Buying Fonts in a Culture of Free
Print in the Digital Age
Any time I mention wanting to buy fonts or suggest that I've spent money on design resources in general, I'm met with disbelief and informed that I can get such things online for free. It's true. If you know where to look, you can find most things for free on the internet—software, movies, music, fonts—but that doesn't mean it's a good idea. There are of course plenty of fonts that come licensed for free, but as a rule, they're not much good beyond the occasional display type, and generally about as useful as their price indicates.
I've always been a strong believer that you get what you pay for. If you get a free font, you can't expect it to be particularly well designed. It won't be as reliable as a typeface carefully crafted by an experienced type designer. The thing about well designed typefaces is that they tend to be very costly. I don't think their pricing is excessively high, considering the amount of work that goes into designing them, but the cost can be prohibitively high for young designers.
Once a designer, always a designer
For most of my life I've been dead set on being a print designer. I've been told for years print was going the way of the 8-track, but I'm attached to it and somehow don't find it plausible that it could disappear completely in the next few years.
What I love about print is the tactility of it—something that can't be replicated on screen, no matter how many advances we make in resolution or user interface design. The end of print would mean the end of physical artifacts, which I think we're more attached to than we let on.
The Internet Stampede
In retrospect, my type choices as a kid were terrible. I suppose I can't fault my six-year-old self for using Comic Sans since it's a kid typeface and I was a kid. What's striking about those choices, however, is that I made them at all—that I cared which typeface I used, considered hierarchy, or thought about design. In elementary school spent hours at our HP desktop designing my own "magazines" in Print Shop. In middle school I would retype worksheets, setting the questions in the same typeface that the teacher used, but putting my answers in a font that resembled handwriting. You know, for clarity.
I remember once arriving to school early the day of the presentation and asking my friend Elizabeth if her poster was set in Trebuchet MS (it was, but neither of us could pronounce it). For years we had this strange ritual of trying to identify each other's typefaces. Of course the only fonts either of us had at our disposal were those available in Windows, which made the guessing pool significantly smaller than it might be otherwise. Both of us downloaded free fonts from the web occasionally, but generally had the good sense not to use them for body text.
Susan Mikula fights the future
I’m sometimes torn between the speed of the future and the slowness of the past. It seems to be a recurring cycle of excitement about the possibilities of new technology and anxiety that this new technology will imperil the old. In middle school I spent an odd amount of time fretting that SMS and instant messaging would lead to the destruction of the English language, while simultaneously spending hours on AOL Instant Messenger and begging my parents for a cell phone so that I could text during the few hours I was away from my computer.
These days, now that some years have passed and everyone I interact with uses full sentences in their online and mobile communication, I’m a bit less concerned about the threat that new technologies pose to English grammar. But even as I rely more and more on new technologies, I have a nagging feeling that I’m moving too quickly and there’s nothing I can do to stop it.
Susan Mikula’s images defy the shift toward digital photography and relentlessly fight against the impending obsolescence of film photography. By clinging to older Polaroid film cameras -- a favorite being the SX-70 Alpha -- she makes a case against relying on the new technology. The lack of focus in her images points out that sharp focus is not the only way to see the world. It may not always be practical (or especially safe) to see the world as shown in her images, though they make a compelling case against constantly relying on corrective lenses.
In Curve Magazine she said “what’s interesting is that although a lot of people email me things that I'm sure they intend to be mean, they are actually kind of true. I have read, ‘If this is how you see the world that you need glasses.’ And I think, this is how I see the world, and I'm happy with that.” Obviously she is not the only person in the world without perfect vision, but the difference between her and majority of those people is that she exploits it in her work instead feeling burdened by it.