The Tragedy of Internet Folk Art

by admin

No one loves the tools the Internet has delivered to the hands of the curious, at essentially no charge, more than I. If had to choose between my pricy college education and my ecclectic online skillset I’d ditch my Dartmouth cap faster than you can say “frat basement”.

But, as they say in Spiderman, with great power comes great responsibility. Consider this recent fan art poster I found for the popular AMC drama Mad Men (via):

It’s not bad work, really—certainly the Tumblr community, with >400 likes and reblogs, approves. But that typeface—ugh! Mistaking Arial (not drafted until the early 80s) for Helvetica is easy enough, and if the creator were using a PC, Helv might have been a significantly trickier font to track down.

But rounded fonts of typefaces didn’t (a “citation needed” caveat here) exist until 1979, when Volkswagon tried to bridge the gap between the stately serifs used by its Audi and the uncomplicated Futura of its eponymous brand (remember the famous “Lemon” ad from Season 1)?

All this information, like the tools and know-how used to create the poster, are readily available online—how do you think I learned them? Certainly wasn’t part of the English 33 syllabus, I can tell you that much. Simple research would have made for a much more compelling work.

Going further, a bit of attentiveness could have saved some research efforts. Mad Men’s cultural impact has been so far-reaching that its typeface use has been featured and critiqued in the New York Times—a good cue that it might be something worth paying attention to going forward.

And in fact, the first episode of this season featured not only the Sterling/Cooper/Draper/Price logo:

but also the full name of the firm written out on the office doors:

Now, I’ll agree that it’s tough to pick a typeface/typefaces precisely from this data (if you put a gun to my head, I’d say Akzidenz Grotesque), but the point isn’t that it needs to be precise—just appropriate. When the show deals directly with the Stockholm style invasion, you should feel free to play with pretty much anything from the International school—Univers, Folio, Helvetica, Akzidenz, even Futura would be fine. 

I didn’t learn these things from years or even semesters of school—I learned them with 15 minutes and a little thing called Google. There’s probably minutia I’ve glossed that will raise a quibble with serious designers, but, Internet, I don’t think a quick search is too much to ask; it’s a dramatic improvement in both style and quality for a minimal time investment. The quality tools you have access to demand it.

(As an aside, is this work a reference to a contemporary movie poster that’s escaped me? I seem to recall some British caper flick (Snatch?) having similarly-constructed promotional material.)