Hobo Hauntings

Over the last few weeks I have felt that I’m being stalked. Based on the overwhelming popularity of IBD (the book and the blog) I have had to consider hiring a bodyguard. I watch a lot of episodes of TMZ and now realize that you haven’t arrived until you have a supersized man walking behind you and a dog that fits in a purse. I would hope that Paul would have my back if we were together at one of our favorite scenes (like hanging out an Office Depot) and it turned tragic (Paul asked where they keep the Apple computers and they tell him they don’t carry them), but based on my experience with graphic designers they will turn on you in a heartbeat.

Over a year ago I made a decision to change a typeface in a logo that I was designing for the upcoming NAI Region VI workshop in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. As with many of the design projects that I work on, I send them to Paul for a review, comments, and suggestions. Paul’s reaction was “Is that Hobo? No Hobo!!!” Based on the number of exclamation points being used I knew that Paul (a chronic over-punctuator) was serious about the use of Hobo and I would have to change it at the very least to avoid any additional chastising. I have never dealt well with peer pressure. Ever since I made that decision I can’t but help noticing the removed typeface in conspicuous locations on a daily basis. Perhaps it is less of a stalking and more of a haunting a sort of “ghost of typefaces past.” That typeface is Hobo.

Created in 1910, Hobo is a sans serif that is known for its lack of descending straight lines and overall casual feel. Created by Morris Fuller Benton, who as a typographer worked for the ATF (American Type Founders, not the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms), designed over 200 typefaces. According to Benton’s biography on Wikipedia the “large family of related neogrotesque sans-serif typefaces, known as ‘gothics’ as was the norm at the time, includes Alternate Gothic, Franklin Gothic, and News Gothic. All were more similar to, and better anticipated, later realist sans-serif typefaces such as Helvetica than did the other early grotesque types of his contemporaries.” As a park ranger I’m not sure what that really means but I think it is saying something about Benton being really great and designers today who like black lipstick, skinny jeans, and black fingernail polish.

I know exactly what you are thinking, “Didn’t Paul write about Hobo in his post Get to Know a Typeface: Hobo on Monday, March 29, 2010?” Yes, he did and I’m impressed with your knowledge of IBD posts. I’m still not satisfied with my decision to drop Hobo and use N.O. Movement Bold. In fact I still kind of like Hobo. I think it has something to do with all of these Hobo cameo appearances that are constantly reminding me of a design decision that I made. Which should actually be working the opposite way, much like the ubiquity of Papyrus and Comic Sans, to reinforce that I made the right decision to drop an overused font? The difference is that Hobo is not that bad of a typeface it is just overused. Hobo (much like Papyrus, Comic Sans and Paul) has websites that display others’ disdain for them (I Hate Hobo).

I have to admit that I’m happy that a logo I created didn’t land on one of those websites but why can’t I find peace with the decision I made? Because Hobo was what I looking for in a typeface that represented the unique style of Eureka Springs while still being easy to read in the negative space (or counterform, for those fancy pants non-Hobo using graphic designers who live in Fort Collins, Colorado) of the exclamation point. I think the lack of straight lines, decenders, and the overall casual feel and roundness is as eclectic as Eureka itself. I understand why the change needed to be made and I am being constantly reminded of that same reason.

In the mean time I’m going to order this pledge provided by Lure and hang it in my office.

I still like Hobo.

I mentioned peer pressure earlier in the post. There will be an informal gathering of IBD readers at the NAI National Workshop next week in Las Vegas, Nevada  immediately following the Superstars of Interpretation on Wednesday night. This idea actually came from a reader/commenter known as Joan (we cannot confirm or deny that her name is actually Joan). Paul and I will be looking for the closest Office Depot to the Las Vegas Strip so we can discuss the pros and cons of metal and plastic paperclips.  Seriously, there will be a gathering, location to be determined. Check the IBD Facebook page during the conference or ask us. Help us make it go viral at the workshop, without the flu-like symptoms.