Racializing Fonts

0 Posted by - October 22, 2007 - Blog

An oldie but goodie: an article in a 2004 issue of Letterspace tackles the history of racializing fonts, up until present day:

By the mid-1940s, long after Art Deco had left, Neuland's use in African-American texts remained. Famous African-American books such as Richard Wright's Native Son and Wulf Sachs' Black Anger use Neuland on their covers. Critic Ellen Lupton notes, “Neuland has appeared…on the covers of numerous books…about the literature and anthropology of Africa and African-Americans”.

Even today, books that fit into the category that Lupton outlines bear Neuland or Lithos on their covers. While the stereotypes associated with the fonts have remained, their applications have, in fact, increased in the present day beyond just book publishing. Neuland has found its way into Hollywood, used in such films as Jurassic Park, Tarzan, and Jumanji. Subaru used Lithos prominently in the logo for their new car, the Outback. Both fonts appear frequently on all sorts of extreme sports paraphernalia. These uses seem to indicate that in addition to Neuland and Lithos' prior associations with informality, ineptitude, ugliness, cheapness, and unusability, they have since acquired qualities that suggest “jungle,” “safari,” and “adventure”—in short, Africa.

Via 3 quarks daily.

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