Designing for a publication: Finding a good pairing for DSType's Acta Display

sc1904's picture

Hello everyone, this is my first post with typophile and I'm excited to be a part of the community.

I've been asked to lead a redesign of a tabloid my company publishes weekly. The goal of the redesign is to celebrate the weekly's fifth year by helping it "grow up" a bit by applying a modern, mature design that still appeals to our 25-35 yr old demographic. I've been asked to have the design reflect the look of a magazine more than a newspaper, and so far I've decided that Acta Display will be our serif headline font (most likely predominantly in its Black weight).

I was wondering if anyone might recommend a sans serif font that would pair nicely with Acta Display. So far we've looked at Neutraface No. 2 and Gotham, but we want to have a few more to choose from before we finalize the font. I'm specifically looking for a font that has some condensed options as well, but that's not absolutely necessary.

Any suggestions would be amazing, thank you for your help!

The link to Acta Display:

riccard0's picture

So you want to use a sans for body text? *
I don’t know what the publication is about, but Acta looks very upperclass for a tabloid.


hrant's picture

If you're using Acta for display you might
use FF Pitu for like really large sizes. :-)


sc1904's picture

Sorry, no. The sans serif would be for subheds, sidebars, pull quotes etc. The reason we're going with Acta is to help the weekly look a little older. The publication is a feature-focused weekly that highlights the city by offering a bit of local news, reviewing local restaurants, bars, art shows, etc., reviewing films, and showcasing different feature-worthy stories in the area. There's an event listing in the back that we're most noted for. The content is fairly consistent with others in its class. Hope that helps!

riccard0's picture

And the text font is?

sc1904's picture

We're teetering between Minion Pro & Hoefler Text :)

hrant's picture

Is that because you already own those?
Because ideally you'd be able to spend
some money on not being so generic...


sc1904's picture

It is because we already own them. We've got a limited budget, so the body copy will likely have to remain generic. I figure those are two of our best options.

Nick Shinn's picture

Sense and Sensibility are stylish, powerful, tightly fitted, semi-condensed news display/text faces with a wide range of weights, at a very reasonable price.

charles ellertson's picture

Not sure I can help you too much -- if it were me, I'd use Charis for the text -- is open source, and free. Charis will mix with Acto display better that either Minion or H&FJ IMHO. It is not condensed, but is heavy enough that you can set it at a bit smaller size. It's the font I go to when I have to get a 3,000 character book page (hard to do with a 6x9 trim), for either the social sciences or contemporary information with a hint of formality, etc.

"Chairs," BTW, is the open source version of Matthew Carter's "Charter." There is very little difference in the design.

And take a good look at Lato (also open source and free) for the sans. Perhaps not as good for your purposes as Nick's types.

However, both of these fonts need work to be first rate. I have reworked the Charis, and in principle would be happy to give it to you. It now has old-style numbers and formal small caps, fractions, true superiors -- all the things one needs for bookwork. And fairly good kerning.

I haven't done as much with Lato yet, old style numbers for the regular & italic, and small caps. No kerning beyond the release font yet.

But we're talking "what ifs" before you even look. Lato is an original design, that does mix well with Charis.

And another site from our own Typophile, though the italics have been improve from what's shown here -- some of the criticisms addressed:

hrant's picture

Being from SIL, I assume Charis is an authorized clone of Charter?

BTW Charles, if it's true that you have a strong penchant for free
fonts, why do you get upset that I'd rather the UCLA library pay
for your book so that I can check it out? :-)


charles ellertson's picture

Yes, Charter was done by Matthew at Bitstream; Bitstream made the fonts public domain, but iiRC, they may not be called "Charter."

As to the library, I'm just teasing you. I'm not sure the book would be worth whatever they're going to charge. Just like a lot of fonts... As far as libraries go, my wife & I give money to a couple libraries here. They're good things.

I do get exasperated at font publishers who, after I've paid them for their work, try to prevent me from doing mine. You're not one who proscribes modification for one's own use, are you? Forcing someone to do the modifications in InDesign for each use rather than once with FontLab? That's one reason I like Open Source fonts.

But I don't really have a penchant for free fonts, I've just gotten older, and gotten tired of beating my head against the wall. So many people -- including most of my customers at academic presses -- claim they don't have the budget to buy fonts.

I have somewhat successfully pushed a few for-pay fonts, Sumner Stone's Cycles in the repro days, Christobal Henestrosa's Espinova Nova, and I'm going to give a try with Ross Mill's Huronia.

I usually have to offer someone a free design to let me "try" the fonts; then sometimes the publisher's designers wind up liking them enough to buy them for other work -- if they can get it in the budget. Which means any other typesetter they use has to buy them too; maybe the the printer (depending on the license) -- each press I can convince results in 2-3- more sales.

Huronia is going to be hard. Not because the fonts aren't good, but the package is just expensive in terms of total dollars committed.

I've said it before, but what I'd really like to see is a pretty cheap "use" fee coupled with a cheap initial purchase fee. Something like $10 to buy the font, and $5.00 more each time the font is used. That would seem cheap to the presses for bookwork. For the font designer, if a typical font is used for 5 books, they would get $35, about what they get now for an outright purchase, IF they can make the sale. Or whatever the money works out to in this inflated economy. But if you set it much higher, no one will take the risk. And the font customer should have the option to purchase unlimited use, on par with today's pricing -- for magazines, journals, newspapers...

Well, no one wants to hear this.

hrant's picture

Well, I for one want to hear it. I think there's value in your
position, especially since you're a bona fide user. And yes,
I'm pretty liberal when it comes to EULAs. Mostly because I
think people who pay for fonts should be seen as our partisans.


Té Rowan's picture

No, Bitstream Charter is not public domain as it is still copyrighted. Bitstream did, however, contribute a version (the usual quartet, btw) to the X consortium. Most if not all X11 mirrors should have it and other X fonts.

Andrej Panov's Khartiya is another modded Charter.

The Bitstream Charter licence:

(c) Copyright 1989-1992, Bitstream Inc., Cambridge, MA.

You are hereby granted permission under all Bitstream propriety rights to use, copy, modify, sublicense, sell, and redistribute the 4 Bitstream Charter (r) Type 1 outline fonts and the 4 Courier Type 1 outline fonts for any purpose and without restriction; provided, that this notice is left intact on all copies of such fonts and that Bitstream's trademark is acknowledged as shown below on all unmodified copies of the 4 Charter Type 1 fonts.

BITSTREAM CHARTER is a registered trademark of Bitstream Inc.

charles ellertson's picture

No, Bitstream Charter is not public domain as it is still copyrighted.

I don't believe anyone said it was. If I did, though, that's bad wording on my part.

On the other hand: If I gave you two printed pages, set text size, one in each of Charter and Charis (adjusted for slightly different sizing), do you think you could tell the difference? Esp. if it wasn't a side-by-side comparison, but just giving you one page at a time, where you have to identify which font you're being shown? I kinda doubt it.

Té Rowan's picture

Unfortunately, it is a common wording error. But this is how I understand it: Public domain and copyright exclude each other.

Me? Tell two Charters apart? I find telling garaldes apart to be troublesome enough already!

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