The other day, I was watching a certain political TV drama that I’ve become uncharacteristically attached to, when I heard some pompous character comment on how he could never do the type of work that would involve sitting at a computer and selecting fonts all day.
Watch out, prime time. Libby’s getting on a soap box over this one.
What a conceited line to stitch into this dialog, I thought. What a blind character.
Allow me 20 seconds to explain where I personally come from with this, so my opinion has a context: Like many of the amazing people who work in communications, I don’t necessarily sit at a computer and select fonts all day. But there are times when I choose fonts – very carefully. And there are times when I agonize over a color or an image or a single word – again, with great care. That last example is really in the center of my wheelhouse: if I trip over 1 word in a piece I’ve written, I’ll come back and read that sentence 15 different times between the hours of 7 am and 7 pm, until it’s right no matter how much caffeine I’ve had or what the temperature is or which way the wind is blowing. Those words must hit my ear perfectly and encapsulate precisely the right message.
I don’t do that because I’m right or wrong or special or nuts. (Although I might be all of these things.) I do it because it matters.
It’s worth noting that those agonized-over words can actually bring tears to clients’ eyes – especially those who created the business I’m helping them market. This might seem weird, but it’s not, and it’s actually kind of a regular occurrence. These people aren’t moved to tears because Libby Cortez is brilliant or awesome, but because they’ve done something brilliant and awesome, and now other people can access it, understand it, and relate to it.
Fun fact for anyone who snubs the font-choosers of the world: small business marketers get to help real, live people translate the passion of their heart and the work of their lives into stuff that effectively communicates what the truth of their endeavor has been, what the effort is all about, what the meaning is.
So yeah, every word matters. And every color, font, image, you name it. No belittling allowed.
Communication is one of the most essential and important activities that we engage in as human beings. To effectively communicate the truth of a situation, an emotion, an experience, yes, even an endeavor like a business, nonprofit, or ministry – to get the point across so that the person who is reading or listening to or seeing the message can actually say, “ah, I get it. I feel it. And I know what it means – I know what this is all about” – that’s a big deal.
Communication is the exchange of meaning from one human being to another. But it’s also commonplace, so we’re constantly in danger of oversimplifying it, of presuming that it’s inconsequential, of associating the selection of fonts with a life of waste.
That can never be true.
The way we communicate will always be one of the most important things that we do with our time, one of the most essential skills that we seek to grow throughout our lives, and one of the most direct paths that we can carve to reflect who we truly are and what we truly stand for.
Take that, fictional prime-time TV character.