Types for a hardcore non-prescription antidepressant

George Horton's picture

This is a natural antidepressant designed for effectiveness rather than minimal side-effects, to be sold in shops. I'm looking for a sans for packaging and a serif for an unusually full and friendly guide to usage, accompanying a titling sans that would ideally be the same as that for packaging, so the two need to pair well. The guide will include a course of boiled down cognitive/behavioural therapy and be more of a little book than an ordinary medication insert.

The packaging sans must be readable and recognisable from a distance, and of suitable character - whatever you think that should be: I'm interested in what you would want if you needed such a product. The serif should be inviting but authoritatively non-contemporary - certainly not in the least po-mo or cute - and surprisingly beautiful. Though it shouldn't be as rootedly and obviously historical as a Caslon, actual great age isn't a problem.

I'd be really grateful for ideas; I haven't, after much searching, found a good solution yet.

cuttlefish's picture

Optima seems like a good font for an antidepressant package. Hell, it's even a good name for an anitdepressant.*

For the documentation, I presume it is something more user friendly than the usual tightly folded pamphlet in microscopic print that typically comes with prescription drugs (a serif font would not be suitable there). Give Leawood a shot.

*(Of course, naming drugs has to be done very carefully, such that one can't be mistaken for another even when written in a doctor's handwriting. There have been too many tragedies with people getting Prozac instead of Prilosec and even worse substitutions.)

Stephen Coles's picture

For the serif, have a look at the list I made for Karen last night. She had similar requirements.

Can you tell us more about what characteristics the sans should have? FF Daxline seems made for medicine:

George Horton's picture

I think the actual purpose of this thing is more important than the fact it's a medication. Imagine you're a genuinely depressed non-designer: for weeks or months things your chest has ached with psychosomatic misery; you can no longer remember or imagine feeling pleasure, but can still feel relief; you'd rather not see your doctor to get a prescription antidepressant, and you drag yourself to the chemist perhaps to get some of that St John's Wort you've heard about, but quite likely for some other reason. What would you go for: a box labelled Zibexoline set in Daxline, or another called Soul Healer set in, at an extreme, Storm Sebastian? It's a genuine question, and the answer might lie between the two.

Gerard Unger is interested in people's attitudes to medication, and they're usually terrified of them, finding their inserts - set in Times, Helvetica or Frutiger - particularly inhuman (too authoritarian, too distant, too ignoble?). This must go double for any psychiatric medication, which is one reason for the popularity of "natural" treatments.

I reckon inserts also fail to answer most of the questions people want to ask: what exactly is this doing to me, and why? What might I feel like, in all respects, at first, and for how long? Does this fade out gradually or suddenly, and does it coincide with a similar transition to wellness? How will I feel in the long term? What's the likelihood of each side-effect? What's the likelihood of the medication's working, wholly or partially, and when will I know? What should I do if it doesn't work at all or in part, or if it feels too strong, or if I do suffer from common or rare side-effects?

So the guide will be detailed, authoritative but not authoritarian, kindly and concerned but not presumptively and joshingly intimate, and noble-spirited; it will be immaculately set in some suitable and, as I've said and in particular, surprisingly beautiful serif with sans titling. But which? To give an indicator, even Deepdene might not be too much for the serif.

hrant's picture

I know one person who's heavily involved in and highly
concerned with medication typography: Karel van der
Waarde. Plus he's a very nice guy, so you might want
to get in touch with him. If you do, please say hi!

hhp

William Berkson's picture

Sometimes the 'obvious is better than the obvious avoidance of the obvious':

Bliss and Goudy Old Style--the Lanston version with the full descenders--are the first things I think of. I don't know how they will work together, though.

George Horton's picture

Thanks both of you. I think this is a project for which the obvious is less good than the (obvious) avoidance of the obvious. No product has as much emotionally invested in it by its user, and needs to be more inspiring of hope, than an antidepressant. For one thing, there's the placebo effect to consider.

The best bet for the serif I've seen so far is LTC Kaatskill - what a good-looking type, by the way - rather than Deepdene or Goudy Old Style. I've never been much of a Goudy Old Style fan, though the LTC version is certainly eye-openingly superior to whatever version(s) I've seen in print. Bliss certainly has the right name...

Sharon Van Lieu's picture

I don't think that when you are depressed something perky is appealing. I think it's even more depressing. I don't have any study to back that up though. I think something light and yet strong would work, if that makes sense. I would think the name should make sense as an antidepressant without being overly clever. You can't think things through very well when you are depressed.

Sharon

George Horton's picture

I agree that perkiness, which is common in the work of the last fifteen years, is no good for this. Kaatskill is perkier than is ideal, but I haven't found anything better yet. Bembo book, my default choice - just because it's so much better (I do believe in better and worse) than all but three or four text faces - is too distant; perhaps JY Aetna could work? With Haarlemmer Sans? For the name, "Soul Healer" is probably a bit much, too: "Mood Healer" is perhaps better: it at least cuts straight to the point. Other ideas are very welcome.

Actually this is my own product: I'm aiming to start a little company to produce it, having come to learn far too much about the psychopharmacology and biological psychiatry of mood disorders following my own rather in-depth experience of one of them. Trying many medications without success may have biased me; perhaps the suffering is less, and the expectation of reasonable but not total efficacy greater, for most people considering a non-prescription antidepressant. In reality, it's more common for antidepressants to work brilliantly or not at all.

William Berkson's picture

I don't know why I didn't think of it right away, but Typophiler Kris Sowersby's new Feijoa would be great. I feel better just looking at it :)

Sharon Van Lieu's picture

I'm currently a Rumba addict. I think it has an uplifting look and yet still looks strong.

Sharon

George Horton's picture

Thanks. I think Feijoa and Rumba are a too intimate. I don't know why I didn't think of MT Dante - not perky at all, but thoroughly friendly. This would be a situation in which the extra width of Monotype's version - presumably to avoid embarrassing small sizes - would be more welcome than the austerity of the unavailable SV cut.

paul d hunt's picture

For the sans i might consider Palatino Sans, i've saw it printed in a book recently and quite liked it! I think it's friendly enough without being saccharin. Of course the natural pairing serif would be something from Zapf: Rennaisance Antiqua or maybe Aldus or Palatino.

elizabeth_355's picture

I transcribed medical reports for many years. Unfortunately there are too many drugs with soundalike names, and at least in the U.S. the drug makers don't try very hard to choose names that don't sound like anything else. One reason I got out of medical transcription is that I was expected to be able to read the doctor's mind & tell whether s/he meant Avelox, which is moxifloxacin HCl, a quinolone antibiotic, OR Aveloz, an unproven cancer drug. Or Murelax, a tranquilizer, OR MiraLax, a laxative.

Just out of curiosity, in what country is this powerful non-prescription antidepressant to be available?

George Horton's picture

Yup, Palatino Sans is really impressive: creamy and expressive, and thanks for the idea.

Mind reading is rarely infallible, even for computer geniuses. I've been advised to market the antidepressant to professional, web-forum depressives first, over the internet - so anywhere. Based on studies of a combination with the same mechanism of action as two of my components have, it should be effective for at least 60-70% of even clomipramine- or phenelzine-resistant people, and it's getting that mechanism from a herbal extract plus an amino acid that's my hopefully patentable big idea. With good reports from the chronically ill, I'll aim for UK shops. Selling things to the big chains of chemists is a nightmare in the UK, and I imagine in the US too, but to do a substantial amount of good for both humanity and my finances it'll have to be done.

elizabeth_355's picture

Sounds great, George. Good luck with your venture! And I think the Palatino fonts are lovely.

William Berkson's picture

Paul, where did you see the Palatino Sans in print? Initially I didn't have a favorable impression of Palatino Sans, though I am generally a fan of Zapf. I would like to have another look.

hrant's picture

Linotype has a comprehensive print specimen booklet,
which I myself used to write a (short) review recently.

hhp

paul d hunt's picture

Hermann Zapf was in Rochester over the weekend, and was signing copies of his new book: Alphabet Stories, which has some text set in Palatino Sans. I found the r a bit distracting, esp in the rt combination, and maybe 1 or 2 more quirks, but overall, i thought it was rather nice.

ebensorkin's picture

Paul, did you have a chance to talk to him at all?

paul d hunt's picture

just for 1 minute, it was kind of hectic with everyone wanting a book signed. but he and his wife were very kind and gracious. it was probably an experience for a lifetime for me.

writingdesigning's picture

If Palatino Sans is the direction you're looking for, then would perhaps Sassoon, or even Shannon be options?

Randy's picture

Beorcana

ebensorkin's picture

experience for a lifetime for me

:-)

George Horton's picture

Thanks for the suggestions; I'm not sure the calligraphic quality of Beorcana is really relevantly suggestive, and Sassoon would make these pills rather too tempting to five-year-old fingers, Actually, Palatino Sans is at the furthest degree of cuddliness I think is appropriate. Haarlemmer sans is friendlier than you'd expect for a JvK derivative - I think friendlier than the fabulous Romulus Sans (now there's something worth viving).

Randy's picture

Hi George,

I made comment in the "type for a chocolate company" thread that I think is relevant in any "type for a _ _ _ _ _ _ " thread:

In essence my point was this:

There is so much that contributes to successful graphic design. Type choices are an integral component to be sure (and much beloved by us all). However, I think it is a mistake to say, "I'm designing for a children's clothing line... let's start by selecting a font." I realize you're giving us additional info here, but what would be most helpful is to see your design direction. We need to know what your idea is. Show us your bottle, is it tall and skinny, is it short and stubby. Tell us about the illustration you're going to use. Is the emphasis NATURAL anti-depressant or is it natural ANIT DEPRESSANT? These will decide what the type choice should be.

For example: You can sell tea using Priori ala Tazo, or you can sell tea using Helvetica ala Stash, or Windsor Bold ala Celestial Seasonings. These packaging solution accomplish a design goal and carve out a niche on the shelf. I doubt Sandstrom design started with Priori. Maybe, but more likely they started with a direction: the language of alchemy applied to brewing tea. And the results are much stronger for it I think.

In other words:
Bembo could work.
Sauna could work.
Beorcana could work.
Or they could all flop.

The more you give us, the more we can help.

Good luck!
Randy

jmickel's picture

You can sell tea using Priori ala Tazo

Randy, I think it was actually Exocet they used for Tazo.

Randy's picture

JLM you make me smile, and make my point exactly. Was it Priori, or Exocet or was it Mason, or was it...

BTW, I'm not saying type's not important, nor that you can't get and idea for a design from a typeface, or even that type can't be the entire focus of the design ... just that type generally needs to live within an idea for it to yeild effective graphic design.

Enough already from me ... R

George Horton's picture

Randy, you're absolutely right, and can probably tell I'm not a graphic designer.

In truth this will be a natural ANTIDEPRESSANT, but would a large proportion of people, given the fear of side-effects or mind-distorting euphoria, and especially among those going "alternative", prefer something that didn't say "THIS IS HARDCORE"? The commonest requests among patients coming to a doctor about their depression for the first time is for a "potent" or "mild" antidepressant - which it more often I don't know - even though there's no such distinction among first-line antidepressants (and no possibility, unless they're bipolar, of euphoria).
It seems that it's products about which customers have no fear of side-effects or overkill, like (ridiculous) branded ibuprofen, that are most likely to be packaged as hardcore.

Here's a pic of the kind of thing the image could be like.

Text will be in the sky, of which there should be more, covering the top half and a bit of a large 3x2x2 card pack about the width and height of a small paperback. The whole package should look high-end, aptly expensive, since the product will have to be more expensive than competitors. Inside will be smaller card packs, labelled just MH for discretion's sake, to fit in a handbag, each containing a week's supply of tablets. Tablets will be dark, shiny, rounded, not the gel-caps usual for natural stuff.

Here is a potted history of antidepressant branding. It's pretty funny in the early stages. The progress is obviously from illustrating depression to illustration happy-happy joy-joy.

Nardil, the original (1950s) and still the best:

Tofranil, just after:

Anafranil, a 70s (?) competitor to Tofranil:

The modern rubbish: the latest SSRI and the best branded natural antidepressant, Amoryn. Stylised suns or actual sunlight are the commonest images for natural antidepressant branding.

ebensorkin's picture

I wonder if the nicest thing might be just a fairly plain approach. Everytime I see a drug being 'dressed up for the ball' in it's graphic design the more I wonder about it. A straightforeward, no frills, but well made design might be ideal from point of view.

BTW. How safe is this drug/nutricutical or whatever it is?

Thomas Phinney's picture

(Somewhat tangential)

If it's in the USA, and it's a "natural" or "herbal" product, it is not regulated by the FDA, nor is any sort of testing required, for either safety or efficacy. If people taking them have negative reactions or health problems due to the product, the makers aren't even required to report it to the FDA.

About the only time that regulatory agencies come into it is if the claims being made are so blatantly false that they amount to false advertising. Sometimes the FTC will step in and halt ads in these cases. There's actually been a *lot* of this with weight loss products making blatantly false claims and getting fined for it. (e.g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CortiSlim).

I'm not opposed to "natural remedies." I just wish they were tested for safety (and preferably efficacy as well) to the same degree as "drugs."

Cheers,

T

George Horton's picture

Eben, I agree. This product of mine is, sadly, quite safe. There are about a dozen naturals with extremely promising results in rats, making them potentially much more efficacious than St John's Wort, say, but with no safety record in humans. I've not considered using them.

Thomas, the UK is slightly stricter than the US, and bans nutraceuticals common there which are known to be potentially unsafe, like Kava Kava. More efficacy and safety studies would be lovely, but the cost for naturals is exorbitant. No little company can afford the literally hundreds of millions of dollars spent on trials that the FDA requires for new prescription antidepressants, no pharmaceutical company is going to do the work, and, in the UK, NHS research on naturals accounts for only 0.1% of their total medication research budget. Nonetheless, there are small trials in the West and trials from Russia, substantial data from real-life use, investigation in hospitals of the sources of any med-induced problems, and impressively thorough academic investigation in China where 'alternative' medicine is of course mainstream. We know, for instance, exactly how many cases of liver toxicity have been attributed to Baikal Skullcap there over the last thirty years (4, out of hundreds of millions of patients), and whether there is any inherently liver-toxic compound in the herb (no; problems are due to exceptionally rare genetic abnormalities).

On the other hand, almost all nutraceutical formulae for the treatment of specific medical conditions are either fraudulent (especially with standardization claims), incompetent (bunging in everything with any far-Eastern reputation, randomly dosed) or only minimally effective (if only through inadequate dosing).

Palatine's picture

Perhaps something by Underware - Dolly and Auto? Sauna?

andrewkerrb's picture

I like the different weights of Dax......although I haven't read the whole thread !

George Horton's picture

I love the construction of Dolly, but I think it's too intimate.
Dunno about Dax or Baskerville for titling. Monotype Baskerville in particular is one of the types that most depresses me when I open a mail-ordered book, and though there are now some really good Baskervilles I find them a bit monotonously broad.

andrewkerrb's picture

Gio, what's you prefered choice at the moment?

Cheers

hrant's picture

Yes, the typical Baskerville lc "a" is infinitely depressing.

hhp

hrant's picture

hhp

George Horton's picture

Hi Andrew, so far, and a bit embarrassingly after so many helpful suggestions, it's Haarlemmer Sans and Dante MT.

What's that font, Hrant? And was the MT Baskerville 'a' some kind of intern's private joke, or was there a fantastic jog to a slide-rule somewhere along the line?

hrant's picture

That's Patria's Italic.
For that setting I might actually try tilting the bar of the "H"
to match the bar in the "e". It might look quite... uplifting.

I don't know what caused Monotype to make such an ugly
glyph. In the original Baskerville the "a" isn't great, but
it's not so blatantly pig-faced.

hhp

Sharon Van Lieu's picture

"Healium" is brilliant. :-)

Palatine's picture

Seconded.

Is Patria available for purchase? I certainly like what I see . . .

hrant's picture

Patria is available for purchase, and I've sold a few copies, but it's technically
not finished yet; I expect it to be finished by next year's special type issue of Eye
magazine. However, anybody buying now gets a free upgrade to any future
versions, as well as the ability to influence future versions.
hpapazian_at_gmail_dot_com

hhp

Palatine's picture

Thanks, hrant.

George Horton's picture

Well, I ended up using the lovely Bliss small caps and caps for the label in the end, so thanks very much William. I used Bell Centennial Address for a good quantity of tiny text, too: it's seriously well-made, and is magically efficient and legible at 7.6 pt. I tried out lots of small-text types, and though Bell Centennial demolished the competition, Sans No 1 is a nice bit of old-school work too. The front panel, which is now the only image, looks like this so far: it'll need tweaking, and the colours of the floriation might change.

Any ideas for what changes might be made? Once again, I'm no graphic designer, so I shan't be offended by anything.

Stephen Coles's picture

It's lovely. I can't tell that you aren't a designer.

I'm not sure why Healer is in lowercase and MOOD is not.

William Berkson's picture

Yes, it is lovely, but something in it looks a bit unfinished.

I had been trying to figure out what doesn't quite work about the difference case between the two words. On reflection I think the problem is that there is no difference in importance between your two words, but there is a difference in case, so the difference in case raises a subliminal question in the mind of the reader that there isn't any answer to.

Also the old style numerals here look too big, giving the number of capsules too much importance, as if the fact that there are 168 rather than 150 is a big deal.

It may also be that some kind of further treatment of the Bliss--a fine outline stroke?--might help. It is lovely, but not quite 'there' is my feeling.

Still, if you don't find a better solution, this is good enough to go with.

George Horton's picture

Thanks, I'll work on your suggestions.

George Horton's picture

Any better? The 168 isn't perfect, but it's the best I can do, while keeping CAPSULES in small caps, with Bliss' range of weights.

hrant's picture

Well, if you really want to make the "168" lining, all you have to do
is grab the head of the "1" in Illustrator or whatever and pull it up. :-)
Hey, you're lucky it's not a 2!

hhp

Stephen Coles's picture

Yep, Hrant's right. Because the '1' is straight it won't squoosh the design. Use the hollow arrow tool to select the top portion (leave the bottom two points) and then move it up to match the height of the other numerals.

I think this label looks great.

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