The font guy

I recently posted a YogaSpy flyer at the studio I attend. I’m trying to garner a local audience, for comments from people in my own community. Because I’m still somewhat anonymous, I can’t go around telling folks about my blog. Hence, the flyer.

I wasted an inordinate amount of time choosing a font. Ever fool around with all the fonts in Word? Just convert a sentence to this or that font and … presto! … the whole vibe of the words change.

I ended up with Papyrus (overused but still charming), plus my URL in bold Times New Roman for contrast.

It reminded me of the time my grad school classmate Helena and I launched a business. While we eventually hired a graphic designer to do a unique logo for us, we initially went to Kinko’s for simple, but tasteful, cards. We were pretty picky about details, and we debated over which font to use. The guy at the counter referred us to another staffer known as the “font guy.” He knew everything about typefaces, about their histories and visual effects, about which capital “S” (or whatever letter) was particularly attractive.

Helena and I were quite amused by his obsession with fonts. It delighted me, actually. When people are into something, it’s rather contagious.

I see so much boredom in people, especially when they’re doing mundane work or killing time before their “real life” might begin. I’m sure we’ve all dealt with salesclerks who know nothing about their own merchandise, whether at big-box chains, or cafes, or the lululemon shop in town.

It’s really a matter of attitude. Sure, a job or role might be only a waystation, but it can still be interesting, it can still matter. One can be an expert in any niche.


  1. There is a whole documentary about the font Helvetica. It is called Helvetica, and it is much more interesting than it sounds.


  2. I like fonts, too. You’re right about everything being someone’s passion. I make the same point about paper clips in my eBook, in an attempt to convince the reader that everything in the universe, from galaxies to paper clips, are infinitely wondrous (I could have used your font example instead!):

    “What about a paper clip? In many ways a paper clip is as wondrous as a galaxy.

    To begin with, like the galaxy, a paper clip consists of millions and millions of things (molecules, atoms, and the even smaller quarks) interacting with each other in complex ways. Then consider what happens to all these tiny elements and how they have to interact with each other. They’re not spinning around an axis like the stars in a galaxy, but, then again, a galaxy can’t bend and spring back into shape like a paper clip can. If you were small enough to stand on the nucleus of an atom within a paper clip, it would be a lot like standing on earth surrounded by stars.

    Now, consider what it took to design and make that paper clip–the metallurgy and engineering that led to the precise formulation of just the right flex, the mines that had to be dug to extract the raw materials, the processing plants that transformed the raw materials into the right metal, the machines that had to be designed and built to manufacture thousands of paper clips a minute.

    Somewhere in the world, there is a person who is an expert in paper clips, for whom the whole world revolves around the design and manufacture of paper clips. He or she can tell you the entire history of the development of the paper clip, and what people did before there were paper clips, and who invented it, and what are the advantages and disadvantages of all the different possible designs and materials for paper clips, and the future of the paper clip, and where we go from here, etc. etc.”

    Bob Weisenberg


    1. Familiar with the saying “I know _____ like I know the back of my hand”? Well, I’d bet most people don’t know the back of either hand very well!

      In writing, it’s always best to narrow the focus. Invariably, even the narrowest topic will yield many themes and stories. If we take the time closely to observe, almost anything is interesting (and quite mysterious).

      Yes, paper-clip experts probably exist. Here’s my question to any of them: I try to avoid buying stuff made in China. But paper clips sold in North America all seem to be China-made. Where can I find other options?


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