Henninger’s top 5 list of favorite typefaces
May 6, 2014
By Ed Henninger
It happened again just recently. I was working on a redesign with the lead designer at a newspaper when he asked: “So, what are your favorite typefaces?”
“Ever. I mean, you do have your favorites, don’t you?
“Well, I can count them on one hand. Five of them. It changes occasionally with one or two of them, but most have been favorites for a long time.
“OK. Tops on the list is Kepler. I love Kepler, It’s elegant. Beautiful proportions. Gorgeous italic. And 168 fonts! Imagine that: A great-looking typeface with 168 fonts in the family. It’s a gift-that-keeps-on-giving for those of us who love classic typefaces.”
“Yeah, but don’t get excited. I only recommend about a dozen or so. You really don’t need more than that for news design—even for the most choosy designers.”
“Photina. I often have trouble deciding which I like more: Photina or Kepler. They’re both graceful and inviting serif faces. Photina is sophisticated yet clean. Simple. Crisp. And, like Kepler, it can be used for both display and text if you make the right choices and treat them in the right way. Photina comes in about six or eight fonts, depending. I try to stay away from the bold—it’s a bit too heavy for my taste. So, I work with the SemiBold a lot. The Ultra? Never!”
“How about sans serifs?”
“Easy. I’ve found a new favorite. Antenna. I really like the way Antenna works in so many different ways—and it’s because there are more than two dozen fonts in the family. Antenna is great for display and it works well in text sizes for captions, lists, infoboxes, etc. It’s certainly a breakaway from tired serifs like Helvetica, Franklin Gothic, Frutiger and Univers. With so much use during recent years, even Myriad is tired now.”
“Sounds like you’re in love with Antenna.”
“I am. I’ve used it in some recent redesigns and it gives those papers an entirely new feel. It’s modern yet its proportions are true to the sans serif tradition. And I really like the choices of different weights and widths—everything from a Compressed Thin to a very wide Black. I’m excited by the possibilities Antenna offers.”
“You said you think some serif typefaces, like Helvetica, Franklin and others, are ‘tired.’ Are there others you recommend?”
“Yes. One: Akzidenz Grotesk. Don’t be fooled by the name: It’s neither an accident, nor is it grotesque. The name translates loosely to ‘sans serif printer’s type.’ It, like Antenna, has about two dozen fonts in the family. It, too, works well in both display and text sizes. And, again like Antenna, it has a wide choice of weights and widths. I’ve used it in several redesigns and I never tire of its Extra Bold Condensed for impact—and its Light Condensed for subheads, labels and the like.”
“OK, so you said five. What’s the fifth?”
“Well, those I’ve mentioned are all designed mostly as display fonts. Y’know: Headlines, subheads, labels, pullouts and that kinda thing. So, that leaves text. And that means Nimrod.”
“Yeah—terrible name, great face. I’ve been doing this consulting thing for 25 years now and I’ve been recommending Nimrod for all of that time. Other typefaces—Benton and Poynter, for example—have come along during that time. A few years ago, Minion was the fad and I never understood why. I put them all up against Nimrod for x-height, legibility and reading comfort. Really. I test them against Nimrod by setting the same story in the typeface-du-jour and Nimrod and comparing the look. Nimrod wins—every time.”
“So, about the Kepler and Photina.”
“If you had to choose between them. Absolutely had to choose.”
Well, which one would you pick?”
“I think … uhhh … both.”
Want a free evaluation of your newspaper’s design? Just contact me at email@example.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 2014
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: firstname.lastname@example.org. On the Web: henningerconsulting.com. Phone: 803-327-3322.