A typeface is like a chair
Stephen Coles

  • A page is like a room, type is like furniture, and a typeface is like a chair.
  • Chairs and typefaces are designed to fulfill a purpose.
  • The user knows immediately when they aren’t right for the purpose, though they may not be able to explain why.
  • Furniture design and typeface design are crafts.
  • Both crafts require good taste.
  • Both crafts require technical proficiency.
  • For most purposes, both crafts require restraint.
  • A chair or typeface can be decorative to varying degrees but must be functional.
  • The best chairs and typefaces have an appropriate balance of form and function.
  • Very small changes in proportion make a big difference.
  • You can misuse a chair and you can misuse a typeface.
  • Context matters: a lounge chair doesn’t work at a dining table, Papyrus doesn’t work in a business letter.
  • Audience matters: a chair must hold the weight and size of the sitter, a typeface must hold the attention of the reader.
  • Everyone needs them every day.
  • There isn’t a perfect one.
A typeface is like a chair
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