Friday, October 24, 2008


This would technically go under typography, but between my two blogs, this one needed updating more. Anywhoo...

About a month ago, I decided to watch the documentary Helvetica, which was made in 2007. It was made to celebrate the 50th birthday of the font. Having already a steady interest in typography, the documentary for me was informative, but not exactly revolutionary. It certainly attuned me to the prevalence of Helvetica and Arial in regular signs though.

Fastforwarding to the present, I was wandering around one of the buildings on campus to look for an office. I'm on the third floor, where there's a large printed directory listing the more key offices (eg. Dean's office, janatorial staff, Deparment Chairs, etc.). This is already a step up from the conservative letter bits that are pushed into rows of black cushions, but there was one major problem with this printed directory -- it was rasterised!

Anyone who knows anything about type knows that you'd have to be pretty ignorant or stupid to rasterise text. I would be willing to guess that the person who did it made it in photoshop, in the depressingly mistaken impression that it was inherently better than MS Word. (Which, in the realm of pixel graphics is pretty true, but not when it comes to type-setting and word-processing.)

Well, I suppose it's possible that they made it in too low a resolution, which would have produced the same result. Basically, if you have to print in non-vector mode, make it a high-enough resolution for the reading to be comfortable. I similarly recently received a script/work report from one of my students in the Japanese course I TA, and the first thing I noticed wasn't the gaudy use of colour, but the fact that all the text was in a hideously rasterised low-resolution. Also, the pagination was done in Arial, which I also tend to be unimpressed with.

So kids, two things to remember when you're printing media that have both graphics and text: Either keep the text elements as text (ie vector-friendly), or have the entire thing a reasonably high resolution to prevent poor print quality. If I can see that the miniscule [o] is 8x8 pixels, there's a problem with your resolution.

No comments: