“Green” font

Did you ever watch the TV series “The Critic”? It was a cartoon series comedy about a movie reviewer (Jon Lovitz) who ended almost every (parody) review with “It stinks!” Sometimes I feel like a pale imitation of Lovitz when I write a post like this. But then, there’s a lot of stuff out there that stinks (Sturgeon’s Law), so what can I say. Maybe the approach of Christmas makes me feel more like the Grinch?

This time, it’s a “green” font. It turns out that “green” means… condensed. Yup, that’s it. Well, okay, they also added a couple of branches to the cap “T” to make it look more tree-like, and remind you that you’re being “green” by using a condensed sans-serif font to save paper. Now, let’s back up to the beginning of the story, and be a bit less critical for a moment.

The folks at GreenPrint actually have what looks like a cool product in their main GreenPrint application for Windows. It seems like it sits between the printer driver and the printer (?). What it does is intercept your printed pages and decide which ones you really want to print. Now, as someone who has often printed out maps and directions for driving, I’ve often gotten bits of legal notice at the end that do indeed just waste paper. This looks like a pretty nice solution. Plus it can also make PDFs so as to avoid using paper at all.

(I have to say that except for driving directions, and the occasional permanent thing like a photo booklet or board game accessories, I have pretty much stopped printing entirely over the years. Just seems unnecessary.)

So the GreenPrint application looks cool. It’s just that they also have this silly “GreenPrint EverGreen” font. It’s a condensed sans, in the same general realm as Arial Narrow or Helvetica Condensed. The idea is that by using a more condensed typeface, one can save paper. I bought a copy to check it out. There are just a few problems with it:

– there’s no matching bold or italic, so applying bold or italic styling yields fake bold and fake italic, which look awful.

– the horizontal strokes are slightly heavier than the vertical ones. For strokes to look even in weight, this should be the other way around. This is the kind of thing that can happen with fonts that have been artificially condensed by simple mathematical squashing. It looks wrong, and is no help to legibility either. (Side note: I must admit that Adobe once had such a typeface, Helvetica Narrow, that was part of the core PostScript fonts. It was invented back in the early 80s when printer ROM space was expensive. We chose to not convert it to OpenType, as its very existence was a bit of an embarrassment. We recommend Helvetica Condensed instead.)

– Stroke thicknesses are oddly inconsistent between letters and in straights vs rounds

– The weak curves/terminals on letters such as “C” that just look… off for this kind of design (speaking of the C, why is the left sidebearing smaller than the right? But in general the spacing is better than many things in the font.)

– Putting the little lower branches on the “T” is cutesy, but ruins the font for general use. An alternate “T” is encoded in the slots for Delta (both the symbol and the Greek versions), but that’s not exactly easy to use, and messes up one’s underlying text if one does substitute it somehow.

Given all that, and the fact that superior alternatives such as Arial Narrow are bundled with major operating systems, and if you want something different you can buy much better alternatives such as Myriad Condensed, I can’t see why somebody would ever use GreenPrint EverGreen.

Thomas Phinney

Adobe type alumnus (1997–2008), now VP at FontLab, also helped create WebINK at Extensis. Lives in Portland (OR), enjoys board games, movies, and loves spicy food.

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