Top Designers Divulge Guilty Pleasure Fonts

Guilty pleasures, we’ve all got them. Whether it’s listening to “Barry Manilow – Greatest Hits” CD, warm Krispy Kremes, or watching cheerleading competitions, we all have our guilty pleasures that we would not want anyone to know about. But what about guilty pleasure fonts? Do you suppose that some of the best typographic designers of our time also might have a typeface that they’d really like to try — or have tried — and wouldn’t want anyone to know about it? Does Michael Bierut have a guilty pleasure font? How about Gail Anderson?

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Yes, it’s true, graphic designers have guilty font pleasures. Even the most sophisticated type users can’t help themselves.

Michael Bierut confirms that his guilty type pleasure is not Cooper Black. It’s “too obvious,” he says. “I use Cooper Black a little more than I should. I know that some detest the design but I really like it.”

“OK, I’d like to use Ad Lib,” Bierut admits. It almost looks like Helvetica — except zany and with a little Ben Shan thrown in. I think it’s the ‘Gilligan’s Island’ typeface. I always thought it would be nice to take classic modernist posters set in Helvetica and replace it with Ad Lib.” While Ad Lib isn’t the typeface used to brand the “Gilligan’s Island” television series (that’s another zany, cut from paper kind of typeface), It clearly isn’t a design that would be on most designer’s wish list.

Ad Lib Font Sample

Gill Sans Ultra Bold is Sean Adams’ guilty font pleasure, “I’ve been working on a project for Mohawk and I’m using Gill Sans Ultra Bold. It’s hideous. Really, really ugly. It has these dreadful attributes such as the depression on the lowercase ‘i’ — but it’s like a drug. I know it’s bad for me, but it feels so good.”

Armin Vit has a special place for Scott Makela’s Dead History. “It’s one of my most favorite typefaces,” Vit confesses, “but it’s absolutely useless, even though, back in 1999, I set my whole masters thesis project in it — the including the body copy.”

Baby Fat Font SampleMaybe it’s because she’s such a great lover of type, because Gail Anderson has not one — but three guilty font pleasures. “Early in my tenure at SpotCo, I used a variation of Milton Glaser’s Baby Fat,” she recalls. “I have always wanted to work with it, and not in an ironic, retro way, though I’ve loved it since my own fat baby days. Anyway, I distinctly remember manipulating Baby Fat for a theater poster, and watching the owner of SpotCo, Drew Hodges, have a moment when he seriously doubted hiring me. I tried it again recently for a book cover, and that didn’t fly either.”

Fig Script Font Sample

“I bought a copy of Fig Script about seven or eight years ago after seeing it on some very groovy posters and CDs,” Anderson reminiscences. “I was determined to attempt something outside my typical vocabulary, and sat down one Sunday morning to take Fig Script for a test drive. I wrestled with my lovely new font purchase until the sun slowly set outside my office window. But it wasn’t the typeface; it was me. I realized that I was definitely not cool enough to use it, and it was mocking me. It was high school all over again.”

Plastic Man Font

Anderson’s third guilty font pleasure is a design called “Plastic Man. “Enough said,” she exclaims.

So tell us, what’s your guilty pleasure font (leave a comment below)?


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