Feeling used by the merchandising nightmare that is Valentine's Day? Fight back by surprising anyone and everyone in your circle of friends with some custom font love and a little valentine savvy. With PCWorld's free font downloads, a little novelty sourcing, and a few nights of affectionate attention before the big day, you can set the table for a love banquet.
Don't forget the sweethearts at home, but do print out some love for the folks who stand by you in the daily churn of work and play. Here are twelve tips and twelve fonts to point the way.
To simplify your access to this batch of fonts, we've created a downloads collection that contains links to all 12 of them.
Tip 1: A valentine does not have to be a card.
My editor has access to a great copy desk at work, but I keep Mr. Brian, ace trivia buff, on speed dial for moments when my font reviews need solid attributions. The man has a massive library and he always comes through, especially with important facts about starlets of the '50s--that illustrious lineage from Debra Paget to Sandra Dee. To capture the spirit of the age, I'll be using Doris Day, Mario Arturo's demure brush script, to make a valentine that my friend is sure to file under fun. Miss Day's best lines from her starring role in The Pajama Game, tastefully printed on pastel bookmarks, are bound to make his day extra-perky.
Tip 2: A valentine can open doors.
It's not the velvet rope I fear, it's the young woman clutching menus to her chest and pursing her lips as she mans the podium of my favorite restaurant. Yes, my maître d' is a maître diva--but not for long, because I'm handing her a valentine seating chart made using Champignon, a classic script font by by Claude Pelletier. Voilà! Pelletier's digital update of Spencerian script dips and swirls with fanciful abandon, and the designer has thoughtfully provided a set of swashes, the better to embellish my date's desire to be escorted to the coveted corner booth. Then again, twenty bucks folded into the shape of a swan isn't a bad idea either.
Tip 3: A totally unexpected valentine is not out of the question.
Another year and my 2002 Mazda is still running smooth, thanks to the crew at Don's Auto Service. To this talented troop of grease monkeys goes a six-pack of frozen banana pops and a little bundle of valentines emblazoned with IronManic, a homage font to Marvel's master tinkerer, created by Gene Buban. For once I'm happy that a font is in all caps, because shouting is the preferred form of communication over the din of repair work. To wit, I'll adjust the point size to massive when I heat-transfer DON'S LOVE GARAGE on a half-dozen red cotton wipe rags. Hey, that should get those engines started!
Tip 4: A valentine can practice tough love.
Let's imagine that a roof repair was scheduled to be complete last November. At least that's what the contract promised--the contract you had such faith in. But here it is February, and you're still gazing at the stars as you pile on the blankets. To make a tardy vendor's heart beat a little faster, print up a valentine calendar using Ariapenciroman, Christoph Windmueller's sketchy mashup of Arial and Times New Roman. The penciled-in quality of Windmueller's characters makes it a good match for a work-in-progress; and since this font doesn't have numerals, you can spell everything out--starting with the day the repair was due and spreading the love all the way to now. Carpe diem, people, by penciling in a contract review date with your lawyer present on February Fourteen.
Tip 5: A valentine can provide a gentle push.
To the aspiring musicians on our block goes a valentine dialed all the way to 11 with Bandung Hardcore, the traditional slab serif font by Indonesian designer Gilang Purnama. I'll point out the font's roots in West Java's underground music scene as the neighbors and I present the band with a stylin' stack of branded bumper stickers to hand out at their Valentine's Day gig. The dudes will be mega-impressed. I wish they'd go by my nickname for them--"The Bryant Street Death Rays"--because the words look especially awesome set in Bandung at its most hardcore. Hey, maybe bumper stickers will encourage the lads to tour. Listen for our neighbors yelling "Bon voyage!" as the boys in the van roll away.
Tip 6: A valentine can wear its heart on a sleeve.
Mrs. Nina hasn't met my partner, but she knows his tie collection. She has exorcised gum crud from Egyptian cotton and ketchup splats from Irish linen. The pristine condition of the rehabbed haberdashery owes more to her than our Visa card allows, but a timely verse shows our appreciation. Such a valentine is a job for Sorts Mill Goudy, Barry Schwartz's revival of the classic American text font Goudy Old Style. Hence my gift: a lab coat with a heat-transferred haiku dedicated to the queen of stain removal:
Gone like morning dew
at noon: egg yolk from my tie.
Mrs. Nina cleans!