Steve Jobs on Fonts

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Dave Crosby
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Joined: Mon Feb 23, 2004 1:13 pm
Location: Enoch, Utah

Steve Jobs on Fonts

Postby Dave Crosby » Sat Sep 15, 2012 1:30 pm

The September 2012 issue of the Smithsonian has an interesting article on Steve Jobs and how his love of SIMPLICITY changed computers and the fonts we use:

Jobs obsessed with equal intensity about the look of what would appear on the screen. In particular, he cared about the fonts—the different styles of lettering. When he had dropped out of Reed College as a freshman, he had stuck around campus auditing classes that struck his fancy, and his favorite was one in calligraphy. “I learned about serif and sans-serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great,” he recalled. “It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating.” It was yet another example of Jobs consciously positioning himself at the intersections of the arts and technology.

Because the Macintosh had a bitmapped display—meaning that each pixel on the screen could be turned on or off by the microprocessor—it was possible to create a wide array of fonts, ranging from the elegant to the wacky, and render them pixel by pixel on the screen. To design these fonts, he hired a graphic artist from Philadelphia, Susan Kare. She named the fonts after the stops on Philadelphia’s Main Line commuter train: Overbrook, Merion, Ardmore and Rosemont. Jobs found the process fascinating. Late one afternoon he stopped by and started brooding about the font names. They were “little cities that nobody’s ever heard of,” he complained. “They ought to be world-class cities!” The fonts were renamed Chicago, New York, Geneva, London, San Francisco, Toronto and Venice. “If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts,” Jobs later said. “And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them.”

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