A few months ago, someone mentioned that they looked at a Wendy’s ad and wondered why they used Verdana (or some other typeface; I can’t remember). The idea of someone identifying a typeface and attaching cultural significance to it astounded me, and set in motion a terrifying journey to the heart of Type.
I carry around with me a selection of specimens from every major typeface I can get my hands on. I’ve spent hours, in the past two or three months, looking at the curves and details in each letter.
One thing I’m missing, though, is cultural significance. What does it mean that they used this or that typeface? Someone might use Arial on signage because they can’t afford Helvetica; meanwhile, Verdana is a web font, and looks best on a screen—it’s not to be used on large, printed material.
I’ve only got what I could absorb through osmosis, for now, but there are resources online. I’ve been reading Typedia, which holds a great deal of information. It’s a fairly new site, but more fontastic information is being submitted every day.