I unintentionally insulted the work of one of my students in class when criticizing their use of the typeface Myriad. The student used it prominently as a display type in their project, and I recognized it immediately. Why? Because every time someone sends me an InDesign file without including the pertinent font files, the broken text always reverts to Myriad. InDesign has inadvertently conditioned my brain into being frustrated and disappointed when seeing this typeface. I told my student that—while I enjoyed his design—I think he should pick a different typeface for his display type because to me, Myriad represents failure. The whole class jeered at me saying things like “geez, Aaron”, and “Harsh!”. We all laughed at the bluntness of my statement, and I explained my experiences with broken fonts in InDesign (Even if InDesign picked a different typeface as its default “broken font” typeface, I still believe that Myriad shouldn’t be used as a display typeface, but I won’t get into the minutiae of fonts designed for text vs display).
This encounter got me thinking of something Paul Rand said about logos, which I actually included in a lecture later that semester:
“It is only by association with a product, a service, a business, or a corporation that a logo takes on any real meaning. If a company is second rate, the logo will eventually be perceived as second rate. It is foolhardy to believe that a logo will do its job immediately, before an audience has been properly conditioned.”
If Myriad is the company’s logo, then the company’s product is a small Clippy-like cartoon that annoyingly points out your preflight/packaging flaws.
I’m sure we all have our own strange typeface associations and quirks. When Archer first came out, me and my immediate circle of friends used it to death, and now I can’t appreciate how beautiful the typeface actually is because my own brain associates it with overuse. When I read that Eric Gill sexually abused his daughters and dog… that went ahead and killed Gill Sans for me.
Myriad’s uppercase R is one of the letters that REALLY makes it stink. Over time, I have grown to hate the way the bowl lazily rises as it comes off the stem (a), and the stupid noodly leg softly planting itself on the baseline (b). So weak, so misshapen, but so annoyingly confident. Fuck that R.
Of course, I don’t actually believe that Myriad is a poorly designed typeface. Unfortunately, after years of becoming acclimated to Myriad as the signifier for a missing font in InDesign, it has taken on some new meanings: disorganization, sloppiness, and failure.
My sincerest apologies to Robert Slimbach and Carol Twombly, the designers behind Myriad.