William Drenttel | Essays

Font Forensics, Or Whether George W. Bush Is Hiding Something

Imagine a leading newspaper summarizing its main story in these terms: "It was the typefaces that consumed much of the news media." Meanwhile, Dan Rather, the anchor of CBS News, had to mount an aggressive defense "to protect the credibility of the new division." All around typefaces?

Only 50 days before the U.S. presidential election, the hottest news story about George W. Bush is whether he did or did not fulfill his military service. The most recent documents, unearthed by CBS's 60 Minutes, suggest that he not only was absent during his National Guard duty, but in fact disobeyed direct orders to get a physical examination in order to stay flight-eligible, and that pressure was applied to "sugarcoat" his record with special treatment.

The question is whether the documents supporting these charges are authentic, and all the recent reporting has boiled down to what we might call "Font Forensics."

These are the details: "a furious battle over the minutiae of Vietnam-era typewriter fonts;" "the documents appeared to be fakes created by a modern computer because they had features that could not have been produced on Vietnam-era typewriters;" "the superscripts in '111th' are 'not consistent with Vietnam-era typewriters;'" and "the documents could not have come from old-fashioned typewriters because of proportional spacing and type features."

Last November, I wrote a post titled Information Archaeology that examined a news story about a government document released with censored black-outs, but where the underlying information was retrievable through PDF technology. I asked the question, "Do designers, often experts at using Acrobat, become the new P.I.s, or criminal investigators, at finding what is hidden beneath the seams?"

Let me ask the question again. "Are designers not the new criminal investigators at finding what is hidden beneath the seams?" Why are leading typography specialists like Jonathan Hoefler, Tobias Frere-Jones, Matthew Carter, or Zuzana Licko not expert witnesses in this critical issue of national, and ultimately international, politics?

It has become quickly clear, precisely because of blog speed, that these issues can be analyzed in design terms. Other sites will adopt the language of design when design become the issue. A few examples:

• The INDC Journal attacks the Boston Globe for falsely supporting Bush when "the documents could have been prepared on an IBM Selectric Composer typewriter available at the time."

• And there are experts. Allen Halley, with the unlikely title of Director of Words and Letters at Agfa Monotype, believes "it was highly out of the ordinary for an organization, even the Air Force, to have proportional-spaced fonts for someone to work with." Meanwhile, John Collins, Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at Bitstream Inc., notes the use of the superscript "th" in one document, "That would not be possible on a typewriter or even a word processor at that time." Designers are used to seeing these folks at trade shows, not quoted on national issues.

I want to believe these documents are authentic. Meanwhile, I have design peers who fear an even worst outcome, that they are part of some larger conspiracy by the Republicans. "One theory in our office is that the GOP did it to cast doubt on the Kerry campaign," notes Scott Stowell at Typographica under the rubric "Forensic Typography."

Meanwhile, over at Daily Kos, they have done the hard homework to come up with some persuasive answers: technological archaeology about typewriters, a history of Times Roman, and superscripts and proportional spacing. (The 397 comments as of midnight tonight are worth tomorrow's reading.)

We can go to bed tonight knowing that George W. Bush is not telling the truth.

[I am indebted to Michael Bierut for many of the links in this post, and to Rob Giampietro for suggesting the title "Font Forensics."]

Posted in: Media, Politics, Technology, Typography

Comments [40]

Time after time this blog pushes its political agenda and I am tired of it. Here you have an opportunity to talk about the power of blogs and the national attention given to typography recently, and you waste it by turning it into cheap smear tactics. You can't even consider that maybe CBS forged those documents? That seems much more likely than a Republican conspiracy.

I respect you guys so much that I am baffled as to why you can't stick to the issue that you are good at: observing design. Why in the world would you take such a left wing position on this blog during a time when the population is so evenly divided? What is gained by insulting half of your audience? What does your political bias have to do with design?


I'll be straight with you that my political agenda would hope to blow the cover on a Republican conspiracy.

However, I don't think that William's entry has more to do with this: typography is at the front of a debate in a very prominent non-design issue. It's rare that any graphic design issue makes its way into the public sphere. The fact is that "right" and "left" media alike are talking about this issue.

What is at stake at the end of the day does happen to be political. Perhaps Mr. Drenttel shouldn't have ended his entry with "We can go to bed tonight knowing that George W. Bush is not telling the truth." But this is the only comment in the entire entry which I find particularly charged... and unfortunate because who knows what the origin of these documents is, true or false. Of course, it's a logical conclusion nonetheless that there's some kind of deciet involved, and why not the party in need of defense. Oh, shoot, there I go getting political again.


More direcrly to the entry: I was excited when I saw this in the news for the reason I mentioned above: graphic design rarely makes its way into the news with any significance.

Why haven't expert typographer designers been involved? Well, if designers aren't authority figures on topics of high relevance to our field, then as far as the general public is concerned, for what are we any kind of authority at all? I guess the reason we're not involved is that we're not top-of-mind and we're failing ourselves again. On the flip side, there's more to this story than the knowledge I suspect even a master typographer possesses. This requires knowledge on the topic of typewriters in the late 60's and early seventies, as well as other forensic knowledge that I doubt most people with MFA's have.
Andrew Twigg


I think one of the privileges of having a blog is writing what you want no matter who it alienates. Although we may sound like it at times, this isn't The National Trust for Advancing Design Discourse Dot Com. It's just four people who bring both knowledge and opinions to the messages they post. You can take it or leave it.

The fascinating thing about this specific controversy is that there seems to be no way to view it except through the lens of one's particular bias. Personally, as a Kerry supporter, when I first heard about the letters I was heartened, When I saw them, I was dismayed, and then baffled: why would anyone go through the considerable trouble of "forging" documents and then output them in Microsoft Word? Wouldn't a master forger at least spec Courier, for God's sake? And from there it was watching the general public take an astonishing odyssey into the nether reaches of our arcane world: font comparison, the history of typewriters, all of which simply return the whole issue to the eyes of the beholders, with so much "evidence" on either side that staying neutral seems impossible.

Like Bill, I was struck by the fact that graphic designers were not asked by the media to weigh in on what is very much a graphic design controversy. And then I was reminded again of the 2000 election and the notorious butterfly ballot "designed" by the recently deposed Theresa Depore: a perfect case where you'd think Ric Grefe would make a great talking head on Nightline, but no.

I do think there is one thing we can all agree on: would you ever have imagined a few weeks ago that searching "george w. bush" and "proportional spacing" on Google would give you 200+ hits? Like it or not, this president has moved graphic design to the center of our national conversation.
Michael Bierut

For what it's worth, the problem is not that professional designers aren't consulted: from my first call of the day from a reporter at USA Today, to my last call of the day from the editor-in-chief at Slate, my Friday was dominated by these memos.

The problem is that these kinds of stories, since they depend heavily on expert opinion, qualify for the media's murky requirements of "equal time," an unimpeachable way to be a lazy and irresponsible journalist. For every expert who states, as I did, that they know of no office technology capable of producing these documents in 1972, there apparently needs to be an equal and opposite counter-expert, who will state for the record that unlikely is not the same as impossible. This is the same phenomenon that has allowed decades of cautionary reporting about environmental trends to be deflated by industry stooges, who in the face of rising temperatures and vanishing species can always remind us that "no, we can't actually say with absolute certainty that fossil fuels are definitely the cause of global warming." I have always found this upsetting as an environmentalist, just as the current scandal infuriates me as a typographer.
Jonathan Hoefler

Since my name came up in Bill's piece... I had several telephone calls from news journalists on Thursday afternoon and Friday about these documents. As a typographer I was able to explain what the proportional spacing of type is, what an apostrophe is, and what a superscript is. But that's about as far as I could go. The issue here is the history of high-end strike-on devices and their use by the airforce in 1972/3. I don't know the precise technical specifications of the IBM Selectric Composer at that date, nor the availability of custom golfballs, let alone what equiipment was used in a squadron office in Texas—and I don't know who does. Given my ignorance of these things I asked not to be quoted. I did suggest that somewhere there must survive other documents from Lt. Colonel Killian's office from the years in question that would make interesting comparisons.
Matthew Carter

Just a few thoughts:

Yesterday afternoon (London time) I spent the time to go through the entire Daily Kos thread, and even though the veracity of the documents it's still to be confirmed by other means (the age of the paper, ink, ways of depositing ink on the paper, etc), I found enough evidence there to discredit the MS Word hypothesis (just 5min in Word trying to reproduce the documents should suffice for that). I also found there enough material to discredit the impossibility of producing those documents using office equipment available at the time. What irritated me the most is that so many so-called 'serious' news networks went public with conclusions drawn from looking at lo-res PDF versions of the documents in question, backed up only by the claims of a few, later discredited, 'experts' and clumsy photoshop work by the people @ FR, and the WP went as far as publishing their own 'visual proof' based on the same unreliable material. This is unacceptable. Our assessment of the legitimacy of news reporting is largely based on the tacit assumption that 'serious' news organisations are thorough in their fact-checking procedures. In their haste to 'keep up' with the spread of the 'forgery' meme on the web, several news organisations comitted what can only be called an act of 'irresponsible journalism'. I believe this is one of the most important issues to arise from the unfolding of this event and not the typeface-MS Word discussion which had more to do with the way in which a certain degree of typographic knowledge has become part of the toolbox of any average computer user than with any awareness in the mainstream of graphic design as a discipline. Why did these organisations feel they 'had to' broadcast, even though it was clear that the information they had was insufficient to do so?

Adrian, on your company's blog, Be A Design Group, you added a paragraph to your post that I'd like to share with Design Observer readers:

BE A DESIGN GROUP takes great care to keep our political opinions separate from our ideas on design. Politics is not off limits, but when the topic comes up, you can be sure we are talking about design, and not pushing an agenda or endorsing a candidate. Doing so can only lessen the impact of our design discussion. We are professional graphic designers who have dedicated our lives to design, not politics. You don't care what our political view are, do you?

If BE A DESIGN GROUP wants to have a policy about not being political on its company website, this is their right. At Design Observer, however, we believe in a variety of viewpoints, and that smart observation and commentary are rooted in our varied interests, backgrounds, and political persuasions. To discuss design and visual culture without occasionally touching the subject of politics is either naïve or wrong: raising the P word should not lessen the impact of discussions about design, it should broaden them to include a critical aspect of modern life and culture.

This said, Andrew Twigg correctly points out that it is the last sentence of my post which veered off-topic into my own political leanings. I apologize. I should not have let my own point-of-view about the veracity of George W. Bush enter into the equation of this post.
William Drenttel

Since I took their names in vein, it is obviously interesting to hear from Jonathan Hoefler and Matthew Carter on the subject of news media consulting designers about this story.

Jonathan's point about the problem with "equal-time experts" seems right on target, and his example of environmental news coverage is a powerful one. Meanwhile, Matthew asks the obvious question: why not simply compare the documents to other documents from Lt. Colonel Killian's office in the same period?

I come back to my original question. Should not designers and technology specialists have been consulted by CBS in advance of this story breaking? Why do I suspect that their "forensics experts" are either Perry Mason-vintage (handwriting experts) or fresh from the most recent O.J. Simpson trial (DNA experts)? Would the news media have handled this inquiry differently in England if the documents were about Tony Blair and involved superscripts and proportional spacing?

Meanwhile, so we don't have our heads in the sand on a designer's beach, check out Press Think for how journalists are discussing this same story.
William Drenttel

I'm glad that Matthew Carter pointed out that being a great type designer does not make one a typewriter history maven. Whenever anything brushes against the subject of graphic design, graphic designers go into paroxysms about not having been properly consulted. What's up with that?

For the record, I owned a (non-golf ball) IBM typewriter in the 1970s. I bought it (very) used so I would judge that it was likely in use in 1972. It had proportional spacing. I don't remember it having superscript but I do remember the Bush service "genuine" documents released by the Whitehouse showing superscript.

Why anyone would think that type designers or graphic designers rather than forgery experts or typewriter manufacturers would be the best source of information on this is beyond me.
Gunnar Swanson

I don't think anyone is suggesting that graphic designers are the best source of information on document forgery. What designers can contribute is their visual sensitivity, and their familiarity with a specific technical lexicon, both of which are useful in keeping the discussion on track.

Mind you, the Times article includes opinions from "news executives," "a forensic document specialist," "a spokesman for IBM," "a technology consultant," "a chief of the National Guard," "a member of the adjutant general's office," and sundry other documents experts. None of them made the bracingly obvious suggestion that in order to assess the legitimacy of these documents, perhaps they might be compared with other documents from the same source. I encountered that observation for the first time here, where it was made by Matthew Carter, a designer.
Jonathan Hoefler

I've been following the forensic path with delight over at Typographica and the various links from there, including the Daily Kos, which provided the fascinating typewriter details. Having recently taught my students about typeface comparisons, "Typewriter" faces, and true apostrophes, I was thrilled to send them the links ... proof that it all does matter in the real world.

I too have wondered why they don't just compare to documents from the same office & year, as I'm certain that's what Perry Mason would do, but I still find the whole thing happily entertaining, regardless of the outcome.
marian bantjes

I will be laughing at this post when CBS comes clean in a few days. I could forgive your naivete if this were written a few days ago, but at this stage of the game, you're just deluding yourself.

In your own post, you wrote experts who debunk the myth you're buying into. That's sad.

We can go to bed tonight knowing that your skills in self-delusion are keen.
tom sherman

The memos exhibit kerning, the officer referenced had been retired for a year and a half, the method of dating is not military regulation, and several military acronyms are misspelled or jumbled. The list goes on... This isn't just a forgery, it's a bad one. It's almost as if whoever did it was in a hurry to crank it out.

The comparison with other documents was suggested at Daily Kos a number of times, and not by a designer. Should I point out again that - as far as I know - CBS seem to be the only ones in possession of the ORIGINALS where all the commentaries from so-called experts seem to be based lo-res photoshop generated PDF files from scanned faxes?

PS: There's an interesting connection to be made between this post and JH's Under The Microscope.

Just want to note that the whitehouse hasn't discredited the provenance of these memos AFAIK, so they aren't lying about this.

It's now official. The document forgery scandal has finally been called TypographyGate by Dave in Texas over at Press Think.
William Drenttel

Why is it so difficult to believe that Dubya used his family connections to avoid seeing action.

Neil Bush did the same with tha Savings and Loan Scandal. Bilking Millions of Dollars from Senior Citizens. In an era that sent Ivan Bosky or Michael Milliken to Jail, for Junk Bonds.

Neil Bush went Free. Without a Day in Court and/or Inquirey. Of Course, George Herbert Walker was in the White House at the time.

I guess Voter Intimidation in Florida by State Troopers and Police is a lie.

The Democratic Party requesting the FBI's Intervention is a charade.

Whether the documents are real or fake is irrelevent. The Current Presidency is a Lie. Handed by the Supreme Court.

Let us not forget Skull and Bones. The Secret Society.

Apologies Editors for going off topic.

Although, I am pleased and happily surprised that words like superscript, subscript, proportionally spaced fonts, kerning, etc... are being used in the mainstream media, I don't believe anyone is really listening. (Lets face it, they all have their minds made up.) And it's probably confusing to the layman anyway.

They're using those words and definitions to look legit. Which is fine. But the bottom line is that these documents are probably forged. Does it really matter who "the experts" are in terms of their profession? If some guy out in Idaho is an expert on IBM typewriters circa 1972/73 or if some typesetter who worked for the NY times since it's inception says it's forged or some graphic designer who "knows all the tricks" said it was forged...and can PROVE it, it was probably forged. The proof is in the pudding. I don't think it matters of what profession they are.

The bigger picture is that the American people are having the wool pulled over their eyes once again. And it's not going to make one bit of difference. Bush's administration and campaign have done far worse things than forging a document to make Bush "look better" and his approval rating is still above Kerry's.

Is it cool that "fonts" are the topic on the news? Yeah. But what's behind it is not so cool...it's sad really.


Those of you who so desperately want these memos to be real might as well make some money off your certainty that these CBS documents could actually have come from an early-1970s typewriter. There is currently a $37,900 reward being offered to the first person who can accurately reproduce one of the CBS memos on any circa-1972 typewriter or typewriter-style device (yes, including the magic Selectric Composer).

Go ahead, experts. Instead of bloviating on here and on the Daily Kos about irrelevant hypotheticals, you could instead be making a lot of cash for very little work, and helping John Kerry get elected at the very same time by proving that this is all a Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy and George W. Bush really did violate a direct order!

So hop to it, kids!

William's post seems to wrongly imply that it is the Bush side which would find it favorable for these docs to be genuine, when in fact it is the exact opposite.

For instance, William writes "The INDC Journal attacks the Boston Globe for falsely supporting Bush..."
This is the exact opposite of reality: the INDC Journal attacked the Boston Globe for falsely supporting CBS, which was seeking to discredit Bush.

So while I agree that it seems that the documents are forged, that in no way implicates Bush, but CBS, and perhaps, even the Kerry campaign. Newsweek is already suggesting that the documents were passed to CBS from the Kerry campaign, and that the Kerry campaign knew about these documents.
Another Thought

Tangentially, do plumbers get excited when they hear angle stops being mentioned on the evening news? It's almost like we as designers seek validation for our profession. I can't really criticize; my ears perk up when I hear about design-related topics. Maybe it's that design is more than a profession for some of us. Or maybe we're so frustrated by a perceived lack of respect for our discipline that we think, "maybe now they'll notice how important typography is."

As another aside, I love to read these blogs to see which filters people view current events through. The conservatives will cut Bush yards and yards of slack, while the liberals will try to lynch him with mere inches.

I do think that testing the age of the paper and ink would be a more accurate solution than trying to identify which machines were used in Air Force offices 30 years ago.

Personally, I think it's a bit too obvious to be a forgery, but then people are known to make dumb mistakes.

A link to my latest post at Press Think.

This is great! It is posted above that somebody needs to examine the docs for age of paper, ink, etc.,etc. To make this happen somebody has to come up with the originals of these memos. CBS admits they DO NOT have the originals. The solution? CBS needs to name their source and have that person produce the original docs for unbiased evaluation. Maybe then we could move on to something else.

DesignMaven should probably be reminded that Senator Kerry is also a member of the Skull and Bones society. (story)

As for the topic at hand, the research at Kos does not prove the authenticity of the documents, but it certainly does contradict the statements of a number of experts consulted by the media. The case for forgery is reduced to conspiracy theories and believable tests of the documents are still missing.

Frankly, I am not nearly so swayed by the possibility that Mr. Bush's 1970's service record is tarnished as by the OVERWHELMING and OBVIOUS DIRECT EXPERIENCE that his domestic and foreign policies are harmful to the public. Not to get political.


Many thanks.

Yes, also aware, Former President Bill Clinton is a member of Skull and Bones.

My point of reference was the Bush Pedigree and involvement with Skull and Bones.

The Order was founded at Yale in 1833 and membership in it is a Bush family tradition.
Dubya, was inducted into Skull and Bones in 1968; his father, [Former President] George Herbert Walker Bush, was inducted in 1948; and his grandfather, Prescott S. Bush, who served as a U.S. Senator, was inducted in 1917.

Thus, becoming one of the more powerful families in the United States. Along with the Rothchild's, Rockefeller's and Kellog's.

Yes, Sebastian, it is true that an initial attempt to recreate these documents is likely to be frustrating for most users. The following are likely issues they will run into:
  • MS Word, by default, automatically superscripts "th" and "st" when placed at the end of a number. This causes difficulty when trying to reproduce the very first page of the documents, where "th" and "st" appear once each directly after a number combination. These potential superscript letter combinations appear several other times in the first page of the documents, but a space has been inserted after the preceding number combination. It is possible through Format: Font to turn off the superscripting for text that you have selected in Word, and this may have been done on the first occurrences, but the space after the numbers suggests to me a user that is cognizant of this detail and is trying to stop the auto formatting.
  • Making a numbered list will also activate MS Word's auto-formatting features, leaving the numbers hanging, and indenting the rest of the text. This can be remedied by writing your list as you normally would, turning off the list feature, re-typing the numbers, and turning off the indent/outdent.

The puzzling thing about these documents is that it is created as if the forger (I don't doubt that it is forged) seemed to be aware that certain typographic details might give them away. The spaces between the numbers and the letters suggest a desire to avoid the auto-formatting (unless some people type this way...I know I don't). The period after the "W" after "George" in the document seems to have a space before it, as if to try to simulate a non-kerning processor. But everything about this document screams MS Word defaults. It is in the default font, with the default spacing, and it is definitely created by something with a pretty sophisticated kerning engine, even if the "IAW" on the first page is kerned with an ineptitude that is curiously MS Word-like.

It seems to me that the person who forged these documents was aware of these typographic blunders. I'm still wondering though, whether they were in a hurry, or intentionally make just enough blunders to give it away, but not enough to make it obvious.


The docs are very probably forgeries. Certainly they were definitely *not* produced on an IBM Composer or an IBM Executive. There are other low-end typesetting machines of the period, but they are unlikely to have been used, and unlikely to stand up to rigorous analysis.

I can't say what device was used to produce them, but the metrics are a perfect match for Times Roman (or Times New Roman in its 1991 and later version). Times/TNR uses an 18-unit width system, with common characters being 5-17 units wide. On the Composer all characters must be 3-9 units wide on a coarser system.

The Executive is even worse. All characters are 2-5 (or possibly 2-6) units wide on an even coarser system.

Maybe it was something else from the period (though it seem unlikely). But it wasn't either of these two devices.


Thomas Phinney

Mr. Drenttel and Mr. Beirut

This is a great discussion, and I am sad to say that I am going to take it off track again. Sorry. I'll just let everyone know that I am the co-creator of BE A DESIGN GROUP (another web forum on design, not a company Mr. Drenttel) with Adrian. Now that you know my bias, here I go.

Of course you have the right to express your political view points on your personal blog. The real issue is if it is good for design. We go about everything we do with our own viewpoints and biases, but should it be a part of the design discussion.

When we include our political beliefs as part of our design beliefs it can only dilute the design profession as less than than that of political and social causes. Mr. Beirut, It would seem that your partner Paula Scher might disagree with your perspective on this very issue. She makes it very clear how she feels in her article "The Devaluation of Design by the Design Community" in the AIGA Journal, Volume 11, Number 4 1993.

"Confusing social issues with design issues is dangerous. They're not the same." "The 'social relevance' mantra disturbs me mostly because it confuses and diminishes our primary goals. It becomes easy to decry graphic design as a trivial profession."
Bennett Holzworth

Not that it has anything to do with the issue at hand, but Bill Clinton is not a member of Skull & Bones.


Nice catch on that Paula Scher quote. Now, I wouldn't presume to speak for Paula, but I would say that there is a difference between "confusing social issues with design issues" and ignoring politics in one's practice altogether. Indeed (and as I recall, this was Paula's point) design issues are different from social issues: the fact that a bad design is socially relevant or politically correct does not make it a good design.

But, in my personal experience at least, my best work has always happened in situations where I passionately supported my client's goals. Occasionally, these goals have been political. Compartmentalizing one's life doesn't seem healthy to me, and I know it isn't productive.
Michael Bierut

Bennett and Adrian, I don't think it's possible to have a completely rounded discussion about anything if you have to muzzle certain aspects of that discussion because they are "personal," "biased," or "off-topic." Any good discussion, in my experience, draws on all of our opinion and knowledge, and most often strays into unexpected territory. Everything is interconnected. To clinically examine design, or anything else, without personal expression and tangential experience would be to deny the entire human involvement in design ... and would also be boring.

Your politics are not my politics—that doesn't mean we can't speak of it. Relax, it'll be OK.
marian bantjes

I think it is fine to talk politics here when it intersects with design theory and practice - like the ballot and the memo.

Politics along with culture, history, economy, and the social, all make up the lives of people as much as line, form, structure, color, etc. All of these elements of our world are fair game for a designer to utilize in the construction of devices to communicate a message.

Me, I don't have design or political beliefs (as Bennett describes them). I have design desires and political dreams.


Good Catch, and many thanks.

My profound apologies to Design Observer and it's community.

Former President, William Jefferson Clinton is a member of the Rhodes Society. Another, Secret Society.

Being a Rhodes Scholar. While I try to disseminate factural information sometimes inaccuracies are reported from my documentation. Which I can't delete once I post.

Do we know for certain IBM typewriters were used?

Commonly used in the seventies were Underwood, and Royal: The pitch setting is different for each of these models.

Nobody mentioned the IBM Wheelwriter which was used in the era of the IBM Selectric.(golf ball)

i'm not a Rhodes Scholar.

That reference was meant to attribute Former President William Jefferson Clinton.

Sorry, for the second post.

Poor Dan Rather. An established and highly credited news anchorman for over thirty years has seemingly put his career on the line over the story of the questionable documents about W's service, or non-service, in the Air National Guard. Are they real? Are they forged? Elephants say they are fakes. Donkeys say they are not. The outcome of an investigation will have serious implications, but to what means? Will these documents eject our current administration out of the White House, or send Kerry in a downward spiral because of so called conspiracy theories by CBS? Either way I cannot remember a time when so much attention has been focused on the superscript th. Could these two tiny letters change the history of our country? Could they change the facts of Dubya's actual service records? Could they send Dan Rather into early retirement? It is reassuring to know that our finest font police are on the case, examining and re-examining photo copied documents from thirty years ago, or thirty days ago, in hopes to solve this case so we can focus on the current issues facing our society.
Andrew Cook

Jonathan Hoefler was interviewed this morning by NPR's Scott Simon on Weekend Edition. The audio is available on line here.

Michael Bierut

Times Roman, proportional letterspacing, and superscript "th"s aside, CBS News has withdrawn its support for the validity of the documents and admitted that airing the original story was "a mistake."

As the story emerged, I was surprised by how much stock CBS put in (to use Bill Drenttel's phrase) "Perry Mason era" handwriting experts while oblivious to the other (more typographic) aspects of the documents.
Michael Bierut

Michael Surtees

On the AIGA Journal site, Paul Shaw writes a really comprehensive summary of this whole affair, featuring a really great reproduction of a vintage brochure for the now-legendary IBM Selectric Composer.
Michael Bierut

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