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donmcc
05-16-2005, 11:22 AM
Here is one for all the typographers and designers in the group. I'm writing some curriculum for a typography course, and I'd like to get some pro opinions on the subject of choosing type.

What I would like to know is: How do you choose type? I suspect that for many of you, it is second nature, and breaking it down to the steps that happen almost automatically in your brain might be a bit of a chore, but students have to know and work throught these steps individually (at least until they start to gain some expertise at it). I have my own methods, but will not present them lest they pollute some of your ideas.

It might be easier to explain how you decide what types would NOT work. Use that path if you like.

Secondly, how do you choose a complementary typeface, once you have chosen a primary face? Do you choose text first, and headings after, or vice versa? What are the criteria in making sure that faces work well together. I am especially interested in cases where two serifs or two sans are being selected, since this is (to me) much harder than finding a sans to match a serif.

Thanks for any who can spend the time to help me out.

Don McCahill

don Arnoldy
05-16-2005, 01:39 PM
I'm writing some curriculum for a typography course, and I'd like to get some pro opinions on the subject of choosing type.Here's what I tell my students...

First, you have to care about the words! The words are *not* just packing peanuts to fill the white space around the pictures, so they won't rattle when you shake the page. The words are important.

Second, you have to *read* the words. You don't have to understand all of the details, but you do have to understand the structure--how is the text organized. You have to understand the tone and intent of the words.

Finally, choosing a typeface is like scoring a piece of music--like musical instruments, each typeface has its own "voice." A tune played on a harpsichord feels different from the same tune played on a tuba. Text set in Caslon feels different than the same text set in Souvenier.

An arranger needs to be familiar-enough with the sound of each instrument to hear them in his mind-- A designer needs to be familiar-enough with the look of a cadre of (2 or 3 dozen?) typefaces that he can see them in his mind.

Cristen Gillespie
05-17-2005, 11:33 AM
I'm not experienced, but I'm fresh out of classes and I can easily remember what we as students learned. I don't think you can teach people how to pick type. I think you can teach them how to set type, but you can about as easily teach people to pick type as you can to teach them to paint. You teach them without style, and if they develop any, it won't be exactly what you taught anyway.

If they have to describe the contents without the typeface, and the typeface without the contents, and the two have something in common (even if it's deliberate contrast which carries its own level of meaning, but they have to be good to carry that off), they're at least trying to pay attention to what type can convey.

ktinkel
05-17-2005, 12:13 PM
What I would like to know is: How do you choose type? Often pragmatically. For example, when I was working with a U.N.-affiliate, I needed fonts with small caps and/or shorter than usual regular caps for the acronyms, and a good international character set for accents.

I am old-fashioned enough to favor transparency over style when it comes to text type.

Bringhurst teeters on the deep end on this, but I also try to avoid historically or esthetically incompatible fonts. If you set a book on modernist prints in Centaur, it is weird enough that even a casual reader might catch it. On the other hand, if you set it in Futura you had better be a world class typographer — much as I love the face, the only book I have seen set successfully in that face is one on color by Paul Renner, set in metal!)

Secondly, how do you choose a complementary typeface, once you have chosen a primary face?I often don’t. In traditional book typography, you barely need even boldface, let alone a second font.

If I feel the need, it is interesting how often I turn to a Matthew Carter face. His Big Caslon works with Adobe Caslon and some of the older Caslons, for example. (And I really love setting C&C Miller and C&C Charter — they fit perfectly and just flow onto the page.)

Must confess that I once used Lubalin Graf for heads for a magazine with Sabon or something equally retiring for the text. (Not sure I would do it today, though!).

Do you choose text first, and headings after, or vice versa? Text first.

But the more I think about this question, the more it seems to me that the recent trend of always using different fonts for heads than for text is often a big mistake. In the early DTP days, when we had only 4-style families, all (most, anyway) based on 12-point models, choosing a display face for heads made a kind of sense. But we no longer need this, and it is often much more satisfactory not to do it.

I would certainly at least suggest this to your students. Often, less is more in type as in architecture.

Michael Rowley
05-17-2005, 04:31 PM
Don:

it seems to me that the recent trend of always using different fonts for heads than for text is often a big mistake—KT

I can't contribute anything about choosing type, but it would be a good idea to have a list of typefaces designed for more than one size. The Adobe 'Opticals' would make a good start, but there are lots of other fonts of that sort, if only the beginner could find them. They're apt to be text fonts basically, but are suitable for display sizes.

You could also mention that some fonts are more suitable for printing on fine paper, though perhaps nowadays the robuster sorts (Bringhurst mentions, inter al., Utopia) are recommended for low-resolution devices.

donmcc
05-17-2005, 09:56 PM
I often don’t. In traditional book typography, you barely need even boldface, let alone a second font.

I agree with you here. I am going to spend a good deal of effort in teaching them about uniform typographic color, and how OSF, italic rather than bold, and small caps all fit into that.

However, in non-book work, a serif and a sans are often used. I personally use Myriad and Minion for my lesson PDFs. Do you recommend matching sets of faces (Stone Sans or Informal with Stone Serif, for example).

Don

ktinkel
05-18-2005, 09:28 AM
… in non-book work, a serif and a sans are often used. I personally use Myriad and Minion for my lesson PDFs. Do you recommend matching sets of faces (Stone Sans or Informal with Stone Serif, for example).Using extended families like that can simplify the decision (although I don’t think I would ever try to use Stone Informal with Stone Serif — the Sans works well with either, however). Some work better than others: Stone is good, so are Arnhelm’s Legacy Sans and Serif.

Other common advice is to mix and match types from the same designer (on the theory that they would harmonize well), but it doesn’t seem like a sure thing to me. Would you really want to pair Frutiger with Meridien (or Univers with Glypha)? Gill Sans and what? Perpetua?

terrie
05-20-2005, 04:15 PM
When it comes to font usage, I'm basically self-taught so I'm not sure if this is what you are looking for or not...

When it comes to choosing a font, the first, first thing I think about is what kind of paper (assuming print) will it be printed on--something with a lot of dot gain or not? If there is a lot of dot gain (I've working with a friend of mine on ads for a local monthly equine mag and their paper has 30% dot gain) then you probably don't want something small and delicate...

The second first thing I think about is if it's for display (I believe that's the correct term...basically largish--18pt-20pt or larger) or for text?

Then I look at the size of the piece and how much copy I have.

For display, I have a fondness for script/calligraphic/italic-y fonts but I was doing an ad layout for a horse trainer--male--and I felt that I wanted to use something strong and not script-y for his name in the ad and I rooted around in my fonts (more on that below) and found ITC Benguiat...

I liked it because it seemed to be strong and manly (whatever that means) but it has a bit of whimsy to it in the way the "A" is crossed...I liked it so I used it...you can see the ad if you scroll down a bit to Rufus Archer here (http://tlbtlb.com/tlbimages/eq.html)

One thing that helps me decide which display font to use is a little app Andrew told me about AMP Font Viewer (http://www.ampsoft.net/utilities/) which will display a sample (default or user defined) of all your active fonts in one window. I will often define my own sample using a part of what I'm working on. It really helps to see which font might work.

For text, I like things to be readable and I just choose something that I think looks ok (reads ok too) with whatever display fonts I've chosen...I just go with a gut level feeling...

I do periodically print out what I'm working on to my laser printer just to see if it looks good to me.

By the way...all this is done for b/w stuff...I'm sure if I were working in color other things might come into play...

Hope this proves useful...

Terrie

donmcc
05-20-2005, 08:03 PM
Hope this proves useful...

Terrie

Very useful. Thanks to you and the others who have responded.

Don

terrie
05-22-2005, 03:17 PM
>>donmcc: Very useful. Thanks to you and the others who have responded.

Good! You're welcome...

Terrie

John Spragens
05-25-2005, 01:31 PM
In traditional book typography, you barely need even boldface, let alone a second font.

It seems to me there are at least two broad categories of books.

What you say seems quite appropriate for novels or other books designed for someone who's going to read the whole thing through from beginning to end.

My daily bread comes from a different kind of book -- the software manual. In this case, the assumption is that readers are going to be scanning through quickly, looking for visual-plus-verbal hints to guide them to the sections where they need to slow down and read.

In these "working" books, it seems to me having a variety of sizes and weights -- and even a second face -- can make the design considerably more effective.

ktinkel
05-25-2005, 02:11 PM
What you say seems quite appropriate for novels or other books designed for someone who's going to read the whole thing through from beginning to end.

My daily bread comes from a different kind of book -- the software manual. In this case, the assumption is that readers are going to be scanning through quickly, looking for visual-plus-verbal hints to guide them to the sections where they need to slow down and read.

In these "working" books, it seems to me having a variety of sizes and weights -- and even a second face -- can make the design considerably more effective.The design challenge is different, it is true, for a reference book vs fiction, where one reads steadily.

One approach could be to use different fonts, weights, and so on. It isn’t inevitable, as far as I am concerned — you could also use spacing, arrangement, type size, bullets, other devices, who knows what? — but why not? (No point in being categorical about these things.)

My point was that it is a contemporary trend to mix and match fonts, and not necessarily a typographic or design standard. The mixed-font style is probably here to stay, though — what else can we do with the tsunami of sans serif fonts we have amassed lately? <g>

Michael Rowley
05-25-2005, 03:13 PM
KT:

The mixed-font style is probably here to stay

That style can be useful too: in Adobe's manual for FrameMaker 7, one size is used for the text (with serifs), while two completely different sizes of bold sans serif are used for the frequent subheadings, one much larger than the text, one much smaller. The chapter headings are in the text face (bold, and larger of course), and so is the title.

They could have used bold-faced seriffed type for the subheadings, but then they could hardly have used the smaller of the sans serif sizes, which was very effective (and economical).