Search the typefaces you already own

May 3, 2013

By Ed Henninger

There’s an aphorism I heard many years ago that has stuck with me since: “Ya gotta dance with the one whut brung ya.”

During my almost-quarter century as a design consultant, I’ve used that saying to reassure many of my clients about typefaces we can use as we redesign their newspapers.

The point I’m making with them is that they may already own all the typefaces they need.

I recently proved the point again while redesigning two small sister papers in Iowa. I took a close look at their font list and I was able to reassure the publisher that we had everything we needed in the way of type to create a crisp, contemporary look.

Before continuing, let me make clear the difference between “typeface” and “font.” It’s a pet peeve of experienced designers that others interchange the terms. They are not the same thing.

A typeface is the design of a type family, such as Times or Helvetica.

A font is a variant within the family, such as Times Italic or Helvetica Bold. So, a list of typefaces would be something like: Bell, Bell Gothic, Birch, Blackoak. But a font list would read as: Bell Regular, Bell Italic, Bell Semibold, Bell Semibold Italic, etc.

So, when I check a list of typefaces for use in a redesign, I want to be sure there are enough fonts in the family to allow for some design contrast and flexibility.

The following are some typefaces I recommend that I believe you already have in your system software:

TEXT: Georgia. Bookman. Lucida Bright.

DISPLAY SERIF: Arno Pro. Baskerville. Bell. Bodoni SvtyTwo. Garamond Condensed. Goudy.

DISPLAY SANS SERIF: Frutiger. Futura Condensed. Myriad. Univers.

Not a long list, that’s true. But within these type families are gems that can help give you that new look you want.

In that recent project in Iowa, for example, we used Bodoni SvtyTwo as the standard headline typeface in one paper, with Garamond Condensed as the standard headline typeface in the other. For both, we used Futura Condensed as the sans serif display typeface.

Three typefaces you probably own that really don’t work for a redesign: 

1. Helvetica: Overused to death, no character in its characters.

2. Times: Overused to death.

3. New Century Schoolbook: Too wide for a text font, it eats space.

Having said that, I once did a redesign of a community newspaper in Nebraska where we used Times for headlines, Helvetica for sans serif display and accents and New Century Schoolbook for text.

Why? The composition system at that newspaper was so antiquated that we couldn’t trade out any typefaces, even if we could have afforded to purchase them.

Like I said, sometimes “Ya gotta dance with the one whut brung ya.”

Want a free evaluation of your newspaper’s design? Just contact me at edh@henningerconsulting.com or at 803-327-3322.

If this column has been helpful, you may be interested in my books “Henninger on Design” and “101 Henninger Helpful Hints.” With their help you’ll have a better idea how to design for your readers. Find out more at www.henningerconsulting.com. © Ed Henninger 2013

ED HENNINGER is an independent newspaper consultant and the Director of Henninger Consulting. Offering comprehensive newspaper design services including redesigns, workshops, staff training and evaluations. E-mail: edh@henningerconsulting.com. On the web: henningerconsulting.com. Phone: 803-327-3322.

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