Fonts for a Newspaper Redesign

Moniker42's picture

I'm currently leading a redesign of the Glasgow Guardian. We're a student paper with a low budget and 100% run by volunteers.

Two competent amateurs + Adobe CS4 + the next two months = a newspaper.

Naturally, we want it to look awesome. I'm a photographer that's only just learning the first things about typography, but man, guys, that Caslon italic ampersand! The Doves Bible! Typography is clearly amazing.

Anyway: so far I'm thinking of using solely the "Utopia" typeface family, as it has a high x-height and nice "caption" weights that would make readable 10pt body text. It also has a good few display weights, including a Black Headline weight that could work well for... well, headlines.

Thoughts? Would be very much up for something more daring.

1996type's picture

Seems like a great choice!

Stephen Coles's picture

Utopia is a proven family for newspaper design, but perhaps too proven. It's been very common since the early ’90s. It's a fine choice unless it's important to you to have your own identity. What do the other papers in your region use?

hrant's picture

What Stephen said.

Could you tell us more about the nature of the paper? What kind of school is it for? Does the paper try to change anything?


J. Tillman's picture

An earlier discussion of newspaper text typefaces:

Moniker42's picture

Thanks all for taking the time to reply; putting typophiles right up there with open source software enthusiasts in my list of online cool crowds.

UK newspapers tend to be either "tabloids" that print gossip and sleaze (use of heavy Arial weights and often a not-very-seriffy serif bodytext) or "quality" newspapers (more fancy Serifs, often Times, not just in bodytext but also in headlines).

One exception is the London "Guardian": the UK's (arguably) highest quality newspaper. They commissioned their own typeface a few years ago to go along with a redesign.

We want a break from the past of our publication, which seems to have just used various weights of Times in the past: a "quality newspaper" imitation. However, we're not wanting to go down the crass Arial route. Utopia is an obvious solution to this, but I fear it would just look like us trying to emulate the London "Guardian".

We're a student publication that wants to be at the cutting edge, but we also want our content to be taken seriously. In a roundabout way, using standard newspaper fonts makes us look like imitators playing a game reserved for pros. Times New Roman looks as if we're just hoping for a job in the real world, so maybe something new could really set us apart...

To be more interesting, headlines could perhaps be:

* Something thick with a hand-cut look like HermesFB Black.

* Thin and modern (but a long way away from straight and clinical like Gill Sans) like NewJune

* A thick italic display font, like ModernoFB Condensed Bold Italic.

* A really modern typewriteresque trendy magazine-type font like Vitesse Bold.

* Even something really out there and fancy like Reina?

So I guess I have two naive questions:

1) do these seem like fairly legitimate options for newspapers headlines? and

2) am I correct to be resigned to using something fairly standard (i.e. boring) and well-tested like Utopia for body text?

hrant's picture

What about Kepler? It's not as common as Utopia, but has great readability and the right look & feel. The only problem is the smallish x-height requires larger point sizes and will use more paper - but for a student newspaper that might not be a huge deal.

Of the headline fonts above: NewJune and Reina are way too mannered; Moderno is too conservative; I like Vitesse, because it says both "youthful" and "trustworthy" to me, and it's a good match for Utopia (assuming you stay with that); the unicase feature in Hermes could be nice, since students like to have [more] fun!


John Nolan's picture

You've go to check out Nick Shinn's offerings:
Pratt, and Sense and Sensibility.

Moniker42's picture

Kepler is a bit too Times-ey (I'm sure there's a better word for the design features I'm thinking of...) and we want to really stand out from a sea of Times New Roman UK student newspapers.

I like Vitesse, but for different reasons. It's very readable, and it looks like a classic newspaper font yet doesn't fit with any newspaper I can ever recall seeing.

(had to cut the right edge off to fit on the forum)

Thoughts? Is it perhaps too... clunky, chunky and bulky? Might work well with with futura twitter & facebook links and page numbers at the top of each page.

Hmmmmm @ Sense/Sensibility. Going to play with those two tonight and see them working together on a newspaper spread...

Té Rowan's picture

Any mileage in Paratype's "PT Sans" and "PT Serif"?

DrDoc's picture

Hmm..Vitesse is an interesting choice for headlines, but I don't think it works for body copy the way you think it does.

It's really hard to offer specific suggestions — you have a certain feel that you're going for, but ultimately that will be conveyed more by how you use the typefaces than the typefaces themselves. What you're really looking for is a workhorse typeface that can be used in all sorts of contexts.

I like Hrant's suggestion of Kepler, especially because of the absurd number of weights it comes in.

I'll also put forth that the newspaper for which I was design director in college used Meta and Meta Serif, which was pretty great because they're not commonly used as newspaper typefaces, but the large x-height means that they reduce really well. The Headline weights of Meta, in particular, were useful. Now the New York Times is going to be using Meta and Meta Serif on their website, apparently, so I guess that it would bring kind of a "webby" feel to the paper, which I'm not sure is beneficial.

We (well, I wasn't part of the redesign team — it was the year before I rejoined the staff) also considered Chronicle and Whitney, which would have looked entirely different but would still have been a great choice.

I guess none of this is really that helpful; there are many, many good choices out there, and the bad ones are easy enough to avoid. Good luck!

flooce's picture

Another newspaper font would be Stone Print. Rather classic appearance, nothing "fresh", but balanced and comfortable. At Stone Type Foundry. I mention it, as it is rather affordable.

Other than that Greta has a display, text and narrow cut. Has as well a contemporary feel to it.

hrant's picture

Greta might work, but Stone Print's combination of small
x-height and narrowness disqualify it for newspaper use.


flooce's picture

Interesting, then according to your judgment Stone Print completely missed its purpose, as it was designed for a newspaper, as far as I can remember. Well, I am by no means competent on this field, I mentioned it, because it is cheap, which might come in handy for a student newspaper, and I thought it to be a newspaper font.

I looked it up, and well it was designed for a magazine, different genre.

From the Stone Type Foundry (sorry, there is no text, just image):

forrest's picture

DrDoc - do you have any more info about the New York Times and Meta?

Stephen Coles's picture

Now the New York Times is going to be using Meta and Meta Serif on their website, apparently

This is news to me. Maybe you were confused by the FontFonter which launched with as an example.

acrowley's picture

Hi! We're also a student newspaper, completed a redesign from broadsheet to Berliner last summer.

The fonts we settled on were Farnham Text, Benton Sans and a smattering of Titling Gothic for the teasers and the culture supplement.

You can see our redesign on our Issuu account, might be good for a few ideas!

Good luck with yours.

DrDoc's picture

Re: New York Times and Meta —

Hm, maybe I was confused by the FontFonter. I remember an exchange with my newspaper friends on Twitter about how the NYTimes was "ripping off" the Thresher. Let me see if I can find the original tweet.

EDIT: Found it. I think I misinterpreted a tweet from FontShop.!/TheRevDoctor/status/18135679844

Moniker42's picture

Reading all this with interest and fiddling with mockups as I go along. Will post when I've got something that I'm fairly settled on so I'm not just airing thoughts. Thanks guys!

P.S. Kepler is really nice, if only it was just available in more weights. *sarcmark*

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