humanist and Trebuchet with real proportion and a hint of serif. It's beautiful and very legible.

To see and read a bit about each:

Asul is free from Google fonts. Alegreya is also readily available free, but you have to look for it. Just google the name if you're interested. There are standard, medium, real italic (not just algorithmically slanted italics, which are a travesty and should never be used in anything where graphic beauty is important), and also bold and extra bold standard and italic versions. In a world where beauty is often shortchanged, I would take a little but genuine pleasure if Alegreya were to supplant Times New Roman as the standard serif font and Asul were to replace Arial... there really is no justification or need for purely sans serif fonts anywhere. We are not robots, why should we use robotic typefaces?

I say all this in the full realization that most people almost literally could not care less.


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