The new Stanford font is awful.

Posted by at 1:15AM

Before and after. Read ‘em and weep. But actually. (Photo credit: Will Tucker ’09)

This week, Stanford changed its online logo.

Two word version of this post:  just no.

Longer version of this post:

The old Stanford font, Sabon, actually looks like something that merits being taken seriously.  Why?  Consider, if you will, the website fonts for Harvard, Princeton, and the University of Chicago.  Eerily similar to Sabon.  Why?  Because these schools are renowned academic institutions that take themselves seriously.

What does the new Stanford font look more like?  Foursquare.  Pinterest.  Twitter.  Words with Friends.

Stanford University is not an app, and should not look like one.

The new Stanford font is inaccurate.

The new Stanford font likewise fails to take Stanford tradition and basic knowledge into account.  Sabon was created by a German typographer, and its Teutonic roots dovetail nicely with Stanford’s distinctly German motto, “die Luft der Freiheit weht” (the wind of freedom blows).  The new font is called “Crimson.”  CRIMSON.  A brief note to Bright, the “design firm” that created our new font, which ostensibly “spent a lot of time” developing it:

OUR COLOR IS CARDINAL.  Crimson is Harvard.  Get.  It.  Together.

Mobile apps, schmobile apps.

The argument for this change is that the new font is viewed better on a mobile interface and that Stanford wanted a thicker font to stand up to the pixelated mobile screen environment.

We already have a very “thick” font that would have been perfect for this application: the block Stanford “S.”  It already exists.  It is beautiful, we love it, and it doesn’t make me cringe.

And while I’m at it, a basic design note.

If you go into the vector drawings for the new logo, the “f” is taller than the “S.”  I….  Whu-?  Why…?  No.

Okay, that’s it.  Rant over.  Happy Thanksgiving, y’all.

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13 Responses to “The new Stanford font is awful.”

  1. Cool says:

    Nah, forget that new font. You’re absolutely right. I can’t believe they did that. And they truncated it from “Stanford University” to just “Stanford.” What, are we a brand now?

  2. nick says:

    From a font design point of view, the lower-case ascenders should be taller than the capitals. Look at most fonts and you’ll see that bdfhkl are all taller than the capitals.

  3. Dave says:

    I think the new design is quite nice. They have some very valid points that the old logo font was not suited for the many forms of media that the Stanford brand can be displayed on nowadays.

    The negative reaction is also expected. Humans hate change, and react negatively to change… even if it’s for the better. Just take a look at Facebook’s history of changing things. They always meet adversity when they play with the UI, even if in the long run, it makes for a better experience.

    You say “mobile apps, schmobile apps”, but what you’re failing to take into account is that the world is increasingly moving to viewing the web on a mobile device. It was only a matter of time before Stanford (rightfully) made this kind of design decision.

  4. Typog says:

    I don’t understand why you’re comparing the new font to Foursquare, Pinterest, Twitter etc. It’s still a serif font; it’s not at all similar to those other ones.

  5. Sasha says:

    Petition to change the font below:

    http://www.change.org/petitions/stanford-university-bring-back-the-old-logo-or-provide-a-better-redesign#share

  6. Scott says:

    Some corrections to your blog post:

    * The new word mark is not in a font called Crimson. It is a unique piece of artwork. “Crimson Text” and “Source Sans Pro” are two open source fonts (both quite nice) that were selected as companion fonts for units on campus to use with the identity system. The fact that these fonts were chosen means that it is very easy and free for departments and programs to use consistent typography that is more interesting and distinctive than Arial and Times.

    * “Stanford University” was not dropped. If you look at identity.stanford.edu, you’ll see that there are multiple versions of the new word mark that incorporate the full “Stanford University”. Other universities have also gone simpler on their homepage, eg., dartmouth.edu, rice.edu

  7. Dan says:

    This is a lot of anger about nothing. The name of the font and the nationality of the designer, really?

    The new design is clean, it’s simple. And the comparison to the bubbly, rounded sans of the Twitter logo or Words with Friends is suprious–this font is nothing like that.

  8. N8 says:

    The person who wrote this really didn’t do their research.

    First, Crimson is NOT the new Stanford font–it’s a widely available webfont that Stanford uses for body text and communication purposes. It doesn’t have anything at all to do with the logo’s custom typeface. Every institution uses similarly ubiquitous typefaces for communications purposes. Harvard, incidentally, isn’t using “Crimson”, they’re using Caslon, which is also Georgetown’s go-to font.

    Second, Bright DID spend a lot of time developing a custom typeface–do you know how long it takes to create a cohesive font? A long time. Sometimes years.

    Third, not that it matters, but Crimson WAS designed by a German. (http://www.aldusleaf.org/about.php)

    I’m a Stanford grad working in graphic design, and I applaud the change. It will be looked on favorably with time–already is by a lot of the people who’ve taken the time to be informed about the change.

  9. durk says:

    While I’ll admit to a gag reflex at first sight, I don’t at all mind the redesign now. The old font looked pretty damned tacky in certain situations, and didn’t hold up well to dense red website banners or on branded merchandise. I’ll happily join in a bit of the expected hate parade, but I regard any serious attempts at unseating this new change as frivolous and silly (see above petition). Relax people. This actually looks good.

    As a side point, not one of the complaints against this font raised by Kristi is valid.

    1) We don’t care if we look like Harvard. Stanford is not an Ivy and shouldn’t try to emulate them. If you want a counterexample, MIT has been rocking a much more modern look for a while. I don’t want to argue in support of stuffiness; if you do, that’s your charge.

    2) While the complaint about the name “Crimson” is fair, the font was developed in 2010. Actually, it was developed by a German, Sebastian Kosch. Bright, it seems, did not design this font, but adapted it, making some modifications for specific trademarks. It’s worth mentioning that Crimson is an open source font, so we’ve freed ourselves from the bullshit that is font licensing.

    3) It’s already been pointed out that the new font bears no reasonable resemblance to an “App” font. Yeah, it’s a modern font. Yes, it’s designed to be read on modern devices. No, it is not sans serif. Also, the suggestion that I use the Stanford Block S font if I want a bold font is……I really hope you’re kidding…

    4) It’s already been pointed out that the “f” “S” thing is an arbitrary point. So what? Can you reasonably suggest that this makes that font invalid for its use as Stanford’s logo?

    Overall, I like the redesign. If you notice the new school (engineering, earth science, etc) logos, they are now able to explicitly involve the Stanford logo without looking silly, where before they had to design their own (granted, some of the schools did a great job of this).

  10. Michael Hang says:

    I feel that relating Harvard, Princeton, and UChicago’s font choices to the quality of their respective universities is akin to saying that the ‘Ivy League’ schools are superior to all others. While it is true that the Ivy Leagues deserve their high rankings, it is unfair to say that schools without the title are any deserving of respect for their academic programs. As a student myself, I don’t feel that being a ‘non-Ivy Leaguer’ has any bearing on my education, my future, or my identity as a scholar. And in this case, I take pride in my school regardless if it has a ‘respectable’ font or not.

    I’ll agree that it’s definitely more casual with the loss of capitalization and the removal of ‘University.’ However, I disagree with the argument that the font is “inaccurate.” In some ways, it’s more reflective of the culture that is dominant on the campus- one of not only academic rigor, but also uniqueness and enjoyment. I challenge you to think of all our zany traditions, from campus-wide band runs (fully decked out in rally gear) to the annual Mausoleum Party at the Leland’s resting place, and consider whether all of that truly should be reflected in a font that tons of other schools use. We recognize (and LOVE the fact) that, as a school, we’re unique- and we should embrace that. The font change, for better or worse, changes nothing of that.

  11. Nathan says:

    The poster of this article is just being a hater. Talking about how it is breaking “tradition” and making our appearance less like “Harvard, Princeton, and University of Chicago” is not helping her case; she is just being resistant to change. The new font is saving the university from spending unnecessary funds on paying royalties to the owners of the old fonts, while also (as pointed out above) making the logo appear much cleaner on a wider variety of devices. I see nothing wrong with this…

  12. Sandra says:

    I can’t say that it’s awful but it’s certainly not for academic use. There are plenty other beautifuly crafted fonts to chose from and i’m in the same side as the author. For me it looks like another corp style font, but not academic that is for sure. Very interesting comparison. Thanks Kristi.

    Sandra

  13. Katie says:

    You know, for the first two weeks with this font, I absolutely LOATHED it. Wanted to sign the petition 100 times. Felt like it was making a mockery of academic greatness, especially in the humanities, etc. It’s been a few weeks now though, I’m starting to love it. Especially now that the homepage includes “University”. It’s elegant without being stuffy or silly, and branding will be more consistant around campus. It just looks right, like this was the font we were meant to have all along. I’m a converted fan.

    …Just hope they don’t touch the seal like UC did!!!!! That would be tragic.

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