The Al Gore font fix
By Garance Franke-Ruta
As former vice president Al Gore prepared his latest book for publication, he discovered a problem: The font being used in the book made the numeral 1 look like a capital I.
Gore's attention to detail within a 400-page book, and the solution that he and his graphic design team at the MGMT Design firm arrived at for "Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis", have amused Gore-watchers and font nerds alike since they became public knowledge last Thursday.
That's the day Peter Bilak, founder of the Dutch type foundry Typotheque (and also a founding editor of Dot Dot Dot magazine) took to his blog to describe the creation of a new variant of the Brioni typeface for the former vice president, called "Al Gore's choice."
Last summer, I received a phone call from Michael, a designer from mgmtdesign in Brooklyn, New York. After the initial how-do-you-do's, he explained that they were designing a new book for Al Gore, Our Choice, the sequel to An Inconvenient Truth.
"Great project", I said.
And it got even better. They had chosen Brioni, one of our typefaces, for the body text.
"And this is why I am calling now", said Michael, his voice dropping a level. "You see, Al is really involved with the project and we spend a lot of time working together in the publisher's office. When he was reviewing the proofs, he had a comment about the typeface."
I took a deep breath and asked what the comment was.
"Basically, he wants you to change the numeral one."
"Interesting", I said. "And how did he come to this conclusion?"
"Well, in the book there're a lot of examples of scientific nomenclature and this particular numeral one is causing confusion when it's combined with capitals."
Bilak took the change with gusto, pleasing his client and also concluding: "Al was right. The new numeral is a lot less confusing when combined with letters. We already changed it for all other weights of Brioni. We'll call this 'Gore's choice'."
Gore's request has elicited amused reactions in the twitterverse, on blogs and from the design media.
"It's been kind of entertaining seeing all the response," said Alicia Cheng, a partner at MGMT Design. The request for a change was not as unusual as the circumstances of it, she said, which required the typeface to be redone in "like five hours... and for a type designer that's incredibly like a rush rate."
"We were cranking out this book in triple time with a whole team of people," she recounts. "Everyone had a meticulous eye, including Al." The choice to have the font "redrawn was the solution we brought to the table as graphic designers," she said. It really "helped clarify the information."
January 12, 2010; 4:23 PM ET
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