Over the last few days, this conversation has grown on Twitter:
Dear Brad Bird: Next time you direct a $145 million film, let me know & I’ll send you a font for your on-screen subtitles that’s not Verdana— Matthew Butterick (@typogforlawyers) January 20, 2012
dear @typogforlawyers, if you direct a big film on a tight budget & schedule, chances are fonts won’t ever be your most pressing problem.— Brad Bird (@BradBirdA113) January 23, 2012
It costs TIME, @H_FJ, time! I’m not defending my #%¥! font! I was shown a few sans serif fonts and I picked the 1st that didn’t bother me!— Brad Bird (@BradBirdA113) January 24, 2012
Matthew Butterick, remember, is the typographer who wrote the letter to Brad Bird about his use of Verdana in Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol. Hoefler & Frere-Jones is one of the top type foundries in the world, so it’s nice to see them add their perspective on the issue of on-screen fonts.
There’s a lot of sniping here, but I think it’s a good thing that these respective heavyweights are having a public discussion about film typography. I’m a fan of Bird’s work and of Ghost Protocol, but I think he’s in the wrong here. His dismissal of fonts seems boorish. Not only will he not defend his work, but he shrugs off the question of his choice: “I was shown a few sans serif fonts and I picked the 1st that didn’t bother me!”
If it’s in the frame then the onus is on the director to make a deliberate and defensible choice. Bird is asking for a free pass.
The devil really is in the details.
(h/t commenter “tejas” on Baradwaj Rangan’s Web site.)