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A Man of Many Faces

With a nice 3 week vacation before starting school again, I've rationed a bit free time to get around to doing some things that I've been meaning to get around to. Part of this list includes putting up some recently acquired posters, reformatting my hard drive, and finally finishing up my portfolio section for this site.

And yet there's one thing that I'm most eager to do—organize my jumbled typeface collection.

If you couldn't tell by the huge headers, I'm a bit of a type nerd. Ok, that's an understatement, but you get the point. One of the most challenging—and possibly most exciting—parts of any design project is finding the right typeface for the job. I usually start with a rough idea of what kind of face I'm looking for (slab-serif, old style, etc.) but it's almost always open from there. I've found that browsing through a list that's already organized is super-efficient. Conversely, there's nothing more frustrating than starting from “A” and browsing one-by-one, which begs the question: what's the best way to organize a typeface collection? (Sorry to anyone who thought this was going to be a “How to choose the right typeface” discussion; it's coming soon.)

At home, I have a PC and a Mac mini, which I can't avoid working on simultaneously. Both are equipped with Extensis Suitcase (version 9 on the PC and version X1 on the Mac), which still leaves a lot to be desired but it's the best solution that I've found. My Mac fonts aren't organized yet, but on the PC, I have my sets organized into these categories:

For now, I think I want to stick to this same convention, with some minor tweaks. I would like to have sections within sections, like splitting “Serifs” into further categories like Old Style, Transitional, Humanist, Slab, etc. My “Projects” contains sub-sections of typefaces used for specific products, so that I can activate sets per project.

I have seen some other ways that other designers classify their fonts, like organizing by foundry or designer. What works best for you?


Mark Huot said:

Here's a question about that beautifully typefaced IMAGE at the top. When did it turn into an image? What no more flash?

Posted on September 2, 2005 08:53 AM

jordan said:

I'm sure it's far from the best method, but my method of picking a typeface is to simply type out the text I want in Photoshop, then tap down through the list one by one and write down the faces I think might work.

I then copy/paste a copy for each face and eliminate until I'm left with the one I like.

It's not as bad as it sounds, since most computers only have about 200-300 typefaces, and I only choose about six that might work.

For organising them, I've always been content to use Windows' magic type folder and use the above elimination method... I think I'm going to give Extensis a try though, and see if I like it more. I've a feeling it'll be of more use to me, since I'm taking a typography class this semester, and I'll probably end up all anal and geeky about it. ;)

Posted on September 2, 2005 10:25 AM

Dan Mall said:

@Mark: I knew it would come sooner or later. If you're referring to this version of the site, the headers have always been images. sIFR is great, but it (or any kind of automation) can't give me the kind of typographic control that I would like, such as kerning, ligatures, and specific point sizes.

If you view the source, the <h2> is still there, but, for many reasons (specifically related to using Movable Type), the best way to get it to work is to do some client-side DOM tickling to get the image in the page.

Posted on September 2, 2005 10:29 AM

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