About Minion

hankzane's picture

Does Minion (Pro or whatever) typeface have any shortcomings or faults as a type for text in books or articles? I guess that would be in the range of 9 to 11 points. Or is it perfect?

How would you compare it to ... say Aldus?

William Berkson's picture

Minion Pro--it was re-drawn and is better than Minion--is a champion of usability among text faces. In a previous discussion of Minion, Jean François Porchez pointed out that Slimbach intended it as a replacement for Times New Roman--it being an extremely compact, economical type. It also has a huge range of styles and weights and four optical sizes, making it wonderfully adaptable to different projects.

It has many, many vitues. However, to my eyes it has two shortcomings. First, it is a bit too compact and tightly spaced for ideal readability. Second, there is something about the roman that lacks liveliness and charm. Times New Roman remains better in that respect.

Nick Shinn's picture

Or is it perfect?

Too perfect. Too bundled.

hankzane's picture

What do you mean by too bundled?

Grot Esqué's picture

Bundled with Creative Suite? Thank Hrant it isn’t overused yet, perhaps because it’s a text face.

George Horton's picture

I dislike Minion; in particular, the narrow lower bowl of g, the coyly off-horizontal bar on e and the a irritate me. It's aiming at a particularly generic sort of humanist grace, but its unrelieved compression makes it feel claustrophobic.

Palatine's picture

Paul Stanley commented on Minion a while ago, and I'll never forget this brilliant little bit of typovangelism:

"I don't want anyone to think that I disparage Minion; I can see its virtues, but I cannot love them. I guess it's a matter of taste. Minion seems to me slightly mannered, perhaps too polished, its elegance too studied. When it comes to tea, it spreads its napkin carefully, drops no crumbs, eats its cake with a fork and holds its cup ever-so-daintily. It avoids talking about sex, religion or politics. It leaves when it should and writes its thank-you note that evening. One's mother says, "When are you having that nice Minion over, such a charming boy." I prefer something a little rougher, quirkier, more dangerous.

And because it's such a pleasant guest, one does see it around a lot. Better, no doubt and by far, than some of the others one sees all the time. But unlikely to thrill."

My suggestion, if I may make one in such learned company here on typophile? Go for Sabon Next (a real beauty), or Bembo Book (as in the new digitization); perhaps Dante, or if you don't mind the lack of variety, Dolly by Underware. The possibilities are legion. I'd even be so bold as to suggest Luminance by Mac Rhino. If you're looking for something a bit more modern, try Josh Dardens' Freight (serif) family.

As far as Aldus goes, it is a lovely, elegant face. The current digitzation is very usable.

Nick Shinn's picture

What do you mean by too bundled?

Hundreds of thousands, millions.

hankzane's picture

Well. I'm not learned. I don't even know who you're quoting. But I'm not interested in "going for" some typeface. I'm only asking (myself) if there are reasons not to use Minion other than boredom.

Who needs thrill from a book face, the book designer or the reader?

Palatine's picture

In terms of one's interest in type and typography, and in this case beautiful books in general: if rich, warm black type on cream paper doesn't thrill you, then I don't know what will. ;-)

hankzane's picture

I don't know if it does. I haven't read any greats set with Dolly. But I don't know if I'd want to be thrilled.

hankzane's picture

Why should I thank Hrant?

kris's picture

"Who needs thrill from a book face, the book designer or the reader?"

Both. If you are going to be bored looking at a typeface while you are using it, then it will be a particulary unrewarding experiencce. No need to be to much of a typographic martyr!


Bobby Henderson's picture

Minion is popping up in quite a few places. Right now I'm watching it being used in some of the end titles on the movie "Shrek II" on HBO West.

Although Minion Pro is redrawn better, I still have some practical use for the previous Multiple Master version in sign making.

Neon filled channel letters are very popular for signage these days. But any letter with a serif is a big pain to make unless the letter can be set very large. If the letters are less than 2' tall I try to avoid serif styles completely. A good 2" of clearance is required for the neon tubes, housings, etc. Many book faces at 24" will have narrow portions far under that 2" minimum. The optical size and weight axis sliders with MinionMM could yield a slab serif letter more practical to make at modest sizes. And by "modest" I mean 2' tall.

I hate it with a passion when customers want a channel letter sign with serif type in sizes like 12". I have to keep the fabricators in our big shop from wringing my neck.

brampitoyo's picture

Paul Stanley was absolutely correct. Minion is well mannered -- perhaps too much so. It is by no means as sterile as Times New Roman, though, because it still possess some humanistic charms.

You know what keeps boggling me, though? Why Elements of Typographic Style -- the typographic bible itself -- was set in Minion.

George Horton's picture

It's a small black mark against Mr B, but I don't know what would work better: Minion is sufficiently neutral for an even-handed survey of typographic styles, while admitting openly to the broad preferences from which Bringhurst's advice follows.

Erik Fleischer's picture

Who needs thrill from a book face, the book designer or the reader?

That's a good point. In my [limited] experience, we typographers and type fanatics sometimes make a lot of fuss about things that really don't affect the vast majority of readers (or should I say "users"?), even unconsciously. Of course a better way to ascertain that would be so set the same page in, say, Minion and Bembo, and conduct a usability test.

I personally am not very fond of Times New Roman, but have read books as large and dense as The world's writing systems without being bored or apparently having my comprehension hindered -- or my appreciation diminished -- by the text set in TNR. That's not to say that a typographer's careful selection of a typeface is a futile effort, but sometimes the microscopic nuances we fret about may not make such a big difference to the end user. (Notice I said "may"!)

Sure, the nuances I mentioned may be a typographer's raison d'être, but as Zapf puts it, "typographic design is sometimes misconstrued as a form of private self-expression for designers".

Back to Minion, I personally find it an excellent, extremely versatile typeface that does extraordinarily well the job of "disappearing" so that the text can take centre stage.

Nick Shinn's picture

When Elements of Typographic Style was released, Minion was the face with the most characters available, an important consideration, especially for Appendix A: Sorts and Characters -- although Adobe Garamond would probably have worked too, except for its smaller x-height, too small for a busy book of ETS' size.

brampitoyo's picture

Nick, I suppose that was exactly the reason why Minion was selected. I failed to consider that Elements of Typographic Style contained many glyphs with accents and diacritics as well as Greek and Cyrillic characters.

Pitting Minion against Bembo (I fully respect both typefaces, by the way) in a readability/legibility test is an intriguing idea indeed! I wonder if someone had attempted to do so but his research went unpublished?

Don McCahill's picture

Well said, Erik.

I can tell you only of books where the type choice and design are bad. When they are well done, the process should be seamless, and no one should notice how well it all works.

Are there awards for excellence in book design? I would think that such a hard thing to judge. But if there is one for "bad" book design, sign me up as a judge. I'll even bring along some entries.

Nick Shinn's picture

I recently attended the Alcuin Awards.
Typography was a critical issue (well, Robert Bringhurst was one of the judges).
Woe betide any f i that wasn't ligatured -- that was the difference between a prize and merely an honoranble mention.
However, looking at the winners as a group, enough already with the small caps.

Thomas Phinney's picture

I could be missing something, but I tend to doubt that linguistic character set was a major consideration for Robert Bringhurst in choosing Minion. Elements was first released well before Minion Pro; at that time, Minion had neither Greek nor extended Latin available. It did have a Cyrillic, though.



Nick Shinn's picture

It wasn't linguistic characters so much, as stuff like bold small caps and a full set of swash initials, that made Minion an exemplary face for Bringhurst's purposes -- see page 52 & 53 of the first edition. And of course, as has been noted, it is a very proper face, so as an original, well-mannered old style face, with a large character set, it would be many people's first choice for a book like this.

typequake's picture

The particular criticism levelled here at Minion only goes to show, in my opinion, how well crafted it is. I have never put down a book set in Minion half way through -- fiction or non-fiction -- just because it was Minioned.

Which classic are we taking a shot at next week?

SuperUltraFabulous's picture

typequake> thank you!!! I was thinking the same thing. Minion is well balanced in spacing and still very much relevant. And as for the comment that Times is a better choice...ummm- your kidding right?


William Berkson's picture

>Times is a better choice…ummm- your kidding right?

I didn't say Times was a better choice, I said that it has more liveliness and charm. It has been way overused, but still is excellent if used properly--eg. not in long measure on letter sized paper. I am reluctant to use it at all because of over use, but it's still a great typeface.

As I said, Minion is a champion of usability and adaptability. It really beats out other type faces in many situations, and deserves the good things said about it in this thread. But something about it is just unloveable, as other comments indicate. I don't feel this way about other Slimbach faces, such as Adobe Garamond, which is fabulous--though not as adaptable as Minion.

jselig's picture

Nick, those awards sound interesting, as does the society. I had never heard of them before.

As a bit of cross thread action from the Typographic Heresy thread I will go as far as to say when it comes to reading I feel annoyed when ligatures are not used in books, and more often than not find myself smiling when you find someone who actually does!

Also I commend those who list the font(s) they used in the book and a brief history of it or the font designer.

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