The New York Times has an interesting piece focusing on the font choice for John McCain’s presidential campaign — it’s Optima — and what the choice might signify, given that it’s the font used for the names on the Vietnam Memorial and so on. It’s also a referendum on the font itself. The article includes this bit of double-banging snark, from illustrator Seymour Chwast:
Optima is one of the worst pre-computer typefaces ever designed. It was created to satisfy everybody’s needs. A straightforward, no-nonsense, no-embellishment face, it comes in regular and bold but little character can be found in either weight.
Optima is not inappropriate for use by Senator McCain.
I think that’s pretty mean to Optima. I like the font, personally and have been known to use it to write, because while being a sans serif font, it has just enough of a subtle weight to it that it makes it easy to read over long stretches of text. At least for me, anyway. If I recall correctly I wrote The Ghost Brigades at least partially in Optima. I have nothing bad to say about Optima. It’s not likely to get me to vote for McCain, but then, if my vote came down to an issue of campaign poster fonts, there’s something wrong with me, isn’t there.
That said, as much as I like Optima, it’s not my current composing font; at the moment I really like Cambria, the serif font that came with Windows Vista (and may be, in fact, the single best thing about Vista). At the moment, in fact, Whatever’s default font is Cambria, although I suspect a goodly portion of you are seeing it in Verdana, which is the backup font when your computer lacks Cambria, followed by other various sans serif fonts, and then finally (should you have none of these) whatever the default serif font is on your machine.
What does my current swoon for Cambria say, other than I’m Microsoft’s font puppy? I really don’t know, other than I guess I’m enough of a geek to think about this stuff at all. I do know that I change favorite fonts on a regular basis. I don’t know what that means, either. I do know, however, that I can’t imagine a world in which I actually like Courier or any of its progeny. I’m aware it’s a standard and even use font in publishing, and I have even been known to format work into it, after I’m done writing, just like I double space everything after I’m done writing. Doesn’t mean I don’t hate it with something approaching a passion. It’s the opposite of esthetically pleasing. I wish it would die. But it won’t. At least I have Optima and Cambria to console me at the moment.