"The meaning is in the content of the text and not in the typeface, and that is why we loved Helvetica very much." --Wim Crouwel
A couple of nights ago I watched Helvetica, the documentary of the typeset that (they rather ably demonstrated in image after image) has quietly taken over the world. Oh, I wanted to like this movie! And I did for some stretches, particularly in the beginning, when there is an element of sleuthing as to the exact origins of the design. But the rest of the film lacks narrative thrust, and what should should have been an interesting extension into the Helvetica backlash, "grunge" typography, just felt like filler.
It doesn't help there is very little variation in the rhythm of each chapter. Namely:
-->Exterior shot of modernist building
-->talking-head (talking-white-guy-head, no less, though Leslie Savan and Paula Scher were both rich additions)
-->jump-cut to street scenes (oooh...Helvetica in its natural habitat)
-->cue synthesized music (think Postal Service gone strictly instrumental)
-->next exterior shot!
The movie did inspire a fair amount of reflection of days at journals when we open slush-pile envelopes or attachments and...I hate to admit it, but I don't think I'm the only one...have a gut-level response to font choice that sometimes reflects poorly on the poet. Imitation cursive script? Arial in all bold? Never good signs. I confess a resistance even to Courier, which--though sturdy, traditional type--always has the connotation of "let me inflate my page count," thanks to college days. On the other hand, a classic and serifed font (Palatino, Garamond, Georgia), consistently used in both the cover page and submission, is likely to make me think that this a professional: someone who takes themselves and their work seriously.
There's really no excuse for letting font determine the fate of a submission. None. Style and content are separate. And I can safely say that I always read the poems regardless, and in same cases revise an earlier inward groan. On the other hand, if an author feels so insecure about their work that they need a visual support of the intended emotion, then is it that unlikely they may have less-developed maturity, a literalist mindset, with a correlate in the quality of the work itself?