Climax Text: Show no mercy

David Jonathan Ross's picture

Hello everyone,

I've been working on this font as part of a semester-long information design project on typography and newspaper design. If everything goes according to plan, it will culminate in the redesign of my college's official student newspaper, The Climax (no, I had nothing to do with the name).

Since I don't have the money to see this on newsprint until I actually use it in the newspaper, I've been looking at what happens in other newspapers when they're printed, and also at how successful newspaper types have dealt with that. As the semester comes to a close and deadline quickly approaches, I would appreciate your critique, both general and nitpicky. As the topic implies, feel free to rip it apart.

Attached is a PDF that I threw together. The first page shows the font in what will be its native habitat; the second, in a normal text setting. Headlines are set in a display font that I just began. You're welcome to critique that as well, but at the moment I'm more concerned with the text.

Many thanks,

djr_climax12.4.pdf476.18 KB
djr_climax13.47_1.pdf784.8 KB
djr_climax13.47_2.pdf948.43 KB
djr_climax13.47_3.pdf738.31 KB
lorenk's picture

i think the body copy looks great. the 4-column text is not as easy to read because the measures are too short.

i wish there was more of a visual difference between the roman and italics.

i think the small caps look fantastic as well as the large headlines. nice job.

crossgrove's picture

Hi David, this is great stuff. It's got good proportions and contrast for a news face, and a groovy Italic. Though similar to the roman, the different shapes make it clearly italic in text. Will you add a bold? Especially for headlines it would be useful. Otherwise expect someone eventually to add a different, bold (probably sans) face to the layout for headlines. You could be the one to provide it! Consider making a condensed bold sans that matches the feel of this roman.

I think some of the italic spacing could be opened up since the shapes are more complicated. Arches joining stems in Italic get thicker at joins; this is very nice in display but when I printed out the text, those areas fill in, making italic text look blotchy. Use this reverse tapering more in the display versions, where it is fun. The italic for text here needs more clarity in joins. Bottom center of italic w is most obvious example, h and m joins also noticeable.

Contextual alternates are fun, but you don't need one for y. The y is visibly much more sloped than the rest of the italic. This shows a lot in text. You can fix it so the descender stays in it's own yard. Since there's so little room for descenders, consider cheating the bowl/arm of y up off the baseline a little as in the roman. You can also loosen up the shape by bringing the join of the tail up and right, like in d or u. To see what I mean, look at Palatino Italic. Test Q between every other capital; I bet QJ collides.

Micro things: E and F too narrow, crossbar on E and F too tiny; newspaper types need clarity. E and F crossbar could have tiny vestigial serif like on s. Top and bottom bowls of g could align vertically more (looks tipping), and there should definitely be more space between the bowls; though the proportions and shapes are excellent, this is closing up and blotching in text. The outstroke on the bottom of e and c could be slightly beefier. Join of k in italic too close to stem, creates blotch. Italic f descender can be longer (but don't make it 'long' or wide). Diagonals of M, small cap M and N heavy. Tapering on diagonals of V and W too much. LC j tail pretty wide; you'd be surprised how narrow a j can be and still read well. X, x and small cap x have too much clotting in center. This is not the character to put a lot of reverse tapering into. The fi and fj ligs seem spaced looser than they would be by default. Match the regular spacing in these. They might want to join at the crossbar/serif.

Finally, do some exhaustive print tests of kerning; though you never get everything, some important pairs will show up missing.

This is going to be very good. Have fun in the home stretch! And please post scans of the printed newspaper when it comes out.

Alessandro Segalini's picture

Great opportunity, I am glad for you, David J. Ross. Something happened to the left serif of 'm', for the quick look I gave I noticed incongruences in the angles of the italic then I happened to zoom on "Valley" so take care about the kerning as well. I apologize for not having read the posts before mine.

David Jonathan Ross's picture

Thank you all for your comments so far.


I completely agree with you that the measure of the 4-column treatment is far too small for comfortable reading. However, that is the measure that columns in the newspaper are currently set at and I know that once this is out of my hands, someone will try it. I wanted to see how the type holds up. For a tabloid size newspaper (of which this would be a half page), what you loose in readability by using five columns across you gain in flexibility: our layout people want options when it comes to photo/article size and placement, and our pages tend to become static when divided into quarters. My compromise is to have the three wider columns (like the top article) for featured content, and then the thinner columns for news briefs, etc. I suppose the discussion of this layout might eventually deserve a post of its own in the typography critique section (and it will probably have one in due time), but in the mean time, any better solutions you may have are most welcome here.


I've always had the intention of expanding this into a larger family (with a bold, a bold italic, display, and sans), and the comments so far make me think that it would indeed be worth it. I've actually already drawn out a sans for this, but it's rough and not digitized. I do agree with you that it needs one, though.

I was worried that justification on a smaller measure might, in some cases, necessitate the slightest bit of tracking, but not necessarily enough to "break up" a ligature. With that in mind, I designed the font without ligatures, and used contextual alternates instead to avoid the collisions (or near misses) that occurred in the fi, fj (and the gy, but that y is another story). Is that a stupid reason to use contextual alternates, or does it make sense?

Thank you for your careful observations on the details/micro things. As much as I really wanted that sloped italic y to work (believe it or not, it was actually more sloped in the original drawings), you're right: it's gotta go. And I'll plan on going through the entire italic and implementing some blotch control. And I'll deal with the diagonals' tapers, and…well…everything that you said.

And while I have your attention, I really admire what I've seen of Beorcana.


Thanks for pointing the kerning issue out Allessandro. Carl mentioned it too, so it looks like kerning and tweaking are going to be the focus of my efforts for the next couple weeks, seeing as I've only done basic AV-type kerns. As far as the left serifs on the m is concerned, is it something specific about that letter, or is your problem with the foot serifs seen across the font?

Thanks again, and there's more to come.


David Jonathan Ross's picture

Hello folks,

It's been a while, but I finally had the chance to take the above critiques under consideration and further develop my newspaper type family. Earlier in the month, a test version of it appeared in my college's newspaper, and so far, the response has been good. It was good to get the opportunity to see how the font held up to the printing conditions, and I'd love to hear what you think of the progress I've made.

Attached at the top are PDFs containing clips from the newspaper layout (both digital and scans), a partial character set, and sample settings. Your comments on the design itself (overall and specific), how it looks in the scans, and anything else you'd like to share would be most valuable. I would be happy to mail an issue of the newspaper to anyone who'd like to see it in print.

Again, thank you, and enjoy the holidays.


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