Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Fonts and Cultural Difference

I was recently in the US for a short trip, and had some time to wonder about my own sense of otherness here. I stayed on the East coast for a short while (three months) in the past so it shouldn't have seemed completely alien, and yet there were many brief moments when I realised just how different things look because of the way they are printed. And that is just it: looks. I don't consider myself to be very observant, visually speaking (I suppose how else might one mean it), but my own language jumped out at me wherever I saw it written in public. The voice of authority in the USA has a very different printed tone to that in the UK, and both are different to the written rules as you see them in Ireland. Apart from differences in formality (toilets are for WOMEN in the USA, but for LADIES in the UK), there is a consistent difference in the kinds of font used. It threw me every time. I had hoped to give some systematic examples of the kind of fonts I'm talking about, but found them very hard to track down online - I'll have to just hope some of you know what I mean. Traffic lights spring to mind, as do signs insisting on quiet in libraries and lecture theatres (the irony of a loud font demanding quiet never fails to amuse me). If you do come across any examples online please do link them in your comments below - and in future I will remember to bring my camera on holidays.

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