What does your college’s font say about you?

Will Amor 14 February 2014

Arguably the most important part of a book is its font, closely followed by its actual contents. If you read a book with an unintelligible font, you will probably stop reading it because of the typeface long before you find out whether it was a good book or not. Thanks to Microsoft Word, we are all accustomed to fonts to a greater or lesser extent. Arial, Times New Roman, Comic Sans, serif, bold and italics will all mean something to you. Font culture, once the preserve of a select group of graphic designers, is now not only easily explorable on your word-processing programme of choice, but also in Simon Garfield’s best selling book Just My Type which fetishistically describes more fonts than you’ll ever care to know about, and in Vsauce’s Youtube video A Defense of Comic Sans, which examines some of the socio-political results of opening up the typographic world.

But how does your college brand itself with typeface? I looked at all the college’s websites and identified the Best and Worst fonts used.

Worst:

3. Murray Edwards uses Helvetica, a Swiss font whose use of straight lines and circular curves is famed for its neutrality. While it looks cool and stylish on the New York subway, on the Medwards site it is boring and forgettable.

2. Darwin’s use of Arial Narrow is as uninspired as it is ugly. The graphic designer clearly chose the first font on Word to make this anodyne banner. It is reminiscent of the most inane and characterless WordArt a Year 7 could come up with.

1. Emmanuel wins the accolade for worst college font a full furlong ahead of its competition. The garish, embossed pink Times New Roman only serves to embarrass the college’s web team for maintaining the most anachronistic Cambridge website.

Best:

3. Newnham uses a sans-serif font like the majority of the college websites, but is unique in using Trebuchet Bold. An tight and pragmatic typeface, it also has hints of whimsy with the curious ‘g’ and slightly flicky ‘l’.

2. Queens’ was always going to need to find a bold Q, and it did well to opt for Optima. The varying width in this font gives it a subtle and understated character.

1. Fitzwilliam brands itself with Garamond, a classic serif font that is widely found in print. Online however, the bold serifs and beautiful ‘W’ merge good style and confidence to place Fitz as Cambridge’s typographic king.