ALL CAPITAL TYPOGRAPHY

etahchen's picture



What are your thoughts on this type of typography? All capital on everything.
And why do you think this is so popular?
My answer is,
I think this is popular because its an easier way to make decent looking typography.

riccard0's picture

The sample you show are advertising.
In advertising the act of SHOUTING is pretty common.

hrant's picture

Plus it's just easier to make straight lines with.

hhp

Theunis de Jong's picture

A similar comment based on those examples could be, "Why is sans serif preferred in advertising?" Or "Why is black text so popular?"

Correct me if I'm wrong, but it even seems all of it is in Futura. Is that a "trend" as well?

Joshua Langman's picture

Black text is overwhelmingly popular in advertising because its rich hue suggests the darkness of a hole, sucking the consumer in.

And not, for instance, because it's been the default for 500 years.

And capitals were the default long before that. Has there ever been a time when capitals were out of favor? And are they really, now, more popular than u&lc? I doubt it.

Nick Shinn's picture

Has there ever been a time when capitals were out of favor?

typerror's picture

I doubt you could get dental floss through that kerning :-)

hrant's picture

Clearly the wisdom teeth were removed, but it was too late.

hhp

Nick Shinn's picture

That’s the cover of a book which reproduces ads from the 1960s at 100%, so it would be around 8½" x 11".
The kerning is in proportion to the size of type.
It was published in 1984, just about the end of the Tight-But-Not-Touching era.

During the 1960s, American ad copy was written in a (feigned) friendly, second person singular, conversational style.
Headlines were set as if they were blow-ups of body text, to continue that casual, informal theme.
So: paragraph indent, flush left, upper and lower case, like this from 1965:


The asymmetric shapes made by the text blocks are positioned dynamically in the layout, balanced against negative space, in the high modernist manner, creating a flat “abstract” graphic on the surface of the page.
In comparison, all cap headlines are bossy and authoritative.
Easier to create a superficially neat effect, but lacking the sophistication of the ’60s.

JamesM's picture

An email or web post in all caps certainly looks like shouting, but I don't think that a few all caps words in an ad always creates that impression. Depends on the font, the overall design, etc.

etahchen's picture

Do you think the way graphic designer's see typography is different from how typographers see typography? I think the ALL CAPS style is mostly done by graphic designers because they see the groups of words as rectangles and it looks neat. While typographers see typography more like language that is typesetted so it wouldn't make sense to make everything ALL CAPS.

etahchen's picture

Is the average graphic designer's typography a different breed, or is it just not as sophisticated as a typophile's? I'm talking generally.

etahchen's picture

Black text is popular because that's just a standard color for text

Bert Vanderveen's picture

It is not just the shouting — I would like to point out that blocks of cap type are just that: blocks. Tighter, more defined than a bunch of lowercase letters, and thus a lot easier to turn into a layout that is ‘beautiful’. Maybe there is a lesson here: are you a better designer if you can do good work with U&lc instead of all caps?

Té Rowan's picture

In ads like those, all-caps is quite allright because of the varying weights and sizes. But an all-caps multi-paragraph setting (read: disclaimers) is guaranteed to drive me all "HULK SMASH!!!!!" and demanding that the offender be hung, drawn, quartered and nuked from orbit.

Nick Shinn's picture

DTP shook things up, big time.
After twenty years of sloppy layouts, things are starting to tighten up.

JamesM's picture

Good graphic design isn't about making a layout beautiful. It's about finding an effective way to visually communicate a message on behalf of a client.

Setting paragraphs of type in all caps is not a good idea in most cases since it's difficult to read, but none of the examples shown do that; they just show a few words in caps, which certainly is nothing new. You can find ads from the 1800s (and probably earlier too) that do the same thing. Is it good design? Depends on the ad.

Nick Shinn's picture

Good graphic design isn't about making a layout beautiful. It's about finding an effective way to visually communicate a message on behalf of a client.

So this is good graphic design?—

Image swiped from: http://www.uppercasegallery.ca/

BTW, it’s all caps!

JamesM's picture

Point taken, Nick. I didn't phrase it well. Certainly a designer wants his/her layout to be attractive. I'm just saying that good graphic design isn't just a veneer of attractiveness. If a design looks beautiful but does a poor job of communicating the intended message, then on some level it's a failure.

To answer your question about the photo, it does communicate clearly, but obviously it's not an attractive design.

PublishingMojo's picture

@Nick: Of course, those fast-food-marqee style signs are all caps because there's no place to put any descenders.

@Etah: Research shows that when people read, they don't decode the text one letter at a time; they decode words, which they recognize by the distinctive contours formed by the ascenders and descenders. If I have copy that I really want my readers to decode (Here's why my client's solution is the best!), I'll use caps and lowercase.

If the words serve less to convey information, and more as a badge or banner, I'm more apt to use all caps.

Capitals are also very handy for large blocks of text that you want to prevent people from reading, such as software license agreements.

Nick Shinn's picture

Research shows that when people read, they don't decode the text one letter at a time;

No, research shows that we read letters not words.
As per Kevin Larson, Typophile poster.

hrant's picture

Kevin is wrong. It's quite obvious.

hhp

Special-K's picture

I did a wedding invitation similar to this recently - Does this seem like it's shouting in all caps? I feel like I see all caps in wedding invitations often.

Té Rowan's picture

@Special-K – If it's shouting, it is 'town crier', not 'squealing bullhorn'.

@Nick, @Mojo – Blind men and elephant, someone?

Nick Shinn's picture

Familiar with the Elephant font, but not Blind men.

eliason's picture

Has there ever been a time when capitals were out of favor?

In Dessau in the mid-1920s.

Nick Shinn's picture


New York, 1953.
Sorry, the design is actually centered, but I couldn’t fit it all on my scanner :-)

dsb's picture

I think the typography in the Marlborough ad is rather terrible . I am all for paragraph indents, but not when the paragraph is comprised of one sentence. And then leaving the "is" all alone down there. And then using full sentence punctuation in the first sentence and not in the second.

I think the mad man who set that doesn't have too much on the typesetter for the library letter board. (It is almost centered)

oldnick's picture

If all-caps looks good, what's the problem? It’s a positive boon where vertical space is at a premium. Also on the upside: it obviates the need for proper capitalization…

Nick Shinn's picture

I think the mad man who set that doesn't have too much on the typesetter for the library letter board.

I think you’re missing the point.
There was a culture of this style, with subtleties that this ad plays to.
The orphans are intentional, creating dramatically asymmetric paragraph shapes which may be manipulated as part of the overall flat graphic, in a way that filled-out paragraphs don’t.
In particular in this ad, which is all about vertical flow (riffing off the condensed type style of the brand name), “is” reads straight down to the adjacent “Come”, requiring no disruptive eye backtrack (regressive saccade?)
Continuing the flow, the absence of a final period references newspaper style, easing the reader’s passage into the body copy.

Speaking of vertical flow and Mad Men, the real deal:
http://www.georgelois.com/pages/milestones/mile.coldene.html

Lois would have pissed on anything as lame as “At last. Something beautiful you can truly own.”
And still would.

rs_donsata's picture

Nick, it's an ugly ad.

russellm's picture

no it isn't.

etahchen's picture

everywhere

dsb's picture

Thanks Nick, that is a really great description of the era and culture and the design methodology in use. It does make sense if you think of how the designers of the ad were reacting to the way type had been used in the past or the way type was thought of at the time, and setting it in a different way. I actually do understand it as experimental typography now, I guess I was just unaware of what experimental typography of 1960's Madison Ave. looked like. I was definitely drawn to it as a kid looking at my parents old magazines though.

rs_donsata's picture

Nick I think I was rude to you, I just see many after rationalizations about a type treatment that seems too stiff for me, maybe I'm totally un contextualized to this style.

.00's picture

...

Té Rowan's picture

About the queerest bit of u/c typo I ever saw is in my old Borland (TP5, TC2, TDB1) manuals. The word 'chapter' ('appendix', 'part') is set all upper in ca. 10pt Avant Garde and letterspaced to fill the line. There is a full-width bar a line height or two below and right underneath that comes the identifier flush right in ca. 24pt Palatino. Reckon you can see it for yourselves if you snag one from Bitsavers or one of their mirror.

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