What are the dullest fonts around?

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alexander fjelldal's picture
Joined: 14 Dec 2004 - 6:25am
What are the dullest fonts around?
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Hi
I'm making some props for a movie. They are posters, shop signs etc, all clearly visible on the silver screen. The movie has a naive, dreamlike, melancholy feel to it. The graphics that i'm making should have a gdr/postwar communist era, washed out look.

For these tasks, I'm looking for some really dull fonts. I mean dull like helvetica, not like arial. Fonts that try to be fancy, but fail. I'd also appreciate som input on how to make display type look boring without being ugly. THanks!

best regards,

alex

Chris Lozos's picture
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Joined: 25 Feb 2004 - 11:00am
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How about get some old clay type and shoot it?

ChrisL

Stefan Johansson's picture
Joined: 19 Jul 2006 - 4:50am
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Helvetica is dull? And Arial is better? I don't agree with you. Helvetica can be wonderfully radiant and exciting in the right context. Just take a look at the lighter weights of Helvetica Neue - positively glamorous. Personally I find Optima very dull but many people love it. Same thing with a lot of the "novelty" typefaces from the 70s and 80s.

I think almost any type can look dull - it's just a matter of how you use it. Maybe something like Block Gothic is what you're looking for? Or a stencilled typeface? Or a typewriter one, like Courier - that really says "dull" to me. 1950s office dull and bureucratic.

Simon Daniels's picture
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John Berry on the subject of "neutral type"...

http://www.creativepro.com/story/feature/22491.html

ie. type intended to be dull - he calls out Univers, Helvetica and Frutiger.

Cheers, Si

Matt Squire's picture
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Joined: 2 Mar 2006 - 5:53am
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As Term says, (hope you dont mind the shortened name), any typeface can look dull depending on how it is used. Its an impossible question to answer, everyone has different opinions.

I suggest that you turn your brief around, instead of looking for dull fonts, (which we just discussed, may not actually exist), maybe you could use any old font and just treat it in a very dull way. A dull font is often dull due to the unispiring way it is being used, a way in which adds nothing to the context it is put in.

I personally find a lot of the hand scribbled destructive fonts quite dull but that is only me opinion.

Good luck

Matt Squire's picture
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Joined: 2 Mar 2006 - 5:53am
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I think Neutral type differs from dull type, the forementioned typefaces may in some eyes look and feel neutral but they were designed for a purpose and in those contexts, they can be very beautiful, far from dull.

There are surely very few designers that say that they havnt been inspired by Brockmann or Frutiger, great executioners of the Neutral type, quite oposite to dull.

Hmmm?

M

Simon Daniels's picture
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Joined: 11 Apr 2002 - 6:37pm
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>that is only me opinion.

Arrghh it's talk like a pirate day!

Font people will find something interesting in every font, just as a trainspotter will find something interesting in every diesel locomotive, or a stamp collector will find something interesting in every stamp. But what's important is the reader perception - and if you stick those fonts in front of people in the street or in the airport they’re going to yawn. Give them Comic Sans and you'll get a different response.

>I’m making some props for a movie.

See Repo Man.

Matt Squire's picture
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i i cappan

Simon Daniels's picture
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Chris Lozos's picture
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Shiver me timbers, a boarding party awaits your scowl of a craft fer hav'n such a day as this!
DP^/>

ChrisL

Chris Keegan's picture
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Joined: 11 Nov 2002 - 3:40pm
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I personally find "boring," utilitarian typefaces very appealing. And I agree with Matt, that it's important how you use the type. But the type selection is still important. How 'bout DIN?

Matt Squire's picture
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Ahh, Din, it has been used to death over here in Sweden and amongst the outdoor sports brands, now, take that in its original context, The German Autobahn, great stuff. BUt yeah, that is quite dull actually.

Matt Squire's picture
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I good way of finding a dull typeface might be to relate it to what kind of person it would be if it were a human being, a character from history, sports, the arts etc. COuld get some funny interesting results, ...

Tim Daly's picture
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>See Repo Man.

Was that the food packaging? I was trying to remember what film it was.
Tim

Chris Lozos's picture
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I thought it was about a man who reposesses cars when the purchaser quits making monthly payments?

ChrisL

Tim Daly's picture
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That is what the film is about on one level (don't open the boot [trunk]), but the hero worked in a grocery where all the cans and packaging are very simply marked in a sans face and, I think, blue stripes, please forgive my faulty memory.
Tim

Chris Lozos's picture
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Wikipedia says:
"Food and beverages throughout the movie appear in generic white containers with blue-lettered labels reading among others, "drink", "dry gin" and "food". The film's paltry budget necessitated the generic products."

ChrisL

Tim Daly's picture
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Repo_cap1.jpg

Okay, it looks more like a slab than a sans, but I was right about the stripes, hurrah my memory is not as bad as I thought, now if only I can find my way home.
Tim

Chris Keegan's picture
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Joined: 11 Nov 2002 - 3:40pm
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How about something monospaced like this?

Nick Shinn's picture
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Joined: 8 Jul 2003 - 11:00am
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Take your pick from Fonts.com top ten:

Arial™ Frutiger™
Futura™ Gill Sans®
Helvetica™ Lucida
Optima™ Palatino™
Rotis® Univers™

It be plentiful use what dulls the blade, matey.

Chris Lozos's picture
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Aye, Aye Cap'n Nick! :-)

ChrisL

James Mark Hatley's picture
Joined: 13 Jul 2004 - 11:00am
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GDR and dull feel at odds to me. But, after reading the discussion I think I might be clueing in.

Pastelaria by Eduardo Recife could work, maybe?
http://www.misprintedtype.com/v3/fonts.php

Metron and Politica by Fantisek Storm could be worth a look. They don't seem to be up on the Storm site right now, but you will find samples elsewhere.

Chris Lozos's picture
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Joined: 25 Feb 2004 - 11:00am
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Letterspaced Clarendon caps--preferably condensed--read as dull to me.

ChrisL

James Montalbano's picture
Joined: 18 Jun 2003 - 11:00am
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What happens when the dullest font around meets the Best Serif font on Earth?

Simon Daniels's picture
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>“Food and beverages throughout the movie appear in generic white containers with blue-lettered labels reading among others, “drink”, “dry gin” and “food”.

Yup, here's a better pic - http://www.alexcox.com/images/ac_bigpics/RM_Generics1.jpg

>The film’s paltry budget necessitated the generic products.”

Surely it would have been cheaper to just use the regular packaging :-)

Anyway, I think you should go with the same style and see who spots the in-joke*. Everyone knows you need to generate internet buzz for a movie these days, what better than 'font on a can' vs 'snakes on a plane'.

*[edit - actually thinking about it, it's a bad idea]

Chris Lozos's picture
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"Surely it would have been cheaper to just use the regular packaging :-)"

You have to pay those folks to use their products in a shot.

Remember in ET, the M&M people wanted too much money to have ET eat their candy so the film producers switched to Skittles. The funny thing is, after the huge success of the film, Skittles sales went through the roof! Don't bite the hand that feeds you eh?

ChrisL

Tiffany Wardle's picture
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I thought ET was eating Reeses Pieces. :^(

Stuart Marks's picture
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If you want an authentic GDR feel, you might try something like FF Super Grotesk.

But if you really want something dull, that says to me something that has little modulation and few design features. An old newspaper headline type like Alternate Gothic No 1 or Gothic 13 (set in all caps) might work.

s’marks

Simon Daniels's picture
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>You have to pay those folks to use their products in a shot.

Doh, you're right I just read the EULA on the side of a can of Heinz Beans! ;-) Doh, again! Just by mentioning the product I owe them a buck twenty five.

>I thought ET was eating Reeses Pieces. :^(

Sadly I was ten and saw it on pirate video - I thought they were furry marshmallows

Chris Lozos's picture
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"I thought ET was eating Reeses Pieces. :^("

It was Reases Pieces! I am just a braindead old geezer who does not know his candy products :-/

ChrisL

Simon Daniels's picture
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>I am just a braindead old geezer who does not know his candy products :-/

Chase the rainbow Chris, taste the rainbow...

Chris Lozos's picture
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"Skittlebrau
Skittlebrau (or Skittlebräu) is a type of beverage that looks like beer with candy floating in it. It is implied that Homer imagined it by mixing Skittles and beer in the episode "Bart Star." Later episodes show Skittlebrau as an actual product sold at the 33 cent store. "

Thanks for the link Si! Where would I be without you?

ChrisL

Dave Bailey's picture
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Joined: 25 Jul 2005 - 3:07pm
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"Dull is as, dull does." Forest Type

Jem's picture
Jem
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Joined: 16 Mar 2003 - 11:05pm
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This post is DULL.

How about "Eurostile"

Mike Diaz's picture
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Joined: 14 Apr 2006 - 12:43am
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Use Windows system fonts and set them badly.

Mikey

Tim Daly's picture
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From what I remember of East Berlin the predominant style amongst shopfronts was for that rather nice style of blocky German script kind of like these
http://www.aquarterof.co.uk/mr-tom-peanut-bar-p-492.html

Not dull at all
These are a couple of threads which might help.
http://typophile.com/node/7622

http://typophile.com/node/19482

http://www.myfonts.com/browse/foundry/typoart/

http://www.typophile.com/wiki/Herbert%20Thannhaeuser

Tim

alexander fjelldal's picture
Joined: 14 Dec 2004 - 6:25am
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Wow, thanks for all the answers! DIN is overused here in norway, too (and it's not dull enough for me)

Chris Lozos's picture
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Centered Trade Gothic caps with even margins all round is "plain" looking--although it is a very clean face IMHO.

ChrisL

alexander fjelldal's picture
Joined: 14 Dec 2004 - 6:25am
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I'm aware that i will get subjective opinions on such aquestion, that's why I posted it :-)

Any tricks on how to achieve immediate dullness in the use of type?

Chris Lozos's picture
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I think keep the contrast low--meaning don't have different weights and sizes on the same page. Don't use any alignment or interaction (centered with generouis margins and big line space. Letterspace caps. Don't use color.

ChrisL

Thomas Binder's picture
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Joined: 13 Jan 2006 - 9:04am
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Have a look...

Design in the GDR - Syrups

Design in the GDR - Drops

Design in the GDR - cigarette packages

All shots were taken from a book (set in three languages deutsch/english/francais) called "SED - Schönes Einheitsdesign" written by Georg C. Bertsch, Ernst Hedler (Benedikt Taschen Verlag, 1990) - perhaps you can find it at Ebay...?

Regards Thomas

Carl Crossgrove's picture
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Alex,

Given that the film is set at a particular period, the challenge isn't only to find type that's boring, but also type that was boring (and available) when the movie is set. Definitely don't use Arial or helvetica for a Postwar, communist look. I'd suggest Futura, or Trade, Franklin or News Gothic. Mark Simonson may have more ideas for you.

Adam Twardoch's picture
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FF Bau
FF SuperGrotesk
Drescher Grotesk
Akzidenz Grotesk

And if you really want dull, use Times Roman.

A.

alexander fjelldal's picture
Joined: 14 Dec 2004 - 6:25am
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Crossgrove,
The film is not set to the postwar era. The story "happens" in our time, but the general feel is kind of dreamy and naive. I talked to the ... er ... what do you call the person in charge of props? in norwegian, its "rekvisitør". so, as I was saying, me and the rekvisitør talked about the the feel of the movie, and we concluded that GDR design wsas a good reference, due to it's naive, bored style.

Poms,
Thanks a lot!

alex

Franz Heidl's picture
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and we concluded that GDR design wsas a good reference, due to it’s naive, bored style.

hey, that's fighting talk where i come from! ;-)

have a look here and follow the links…


Thomas Binder's picture
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@franzheidl
Schöner link, danke.

Grüße aus (Wessi-)Stuttgart nach (Einheits-)Berlin ;)

Paul Russen's picture
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Why not follow the Tesco "Value" brand - it's extremely dull.
It's clear and simple, a no frills brand. It achieves it's basic purpose - to look basic.

Or just use something like the old screenfont used on the BBC computers from the 80's!

Gabriel H. Benzur III's picture
Joined: 23 Aug 2005 - 9:10am
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Oxide has a very dull and stern, sort of ignorant look to it which makes it almost funny. A great font. The light weight was available for free for a while on FontShop. Looks sort of like franzheidl's first example above:
http://www.fontshop.com/?fuseaction=catalog.fontpackage&searchby=manufac...

The similar-in-spirit B-52 has a nice, engineered look to it also. It looks like it was designed by a randomly selected military engineer who happened to show up at the right meeting. I'm speaking of course of the regular weight:
http://www.myfonts.com/fonts/stockbucket/b-52/

A few other stubborn looking fonts of note that I recently came across:
Chainprinter:
http://www.myfonts.com/fonts/typodermic/chainprinter/
Mayo:
http://www.fountain.nu/catalogue/mayo.asp
Borgstrand:
http://www.fountain.nu/catalogue/borgstrand.asp
Sauerkrauto:
http://www.fountain.nu/catalogue/sauerkrauto.asp

Ben Archer's picture
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Hi Alex. I'm suprised that your German respondents haven't yet mentioned the movie Goodbye Lenin. I assume you know the plot and will spare you the details, but there is plenty of GDR-era product in it - however, from memory, none of it appears as dull as maybe you would like.

Any tricks on how to achieve immediate dullness in the use of type?

Apart from the great recommendations already here, I suggest you print it 70% or 80% black - so you get a washed out grey rather than full strength black; for a distressed or faded look on the props you can lift toner off the surface of a laserprint by using wadded masking tape and gently patting the print with the sticky side of the tape. I did this when I had to make a 1950s Superman comic as a stage prop for West Side Story - worked a treat.

Simon Daniels's picture
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> for a distressed or faded look on the props you can lift toner off the surface of a laserprint by using wadded masking tape and gently patting the print with the sticky side of the tape.

I think Stu has a "dull" filter in here somewhere...

http://www.misterretro.com/image_filters.html

Mathew Carter's picture
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Personally after reading your email, I feel that you have no business doing this movie. Dull" fonts" like helvetica??

Typefaces like Helvetica and Univers are purposely void of personality.. that is why they were made.

Perhaps if you re-wrote your question one could give help. By dull do you mean that it is a sign from the 50's that is fading away. Then look at old signs from that era and mimic that.

I've worked on signs/props for big name motion pictures, and trust me just from your question you may not be cut out for this. Theres a lot more than just finding a typeface.

I'm sorry if I come off as a jerk, but you clearly have a lot to learn. Try doing some research on what signs would have been around during that time, maybe they weren't even typefaces.....maybe they were hand painted just to a roman style. Who knows?

Bembo