Y is for Yanone Kaffeesatz

Say what?

Yanone Kaffeesatz is just a font. I’m addicted to fonts. Sans serif, sans, calligraphy, old school, Celtic (of course). I collect them.

I can’t help myself. I see a new one and I download it – the free ones, of course.

Being from a family that included a couple of stray journalists, I’d heard about fonts, but I never really got to grips with them until I got my first job in publishing. Our Czech designer was a Bela Lugosi figure called Pavel. He’d done PhD in the philosophy of typesetting in Prague, but had to flee the Russians. His favourite word was: ‘Unbelievable.’ I can still hear him saying it in a voice so deep the walls reverberated. He also had a wide-brimmed hat and a cloak. Although he lived in Cambridge, he refused to cycle. I think he pronounced it ‘sickle’. I suspect his cape got caught in the spokes.

I use Times New Roman for writing, mainly because it’s clean and clear for proof-reading. Try starting a sentence with the word ‘ill’ in Arial, and you’ll be forced to agree.

Other fonts I tolerate, others I flirt with. Comic sans? Get out of my life. Rockwell? Lovely, for old times’ sake. Verdana? If you must. At least it’s legible.

I judge people by the fonts they use on their blogs. I keep changing mine. What seems cool and elegant one week seems pretentious the next. For its purpose, Gill sans must be one the best. On my computer it does resemble Yanone, again. Odd.

As it’s still April, just, does anyone recall one of the most brilliant April Fool japes in the Guardian? They did a whole seven-page supplement based on the exotic islands of Sans Serriffe. The capital was Bodoni; the president (ie dictator), a man called Pica, had been victorious in the latest in a string of three coups. See the map for more tyopgraphical references.

Such a journos’ joke. I read the whole thing (thinking about it, it was in the spring of ’78) and then I suddenly got the joke.

Wiki puts it well:
An elaborate description of the nation, using puns and plays on words relating to typography was reported as legitimate news. Because typographic terminology had not yet spread through widespread use of desktop publishing and word processing software, these jokes were easily missed by the general public, and many readers were fooled.

A seven-page hoax supplement appeared in The Guardian on 1 April 1977, published in the style of contemporary reviews of foreign countries, commemorating the tenth anniversary of the island's independence, complete with themed advertisements from major companies.

San Serriffe was one of the most famous and successful hoaxes of recent decades. When registering on the Guardian website it is possible to select San Serriffe as your country of origin.

I must try this. My daughter on Facebook attends the University of Narnia, so why not?

To conclude the lecture for today, Yanone Kaffeesatz is a lovely font. Trouble is, on my blog, you can hardly read it. Ah, the intricacies of the perfect font. It might look super, but if you can’t read it, what’s the point?


By Pamela Kelt

PS What's your favourite font? I think the A to Z challenge letters are in good old-fashioned Cooper Bold, but in green. Bit retro, but it's clear, with attitude. Personally, I'd prefer Rockwell, but that's me.


  1. Again, I'm with you all the way on this one. I experiment with fonts and then discover that they are illegible or disappear to miniscule without putting the size up to 24 point! I love Gothic. I hate Kids (the font and the actual offspring!) One thing that drives me up the wall is people who put up posters where every line is in a different font and colour. Scream. There are very few words that look good in "friendly blobby" font. One of them is my "Bippy" word - a more friendly version of Bipolar which looks angular and very Verdana-ish.

  2. I don't think I've ever given fonts much thought. At least it's better than being obsessed with bathroom cleaner! :)

    Shirletta @ Shirleyisnotmyname

  3. Beware. They are a slippery slope if you get interested ...

  4. I have a lot of fonts ... a LOT of fonts ... but I've found you have to be careful. In a lot of places if you use some really nice font but the reader doesn't have it on his computer, it just defaults to Arial/TNR/Courier. If I want a title or something on my website in a really nice font, I create a JPEG and put that on the website ... guarantees your nice font will be seen.

    Re: your comment about editing, I find Courier to be the best for that. In TNR, little stuff like two spaces instead of one tends to hide.

    And as for my favorite, I really like Black Chancery ... and some of the other variants of Chancery.

  5. I like to be able to read things, and find when people use fancy fonts you can't read them well,particularly so when they use a light color for the font. I often have to control + multiple times to see it, or I just pass the blog up. A-Z

  6. Well, quite. I didn't even get into the colour blindness issue. When newspapers first got colour, we had to be trained as to what colours people could actually see. Yellow on purple passed most tests. Combinations of red and black were shocking. Many people, especially males, can't read the words. Odd thing. Male-orientated websites often feature those colours. Perhaps deliberately? Interesting.

    Thanks for commenting!


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