Oh Palatino.

Palatino examples. Source: Wikipedia

Palatino was once my favorite typeface.

It dates back to around 1987 when I first tried to do page layout on a Mac with PageMaker.

There were not many visually appealing typefaces like today, and characters were not rendered nicely as they are now — you saw rough, pixelated letters on the 72-dpi screen and used your best guess to expect what would come out from the 300-dpi LaserWriter.

Once the best

In a world dominated by Times New Roman and Helvetica, the elegant, stylish Palatino stands out. It’s easy to read and balanced, and, most importantly, it establishes your status as a professional document designer who knows the right typography stuff.

Honorable mentions

If not Palatino, my favorite alternative to Times New Roman was Garamond (especially Apple’s own Apple Garamond), Bodoni and sometimes even Trajan, a classic typeface without lower case letters; while the alternative of choice to Helvetica was Futura, Optima and later Adobe Myriad.

Long-life fonts are good fonts

Don’t get me wrong. While I always avoid using Times New Roman or Helvetica without thinking, they are still venerable, visually appealing fonts as they are widely used and respected around the world for decades.

I especially like thin variation of Helvetica Neue. It’s eye-pleasing, modern and sometimes more futuristic than Futura.

However,

I use Palatino less these days as well as Futura and Garamond. Availability of more alternative typefaces on both Mac and Windows is definitely a reason, and trying new fonts on artworks or publications becomes less risky thanks to the new rendering and display technology — namely after the development of TrueType technology and incorporation of NeXT’s Display PostScript iteration into Mac OS.

Maybe the most important: all those typefaces mentioned were designed for printing, and today they are not the best for reading on the smaller mobile device screens with extremely high resolutions (comparing to the archaic 72-dpi CRTs).

And Palatino, for that matter, is showing its age. While the relatively straight strokes and loops are still handsome and masculine, its apparent characteristics and “personality” are, to me, too strong and too vivid that overwhelm the contents.

Not bad at all

Again, it’s not I don’t like Palatino anymore; I am just getting tired of it as it shows its inadequacy in the Retina age.

It’s not bad at all, but there’re just better alternatives.

Chinese edition of this article.

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