Font Friday

The Polite Type (free font)

The geometric sans-serif typeface PoliteType on a mobile phone set in the heading and a quote. The quote says: “Go f... yourself!” with the four-letter word being blurred out by the font.

Sans-serif typeface

designed by Mika Melvas, for Tietoevry

1 style

Regular

License for web & app usage

Free and open-source

Best for

  • Headings (display text)
  • Long reading text (body text)
  • User Interfaces (functional text)

Specialty

A stylish and free geometric sans-serif, that rewrites hurtful words, replacing them with more inclusive ones, to educate about hate speech and cyberbullying.

My thoughts on The Polite Type

The typeface I present to you this week is very different. Not necessarily due to its design, but because of the intention behind it and the and programming. The Polite Type is an open-source font that rewrites hurtful words, replacing them with more inclusive ones. It is meant to be used for educational purposes, maybe at schools or by parents, as a way to approach this issue and to create a safe space for discussion. Before I dig into the mechanics, let’s take a look at the design.

Polite Ink Traps make it interesting for headings. But they also might be a bit irritating in mid-sizes. Below 16 px, which is rather small, and for functional text, these ink traps make it clearer again. Also, the sturdy strokes and the wide spacing contribute to that impression.
The most striking design feature of The Polite Type are the ink traps

The Polite Type is a geometric sans-serif (like the last one), but with a contemporary touch. This is due to the fashionable ink traps, sturdy strokes and large x-height. The overemphasized ink traps make it interesting for headings, and easier to read in smaller sizes. For the in-between-sizes, it’s a bit questionable (more fonts with stylistic ink traps).

The typeface uses a catalog of slurs and insults and rewrites them or blurs them out. The people behind the project claim, that the library of words deemed hurtful has been put together in collaboration with people from different origins, religions, world views and sexual orientations. And they also invite people to participate and translate the project to different languages.

stupi_ gets replaces by silly, bitc_ turns to female dog, fuc_ gets gets bulrred, cun_ gets replaced by vulva, pric_ gets blurred
Ligatures used differently. I find it most interesting when an offensive word is changed into a more neutral one.

The technology behind this is nothing new. The Polite Type uses the OpenType ligature feature differently. You might be familiar with it from the common fi ligature example (see above). This font is the first one I see using this in regard to the content. So when you turn ligatures off, the replacement won’t work.

Different insulting phases that get replaced
It is super cool to test the font and see how it works. But it does not know every way of being mean, of course.

Of course, The Polite Type can not solve the causes of hate speech. But I think it is a fascinating way to educate in certain situations and encourage people to reconsider what they are writing. An interesting use case could be a comment section or a messenger service. Regarding the design, it definitely would work in those applications.


What do you think? Is The Polite Type something for an upcoming project, or do you have a font recommendation? Tell me in the comments below!

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2 Comments

  1. The font is interesting from a technical standpoint. For me, I don’t care for its aesthetics. As for the design philosophy, it seems ironic that any kind of art, but especially font design, would propagate the idea that censorship can bring about change.

    1. Interesting argument, Scott. In would rather not see this as an art discipline rather than a software feature in an unexpected situation. Or at least interesting publicity for the topic of hate speech.

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