“Default” Typeface

“You are not supposed to be paying attention to the typography of this chapter in reading it and extracting its informational content; as a piece of scholarly writing it is not supposed to have an aesthetic dimension at all. But, as Gérard Genette argued, there are ample empirical and theoretical reasons to think that any text has the potential to be regarded aesthetically, even this one; some writing by its form (such as poetry) makes a direct claim to literary status, but readers choose to regard other writing as literary despite its nonliterary genre.”

  • Lavagnino, John. “Digital and Analog Texts.” A Companion to Digital Literary Studies. Eds. Ray Siemens and Susan Schriebman. Oxford: Blackwell, 2008. Web. 11/14/2015.


Yes, and building off of this discussion of Genette, it would be rather silly not to recognize the influence of typeface on information. We too often fall into the idea that a “plain” typeface relates information more purely – Times New Roman or Arial, for instance. However, it is clearly ludicrous to suggest that any given typeface has “less influence” on the material than others. For someone used to reading TNR or Arial or Georgia or any number of “professional-looking” fonts, yes, they tend to be thought of as “default”; but all this means is that person is most accustomed to reading texts which she sees as highly professional or authoritative. For someone used to reading text in Comic Sans (undoubtedly the whipping boy of typefaces), a text in TNR would look remarkably non-default. It is dependent upon the person, of course, but they may very well think of it as being remarkably strict, pretentious, or anal-retentive. Someone most accustomed to reading and writing with Edwardian Script, on the other hand, might see TNR as remarkably un-refined, blocky, even the product of an uneducated hand. The point here being, we too often think of our “default” typefaces (avec ou sans serif) as therefore lacking aesthetic influence over interpreted meaning. We too often ignore the fact that these “default” fonts for academic work have been ascribed a very specific cultural connection with professional writing (scholarly too, but also other learnéd professions) which influences the way a reader thinks or feels about the information-potential of the printed words.

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