Today the Jezebel chat room briefly derailed from its more pressing conversations about breaking news and cultural events, as it is wont to do, with a chat about the importance and impact of certain fonts—particularly the unconscious assumption that copy written in serif fonts is more important (read: newsworthy) than copy written in sans serif fonts.
For those of you who don’t give a shit about font types, “serif” means characters in a font have little feet on them. See this “I”? It’s not just standing precariously on its teeny little base—it flares out at the bottom. This “I” is not at risk of collapsing. This “I” is... dependable.
While plenty of websites—the Gizmodo Media Group family among them—use serif fonts for their body copy, headlines are typically a sans serif affair. These are your Helveticas. Your Ariels. Your Gothams. Just look at the headline on this post! It’s cool. It’s fun. It grabs your attention with the promise of a good time only to let you down by revealing deep dark secrets below the fold.
But what if the sites that love sans serif fonts as much as they love silly celebrity news—like, oh, Us Weekly—suddenly began using more traditional—more trustworthy—fonts typically reserved for publications like The New York Times and (excuse me while I lower my voice to a deeper, classier register) The New Yorker in their headlines? Would you suddenly take them more seriously? My coworker Julianne Escobedo Shepherd believes so. And after this brief Photoshop exercise, I think I agree.
And then there’s this one, which fooled our very own Joanna Rothkopf: