A Brief History of the Font
Very few people take great notice or care about typefaces and fonts. Even more so on resumes where we here at Select resumes have seen some real car crashes of Comic Sans, Arial and Courier Bold – all in one document! But the font one chooses – especially in a resume – is of vital importance. And a look at the history of the font is a good introduction as to why.
Typefaces are now over 560 years old, but until about 30 years ago, we barely knew their names. With the everyday access to computers, both at home and work and their pull-down font menus, we have been made aware of the vast array of different fonts available to us.
Anyone using computers has many things we can thank Steve Jobs for. But one of them is his knowledge and appreciation of fonts. He himself first became aware of their importance during a seminar he attended in 1972; “ I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating.”
When he introduced his first mackintosh, it came supplied with a package of fonts, and many of us became aware of esoteric names and phrases like Helvetica and Times New Roman for the first time. This was a seismic shift in the collective knowledge of fonts and their differences. But where did it all begin?
Throughout history, typefaces have been influenced by technological advances, culture shifts, and just general boredom with the state of typography. In the 1400s Guttenberg invented movable typefaces, giving the world a cheaper way to obtain the written word. Up until this point, all written materials were done by hand and were costly to purchase. Guttenburg also created the first typeface – Blackletter – it was dark, practical, and intense, but almost illegible. In 1470, Nicolas Jenson superseded Blackletter with Roman Type – names after lettering on ancient Roman structures, and this caught on immediately, being far more legible and easier on the eye. Italics were first introduced in the 1500s, and in 1734 William Caslon created a typeface which featured straighter serifs and more obvious contrasts between thin and bold strokes. Today, we call this type style ‘old style’. From here things started to move quite quickly.
Serif (a slight projection finishing off a stroke of a letter in certain typefaces) and sans-serif (without the embellishment) fonts became much more popular with a wide array of both coming into common usage and in the 1920s Frederic Goudy became the world’s first full-time type designer, developing numerous groundbreaking typefaces, such as Copperplate Gothic, Kennerly, and Goudy Old Style. In 1957, Swiss designer Max Miedger developed one of the most ensuring fonts of all – Helvetica – and heralded a push to a more simplistic and many would say simpler design. Today we have a huge choice – some might say too much choice – of fonts to choose from.
For a graphic video that illustrates the way fonts look and work in varied circumstances, check out this video.
Fonts for Resumes
Your resume needs to make a great first impression – and a lot of that initial impact is going to come down to the font chosen to carry your message. Buzzwords you should bear in mind are ‘professional’, ‘organised’ ‘uncluttered’ and ‘easy to read’. So, to avoid getting passed by, you should consider the fact that hiring managers and recruiters spend hours each day thumbing through thousands of documents. Here are a few that we would recommend:
Calibri – the default Microsoft Word font and an excellent choice for a clean, eminently readable sans-serif font – it reads beautifully on a computer screen and renders very well in its printed iteration also.
Garamond – is an older serif font that is very popular amongst academic resume writers.
Cambria – this is also a very good and readable serif font that is easy on the eye in both print and screen.
Arial – this hugely popular serif font is beloved of writers of all documents the world over, but its very popularity is what is causing reader fatigue amongst some hiring managers, who are coming to find its ubiquity tiresome.
Helvetica – the sans-serif font choice of designers, this is a great choice for resumes in the creative industry.
There are many others, but we would suggest choosing from these five to avoid overwhelming yourself.
Ultimately, content is king, but choosing a font that is easy to read, does not cause reader fatigue and has plenty of white space between the letters will go a long way in ensuring your resume is read through. Also, stay within the 12pt range and never, ever, go below 11pt. And one final bit of advice – whatever font you choose for a resume – stay with it. Do not present a smorgasbord of different fonts and point sizes, just stay uniform throughout.