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Good Sans, Bad Sans | by Stewf
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Good Sans, Bad Sans

Most of the outdoor interpretive timeline at the site of the Berlin Wall is very well done (many steps above the haphazardry of the Checkpoint Charlie museum down the street). The large panels that line both sides of Friedrichstrasse are clearly typeset with thoughtful linebreaks, spacing, and layout.


Strangely, at one end of the display they chose to set the English portion of the text in Quay Sans. What results is an unintended but perfect comparison of good and mediocre type design — at least for this purpose: quick reading of short to mid-range texts from more than an arm's-length distance.


FF Fago's shapes are balanced and well proportioned (barring the strangely narrow 'C', which Spiekermann tells me is common in German faces). There are no distracting quirks. Its counters are open.


In contrast, ITC Quay Sans suffers from closed counters, a few awkward strokes that unexpectedly jerk into straight lines, and a tiny, floating @ sign. It's also out of fashion — a very '70s–'80s design, with its flared endings.


Quay Sans certainly isn't awful — but standing in front of those panels last week, it was easy to see why Fago works better here.


See it larger.

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Taken on November 18, 2006