Revenge of the Font Nerds

The first 15 times I watched Revenge Of The Nerds I was transfixed with the symbolism of the persecuted nerd: Like present-day rednecks, the nerd of 1984 represented one of the few remaining demographics where intolerance and ridicule were not only acceptable, but encouraged.

Of course, today's nerds are revered and adored (though our pompous self-promotion and narcissistic pretentiousness will ensure this will be short-lived) and the movie can be analysed on a more frivolous level: as the classic underdog-comes-good sexist flick that it is.

De-robed from its social significance, more subtle aspects of the film are able to flourish... like the suspect arrested for mopery - which they oddly defined as "exposing yourself to a blind person" when the actual definition is "walking down the street with no clear destination or purpose" (though sometimes expanded to "mopery with intent to creep" if it involves unsavoury characters).

One detail that caught my eye on the latest viewing was the font that was chosen in the burning NERDS sign excellently constructed by the jocks. At first glance I thought it was surely Helvetica (though I really can only tell if something is Helvetica if I can see the little "tick" on the bottom of the uppercase R. Due to the flames, this detail was obscured)

I fired up photoshop and had a look. Kiiinda looked like it... I couldn't be sure. I thought I'd outsource the research to some top-notch designers, and get their opinions on the matter:

1. Henry

When presented with the challenge (via email) he responded almost instantly with:

Looks like DIN Condensed to me but the R isn't quite right. Also DIN doesn't have the flames.

Indeed, DIN Condensed did look very close. "But the R isn't quite right". It's possible it could have been a band-saw mishap, so I took the DIN research to the 'net...

Based on a condensed style of DIN type family (Linotype Staff designers). That is a group of sans serif faces made to conform to the German Industrial Standard.

Designed at ParaType in 1997 by Tagir Safayev.

Hmmm. 1997. The movie predates 1997 by 13 years. Perhaps they were working on a version of it on the set of Revenge Of The Nerds, and it took 13 years to get the R right? Perhaps.

2. Stuart

Also an almost instant reply:

There is one called block gothic. But not too sure, lemme look again.

He then replied with an attached Open Type font called PreussischeIV44Ausgabe3. Which I couldn't find any information about, other than the meta-data in the font itself: Copyright (c) 2006 by Peter Wiege.

The font looked pretty close - wide S and everything. But I wasn't sure. I queried Stuart on the 22 year date discrepancy, to which he replied:

Well beggars can't be choosers, and you're a least you smell like one

So that trail ended there.

3. Wade

Next, the guy sitting opposite to me seemed as good as any to ask. It turned out he had an avid interest in the subject (fonts, not Revenge Of The Nerds) and after studying the image carefully for a few seconds concluded;

I don't know, maybe Futura Condensed Bold. It's probably not even a font - someone's just made it up. Maybe.

Futura Condensed Bold also looked close... R is wrong again, but the dates check out: Designed between 1924 and 1926 by Paul Renner.

4. Automated Font Detector... Go!

Finally, someone (annoyed with me asking the design team about fonts all day) suggested the cleverly titled What the Font? site, where you can upload an image and it will try and guess the font. They told me I'd have to trace the font in illustrator or something for it to work. Which I thought was ridiculous. What kind of computerised age do we live in?!

Here were some of the service's suggestions:

I feel the flames might have thrown the detection algorithm a bit. Still, no excuse for Military Patriotic P01.

I'm now looking for answers from you, the internet people. If we can't figure out what font this is then we're nothing but the nerds they say we are.